4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

Collecting Books, Manuscripts, Art Timeline


8,000 BCE – 1,000 BCE

The Oldest Surgical Treatise Circa 1,600 BCE

The Edwin Smith Papyrus, the most detailed and sophisticated of the extant medical papyri, is the only surviving copy of part of an ancient Egyptian textbook on trauma surgery, and the world's oldest surgical treatise. Written in the hieratic script of the ancient Egyptian language,  it is based on material from a thousand years earlier. It consists of a list of 48 traumatic injury cases, with a description of the physical examination, treatment and prognosis of each. When the papyrus was discovered it was about 15 feet long in roll or scroll form.  In 1862 it was purchased in Luxor, Egypt by Edwin Smith, an American Egyptologist and collector and dealer in antiquities. Sometime in the 19th century it was cut into 17 columns. Coincidentally, Smith was born in Connecticut in 1822 – the same year Egyptian hieroglyphic was decoded by Champollion. After Smith's death in 1906 his daughter donated the papyrus to New York Historical Society. From 1938 through 1948, the papyrus was at the Brooklyn Museum. In 1948, the New York Historical Society and the Brooklyn Museum presented the papyrus to the New York Academy of Medicine, where it is preserved today. 

"The text begins by addressing injuries to the head, and continues with treatments for injuries to neck, arms and torso, where the text breaks off. Among the treatments are closing wounds with sutures (for wounds of the lip, throat, and shoulder), preventing and curing infection with honey and mouldy bread, and stopping bleeding with raw meat. Immobilisation was often advised for head and spinal cord injuries, which is still in practice today in the short-term treatment of some injuries. The use of magic for treatment is resorted to in only one case (Case 9).

"The papyrus also describes anatomical observations in exquisite detail. It contains the first known descriptions of the cranial sutures, the meninges, the external surface of the brain, the cerebrospinal fluid, and the intracranial pulsations. The papyrus shows that the heart, vessels, liver, spleen, kidneys, ureters and bladder were recognized, and that the blood vessels were known to be connected to the heart. Other vessels are described, some carrying air, some mucus, while two to the right ear are said to carry the breath of life, and two to the left ear the breath of death. The physiological functions of organs and vessels remained a complete mystery to the ancient Egyptians."

♦ You can scroll through a virtual scroll of the Edwin Smith papyrus on the website of the National Library of Medicine at http://archive.nlm.nih.gov/proj/ttp/flash/smith/smith.html. When you click on the text button on the site you see the new translation of that portion of the papyrus made by James P. Allen of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


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The Most Extensive Record of Ancient Egyptian Medicine Circa 1,550 BCE

Papyrus Ebers (View Larger)

Written in Hieratic, the 110 page Papyrus Ebers is the most extensive surviving record of ancient Egyptian medicine.  "It contains many incantations meant to turn away disease-causing demons and there is also evidence of a long tradition of empirical practice and observation.

"The papyrus contains a treatise on the heart. It notes that the heart is the center of the blood supply, with vessels attached for every member of the body. The Egyptians seem to have known little about the kidneys and made the heart the meeting point of a number of vessels which carried all the fluids of the body — blood, tears, urine and sperm.

"Mental disorders are detailed in a chapter of the papyrus called the Book of Hearts. Disorders such as depression and dementia are covered. The descriptions of these disorders suggest that Egyptians conceived of mental and physical diseases in much the same way.

"The papyrus contains chapters on contraception, diagnosis of pregnancy and other gynaecological matters, intestinal disease and parasites, eye and skin problems, dentistry and the surgical treatment of abscesses and tumors, bone-setting and burns."

Edwin Smith, who also owned the Edwin Smith Papyrus, bought the Ebers Papyrus in 1862. It was said to have been found between the legs of a mummy in the Assassif district of the Theban necropolis. It remained in Smith's collection until at least 1869 when it was offered for sale in the catalog of an antiquities dealer, described as "a large medical papyrus in the possession of Edwin Smith, an American farmer of Luxor." It was purchased in 1872 by the German Egyptologist and novelist Georg Ebers, and is preserved in the University of Leipzig Library.

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The Earliest Bookplates, or Ex-Libris 1,391 BCE – 1,353 BCE

The earliest recorded bookplates or ex-libris are small enameled ceramic plaques representing the ownership of pharaoh Amenhotep III (Amenophis III) and Queen Tiy (Teie), dating from 1391 to 1353 BCE, probably excavated from Amarna. One example with dark blue text on light blue enamel is in the British Museum (EA 22878. 62mm. x 38mm., 4.5 mm. thick. The hieroglyphs measure 7mm. in height on average.) Another example (incomplete) is at Yale (YUG 1936.100. The size is identical to the bottom part of the BM plaque; the color is said to be the same. See G. Scott, Ancient Egyptian Art at Yale.) A different plaque is in the Louvre (E 3043. 43 mm. x 20.4 mm.)

"Substantial analysis of the British Museum plaque was first carried out by both British and German archaeologists in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, but the definitive study is by H. R. Hall, published in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology eighty years ago. The text in the upper part of the plaque, with the two royal cartouches, reads 'The Good God, Nimba-at-Re, given life, beloved of Ptah, king of the two lands, and the king's wife Teie, living'. There was substantial discussion as to the text at the bottom of the tablet (which is absent in the Louvre plaque) and Hall gives good argumentation that is reads 'Book of the Sycomore and the Olive'. At the top of the plaque, within the thickness of the pottery, there is a hole for passing a wire; it would seem that it was fixed with either to a papyrus directly, or perhaps to a box containing a papyrus or a cuneiform tablet. The latter seems a distinct possibility, as there are many heroic legends about trees in Assyrian literature" (Benoit Junod, Origins and early days of ex-libris, http://www.fisae.org/originstxt.htm, accessed 05-06-2012). 

H. R. Hall, "An Egyptian royal bookplate: the ex-libris of Amenophis III and Teie," Journal of Egyptian Archaeology XII (1926), 30-33, plate XI.

Hussein, Origins of the Book. Egypt's contribution to the development of the book from the papyrus to codex (1970) 24, plate 44.

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1,000 BCE – 300 BCE

Knowledge as Power: King Ashurbanipal Forms the Earliest Systematically Collected Library as Distinct from an Archive 668 BCE – 627 BCE

In an effort to collect all knowledge, Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria from 668 to 627 BCE, collected a library at his capital city Nineveh, containing, it has been estimated, 20,000–30,000 clay tablets written in cuneiform script

"Ashurbanipal was one of the few Assyrian kings to have been trained in the scribal arts—by one Balasî , a senior royal scholar " (Robson, "The Clay Tablet Book," Eliot & Rose (eds) A Companion to the History of the Book [2007] 75).

"Recent cataloguing in the British Museum has enumerated some 3,700 scholarly tablets from Ashurbanipal's Library written in Babylonian script and dialect—about 13 percent of the entire library. Ashurbanipal's obsession with Babylonian books did not, then, completely overwhelm indigenous production, but he did view them as highly valuable cultural capital; their forced removal to Nineveh undermined Babylonian claims to the intellectual heritage of the region and thus pretensions to political hegemony, while reinforcing Ashurbanipal's own self-image as guardian of Mesopotamian culture and power" (Robson, op. cit., 77).

The library was discovered at Nineveh by archaeologist/explorer Austen Henry Layard in 1849, and is considered the earliest systematically collected library, as distinct from a government archive. Clay tablets such as those in Ashburbanipal's library, or other cuneiform archives, were not typically fired in kilns for preservation. However, it is thought that a significant portion of Ashurbanipal's library survived to the present because the clay tablets were baked in fires set during the Median sack of Nineveh in 612 CE. Layard published an account of his discovery of the library in Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon (2 vols., 1853) from which Clark, The Care of Books, page 2, reproduced the floor-plan of Ashurbanipal's record room:

"The tablets have been sorted under the following heads: History; Law; Science; Magic; Dogma; Legends: and it has been shewn (1) that there was a special functionary to take charge of them; (2) that they were arranged in series, with special precautions for keeping the tablets forming a particular series in their proper sequence; (3) that there was a general catalogue and probably a class-catalogue as well" (Clark, p. 4). 

To deter thieves, Ashurbanipal had the following curse written on many or all of his tablets. It is the earliest known book curse, and because it was also a means of identifying his property it might also be considered an early ex-libris, albeit a verbose one:

“I have transcribed upon tablets the noble products of the work of the scribe which none of the kings who have gone before me had learned, together with the wisdom of Nabu insofar as it existeth [in writing]. I have arranged them in classes, I have revised them and I have placed them in my palace, that I, even I, the ruler who knoweth the light of Ashur, the king of the gods, may read them. Whosoever shall carry off this tablet, or shall inscribe his name on it, side by side with mine own, may Ashur and Belit overthrow him in wrath and anger, and may they destroy his name and posterity in the land" (Drogin, Anathema! [1983] 52-53).

In 1872 English Assyriologist George Smith of the British Museum edited the surviving records of Ashurbanipal's life on clay cylinders and tablets and issued cuneiform transcriptions with interlinear translations as History of Assurbanipal, Translated from the Cuneiform Inscriptions (1872).

The surviving portion of Ashurbanipal's library includes 660 cuneiform tablets that concern medicine. These were published in facsimile for the first time, but without translation, by Reginald C. Thompson as Assyrian Medical Texts. From the Originals in the British Museum (1923).

Menant, La bibliothèque du palais de Ninive (1880). 

(This entry was last revised on 12-27-2014.)

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The Tower of Babel Stele 604 BCE – 562 BCE

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Nebuchadnezzar II completed the restoration of the Etemenanki ziggurat which was originally built around the time of Hammurabi (1792-1750 BCE). The Tower of Babel Stele, of which two of the original three parts are preserved in the Schøyen Collection (MS 2063), presents an image of the Etemenaki ziggurat contemporary with Nebachadnezzar's restoration, along with a simple building plan.

"The missing part of the stele's back, was in a religious institution in U.S.A., the present whereabouts unknown. The stele was found in a special hiding chamber, broken into 3 parts in antiquity, at Robert Koldewey's excavations of the site of the Tower of Babel in 1917. Its importance was immediately recognised. A photograph was taken with 3 archaeologists standing next to the stele. With the imminent danger of war breaking out in the area, they decided to rescue it, and each archaeologist carried one part out of the war zone. One part was taken to Germany, one part to Jordan and then London, the third part to U.S.A." (http://www.schoyencollection.com/babylonianhist.htm, accessed 02-19-2010).

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A Nebuchadnezzar II Babylonian Cylinder Sets an Auction Record Circa 604 BCE – 562 BCE

On April 9, 2014, Doyle New York auctioned a Nebuchadnezzar II (Nabu-kudurri-usur) Babylonian cuneiform cylinder that described the rebuilding of the temple of Shamash in Sippar (modern Tell Abu Habbah in Iraq) by Nebuchadnezzar II, and dated to the Neo-Babylonian Period, circa 604-562 BCE. Measuring 8 1/4 inches (20.8 cm) in length, it was the largest example to come to market in recent times. The cylinder was described as, "double-tapered barrel-shaped cylinder of baked clay, 8 1/4 inches (20.8 cm) in length, tapering from 3 1/4 inches (8 cm) at center to 2 1/4 inches (6 cm) at the ends. Text in two columns, approximately 35 lines. Very light wear to the surface but with no apparent loss of legibility; a short and minor fissure, apparently created at the time of forming or firing, visible on a blank area of the cylinder, overall in sound condition." 

It was customary for the kings of Babylon to cement their relationship with the gods by restoring their temples. These accomplishments were then recorded in cuneiform on clay cylinders prepared by a court scribe, which were buried in the foundations of the restored temples. The cylinders were enduring commemorations of the king's fealty to the gods. This very public act also helped to create the appearance of legitimacy for the ruler. For example, the Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum, extols Cyrus as a benefactor. He had attained the throne by deposing the Babylonian king Nabonidus, and he apparently believed that this and similar ritual acts would legitimize his standing with both the gods and his subjects.

The cuneiform cylinder sold by Doyle came from Sippar, a great complex of temples, the cult site of the Akkadian sun god Shamash, and the home of his temple E-babbara. The text was in two columns, and followed text number 16, published both in Babylonian and German, in Langdon, Die neubabylonischen Konigsinschriften (1912) 141 et seq. Berger, in Die neubabylonischen Konigsinchriften (1973) listed seven extant examples of this cylinder, of which five are in the British Museum, and two in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin. The specimen auctioned by Doyle was slightly larger than any others recorded.

The auction house published this approximate translation of the text of the cylinder:

"Column I. 
"NEBUCHADNEZZAR, King of Babylon, the Wise, the Provider, Favorite of Marduk, Sakkanakku of the lands of Sumer and Akkad, who established the foundation of the lands; the Venerated Ruler whom Marduk, the Great Lord, has chosen to renew the Holy Sanctuaries and maintain the cities as his calling: into whose hands Nebo, the Victorious Son gave the scepter of prosperity to extend the lands for Man's guidance; the understanding and reverent, the maintainer of E-sagila and E-zida; the first-born Son of Nabopolassar, King of Babylon am I. 
When Marduk, the Great Lord, joyfully created me and called me into the Kingship with an eternal name, I thought reverently of Him and of His Divinity. But I continue humbly to worship Nebo, His legitimate Son, patron of my kingdom; I praise his glory. 
I endowed E-Sagila and E-zida, their favored palaces, with gold, silver, precious jewels and tall cedars, and made them shine forth like the innermost heavens. I beautified in splendor the holy sanctuaries of the great Gods, according to the wish of their hearts. E-barra, the radiant abode of the Gods, the dwelling-place of Samas, the Judge, which had long ago fallen into disrepair in Sippar; which no previous king had built, Samas the Lord ordered me, the Ruler, His favorite, to rebuild. I found its old cornerstone, and took notice of it. Over its old cornerstone I laid its foundation. I erected E-barra as it was of yore and completed it. I caused it to shine like the bright day, I caused Samas and Ai to return in gladness and rejoicing to their exalted dwelling. At that time, since time immemorable little had been left at E-ulla, the temple of Ninkarrak in Sippar. 

