Colour: The Art and Science of Illuminated #Manuscripts on display at Fitzwilliam’s in #Cambridge @
CAMBRIDGE (UK) – A new exhibition in Cambridge, UK celebrates the Fitzwilliam Museum’s 2016 bicentenary with a stunning display of 150 manuscripts from its rich collections – many on display for the first time. “Colour. The Art and Science of Illuminated manuscripts” shows a collection which ranges from the prayer books of European royalty and merchants to local treasures like the Macclesfield Psalter, from an alchemical scroll and a duchess’ wedding gift to the ABC of a five-year old princess.
The Fitzwilliam preserves the finest and largest museum collection of illuminated manuscripts in existence, and manuscripts were at the heart of the Founder’s collection with which the Museum was established in 1816. Among the treasures which Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion (1745-1816), bequeathed to the University of Cambridge were 130 illuminated manuscripts.
In his 1895 catalogue of the Founder’s collection, the Fitzwilliam Director Montague Rhodes James appealed to potential benefactors to think of the Museum as a place where their ‘manuscripts would be choicely valued, religiously preserved, and minutely investigated.’ Among the bequests and donations which flowed into the Museum over the next two decades was one of the largest and finest private collections of medieval manuscripts. In 1904, the astronomer and inventor Frank McClean bequeathed over 200 volumes and some 130 illuminated fragments. The 1912 bequest of Charles Brinsley Marlay’s eclectic collection included one of the largest groups of illuminated fragments ever amassed – well over 250. These bequests quadrupled and diversified the Museum’s holdings.
The collection grew further under James’ successor, Sydney Cockerell, the longest serving and most acquisitive Fitzwilliam Director (1908-1937) to date. His vision, scholarship and passion for manuscripts have inspired more recent acquisitions, notably the Macclesfield Psalter, purchased in 2005 with overwhelming public support.
The exhibit also showcases advanced research undertaken by the Fitzwilliam’s curators, scientists and conservators involved in the Cambridge Illuminations and MINIARE projects. It celebrates modern-day discoveries inspired by collections assembled over 200 years. These discoveries can be seen on display at the Museum until December 30th or can be explored online at this link.