"Column II. 
"The temple building was in disrepair, the outer walls had crumbled, the foundation was no longer recognizable; it was buried in the dust; it was no longer numbered among the Holy Sanctuaries of the Gods; the tithes had ceased; they had vanished from the speech of the peoples; the offerings were no longer being made. 
Because I held the hem of the garment of Marduk, My Lord, and he was gracious unto me, He entrusted unto my hands the renewal of the Holy Sanctuaries, the restoring of the Edifices. 
During my legitimate reign, the merciful Marduk chose to look with favor upon that temple, and Samas, the exalted Judge, ordered its renewal. They ordered me, the shepherd who worships them, to build; I found its old cornerstone and took notice of it. The name of Nikarrak, whose throne is in E-ulla, was inscriped on the image of a dog and was there plainly to be seen. Over the old cornerstone I established the foundation for Ninkarrak, my beloved Mistress, Guardian of my soul, who brings prosperity to my kinsmen; for her I rebuilt E-ulla, her temple in Sippar. Its tithes I enriched and its offerings I restored. O Ninkarrak, Exalted Mistress, look graciously upon the work of my hands. May my acts of devotion be made known to Thy lips. Grant unto me long life, many descendants, good health, and a joyful heart. Present my deeds favorably unto Samas and Marduk; speak in my behalf." 

Provenance being essential for the authenticity and title of archaeological artifacts, this cylinder had belonged to Ellen Shaffer, Rare Book Librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and had been sold to Archie P. Johnston in 1953. The hammer price was $500,000, which with the buyer's premium, meant that the price realized was $605,000. This was the highest price realized for a Babylonian Cylinder to date.

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The Library of Aristotle: Basis for the Royal Library of Alexandria? 384 BCE – 321 BCE

The library of Aristotle is the first private library concerning which there is considerable discussion among early commentators. Writing more than 300 years after Aristotle's death, in the first decades of the first century CE, the geographer Strabo provided one of the most detailed early accounts in his Geographia XIII, 1, 54-55, stating, among other things that Aristotle was "the first man, so far as I know, to have collected books and to have taught the kings in Egypt how to arrange a library." Strabo's account in English translation is below. The Egyptian kings were referred to were probably the Ptolemies in Alexandria. The translation is by H. L. Jones (London, 1929); the links are, of course, mine:

"From Scepsis came the Socratic philosophers Rastus and Coriscus and Neleus the son of Coriscus, this last a man who not only was a pupil of Aristotle and Theophrastus, but also inherited the library of Theophrastus, which included that of Aristotle. At any rate, Aristotle bequeathed his own library to Theophrastus, to whom he also left his school; and he is the first man, so far as I know, to have collected books and to have taught the kings in Egypt how to arrange a library. Theophrastus bequeathed it to Neleus; and Neleus took it to Scepsis [at the present site of the village of Kurşuntepe, near the town of Bayramiç in Turkey] and bequeathed it to his heirs, ordinary people, who kept the books locked up and not even carefully stored. But when they heard how zealously the Attalid kings to whom the city was subject were searching for books to build up the library in Pergamum, they hid the books underground in a kind of trench. But much later, when the books had been damaged by moisture and moths, their descendants sold them to Apellicon of Teos for a large sum of money, both the books of Aristotle and those of Theophrastus. But Apellicon was a bibliophile rather than a philosopher; and therefore, seeking a restoration of the parts that had been eaten through, he made new copies of the text, filling up the gaps incorectly, and published the books full of errors. The result was that the earlier school of Peripatetics who came after Theophrastus had no books at all, with the exception of only a few, mostly exoteric works, and were therefore able to philosophise about nothing in a practical way, but only to talk bombast about commonplace propositions, whereas the later school, from the time the books in question appeared, though better able to philosophise and Aristotelise, were forced to call most of their statements probabilities, because of the large number of errors. Rome also contributed much to it; for immediately after the death of Apellicon, Sulla, who had captured Athens carried off Apelicon's library to Rome, where Tyrannion the grammarion, who was fond of Aristotle, got it in his hands by paying court to the librarian, as did also certain booksellers who used bad copyists and would not collate the texts— a thing that also takes place in the case of the other books that are copied for selling both here [Rome] and at Alexandria.".

"Another account relates that Ptolemy II (285-246 B.C.) acquired Aristotle’s library directly from Neleus and brought it to Egypt to become a part of the great Alexandrian library. It is possible that both stories are partially correct, and it is quite probable that copies at least of Aristotle’s library reached Alexandria eventually” (Harris, History of Libraries in the Western World 4th ed. [1999] 41).

Blum, Kallimachos: The Alexandrian Library and the Origins of Bibliography, tr. by H. Wellisch (1991) 2.6."The Library of Aristotle," 53-64.

(This entry was last revised on 08-05-2014).

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300 BCE – 30 CE

The Earliest Surviving Example of a Greek Chronological Table Circa 298 BCE – 264 BCE

The Oxford fragment of the Parian Marble. (View Larger)

The earliest surviving example of a Greek chronological table, the Parian Marble (Marmor Parium) or Parian Chronicle, covers the years from 1581 BCE to 299/8 BCE, inscribed on a marble stele, of which two fragments are known. The first fragment was found on the island of Páros in two sections, and sold in Smyrna in the early 17th century to an agent for Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel. This inscription (ll. 1-45) was deciphered by the antiquarian John Selden and published among the Arundel Marbles, in Marmora Arundelliana (London, 1628-9) nos. 1-21, 59-119. The upper part of the first fragment (A) was later lost and is known only from the transcription published by Selden. The surviving portion of A (ll. 46-93) is preserved in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. A third fragment of Marmor Parium (B)comprising the base of the stele and containing the end of the text (ll. 101-133) with entries from 356-299/98 BCE, was found on Páros in 1897, and is preserved in a museum on that island.

The compiler of the chronology is unknown, but the date of composition can be fixed at 264/3 BCE because of the mention of the name of the Athenian archon Diognetus (l.3) who served during those years. The chronology  includes a list of events from the reign of the mythical king Cecrops to the archonship of Euctemon, with its main focus on Athenian history. Events are arranged in paragraphs which include a short description of the event, the name of the Athenian king or archon, and the number of years elapsing from 264/3 BC expressed in Attic or acrophonic numerals

"It combines dates for events we would consider mythic, such as the Flood of Deucalion (equivalent to 1528/27 BC) with dates we would categorize as historic. For the Greeks, the events of their distant past, such as the Trojan War (dated to 1218 in the Parian inscription) and the Voyage of the Argonauts were historic: their myths were understood as legends to the Greeks. In fact the Parian inscriptions spend more detail on the Heroic Age than on certifiably historic events closer to the date the stele was inscribed and erected, apparently in 264/263 BC. 'The Parian Marble uses chronological specificity as a guarantee of truth,' Peter Green observed in the introduction to his annotated translation of the Argonautica of Apollonios Rhodios: 'the mythic past was rooted in historical time, its legends treated as fact, its heroic protagonists seen as links between the 'age of origins' and the mortal, everyday world that succeeded it' "(Wikipedia article on Parian Chronicle, accessed 11-22-2010).

In December 2014 the Department of Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzig was in the process of producing a Digital Marmor Parium at this link.

(This entry was last revised on 12-21-2014.)

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Book Trade and Libraries in the Roman Empire Circa 30 BCE

"By the end of the Roman Republic the institutions and processes that govern and guard the transmission of the written word were already in existence, and under Augustus and his successors they were refined and consolidated. The book trade became more important, and we soon hear of the names of established booksellers: Horace speaks of the Sosii, later Quintilian and Martial tell of the Tryphon, Atrectus, and others. By the time of the Younger Seneca book collecting was derided as a form of extravagant ostentation. Augustus founded two public libraries, one in 28 B.C. in the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine, the other, not long afterwards, in the Porticus Octaviae. Thereafter libraries were a common form of both private and imperial munificence, in Rome and the provinces. Pliny founded a library in his native Comum and provided money for its upkeep; the best-preserved (and restored) ancient library is that built at Ephesus in memory of Titus Julius Celsus, proconsul of Asia A.D. 106-7; one of the most famous was the Bibliotheca Ulpia founded by Trajan, which long survived the disasters of fire and strife and was still standing in the fifth century" (Reynolds & Wilson, Scribes and Scholars, 3rd. ed. [1991] 24-25).

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The Portland Vase: Classical Connoisseurship, Influence, Destruction & Conservation 30 BCE – 25 CE

The Portland Vase. Shown is the first of two scenes. (View Larger)

A Roman cameo glass vase, the Portland Vase, created between 30 BCE and 25 CE, and known since the Renaissance, served as an inspiration to many glass and porcelain makers from about the beginning of the 18th century onwards. It is about 25 centimeters high and 56 in circumference, made of violet-blue glass, and surrounded with a single continuous white glass cameo depicting seven figures of humans and gods. "On the bottom was a cameo glass disc, also in blue and white, showing a head, presumed to be of Paris or Priam on the basis of the Phrygian cap it wears. This roundel clearly does not belong to the vase, and has been displayed separately since 1845. It may have been added to mend a break in antiquity or after, or the result of a conversion from an original amphora form (paralleled by a similar blue-glass cameo vessel from Pompeii) - it was definitely attached to the bottom from at least 1826."

"The meaning of the images on the vase is unclear and controversial. Interpretations of the portrayals have included that of a marine setting (due to the presence of a ketos or sea-snake), and of a marriage theme/context (i.e. as a wedding gift). Many scholars (even Charles Towneley) have concluded that the figures do not fit into a single iconographic set."

"Cameo-glass vessels were probably all made within about two generations as experiments when the blowing technique (discovered in about 50 BC) was still in its infancy. Recent research has shown that the Portland vase, like the majority of cameo-glass vessels, was made by the dip-overlay method, whereby an elongated bubble of glass was partially dipped into a crucible (fire-resistant container) of white glass, before the two were blown together. After cooling the white layer was cut away to form the design."

"The work towards making a 19th century copy proved to be incredibly painstaking, and based on this it is believed that the Portland Vase must have taken its original artisan no less than two years to produce. The cutting was probably performed by a skilled gem-cutter. It is believed that the cutter may have been Dioskourides, as gems cut by him of a similar period and signed by him."

Traditionally the vase was believed to have been discovered by Fabrizio Lazzaro in the sepulchre of the Emperor Alexander Severus, at Monte del Grano near Rome, and excavated some time around 1582.

The first documented reference to the vase is a 1601 letter from the French scholar Nicolas Claude Fabri de Peiresc to the painter Peter Paul Rubens, where it is recorded as in the collection of Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte in Italy. It then passed to the Barberini family collection (which also included sculptures such as the Barberini Faun and Barberini Apollo) where it remained for some two hundred years, being one of the treasures of Maffeo Barberini, later Pope Urban VIII.

In 1778 Sir William Hamilton, British ambassador in Naples, purchased it from James Byres. "Byres, a Scottish art dealer, had acquired it after it was sold by Donna Cornelia Barberini-Colonna, Princess of Palestrina. She had inherited the vase from the Barberini family. Hamilton brought it to England on his next leave, after the death of his first wife, Catherine. In 1784, with the assistance of his niece, Mary, he arranged a private sale to Margaret Cavendish-Harley, widow of William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland and so dowager Duchess of Portland. She passed it to her son William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland in 1786.

"The 3rd Duke loaned the original vase to Josiah Wedgwood (see below) and then to the British Museum for safe-keeping, at which point it was dubbed the "Portland Vase". It was deposited there permanently by the fourth Duke in 1810, after a friend of his broke its base. The original Roman vase has remained in the British Museum ever since 1810, apart from three years (1929-32) when William Cavendish-Bentinck, 6th Duke of Portland put it up for sale at Christie's. It failed to reach its reserve. It was purchased by the Museum from William Cavendish-Bentinck, 7th Duke of Portland in 1945 with the aid of a bequest from James Rose Vallentin. . . .

"The 3rd Duke lent the vase to Josiah Wedgwood, who had already had it described to him as 'the finest production of Art that has been brought to England and seems to be the very apex of perfection to which you are endeavouring' by the sculptor John Flaxman. Wedgwood devoted four years of painstaking trials at duplicating the vase - not in glass but in jasperware. He had problems with his copies ranging from cracking and blistering (clearly visible on the example at the Victoria and Albert Museum) to the reliefs 'lifting' during the firing, and in 1786 he feared that he could never apply the Jasper relief thinly enough to match the glass original's subtlety and delicacy. He finally managed to perfect it in 1790, with the issue of the "first-edition" of copies (with some of this edition, including the V&A one, copying the cameo's delicacy by a combination of undercutting and shading the reliefs in grey), and it marks his last major achievement.

"Wedgwood put the first edition on private show between April and May 1790, with that exhibition proving so popular that visitor numbers had to be restricted by only printing 1900 tickets, before going on show in his public London showrooms. (One ticket to the private exhibition, illustrated by Samuel Alkin and printed with 'Admission to see Mr Wedgwood's copy of The Portland Vase, Greek Street, Soho, between 12 o'clock and 5', was bound into the Wedgwood catalogue on view in the Victoria and Albert Museum's British Galleries.) As well as the V&A copy (said to have come from the collection of Wedgwood's grandson, the naturalist Charles Darwin), others are held at the Fitzwilliam Museum (this is the copy sent by Wedgwood to Erasmus Darwin which his descendants loaned to the Museum in 1963 and later sold to them) and the Department of Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum.

"The Vase also inspired a 19th century competition to duplicate its cameo-work in glass, with Benjamin Richardson offering a £1000 prize to anyone who could achieve that feat. Taking three years, glass maker Philip Pargeter made a copy and John Northwood engraved it, to win the prize. This copy is in the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York.

Vandalism and Reconstruction

"On February 7, 1845, the vase was shattered by William Lloyd, who drunkenly threw a nearby sculpture on top of the case smashing both it and the vase. The vase was pieced together with fair success, though the restorer was unable to replace all of the pieces and thirty-seven small fragments were lost. It appears they had been put into a box and forgotten. In 1948, the keeper Bernard Ashmole received thirty-seven fragments in a box from Mr. Croker of Putney, who did not know what they were. In 1845 Mr. Doubleday, the first restorer, did not know where these fragments went. A colleague had taken these to Mr. Gabb, a box maker, who was asked to make a box with thirty seven compartments, one for each fragment. The colleague died, the box was never collected, Gabb died and his executrix Miss Revees asked Croker to ask the museum if they could identify them. The Duke's descendants finally sold the vase to the museum in 1945.

"By 1948, the restoration appeared aged and it was decided to restore the vase again, but the restorer was only successful in replacing three fragments. The adhesive from this weakened, by 1986 the joints rattled when the vase was gently tapped. The third and current reconstruction took place in 1987, when a new generation of conservators assessed the vase's condition during its appearance as the focal piece of an international exhibition of Roman glass and, at the conclusion of the exhibition, it was decided to go ahead with reconstruction and stabilisation. The treatment had scholarly attention and press coverage. The vase was photographed and drawn to record the position of fragments before dismantling; the BBC filmed the conservation process. All previous adhesives had failed, so to find one that would last, conservation scientists at the museum tested many adhesives for long term stability. Finally, an epoxy resin with excellent ageing properties was chosen. Reassembly of the vase was made more difficult as the edges of some fragments were found to have been filed down during the restorations. Nevertheless, all of the fragments were replaced except for a few small splinters. Areas that were still missing were gap-filled with a blue or white resin.

"The newly conserved Portland Vase was returned to display. Little sign of the original damage is visible and except for light cleaning, the vase should not require major conservation work for many years." (Wikipedia article on Portland Vase, accessed 11-10-2009)

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30 CE – 500 CE

Seneca Denounces Book Collectors and Even the Library of Alexandria Circa 49 CE

A marble bust of Seneca preserved in the Antikensammlung Berlin. (View Larger)

About 49 CE Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist of the Silver Age of Latin literature, Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca, or Seneca the Younger) denounced book collectors, and even denounced the Royal Library of Alexandria:

"Outlay upon studies, best of all outlays, is reasonable so long only as it is kept within certain limits. What is the use of books and libraries innumerable, if scarce in a lifetime the master reads the titles? A student is burdened by a crowd of authors, not instructed; and it is far better to devote yourself to a few, than to lose your way among a multitude.

"Forty thousand books were burnt at Alexandria. I leave others to praise this splendid monument of royal opulence, as for example Livy, who regards it as 'a noble work of royal taste and royal thoughtfulness.' It was not taste, it was not thoughtfulness, it was learned extravagance—nay not even learned, for they had bought their books for the sake of show, not for the sake of learning—just as with many, who are ignorant even of the lowest branches of learning, books are not instruments of study, but ornaments of dining-rooms. Procure then as many books as will suffice for use; but not a single one for show. You will replay: 'Outlay on such objects is preferable to extravagance on plate or paintings.' Excess in all directions is bad. Why should you excuse a man who wishes to possess book-presses inlaid with arbor-vitae wood or ivory; who gathers together masses of authors either unknown or discredited; who yawns among his thousands of books; and who derives his chief delight from their edges and their tickets?

" You will find then in the libraries of the most arrant idlers all that orators or historians have written—book-cases built up as high as the ceiling. Nowadays a library takes rank with a bathroom as a necessary ornament of a house. I could forgive such ideas, if they were due to extravagant desire for learning. As it is, these productions of men whose genius we revere, paid for at a high price, with their portraits ranged in line above them, are got together to adorn and beautify a wall" (translated in Clark, The Care of Books [1901] 22-23). 

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A Door-to-Door Bookseller in Egypt, Second Century CE Circa 150 CE

P. Petaus 30, an Egyptian papyrus fragment of a private letter in Greek from Roman Julius Placidus to his father, written about 150 CE by Petaus (Petaus komogrammateus) a village scribe of Ptolemais Hormou (El-Lahun) and surrounding villages, reads in translation as follows:

"Julius Placidus to his father Herclanus, greeting. Dius came to us and showed us six parchment codices (tas membranas hex). We selected none of those, but collated eight, for which I paid on account 100 drachmas. You will be on the lookout in any case. . . I hope you are well. . .by Julius Placidus."

"We get a glimpse here of the ancient counterpart of the door-to-door bookseller. Among his offerings are parchment codices. These were apparently inscribed with texts but were perhaps not well inscribed, since six were not bought. It is not clear whether the eight others that were collated and purchased were rolls or codices . . . (Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church [1995] 53).

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The Bankes Homer: One of the Best Preserved Papyri of Homer Circa 150 CE

The Bankes Homer, a second century papyrus roll consisting of Iliad 24 (Ω) lines 127-804, (P. Lond. Lit. 28; TM 60500), is one of the longest and best preserved papyri of Homer surviving from antiquity. Its colophon reads Ἰλίαδος Ω. Like most Homeric papyri, it is incomplete, lacking the first 126 lines of Iliad 24, and possibly all of Iliad 23. The roll measures 240 x 2325mm. In April 2014 digital facsimiles of the papyrus unrolled and unpressed showing its wrinkles, and also flattened out under glass, were available from the British Library at this link.

The Banks Homer contains 16 columns of Greek written in scriptio continua in an uncial hand, each column measuring 195 x 105mm, and containing between 42 and 44 lines. The papyrus also contains the names of characters in the margin to indicate passages of direct speech, and abbreviated notes marking narrative sequences of text. In addition, it contains breathing marks and accents made by an ancient diorthotes or "corrector" to show correct poetic pronunciation. 

In the ancient world reading of literary texts was done aloud, and the accentual marks served as an aid for maintaining correct pronunciation. In scholia for the Tékhnē grammatiké (τέχνη γραμματική) attributed to the Hellenistic grammarian Dionysius Thrax (23.3f. ed. Hilgard 1901) the role of the "corrector" was described:

"Before the student would begin to read the corrector [diorthotes] would take the book and correct [diorthousthai] so that he [the student] would not read it wrong and thus fall into a bad habit. Afterward, the student woudl take the book as corrected [diorthousthai] to a reading-teacher [anagnostikos] who was supposed to teach him how to read according to the correction-work  [diorthosis] of the corrector [diorthotes]" (Nagy, "Traces of an Ancient System of Reading in the Venetus A," Dué (ed) Recapturing a Homeric Legacy [2009] 135.)

The Bankes Homer was purchased in Elephantine, Egypt in 1821 by the explorer, Egyptologist, adventurer, and antiquary William John Bankes. Bankes retained as interpreter and intermediary another adventurer named Giovanni Finati, and it was Finati who acquired the manuscript, describing the purchase his memoirs, which Bankes translated from the Italian and edited for publication as Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Giovanni Finati, Native of Ferrara, 2 vols, London 1830, vol. 2, pp. 357-58. In his blog dated 02-13-2014 Roger Pearse reproduced this section of Bankes edition of Finati's text, which I quote:

". . . we all took our departure together for Assouan. And it was during our stay there of a few days that, on the opposite island of Elephantine, (which I have always remarked to be, after Thebes, the place where the greatest harvest of curious antiquities is brought for sale by the natives,) a roll of papyrus in the Greek character + was put into my hands, for which I bargained and fixed the price in the first place, and then took it to Monsieur Linant for the money, stipulating at the time that it was to be bought on Mr. Bankes’s account.

"This roll proved to be that manuscript of Homer * which is considered so precious, but which it grieved me afterwards, and ever will, to have seen sold for more than its weight in gold + to that gentleman whom I considered the owner of it, and who would certainly have had it at my hands, without any further demand.

"+ In my own journey, I bought a scrap of Greek upon papyrus in a very fine clear character, which seems to be the fragment of a letter or edict. I have a great number of tiles also written in a cursive Greek character, and highly curious upon that account, which purport to be receipts of pay by the Roman soldiery at Assouan during several reigns, from Tiberius to Commodius—one of these I found myself at Elephantine; and I have an amphora, also, that has served the same purposes as a modern slate to some tradesman’s family in Roman times, with his house or shop accounts registered upon it in ink from day to day.

"* It contains the last book of the Iliad, most beautifully written, in uncial letters, and the lines numbered in the margin: what is very surprising, it has had accents added to it afterwards.

"+ The author, though the first who had the handling of this papyrus, seems here to have formed a very undue estimate of its weight, for the sum which I paid for it amounted to no less than 25,000 piastres (about 500l.), that being stated as the offer that had been made for it from another quarter."

In 1879 the British Museum acquired the papyrus from Walter Ralph Bankes (1853-1904). 

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Lucian's Diatribe on the "Ignorant Book Collector" Circa 170 CE

About 170 the Assyrian rhetorician, satirist and author of numerous writings in Greek, Lucian of Samosata (Λουκιανὸς ὁ ΣαμοσατεύςLucianus Samosatensis), ridiculed a provincial from Syria who aspired to join the cultured elite by collecting antiquarian and deluxe papyrus book rolls. In doing so he also implied criticism of booksellers, and suggested that there was at this early date some kind of a trade in antiquarian book rolls:

"You expect to get a reputation for learning [παιδεια] by zealously buying up the finest books, but the thing goes by opposites and in a way becomes proof of your ignorance [απαιδενσιας]. Indeed, you do not buy the finest; you rely upon men who bestow their praise hit-and-miss, you are a godsend to the people that tell such lies about books, and treasure-trove ready to hand to those who traffic in them. Why, how can you tell what books are old and highly valuable, and what are worthless and simply in wretched repair—unless you judge them by the extent to which they are eaten into and cut up, calling the book-worms into counsel to settle the question? As to their correctness and freedom from mistakes, what judgment have you, and what it is worth?" (Haines-Eitzen, Guardians of Letters. Literacy, Power, and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature [2000] 26).

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The Oldest Surviving Fragment from the Gospel of Luke 175 CE – 225 CE

Fragment 75. (View Larger)

Papyrus 75 (75, Papyrus Bodmer XIV-XV), an early Greek New Testament papyrus of the Alexandrian text-type written between 175 and 225 CE, was purchased from the Bibliotheca Bodmeriana by Frank Hanna III, and donated to the Vatican Library in March 2007. This papyrus is believed to contain the oldest known fragment from the Gospel of Luke, the earliest known Lord's Prayer, and one of the oldest written fragments from the Gospel of John. It is also the oldest manuscript that contains two Gospels. This could be interpreted to suggest that after this period the four Gospels were circulated together.

"This affirmation becomes understandable only if one takes a step back in time to the classical world. In Greek and Roman milieus, formal texts were exclusively transmitted on papyrus scrolls whereas informal texts (accounts, notes, receipts...) were transcribed on other types of support, such as wax tablets or pottery 'labels' (ostra-ca).  

"In the first century A.D., 'notepads' made of superimposed sheets folded and sewn together or tied with a piece of string became common. These articles of pagan origin were very soon used by Christians, as can be learned from a famous Deutero-Pauline passage in which Timothy is asked not to forget 'the parchments', that is, the notes (II Tm 4:13).  

"This new format, a single notebook, had enormous advantages in comparison with the traditional scroll: it provided much more space and less bulk as well as more contained costs. At the same time, it facilitated the consultation and reading of a specific passage, all of which were significant factors for public reading at important liturgical celebrations.  

"The Bodmer Papyrus 14-15, that originally consisted of 36 double leaves placed one on top of the other to make a total of 144 pages [of which 101 leaves survived,] is the oldest find that contains the text of two Gospels together, the Gospels of Luke and John. But why, one might ask, did it not contain all four Gospels?  

"This can be explained by the limitations of the new technique which although it provided almost twice as much room as the classical papyrus scroll, was still a fragile structure that inevitably tended to split along the fold, especially if the number of double pages exceeded 50. Thus, a codex of this kind could contain only a little more than two Gospels.  

"However, since all the lists of the Gospels begin with that of Matthew, one might presume that together with the surviving papyrus another volume was also made, now completely lost, which contained the two missing Gospels, that of Matthew and that of Mark" (http://www.ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/bodmerpapyrus.HTM, accessed 09-14-2010). 

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One of the Oldest Papyrus Codices of the New Testament Circa 175 CE – 250 CE

Papyrus 46 (P-46), an incomplete papyrus codex containing most of the Pauline epistles in Greek, remains one of the oldest surviving manuscripts of some of the earliest Christian documents, which were originally written circa 51-58 CE. P-46, estimated to have been written between 175 and 250 CE, is also one of oldest surviving manuscripts of the New Testament. The provenance of the papyrus is unknown, although it was probably originally discovered in the ruins of an early Christian church or monastery. Following its discovery in Cairo, the manuscript was broken up by the dealer. Ten leaves were purchased by Chester Beatty in 1930; the University of Michigan acquired six in 1931 and 24 in 1933. Beatty purchased 46 more in 1935, and his acquisitions now form part of the Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri– eleven codices of biblical material.

Dating of this manuscript is problematic with dates ranging from the first century CE to the third century CE.  See Griffin, The Paleographical Dating of P-46 (1996).

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The Crosby-Schoyen Codex: One of the Earliest Extant Papyrus Codices, Probably from the Earliest Monastery Library Circa 250 CE

The Crosby-Schøyen Codex, a papyrus codex in Sahidic (a dialect of Coptic) from Alexandria, Egypt, consists of 52 leaves, of which 16 are missing, 15x15 cm, written in 2 columns, (10 x12 cm), 11-18 lines in a bold large Coptic uncial, with 3 decorated cartouches. Its fifth and final text is written in a single column, 12 lines. Dating from about 250, it is one of the earliest extant codices, showing the adoption of the codex form of the book by early Christians. In 2013 it was the earliest codex in private hands.

The five texts in the Crosby-Schøyen Codex are:

  1. Bible: Jonah
  2. Bible: 2 Maccabees 5:27 - 7:41
  3. Bible: 1 Peter
  4. Melito of Sardis: Peri Pascha 47 - 105
  5. Homily, An Unidentified Sermon for Easter Morning

The codex represents the earliest known complete text of the two books of the Bible, Jonah and 1 Peter. Of 1 Peter there is also a Greek papyrus slightly later, circa 300, from the same hoard, now in the Vatican Library. The Schøyen 1 Peter is copied from a Greek exemplar written before 2 Peter existed, that is circa 60-130 CE. It is the single most important manuscript of 1 Peter. Texts 2 and 4 are also the earliest witnesses. Text 5 is unique, and probably the oldest extant Christian liturgical manuscript. 

The codex derives from the hoard known as the "Bodmer Papyri", consisting of 9 Greek papyrus rolls, 22 papyrus codices and circa 7 vellum codices in Greek and Coptic. These manuscripts are now mainly located in the Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, Genève, and the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. They are part of what is known as the Dishna papers, which may have belonged to the library of one of the earliest monasteries associated with the first monastic order, the Pachomian order, Faw Qibli, Egypt. In his book, The Story of the Bodmer Papyri. From the First Monastery's Library in Upper Egypt to Geneva and Dublin (2011) James M. Robinson traced the unusually complex provenance of the Bodmer Papyri, documented the history of their publication in the 20th century, and made the case that these papyri were originally part of the library of the first Christian monastery. Robinson's view is not universally shared. The rolls and codices from the library were buried in a large sealed jar probably during the Arabic conquest of Egypt in the seventh century, and were not found until 1952.

The provenance of the Crosby-Schoyen Codex is among the most complicated of all the so-called Bodmer Papyri:

 "1. Copied from exemplars in Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria (3rd c.); 2. Monastery of the Pachomian Order, Dishna, Egypt (4th-7th c.); 3. Buried in a jar in the sand (7th c.-1952); 4. Hasan Muhammad al-Samman, Abu Mana (1952); 5. Riyad Jirjis Fam, Dishna (1952); 6. Phocion J. Tano, Cairo (1952-); 7. Sultan Maguid Sameda, Cairo (until 1955); 8. University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi (1955-1981); 9. H.P. Kraus, New York (1981-83); 10. Vinsor T. Savery, Houston, Texas (Pax ex Innovatione Foundation, Vaduz, Liechtenstein) (1983-1988); 11. Sotheby's 6.12.1988:29. 41 fragments from the beginning of the codex, that came apart in 1952: 1.-6. As above; 7. Dr. Martin Bodmer, Genève (1952-1967); 8. Prof. William H. Willis, Durham, North Carolina (from 1967); 9. Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, "P. Duk. inv. C125" (until 1990), acquired by exchange in April 1990, and rejoined to the main codex June 1990" (http://www.schoyencollection.com/Coptic.htm, accessed 11-25-2010). 

(This entry was last revised on 04-21-2014.)

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The Earliest Papyrus Codex of the Minor Prophets Circa 250 CE

Washington Manuscript V - The Minor Prophets (Codex Washingtonensis), a papyrus codex from the third century CE written in Egypt, is a complete Christian copy of the Greek text of the twelve Minor Prophets. It is the earliest papyrus codex of the Minor Prophets or Twelve Prophets. Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls this was the oldest Greek manuscript of the text. 

"A succession of people added Coptic glosses (clarifications or translations), perhaps adapting the codex to spread Christianity to people living outside the Hellenized cultural centers around the Nile. It was acquired in Egypt by American missionary David Askren, whose finds were purchased in 1916 by Charles Lang Freer in partnership with banker and financier J. P. Morgan, Jr."

One of the Biblical Manuscripts in the Freer Collection, the papyrus is preserved in the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington, D. C. It is one of the earliest papyrus codices preserved in North America.

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The Oldest Surviving Manuscript of the Comedies of Terence Circa 350 CE – 450 CE

Dating from the fourth or fifth century, the Codex Bembinus (Vatican Library Vat. lat. 3226) is the oldest surviving manuscript containing all or portions of the six comedies, or Fabulae, of Terence. It is written in Rustic Capitals

"The marginal gloss is in a Cursive Half-Uncial, the handwriting of the educated person of late Antiquity which, as in this example, would often be used for annotation of formal works. It consists of a rapid form of Half-Uncial, as the name suggests" (Brown, A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600 [1990] no. 7, plate 7).

In the middle of the 15th century the manuscript belonged to Gianantonio de' Pandoni (Porcellio) when in 1457 it was acquired by humanist Bernardo Bembo. It later passed into the collection of humanist, collector and archaeologist Fulvio Orsini, and entered the Vatican Library in 1600.

Reynolds & Wilson, Scribes and Scholars 3rd. ed., (1991) 36.

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The Earliest of Two Surviving Examples of Codices Written Entirely in Roman Square Capitals, and the Earliest Manuscript with a Large Ornamented Initial Letter at the Beginning of Each Page Circa 350 CE

One of the four leaves of the Vergilius Augusteus that resides in the Vatican Library.(View Larger)

The Codex Augusteus of Virgil, or the Vergilius Augusteus, was once thought to have been created in the Age of Octavian, the first Roman Emperor, but was later estimated to have been written in the fourth century CE. This and the Codex Sangallensis, are the only surviving examples of ancient manuscripts written entirely in Square capitals, a style of writing that was extremely complex and time consuming, and most often reserved for display headings. The Codex Augusteus also contains the earliest surviving examples of large ornamented initial letters at the beginning of each page. 

Square capitals were generally reserved for display purposes, or for use in monumental epigraphic inscriptions (scriptura monumentalis). "The angular letter-forms, with their frequent changes of angle and their serifs, were difficult to achieve with the reed pen (calamus) hence the preference for more rounded book scripts" (Brown, A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600 [1990] no. 1 and plate 1).

"According to Lowe, the Codex was almost certainly written in Italy. The script is the creation of the broad pen whose edge is held parallel to the base line; the position of the arm for which, according to the cut of the pen, gives thick perpendiculars and thin sub-strokes. It is a position, also, that requires to be maintained by a constant effort of the will if the letters to is to remain consistent throughout. Accordingly, when, as often, the o is tilted, it is probably against the intention of the scribe" (Morison, Politics and Script. . . . Barker ed. [1972] 49).

Only seven leaves of the manuscript survive, of which four are in the Vatican Library (Vat. Lat. 3256), and the remaining three in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Lat. fol. 416.) The manuscript was probably written in Italy. By the 15th century it was in St. Denis, Paris. The four leaves in the Vatican Library belonged to the jurist, humanist and bibliophile, Claude Dupuy. He gave two leaves to the humanist, historian and archaeologist Fulvio Orsini in 1574, and gave him the other two in 1575.  

Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores I (1934) no. 13.  Lowe, "Some facts about our Oldest Latin Manuscripts," Bieler (ed) E. A. Lowe. Palaeographical Papers 1907-1965 (1972) 189.

Stan Knight, Historical Scripts from Classical Times to the Renaissance (2009) B3 (pp. 26-27, with excellent images).

(This entry was last revised on 08-15-2014.)


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The Third Earliest Manuscript of the Four Gospels; One of the Earliest Codices Preserved in the Western Hemisphere Circa 350 CE – 450 CE

The Codex Washingtonianus or Codex Washingtonensis, also called the Washington Manuscript of the Gospels and The Freer Gospels, is the third earliest surviving manuscript the four biblical gospels in Greek, and one of the earliest codices preserved in North America. It is the only ancient codex of the Greek gospels for which at least a partial provenance is known. The codex also has two very distinctive painted wooden covers, encaustic on panels, fifth-seventh century, with portraits of the Four Evangelists. The covers are presently separated from the codex.

The codex was purchased by industrialist and art collector Charles Lang Freer "from an Arab dealer named Ali in Giza (Gizah), near Cairo, on December 19th 1906.... The only hint as to origin or former owner... is the prayer for a certain Timothy in the subscription to Mark, p. 372 in the Facsimile. I have already given my reasons for connecting this with the Church of Timothy in the Monastery of the Vinedresser, which was located near the third pyramid (Abu Salih's Churches and Monasteries of Egypt, trans. by Evertts and Butler, p. 190)...." (Sanders, The New Testament Manuscripts in the Freer Collection [1918] 1-2).

The manuscript is preserved in the Freer Gallery, Sackler Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. In December 2013 a digital facsimile of pages from the 1912 printed facsimile was available from the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts at this link.

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The Earliest Dated Codex with Full-Page Illustrations 354 CE

Title page from the Chronography of 354. (View Larger)

The Chronography of 354, also known as the Calendar of 354, is an illuminated manuscript produced for a wealthy Roman Christian named Valentius for the year 354. It is the earliest dated codex with full page illustrations; however none of the original survived. It is thought that the original may have existed in the Carolingian period, when a number of copies were made, with or without illustrations. These were copied during the Renaissance.

♦ The Calender of 354 is signed by Furius Dionysius Filocalus, with the word "titulavit," as creator of the titles which "display great calligraphic mastery. Whether or not he also executed the drawings is unknown" (Alexander, Medieval Illuminators and their Methods of Work [1992] 4), but Furius Dionysius Filocalus is the first known name associated with the production of a specific book.

"The most complete and faithful copies of the illustrations are the pen drawings in a 17th century manuscript from the Barberini collection (Vatican Library, cod. Barberini lat. 2154.) This was carefully copied, under the supervision of the great antiquary Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, from a Carolingian copy, a Codex Luxemburgensis, which was itself lost in the 17th century. These drawings, although they are twice removed from the originals, show the variety of sources that the earliest illuminators used as models for manuscript illustration, including metalwork, frescoes, and floor mosaics. The Roman originals were probably fully painted miniatures.

"Various partial copies or adaptations survive from the Carolingian renaissance and Renaissance periods. Botticelli adapted a figure of the city of Treberis (Trier) who grasps a bound barbarian by the hair for his small panel, traditionally called Pallas and the Centaur.

"The Vatican Barberini manuscript, made in 1620 for Peiresc, who had the Carolingian Codex Luxemburgensis on long-term loan, is clearly the most faithful. After Peiresc's death in 1637 the manuscript disappeared. However some folios had already been lost from the Codex Luxemburgensis before Peiresc received it, and other copies have some of these. The suggestion of Carl Nordenfalk that the Codex Luxemburgensis copied by Peiresc was actually the Roman original has not been accepted. Peiresc himself thought the manuscript was seven or eight hundred years old when he had it, and, though Mabillon had not yet published his De re diplomatica (1681), the first systematic work of paleography, most scholars, following Schapiro, believe Peiresc would have been able to make a correct judgment on its age" (Wikipedia article on the Chronography of 354, accessed 11-25-2008).

In December 2013 a digital facsimile from the Codex Vaticanus Barberini latinus 2154 (=R1) as reproduced in Josef Strzygowski, Die Calenderbilder des Chronographen vom Jahre 354, Series: Jahrbuch des Kaiserlich Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts. vol. 1. Berlin:G. Reimer (1888), was available at this link. That website also included much valuable scholarly apparatus. A digital version of Strzygowski's complete work was available at this link.

The standard printed edition is Salzman, On Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity (1990).

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The Oldest Datable Uncial Manuscript, Probably Written in Hippo Regius, Africa 396 CE – 426 CE

Most of the earliest surviving Uncial manuscripts were written in Northern Africa. The oldest datable Uncial manuscript is a copy of Augustinus, Libri II ad Interrogata Simpliciani, etc. (St. Petersburg, Public Library Ms. Q. V. 1, 3), written between 396 and 426 CE probably in Hippo Regius , the ancient name for the city of Annaba, Algeria. This was described by E. A. Lowe, in Codices Latini Antiquiores XI (1966) no. 1613, and the Supplement  to C.L.A. (1971) p. ix, and plate 3A. Lowe wrote:

"Written probably in Africa, to judge by the script of one of the two hands though the other is manifestly trained in the Italian manner. African origin is supported by W. M. Green's brilliant hypothesis that the volume was produced at Hippo in the author's early episcopacy. This renders it one of the most precious in the entire C.L.A. series. The manuscript belonged to Corbie where it is mentioned in several catalogues. Came to Saint Germain-des-Prés in 1638, where it bore the number 254. Acquired by Peter Dubrowsky [Dubrovsky] in 1791 and by the Imperial Library in 1805."

"It has been suggested that the Uncial script was deliverately devised, at the time when Constantine was Emperor (AD 306-337), as a specifically Christian bookhand to replace the Square and Rustic capitals used for 'pagan' classics. However, there are some ancient scripts and inscriptions with certain Uncial characteristics, which clearly pre-date the time of Constantine. The Timgad inscription of the 2nd or 3rd century, also has letters which are very similar to Uncial forms (see Stanley Morison, Politics and Script, page 63).

"Furthermore, the existence of some early Christian texts written in Rustics, like the fragment of the Gospel of John (Aberdeen, University Library, Papyrus 2a) and the Epistle to the Ephesians (Florence, Ms. Laur. P./S. 1, 1306), as well as at least one 'pagan' author, Cicero, written in the 4th century in Uncials (Vatican, Ms. Lat. 5757), cast doubt on this common assertion" (Stan Knight, Historical Scripts fron Classical Times to the Renaissance [2009] B6 (p. 33)

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"The Earliest Evidence for Tooling on a Leather Bookbinding" Circa 400 CE

Page 215 of MS G.67, depicting the acts of the apostles. (View Larger)

An illuminated manuscript on vellum of the first half of the Acts of the Apostles (G. 67) written in Coptic of the Middle Egyptian dialect around the year 400, and presumably the first half of a two-voume set, is preserved in the Morgan Library and Museum.

"There is a miniature in the final quire of a crux ansata flanked by two peacocks and bearing three smaller birds. It is the earliest-known Coptic miniature. The place of discovery of this Coptic Acts has never been revealed, but it appeared in the antiquarian book trade in 1961 together with a Coptic Gospel of Matthew that must have belonged to the same find. This latter is now in the possession of William Scheide. Its script is very similar to that of the Glazier Acts, its dialect is the same, and the leaf size of both manuscripts is very nearly identical. Their small format suggests that they were made for private use. The Glazier Acts was originally dated as early as the fourth century, but recently a more generalized dating in the fifth century has been argued.

"The binding of the Scheide Matthew is now quite damaged, with loss of the entire spine or backstrip, but was identifical in type to that of the Glazier Acts. Apart from its boards, all that now remains are carbonized portions of the hinging strips. At least two other Coptic codices, also dated to the fifth century, still retain bindings of this type. One of them is in the Morgan Library, M. 910: a complete Coptic Acts, in the Sahidic dialect. Though severely damaged and partly distingetrated, from what remains the system of wooden boards, backstrip, hinge strips (four), and wrapping strips can be clearly reconstructed. The other example, a Sahidic Mark and Luke, is in the Palau-Ribes collection of the University of Barcelona.

"The fine state of preservation of the Glazier Acts binding, and especially of the goatskin backstrip is so fresh as to have cast some suspicion on its authenticity. However, considering the even more ancient Nag Hammadi find, it should not be assumed a priori that the binding is too good to be true, and that leather could not survive and remain flexible for so long. There have been various losses; the backstrip once extended at both ends, so that it could be folded over the top and bottom edges of the leaves for additional protection. The top extension is now frayed, and that at the bottom has been torn away. Two of the three wrapping strips survive, one only partially; and two of the bone securing pegs terminating the strips. Neither strip is now attached to the board. There are only remains of what were originally two plaited leather place marks, once laced into the upper board, one into the lower. In addition to fillets, the backstrip was stamped with a small tool of concentric circles, a common Coptic decorative pattern repeated on the bone pegs. This is the earliest evidence for tooling on a leather bookbinding.

"Three Egyptian bindings dated to the sixth century have survived in bindings which appear to exhibit later, fancier evolutions of this style; two are in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, and one in the Freer Gallery, Washington. The techniques of these bindings have not been entirely deciphered, but in all three examples, the number of hinging holes on the boards was greatly increased, to three dozen or more. In none of the three are there any signs of linkage between sewing and covers--with with the Glazier Acts and others of its group, only glue held the covers to the codex. The backstrips of the two Chester Beatty bndings were stamped with pictorial tools. The wooden covers of the Freer Gospels (a Greek text, but of Egyptian origin) are painted with portraits of the evangelists, two on each cover. It is generally thought that these painted figures were added later, perhaps in the seventh century, and were not part of the orignial conception of the binding. The evangelists are depicted holding codices, a traditional iconography, and it is curious to note that these are quite clearly represented as possessing jewelled covers. . . . "(Needham, Twelve Centuries of Bookbinding: 400-1600 [1979] 9-10).

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One of the Few Surviving Sources for the Administrative Structure of the Late Roman Empire Circa 420 CE

The Notitia Dignitatum is one of the few surviving manuscripts documenting the administrative organization of the eastern and western Roman empires, listing several thousand offices from the imperial court down to the provincial level. It is considered relatively up to date, with the expected problems and omissions, for the Western empire circa 420 CE, and for the Eastern empire circa 400 CE.

"Notitiae were lists or catalogues, also referred to as latercula. Such lists were typical of the systemization of that characterized the late Roman bureaucracy. The variety of extant notitiae. . . can be broken down into four categories: provincial lists, urban catalogues, episcopal lists, and the Notitia Dignitatum" (Bowersock et al [eds.] Late Antiquity. A Guide to the Postclassical World [1999] 612).

One of the most significant surviving early copies of this text was made for the bibliophile Pietro Donato, bishop of Padua, in January 1436, while Donato was presiding over the Council of Basel. In addition to the exchange of ideas, long meetings such as this Council were also places to which manuscripts and scribes could be brought for copying and exchange, and new works could be disseminated to readers who would take their copy back to their home region possibly for further distribution by copying at their local scriptorium.

Donato's manuscript, which also includes several other texts, including the geographical compilation, Liber de mensura orbis terrae, by the Irish monk Dicuil composed in 821, and the De rebus bellicis, was given the general title Cosmographia Scoti. According to a note in Donato's hand in the manuscript, the exemplar from which the manuscript was copied was a "vetustissimus codex" from the library of Speyer Cathedral. This late 9th or early 10th century manuscript, most of which no longer survives, is generally known as the Codex Spirensis. The manuscript is known to have existed in 1542, but was lost before 1672; only a single leaf of the Codex Spirensis survives today at Maihingen (HS. I,2,2°.37). It was used in the binding of a record book which dates from 1602-3. (Thompson 11).

Later in the fifteenth century Donato's copy of the Codex Spirensis came into the possession of A. Maffei at Rome, and passed into the collection of manuscripts assembled by the Venetian Jesuit Matheo Luigi Canonici. After Canonici's death his collection was purchased in 1817 by the Bodleian Library.

The miniature paintings in the Donato's copy of the Notitia Dignitatum were by Peronet Lamy, an illuminator who worked for Amadeus VIII of Savoy, later elected Pope by the Council, as Felix V. The manuscript is preserved at the Bodleian Library, and according to their exhibition catalogue from 1975, the same scribe and illuminator prepared another copy of the collection that is preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

"The Notitia Dignitatum is a unique document of the Roman imperial chanceries. One of the very few surviving documents of Roman government, it details the administrative organisation of the eastern and western empires, listing several thousand offices from the imperial court down to the provincial level. It is usually considered to be up to date for the Western empire in the 420s, and for the Eastern empire in 400s. However, no absolute date can be given, and there are omissions and problems" (Wikipedia article on Notitia Dignitatum, accessed 11-29-2008).

Hunt, R.W., The Survival of Ancient Literature, Oxford: Bodleian Library, 1975, no. 146.

Thompson, A Roman Reformer and Inventor. Being, a New Text of the Treatise De Rebus Bellicis with a Translation and Introduction (1952) discusses the history of the various early copies of the Codex Spirensis, which preserved the text of the Notitia Dignitatum as well as De rebus bellicis, and other works.

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Fragments of a Fifth or Sixth Century Codex Circa 450 CE – 550

Fragment 26v of the Cotton Genesis, depicting Abraham. (View Larger)

The Cotton Genesis, a luxury manuscript with many illuminations, is one of the oldest surviving illustrated biblical codices. However, most of the manuscript was destroyed in the Cotton library fire in 1731, leaving only eighteen charred, shrunken scraps of vellum, preserved in the British Library. It is thought that the manuscript originally extended to more than 440 pages with approximately 340 miniature paintings that were framed and inserted into the text column.

"The miniatures were executed in late antique style comparable to Catacomb frescoes. Herbert Kessler and Kurt Weitzmann argue that the manuscript was produced in Alexandria, as it exhibits stylistic similarities to other Alexandrian works such as the Charioteer Papyrus.

"The Cotton Genesis appears to have been used in the 1220s to design 110 mosaic scenes in the atrium of St Mark's Basilica in Venice, after it was brought to Venice following the sack of Constantinople in 1204. The manuscript arrived in England, and was acquired by Sir Robert Cotton [Robert Bruce Cotton] in the 17th century." (Wikipedia article on Cotton Genesis, accessed 11-26-2008).

Regarding what some of the missing or fragmentary images might have looked like see Marion Wenzel, "Deciphering the Cotton Genesis Miniatures: Preliminary Observations Concerning the Use of Colour"(1987). In February 2014 this paper was available from the British Library website at this link.

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The Only Illustrated Homer from Antiquity 493 CE – 508

Achilles sacrificing to Zeus from the Ambrosian Iliad. (View Larger)

Fifty-eight miniatures cut out of a 5th century illuminated manuscript on vellum of the Iliad of Homer are known as the Ilias Ambrosiana (Ilia picta). The manuscript is thought to have been produced in Constantinople during the late 5th or early 6th century, specifically between 493 and 508. "This time frame was developed by Ranuccio Bandinelli and is based on the abundance of green in the pictures, which happened to be the color of the faction in power at the time" (Wikipedia article on Ambrosian Iliad, accessed 11-30-2008).

The images from the Ambrosian Iliad are the only surviving portions of an illustrated copy of Homer from antiquity. Along with the Vergilius Vaticanusand the Vergilius Romanus, this incomplete manuscript of the Iliad is one of only three illustrated manuscripts of classical literature that survived from antiquity. The Iliad images

"show a considerable diversity of compositional schemes, from single combat to complex battle scenes. This indicates that, by that time, Iliad illustration had passed through various stages of development and thus had a long history behind it. It seems mere chance that neither an illustrated Odyssey nor any of the other Greek epic poems has survived" (Weitzmann,  Late Antique and Early Christian Book Illumination [1977] 13).

Before it was preserved in the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana, Milan, the Ilias Ambrosiana fragment was in the library of humanist, botanist, and collector, Gian Vincenzo Pinelli, whose library of hundreds of manuscripts and roughly 8500 printed works was probably the greatest in 16th century Italy.

Nuovo, "The Creation and Dispersal of the Library of Gian Vincenzo Pinelli", Mandelbrote et al (eds) Books on the Move: Tracking Copies Through Collections and the Book Trade (2007) 39-68.

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500 CE – 600

Probably the Most Beautiful of the Earliest Surviving Scientific Codices Circa 512

An illustration of illustration of the species 'Akoniton napellus,' folio 67v. (View Larger)

The oldest surviving copy of Pedanius Dioscorides's treatise on medical botany and pharmacology, De materia medica, is an illuminated Byzantine manuscript produced about 512 CE. Dioscorides, a Greek military physician who served in the Roman army of the emperor Nero, wrote De materia medica in the first century CE. The Anicia Juliana codex also contains the earliest illustrated treatise on ornithology. It is one of the earliest surviving relatively complete codices of a scientific or medical text, one of the earliest relatively complete illustrated codices on any medical or scientific subject, and arguably the most beautiful of the earliest surviving scientific codices. It also contains what are probably the earliest surviving portraits of scientists or physicians in a manuscript.

The manuscript was produced for the Byzantine princess Anicia Juliana, the daughter of Flavius Anicius Olybrius, who had been emperor of the western empire in 472 CE. "The frontispiece of the manuscript, the first donor portrait in the history of manuscript illumination, features her depiction, flanked by the personifications of Magnanimity and Prudence, with an allegory of the "Gratitude of the Arts" prostrate in front of her. The encircling inscription proclaims Juliana as a great patron of art" (Wikipedia article on Anicia Juliana, accessed 11-22-2008).

For this and other commissions Juliana may be considered the first non-reigning patron of the arts in recorded history.

"Splendid though the figures in the Codex Vindobonensis are, they reveal a naturalism so alien to contemporary Byzantine art that it is obvious that they were not drawn from nature but derived from originals of a much earlier date—as early, at least, as the second century AD. They vary, however, very much in quality and are clearly not all by the same hand, possibly not even all after the work of a single artist. In the text accompaying eleven of them there is association with the writings of Krateuas. All these figures are admirable, and clearly by the same hand; it must therefore seem certain that they, at all events, are derived from drawings by Krateuas himself" (Blunt & Raphael, The Illustrated Herbal [1979] 17).

The story of the manuscript's survival is relatively well documented:

"Presented in appreciation for her patronage in the construction of a district church in Constantinople, the parchment codex comprises 491 folios (or almost a thousand pages) and almost four hundred color illustrations, each occupying a full page facing a description of the plant's pharmacological properties. . . .

"In the Anicia codex, the chapter entries of De Materia Medica have been rearranged, the plants alphabetized and their descriptions augmented with observations from Galen and Crateuas (Krateuas), whose own herbal probably had been illustrated. Five supplemental texts also were appended, including paraphrases of the Theriaca and Alexipharmaca of Nicander and the Ornithiaca of Dionysius of Philadelphia (first century AD), which describes more than forty Mediterranean birds, including one sea bird shown with its wings both folded and open" (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/aconite/materiamedica.html, accessed 11-22-2008)

From the time of its creation "Nearly nine centuries were to pass before we have further knowledge of the whereabouts of the codex. Then we learn that in 1406 it was being rebound by a certain John Chortasmenos for Nathanael, a monk and physician in the Prodromos Monastery in Constantinople, where seveteen years later it was seen by a Sicilian traveler named Aurispa. After the Muslim conquest of the city in 1453 the codex fell into the hands of the Turks, and Turkish and Arabic names were then added to the Greek. A century later it was in the possession of a Jew named Hamon, body physician to Suleiman the Magnificent, and it was presumably either by Hamon or by his son, who inherited it, that Hebrew names were also added" (Blunt & Raphael, op. cit., 15).

"Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, ambassador of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I to the Ottoman court of Süleyman, attempted to purchase the Anicia codex in 1562 but could not afford the asking price. As he relates at the end of his Turkish Letters (IV, p.243),

"One treasure I left behind in Constantinople, a manuscript of Dioscorides, extremely ancient and written in majuscules, with drawings of the plants and containing also, if I am not mistaken, some fragments of Crateuas and a small treatise on birds. It belongs to a Jew, the son of Hamon, who, while he was still alive, was physician to Soleiman. I should like to have bought it, but the price frightened me; for a hundred ducats was named, a sum which would suit the Emperor's purse better than mine. I shall not cease to urge the Emperor to ransom so noble an author from such slavery. The manuscript, owing to its age, is in a bad state, being externally so worm-eaten that scarcely any one, if he saw if lying in the road, would bother to pick it up.

"In 1569 Emperor Maximilian II did acquire the Anicia codex for the imperial library in Vienna, now the Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek), where it is designated Codex Vindobonensis Med. Gr. 1. (from Vindobona, the Latin name for Vienna) or, more simply, the Vienna Dioscorides." (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/aconite/materiamedica.html, accessed 11-22-2008)

(This entry was last revised on 05-03-2014.)

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The Codex Argenteus, The Primary Surviving Example of the Gothic Language Circa 520

A page from the Codex Argenteus. (View Larger)

About 520 CE the Codex Argenteus (silver codex) was written in silver and gold letters on purple vellum in probably in Ravenna, or in the Po valley, or in Brescia, probably for the Ostrogothic ruler of Italy, Theodoric

The Codex Argenteus contains fragments of the Four Gospels translated into Gothic by the fourth century Bishop Ulfilas (Wulfila), of Nicopolis ad Istrum (now Northern Bulgaria). It is the primary surviving example of the Gothic language, an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths, and set down in writing by Ulfilas who devised devised the Gothic alphabet. Of the original 336 leaves only 188 are preserved at the Carolina Rediviva library at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, plus one separate leaf, discovered, remarkably, in 1970 in the cathedral of Speyer in Germany.

During the Ostrogothic rule of Italy there was a bilateral Gothic-Latin culture, of which the Codex Brixianus, also produced in Italy at approximately the same time, survives as a Latin counterpart to the Codex Argenteus. It is believed that the Latin version of the Bible in the Codex Brixianus may be the Latin text from which Ulfilas translated the Bible into Gothic.

"With the end of Gothic rule the Gothic manuscripts in Italy were rendered valueless; what remained of them (with the exception of the Codex Argenteus) became part of that waste material which in the seventh and eighth centuries was re-used in Bobbio" (Bischoff, Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and Middle Ages [1990] 186).

After about a thousand years during which the Codex Argenteus appeared in no inventories, it was rediscovered in the middle of the 16th century in the library of the Benedictine monastery of Werden in the Ruhr, near Essen in Germany (Werden Abbey). This abbey, whose abbots were imperial princes with a seat in the imperial diets, was among the richest monasteries of the Holy Roman Empire. The Dutch physician, humanist, and linguist Johannes Goropius Becanus published the first mention of the manuscript in his 1569 book Origines Antwerpianae. In 1665 Franciscus Junius the Younger published the editio princeps of the text as Quatuor D. N. Jesu Christi euangeliorum versiones perantiquae duae, Gothica scil. et Anglo-Saxonica (Dordrecht, 1665).

In 1597 Bonaventura Vulcanius, professor of Greek at Leiden, published portions of the Gothic Bible text from the Codex Argenteus in a collection of treatises on the Goths which he edited for publication by the Plantin Press. In his preface to one of these treatises, De literis et lingua Getarum sive Gothorum, Vulcanius wrote that it represented two brief disserations by an unidentifiable scholar, the first of which he said was "concerned with the script and prounciation, and the other with the Lombardic script, which the author said he copied from a manuscript codex of great antiquity which he called 'the Silver.' This was the first publication in print of any Gothic text, and it gave the manuscript its name, Codex Argenteus. Vulcanius identified Ulfilas as the translator of Gothic text of the Bible. Vulcanius's book included images of Gothic script as compared to other ancient languages. 

"Later the manuscript became the property of the Emperor Rudolph II, and when, in July 1648, the last year of the Thirty Years' War, the Swedes occupied Prague, it fell into their hands together with the other treasures of the Imperial Castle of Hradcany. It was subsequently deposited in the library of Queen Christina in Stockholm, but on the abdication of the Queen in 1654 it was acquired by one of her librarians, the Dutch scholar Isaac Vossius. He took the manuscript with him to Holland, where, in 1662, the Swedish Count Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie bought the codex from Vossius and, in 1669, presented it to the University of Uppsala. He had previously had it bound in a chased silver binding, made in Stockholm from designs by the painter David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl" (http://www.ub.uu.se/arv/codexeng.cfm, accessed 11-22-2008).

Munkhammar, Lars. The Silver Bible: Origins and History of the Codex Argenteus. (Uppsala, 2011).

In February 2014 a digital facsimile of the Codex Argenteus was available from Uppsala University Library at this link.

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How the Middle Ages Processed and Recycled Roman Culture Circa 524 – 1300

"An interest in classical antiquity never waned altogether during the centuries of the Middle Ages. In the West and particularly in Italy, the great Latin classics never ceased to be studied in the schools and cherished by individuals with a bent for letters. It is true that writers like Tacitus and Lucretius, Propertius and Catullus, just to give a few leading examples, fell quickly into oblivion after the Carolingian age, only to reappear again with the rise of humanism. But Virgil and Cicero, Ovid and Lucan, Persius and Juvenal, Horace and Terence, Seneca and Valerius Maximus, Livy and Statius, and the list is by no means complete, were always read. Virgil became also a prophet of Christianity by the fourth century and a sorcerer in the twelfth century. Some of Ovid's poems were given a Christian interpretation, while Seneca, besides being hailed as the traditional exponent of ancient morality, was also cherished as the correspondent of St. Paul, which he certain was not. Even after the fall of the Roman Empire, the idea of Rome as 'caput mundi' never faded out in the West. Neither Constantinople nor Aachen ever succeeded in achieving the universal prestige of Rome, just as neither Ravenna nor Antioch, nor Milan, nor Aquileia, nor Treves, had ever come near it during the last centuries of the Empire. The very Barbarians who invaded Italy succumbed to Latin civilization, just as some centuries before the Romans had surrended to that of conquered Greece. Towns were proud of their Roman origins. At Pavia an inscription, testifying to the existence of the town in Roman times, was preserved as a relic in a church, while the equestrian statue of a Roman Emperor, known as the 'Regisol' and removed from Ravenna, adorned one of its squares and was the visible symbol of the town and its traditions until its destruction at the hands of the French in 1796.

"That some interest in the ancient monuments remained alive is not surprising, just as it is not surprising that even smaller antiquities, such as coins, ivories, or engraved gems, were continually sought after during the Middle Ages. 'What was lost, notwithstanding the reminder contained in St. Augustine's Civitas Dei, was the Varronian idea of 'antiquitates'— the idea of a civilization recovered by systematic collection of all the relics of the past.' What led to the collection of antique objects during the Middle Ages was not their antiquity but their appeal to the eye or their rare or unusual materials, or simply because they were different; or even in some cases because they were thought to be endowed with magical powers. The antiques preserved in the treasuries of cathedrals were kept there because their materials or their craftsmanship were considered precious, not becuase they were ancient. Even those few who had a genuine interest in Antiquity were drawn to it by an attraction tempered by utilitarian considerations. The Latin classics were considered above all as repositories of unusual information or moral teachings or as collections of fine phrases suitable for quotation or insertion into one's own writings. They were certainly not seen as the expressions of a great civilization. Roman remains were employed as building materials, or as architectural models, as can be seen for instance in the interior of Autun Cathedral and on the façade of that of Saint Gilles, or they could influence sculpture, as happened in France during the early thirteenth century, when art acquired there a new vitality through the study of ancient marbles. The inscriptions left wherever Rome had ruled were sometimes considered useful models, and as such were transcribed and imitated. Statues and sarcophagi were used again, while smaller antiques were often employed for various purposes. Roman cinerary urns were frequently turned into small stoups for holy water, as may be seen in more than one church in Rome, or could even be provided with a fresh inscription, as was the inscription in honour of St. Agnes and St. Alexander, placed there during the thirteenth century by Marco, Abbot of Santa Prassede. The ivory diptychs of the consuls became covers of gospel books or were even employed to record the dead of a particular church as happened for instance to the Boethius diptych of 487, on which were entered the names of the deceased of the church of Brescia. Sometimes the figures of the consuls carved on them were turned into saints or biblical characters, as happened in a diptych now at Monza, where they became King David and St. Gregory, and in one at Prague, where the consul was transformed into none other than St. Peter himself. Engraved gems went to adorn crowns and diadems, crosses, reliquaries and book covers. Thus the cross [of Lothair] given to the Minster at Aachen by the Emperor Otho III has an ancient cameo of the young Augustus; and also at Aachen the eleventh century ambo still displays some antique ivory tablets with decidedly pagan deities.

"One thing that must be borne in mind is that the Middle Ages did not envisage classical antiquity as a different civilization or a lost Paradise. Despite the difference in religion, until Petrarch medieval men failed to notice a fracture between the classical age and their own times. To them Frederick Barbarossa was as much a Roman Emperor as Augustus or Trajan and only differed from Constantine by his having been born several centuries after him. The medieval empire and that founded by Augustus were believed to be one and the same, and classical myth was often used for decoration in a religious setting. In fact the frequent warnings that pagan art was dangerous found little response even in ecclesiastical circles. During the early Middle Ages a vigorous classical revival took place under the Carolingians. This was in many ways a real renaissance, and the widest in scope ever witnessed before that which illuminated the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. . . ." (Roberto Weiss, The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity [1969] 2-3).

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The Earliest Manuscript of the New Testament in Christian Palestinian Aramaic Circa 550

Several pages from te Codex Climaci Rescriptus. (View Larger)

The Codex Climaci Rescriptus, a 7-8th century Greek uncial manuscript of the New Testament as well as a 6th century Christian Palestinian Aramaic uncial manuscript of the Old and New Testament, represents in its Christian Palestinian Aramaic version of the New Testament, "the closest surviving witness to the words of Jesus Christ. It preserves the Gospels in the nearest dialect of Aramaic to that which he spoke himself, and unlike all other translations, those here were composed with a living Aramaic tradition based in the Holy Land." 

The palimpsest-manuscript in Christian Palestinian Aramaic was probably written in Judea, the mountainous southern region of Israel, in the sixth century. It was turned upside down and palimpsested in Syriac in the ninth century. It is thought that it passed to St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, which was built by the Emperor Justinian I between 527 and 565.

The manuscript was

"acquired by the pioneering Biblical scholars and twins, Agnes Smith Lewis (1843-1926) and Margaret Dunlop Gibson (1843-1920) in three stages between 1895 and 1906 (all in the vicinity of Cairo, the manuscript having presumably been 'liberated' from its monastic home in order to supply leaves for the antiquity trade there). They were staunch Scottish Presbyterians with a consuming interest in the early versions of the Bible, and profound belief in female education, in an age when it practically did not exist. They used their own fortune to become celebrated scholars in the fields of Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Syriac, and thrilled by Tischendorf's discoveries at Sinai, they set off to St. Catherine's on a 'manuscript-hunting' expedition in 1892. They won over the difficult patriarch, partly through their insistence that nothing was to be abstracted from the library there, but only photographs taken, and on that expedition they returned with pictures of the Syriac manuscript which would make them famous, the fourth century Syriac Sinaiticus (their lives and its discovery are the subject of a recent book, J. Soskic, Sisters of Sinai, 2009, which was adapted for BBC Radio 4 this April). Having returned home to Cambridge they were tipped off by a mysterious informant that spectacular manuscripts were to be had through various dealers in Cairo. This was quite different from the questionable removal of manuscripts from ancient libraries, and the twins regarded it as a rescue mission, returning to Egypt and acquiring a single leaf of the present codex . . . in 1895. They acquired a further 89 leaves from the present manuscript in October 1905, and in April of the following year, while passing through Port Tewfik, Agnes Lewis bought two palimpsest - manuscripts on a whim. Upon returning home she discovered that one contained another 48 leaves of the present manuscript, and that the two portions were separated by only a single leaf - that which the twins had acquired first in 1895. They published the entire text in 1909. Only one other leaf of this scattered manuscript has emerged in the last century. . . . On the death of the twins the manuscript was left to Westminster College, Cambridge."

Westminster College consigned the Codex Climaci Rescriptus to auction at Sotheby's London for sale on July 7, 2009 with an estimate of £400,000- £600,000. The quotations in this note were taken from Christopher de Hamel's much longer illustrated description of the manuscript as lot 14 in the catalogue of Sotheby's sale L09740, Western Manuscripts and Miniatures. According to Sotheby's website, the manuscript failed to sell in the auction. In June 2010 it was publicized that the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, bought the manuscript for their planned Bible museum expected to be located in Dallas, Texas.

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Perhaps the First Library in Japan Circa 550 – 645

"The first extant notice of a collection of books in Japan, naturally Chinese books, dates from the sixth century. According to an early Heian genealogical compilation, Shinsen shojiroku, there was a Chinese Buddhist monk called Zhicong living in the 'capital' in the reign of the emperor Kimmei (r. 539-71) who had brought with him from China 164 rolls of Buddhist and secular works, including pharmacological studies and medical books which showed the places on the body to be used for acupuncture or moxibustion. The date is not impossibly early, particularly since the owner was an immigrant, and the precision is striking, but the source is a late one and it is wise to be cautious. Ono Noriiaki dates book-collecting from the seventh century, citing the account in Nihon shoki of Sogo no Iruka's insurrection in 645 which ended with the burning of his books. Ono also notes that the Horyu Gakumonji, a temple emponymously devoted to learning, must also have had a library at this time, although nonting is known of it" (Peter Kornicki, The Book in Japan: A Cultural History from the Beginnings to the Nineteenth Century [2001] 364-5).

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The Codex Zacynthius: The Oldest Codex That Has Both Text and Commentary in Uncial Script Circa 550

The Codex Zacynthius, containing chapters 1:1-11:33 of the Gospel of Luke in Greek, was written in the sixth century, or possibly the seventh century, in an unknown location. The 176 leaf manuscript was palimpsested in the 12th of 13th century, and overwritten with weekday Gospel lessons. Its late Alexandrian text-type undertext, discovered as late as 1861, was written by two scribes in a single column in uncial script— a style very similar to that of the Rossano Gospels. The undertext is surrounded on three sides by a marginal commentary in a different, smaller uncial script; the codex is the oldest surviving manuscript incorporating this feature.  

The early history of the codex is unknown. In its present sixteenth century Greek style goatskin binding it was presented to the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1821 by the General and abolitionist Colin Macaulay, as a gift from Prince Comuto of Zakynthos

The undertext of the codex was discovered, deciphered, transcribed, and edited by English bible scholar and theologian Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, who published it in 1861 as Codex Zacynthius. Greek Palimpsest Fragments of the Gospel of Saint Luke, Obtained in the Island of Zante, by the Late General Colin Macaulay, and Now in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society. In his book Tregelles included one page of typographical facsimile showing the commentary in small type. He did not decipher the small Patristic writing, and doubted that it could be read without chemical restoration. For the main Greek text Tregelles used types originally cast for printing the Codex Alexandrinus, which only approximately represented the shape of the letters of the codex. 

"The commentary is a catena of quotations of nine church fathers: OrigenEusebiusTitus of Bostra, Basil, Isidore of PelusiumCyril of Alexandria, Sever from Antioch, Victor from Antioch, and Chrysostom. The commentary surrounds the single-column text of Luke on three sides. Patristic text is written in small uncial letters. Most of the quotations are those of Ciril of Alexandria (93 scholia); next comes Titus of Bostra (45 scholia). The commentary was written in a different kind of uncial script than the biblical text" (Wikipedia article on Codex Zacynthius, accessed 01-07-2014).

In 1984 the British Foreign and Bible Society, which owned the manuscript, placed the codex, and in 1985 their historical library on deposit with Cambridge University Library. On September 16, 2013 the society announced that it would sell the Codex Zacynthius as part of a fund raising campaign for a new visitor center in a deconsecrated church in North Wales. It offered Cambridge University the right of first refusal to purchase the manuscript at the price of £1.1m until February 2014. Cambridge University's press release, issued as part of its fund raising campaign, contained several fine images and useful commentary on the manuscript. In January 2014 it was available at this link. On April 6, 2014 the deadline for Cambridge to acquire the codex was extended to August 2014.

(This entry was last revised on 04-08-2014.)

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"Source Z" for the Latin New Testament Circa 575 – 599

A canon table from Harley 1775, from the British Library. (View Larger)

British Library, Harley 1775, a mixture of the Vulgate and Old Latin translation of the Gospels, dating from the final quarter of the sixth century, is called "source Z" in critical studies of the Latin New Testament. In the 17th century the manuscript was owned by Jules Cardinal Mazarin. In the early 18th century it was in the Bibliothèque Royale, ancestor of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, from which it was stolen along with several other manuscripts in 1707 by the renegade priest and adventurer, Jean Aymon. Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford, purchased the manuscript in Holland. In 1753 the widow of Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford and their daughter, sold the manuscript to Parliament as part of the Harleian collection, which became one the founding collections of the British Museum, and later of the British Library.

The manuscript is written in Uncial (Littera Uncialis).

"The term 'Uncial' has been thought (perhaps mistakenly) to have been coined in reference to letters an inch high and has been ascribed,probably aporcryphally, to St. Jerome, whose reference to the script and its 'luxury' status are, in fact, somewhat disparaging. Any such remark need not to have referred to the script which we now know as Uncial. There is no word division, the text being written in  the scriptura continua of Antiquity and set out, or punctuated, per cola et commata (i.e. the length of lines primarily indicating where pauses occur and serving to clarify the sense" (Brown, A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600 [1990] no. 5 and plate 5).

In February 2014 a digital facsimile was available from the British Library at this link.

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The Ashburnham Pentateuch Circa 580 – 620

A folio from the Ashburnham Pentateuch depicting Cane and Abel. (View larger)

The Ashburnham Pentateuch (sometimes called the Tours Pentateuch), a late sixth century or early 7th century illuminated manuscript of the Pentateuch, is the only western illuminated manuscript with narrative rather than purely decorative or iconic images that bridges the period between late antique and the Carolingian renaissance. It has been described by some scholars as Spanish, but probably came from Italy. One theory of its origin is that it was produced in the imperial scriptorium of Rome on commission from Galla Placidia to educate her son Emperor Valentinian III in the Christian doctrine. 

Though the manuscript originally contained all five books of the Pentateuch, it now lacks the whole of Deuteronomy as well as sections of the other five books. In Early Medieval Bible Illumination and the Ashburnham Pentateuch (2004) Dorothy Verkerk argued that the manuscript was written in Rome in the early seventh century, whence it traveled north to Fleury,

"where it was refurbished and given a decorated initial in the eighth century. From Fleury it was taken to Tours where a ninth-century addition was inserted and where it was studied, amended, copied, and emulated in manuscripts and frescoes. The manuscript was deposited at some point in the library of St. Gatien, and was moved to the Bibliothèque Municipale [at Tours] during the French Revolution, from where it was stolen, brought to England, and then finally returned to France in the nineteenth century" (Verbeek 58-59).

"It has 142 folios and 19 miniatures, and measures 372mm by 321mm. It is thought to have originally included as many as 68 full page miniatures. A full page table containing the Latin names of the books and Latin transliterations of the Hebrew names serves as a front piece to Genesis. The table is enclosed within a curtained arch. Some of the full page miniatures, such as that containing the miniature of Noah's Ark (folio 9r), contain a single scene. Other of the full page miniatures, such as that telling the story of Cain and Abel, contain many scenes which are placed in a register, with each scene having a different color background" (Wikipedia article on the Ashburnham Pentateuch, accessed 11-26-2008).

♦ The manuscript was at Tours when it was stolen in 1842 by mathematician, historian of science, palaeographer, and book thief, Guglielmo Libri, and sold by Libri in 1847, along with many other stolen manuscripts, to Bertram, 4th Earl of Ashburnham. In 1888 after a long and well-publicized dispute with the curator of manuscripts at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Léopold Delisle, the fifth Earl of Ashburnham sold the manuscript, along with other ancient French codices his father had purchased from Libri, to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, where it is preserved today.

For a detailed account of Guglielmo Libri's role in the history of the Ashburnham Pentateuch see my book, Scientist, Scholar and Scoundrel (2013).

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A Volume Brought by St. Augustine to England in 597 597

Folio 129v of the St. Augustine Gospels, depicting Luke. (View Larger)

The St. Augustine Gospels, an illuminated Gospel Book written in a sixth-century Italian uncial hand, has traditionally been considered one of the volumes brought by St. Augustine from Rome to Canterbury, England in 597. The manuscript, from the library of Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker, is preserved in the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. It is characterized by the Parker Library website as the "oldest illustrated Latin gospel book now in existence." Assuming that it travelled to England with Augustine in 597, the manuscript has been in England longer than any other book. It contains corrections to the text in an insular hand of the late 7th or early 8th century, which would confirm the presence of the manuscript in England.

"It was certainly at St. Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury in the 11th century, when documents concerning the Abbey were copied into it. The manuscript was given to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge by Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury. It is still produced for the enthronements of new Archbishops of Canterbury."

"The manuscript once contained evangelist portraits for all four Evangelists. However. only the portrait for Luke is still extant (Folio 129v). A full page miniature on folio 125r prior to Luke contains twelve narrative scenes from the Passion" (Wikipedia article on the St. Augustine Gospels, accessed 11-25-2008)

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600 – 700

Foundation of the Monastery and Library at Bobbio 614

Saint Columbanus (View larger)

In 614 Saint Columbanus founded the Abbazia di San Colombano at Bobbio, in the province of Piacenza in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Bobbio became famous as a center of resistance to Arianism, and the abbey library, founded by Columbanus with manuscripts that he brought from Ireland and treatises which he personally wrote, became one of the greatest libraries of the Middle Ages. 

"Many books in its libary are older than the monastery and this demonstrates that Bobbio received many books second-hand. I refer especially to the copies of Cyprian, the biblical codex k of African origin, the Medici Virgil, the very ancient grammatical manuscripts, and especially, to the classical texts which lie buried in palimpsests" (Bischoff, Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne [2007] 9).

In the ninth century Saint Dungal bequeathed his library to the abbey. It included some seventy volumes, among which was the famous 'Antiphonary of Bangor'.

In 982, Gerbert of Aurillac (later Pope Sylvester II) became abbot of Bobbio, and with the aid of numerous ancient treatises which he found there, composed his celebrated work on geometry. It appears that when Greek was almost unknown in western Europe, certain Irish monks at Bobbio read Aristotle and Demosthenes in the original Greek.

"A tenth-century catalogue, published by Muratori, shows that at that period every branch of knowledge, divine and human, was represented in this library. Many of the books have been lost, the rest have long since been dispersed and are still reckoned among the chief treasures of the later collections which possess them.

 "In 1616 Cardinal Federico Borromeo took for the Ambrosian Library of Milan eighty-six volumes, including the famous "Bobbio Missal", written about 911, the Antiphonary of Bangor, and the palimpsests of Ulfilas' Gothic version of the Bible. Twenty-six volumes were given, in 1618, to Pope Paul V for the Vatican Library. Many others were sent to Turin, where, besides those in the Royal Archives, there were seventy-one in the University Library until the disastrous fire of 26 January 1904" (Wikipedia article on Bobbio Abbey, accessed 12-03-2008).

Umberto Eco based the location of his 1980-83 novel The Name of the Rose, with its labyrinthine library, on the abbey at Bobbio.

(This entry was last revised on March 22, 2014.)

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The Earliest European Book that Survived Completely Intact in its Original Binding Circa 650

The binding of the Stonyhurst Gospel. (View Larger)

The St. Cuthbert Gospel of St. John, also known as the Stonyhurst Gospel, a pocket-sized (3.5 x 5 inch) 7th-century gospel book written in Latin is one of the smallest surviving early Latin manuscripts. It belonged to Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, and was discovered in 1104 when Cuthbert's tomb was opened so that his relics could be transferred to a new shrine behind the altar of Durham Cathedral. The manuscript had been placed in the tomb of Saint Cuthbert probably a few years after his death in 687. It was kept at Durham cathedral with other relics until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII between 1536-1541, after which it was preserved by a series of private collectors. It is the earliest English book that survived completely in its original state in its original binding, and only manuscript written entirely in Capitular Uncial, a display script found exclusively in manuscripts written in the scriptorium of Wearmouth-Jarrow Abbey, where it was written during the abbacy of Ceolfrith.

"The state of preservation of this small volume (less than 5½ inches tall) might fairly be described as miraculous. Its leather is crimson-stained goatskin, stretched over thin wooden boards. Various details of the workmanship and decoration reveal a generally Mediterranean if not specifically Coptic influence. A direct Coptic influence is not indeed impossible, the relations between Coptic and Hiberno-Saxon art at this time having been long recognized; but it should be recalled that bookbinding models would also have been available at Wearmouth and Jarrow from the codices, already mentioned, recently imported from Italy. In any case the specific decorative technique of the upper cover of the Stonyhurst Gospel is precisely paralleled in Egyptian leatherwork. This technique involves the applciation of glued cords to the board, laid out in a pattern. Leather is then stretched over the board, and worked around the cords, bring out the pattern in relief.

"Three more European leather bindings of roughly comparable antiquity are preserved in the Landesbibliothek, Fulda. All come from the monastery of Fulda, where by ancient tradition they were thought to have belonged to St. Boniface (d. 754), the Anglo-Saxon martyr and apostle to the Germans, who was buried there. The binding of one of these, the Cadmug Gospels (written by an Irish scriber of that name), has many points of similarity with the Stonyhurst Gospel binding. Both are small volumes; their leather is similar in color and character; and both have pigments in the scribed lines decorating the covers. They are sewn in what may very generally be called the Coptic manner: the quires are linked by the sewing thread(s), without the use of cords, and the threads are attached directly to the boards, by loops passing through holes drilled in the boards near their back edges. . . ." (Needham, Twelve Centuries of Bookbindings 400-1600 [1979] 57-58).

According to an inscription pasted to the inside cover of the manuscript, the manuscript was obtained by the 3rd Earl of Lichfield (d. 1743) who gave it to Reverend Thomas Phillips (d. 1774) who donated it to the English Jesuit college at Liège on 20 June 1769.  Since 1769 the manuscript was owned by the Society of Jesus (British Province), and for most of this period was in the library of Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, successor to the Liège college. In 1979 the Society of Jesus placed the manuscript on loan to the British Library.

In February 2014 a digital facsimile of the manuscript was available from the British Library at this link.

♦ In July 2011 the British Library launched a campaign to raise £9,000,000 to buy the manuscript from the Society of Jesus (British Province), and on April 16, 2012 they announced that the purchase had been completed. To launch their campaign the British Library produced the following video. Beneath that is a news video broadcast after the purchase was successful.

(This entry was last revised on 08-10-2014.)

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The Finest Surviving Coptic Bookbinding Circa 650 – 750

MS M.569 of the Pierpont Morgan Library, considered the finest surviving Coptic bookbinding. (View Larger)

A Coptic bookbinding removed from an illuminated manuscript on parchment of the Four Gospels (MS M. 569) attributed to the Monastery of Holy Mary Mother of God, Perkethoout near Hamuli, Faiyum, Egypt, and preserved in the Morgan Library and Museum, is considered "the finest surviving Coptic bookbinding." It is tooled goatskin over papyrus boards; decorated with onlaid panels of red leather tracery sewn to a gilded leather ground, with plain edges. 

"In 1910 the library of the ancient Coptic monastery of St. Michael of the Desert was discovered in southern Faym, near the village of Hamuli. Nearly sixty parchment volumes were found in a stone cistern, many still in their original bindings; they compose the largest surviving group of inact Coptic codices coming from a single source. The following year, Pierpont Morgan purchased the Hamuli manuscripts from a Paris art dealer, almost en bloc. At least five of the codices had already strayed, and are now in the Coptic and Egyptian Museums in Cairo, and a number of fragments, broken up from whole codices after the find, were more widely dispersed. That the remainder was kept together was due especially to the efforts of Professors Emile Chassinat and Henry Hyvernat.

"Before the discovery of the Hamuli codices there was no record of the monastery of Archangel Michael, but it was well known that the Fayum had been a thriving center of Coptic religious life, and that dozens of monasteries had been situated there. The Hamuli codices are all service books, intended for public reading, and their format is large. Only six are less than thirteen inches tall (33 cm.), and only one less than twelve inches (30cm.). They include various parts of the Bible, a Lectionary, an Antiphonary, and many volumes of Synaxeries, collections of readings--hagiographic, homiletic, and more generaly devotional--belonging to particular feast days. The number of distinct texts, exclusive of the Bible, numbers well over one hundred, many otherwise unknwon. Twenty of the codices have dated colophons, from 823 to 914, containing valuable information concerning the organization and personnel of St. Michael's, and its relations with neighboring monasteries. The relatively narrow chronological span of the codices suggests that the monastery disbanded or was destroyed sometime in the tenth century.

"It should be explained that through this period Egypt was part of the Islamic world, having fallen abruptly out of the Byzantine sphere in 641. This transfer of imperium had few if any immediate deleterious effects on Egyptian Christianity, which was already thoroughly aliented from Byzantium. Its submergence into a minority role in Egypt (but always and still an important one) came about gradually, as did the disappearance of the Coptic language. The general policy of medieval Islam toward Christian and Jewish subjects was tolerant, though they were required to pay a special infidels' tax. There were a number of sporadic instances of persecution in Egypt, the most extensive being that initiated by the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim (996-1020), which is known to have resulted in the destruction of many churches and monasteries. It may have been at this time that St. Michael of the Desert went under" (Needham, Twelve Centuries of Bookbindings 400-1600 [1979] no. 2, 12).

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700 – 800

The Oldest English Translation of Any Portion of the Bible 725 – 750

Folio 30v of the Vespasian Psalter, depicting David with musicians. (View Larger)

The Vespasian Psalter (London, British Library, Cotton Vespasian A I) an illuminated Psalter produced in southern England, perhaps in St. Augustine's Abbey or Christ Church, Canterbury or Minster-in-Thanet between 725 and 750 contains an interlinear gloss in Old English which is the oldest extant English translation of any portion of the Bible. The psalter takes its name from its shelf location under the bust of the Roman emperor Vespasian, in the Cotton Library formed by Sir Robert Bruce Cotton, from which it passed in 1753 to the British Museum.

"The psalter contains the Book of Psalms together with letters of St. Jerome, hymns and canticles. It was written in Latin on vellum, using a southern English Uncial script with Rustic Capital rubrics. There were additions made by a scribe named Eadui Basan in an English Carolingian minuscule. The English gloss was written in a Southumbrian pointed minuscule."

"There are several major initials which are historiated, zoomorphic, or decorated. Major initials are found at the beginning of Psalms 1, 51 and 101. (This tripartite division of the Psalter is typical of Insular Psalters). In addition, the psalms beginning each of the liturgical divisions of the Psalter are given major initials. The beginning letters of the other Psalms have smaller "minor" initials which are decorated or zoomorphic and are done in what is called the "antenna" style. There is a miniature of King David with his court musicians on folio 30 verso. It is probable that this miniature was originally the opening miniature of the psalter. Sir Robert Cotton pasted a cutting from the Breviary of Margaret of York on folio 160 verso. He also inserted a miniature from a 13th Century liturgical psalter as folio 1.

"The Psalter belongs to a group of manuscripts from Southern England known as the Tiberius group. The manuscript was produced during the second quarter of the 8th century. The script of the Old English gloss is typical of the script produced in Canterbury scriptoria from about 820 to 850. Eadui Basan, who made additions to the manuscript, was a monk at Christ Church, Canterbury during the early 11th Century. Thomas of Elmham recorded a Psalter at Canterbury which may have been the Vespasian Psalter. The manuscript was at Canterbury in 1553. It was subsequently owned by Sir William Cecil and Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury. By 1599 it was the possession of Sir Robert Cotton, who signed it on folio 12 recto. It became national property, along with the rest of the Cotton library in 1702 and was incorporated into the British Museum when it was founded in 1753. The volume was the first in the Vespasian shelf section in the part of the library indexed by the names from a set of busts of the Roman Emperors on top of the shelves. Its current binding, with metal clasps, was provided by Cotton" (Wikipedia article on Vespasian Psalter, accessed 11-26-2008).

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The Foundation of English Historical Writing Circa 731

Historia ecclasiastica gentis Anglorum, folio 3v of Beda Petersburgiensis, dated 746. (View Larger)

About 731 The Venerable Bede, a Benedictine monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow, completed Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People). This work was the founding document of English History.

Bede's works show that he had at his command virtually all of the learning of his time. It is thought that the library at Wearmouth-Jarrow, built up by abbot Benedict Biscop through his extensive travels, might have included as many as 250 titles, probably in fewer volumes, making it the largest and most extensive in England at the time.

"Bede's writings are classed as scientific, historical and theological, reflecting the range of his writings from music and metrics to exegetical Scripture commentaries. He was proficient in patristic literature, and quotes Pliny the Elder, Virgil, Lucretius, Ovid, Horace and other classical writers, but with some disapproval. He knew some Greek, but no Hebrew. His Latin is generally clear and without affectation, and he was a skilful story-teller. . ." (Wikipedia article on Bede, accessed 11-22-2008).

(This entry was last revised on 08-11-2014.)

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From the Libraries of Richard Mead and Anthony Askew 736 – 760

Folio 5r of Codex Benevenatus, Jerome's letter. (View Larger)

According to a subscription on folio 239 verso, the Codex Beneventanus,  an illuminated Gospel Book, was written by a monk named Lupus for one Ato. This was probably Ato, abbot from 736-760 of the monastery of St. Vincent on the Volturno, near Benevento, Italy.

"The codex contains the Vulgate version of the four Gospels, the canon tables of Eusebius of Caesarea, the letter of St. Jerome to Pope Damasus (Novum opus), the prologue of St. Jerome to the Gospels (Plures fuisse), and prologues and chapter lists for each of the Gospels. The text is written on vellum in two columns in Uncial script with no division between words. The running titles are in small uncials while the incipits and explicits are in capitals. The incipits and explicits are written in alternating lines of red and black ink. The subscription of Lupus is written in uncials, and also has alternating lines of red and black ink. The text contains additional punctuation and annotations in a 10th century Beneventuan hand."

"By the 13th century it [the manuscript] was associated with St. Peter's convent in Benevento. In the first half of the 18th century it was owned by Dr. Richard Mead, and was used by Dr. Richard Bentley in his collation of New Testament texts. Dr. Mead may have acquired the manuscript in the 1690s when he traveled to Italy, however, the manuscript did not appear in the catalog of the sale of his library in 1754-55. The manuscript was later owned by Anthony Askew (d. 1754). It was purchased by John Jackson in 1785 at the sale of Askew's manuscripts. The British Library purchased it in 1794 at the sale of Jackson's manuscripts" (Wikipedia article on Codex Beneventanus, accessed 06-15-2009).

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One of the Great Treasures of Early Carolingian Metalwork 760

The ornate cover on the Lindau Gospels, located in the Pierpont Morgan Library. (View Larger)


The gilt silver, enamel, and jeweled lower cover on the Lindau Gospels, MS M1 in the Morgan Library & Museum, was executed in Austria, possibly in Salzburg, during the second half of the 8th century.

"In 1899, Pierpont Morgan purchased the Lindau Gospels from the heirs of the 4th Earl of Ashburnham; it was the first major mediaeval manuscript to enter his collections. He acquired, in this single volume, three outstanding examples of Carolingian book art: an important ninth-century illuminated manuscript from the scriptorium of St. Gall, and two of the finest surviving Carolingian metalwork bookcovers. The two covers, however, may be separated by as much as a century, and it is certain that the older of the covers did not originally belong to this codex, however early it was assimilated to it. The covers and codex can be traced back as an entity no further than 1594, the date stamped on the red morocco spine of the volume. It has not been determined whether the jewelled covers were added to the codex then, or whether repairs were made at that date to an existing bound volume, already with jewelled covers. Nor has it been established where the volume was in 1594; the first explicit record placing it in the Benedictine nunnery of Lindau, from which it takes its name, comes in 1691. Lindau is on a small island in Lake Constance, just offshore near the northeast corner. St. Gall, where the Gospels was written, is southwest of Lindau, across the lake and inland, at a direct distance of about twenty miles."

"It has long been recognized that the lower cover of the Lindau Gospels is considerably earlier than the date of the manuscript, and could not have been designed for it. This cover is one of the great treasures of early Carolingian metalwork. It has elicited a considerable literature, characterized by widely varying opinions concerning its localization and date. Such a diversity of opinion is understandable, for although the cover was clearly designed as a unit, a variety of techniques and motifs make up its individual components. The basic layout consists of an enamelled cross (both champlevé and cloisonné) within an enamelled flrame, over four background silver-gilt panels of complex engraved animal interlace patterns. The cross-in-frame motif is similar to that of Queen Theodelinda's bookcovers, mentioned above, though an interval of as much as 200 years separate the two peices of work; and, on both, the arms of the cross broaden where they join the frame (cross pattée). The four cloisonné representations of the bust of Christ on the Lindau cover, one on each arm about the center of the cross, may be related to the late seventh-century gold Cross of Duke Gisulf, each arm of which contains two repoussé portrait heads, presumably Christ's.

"Many scholars have been struck by the resemblance of the animal interlaces on the quadrants to Hiberno-Saxon decorative schemes, and several have noted a general resemblance in layout to several of the carpet-pages in the Lindisfarne Gospels of ca. 700, on which a cross pattern is brought out against an animal-interlace background. An even more specific stylistic connection has been established for the animal interlaces in the two gilt silver engraved medallions laid into the vertical arms of the cross: these follow precisely the 'gripping-beast' pattern of Viking animal ornament. Their earliest appearance in Viking art is on objects from the Oseberg ship-find, which have been dated to between 800 and 850. It has sometimes been asserted that the Viking gripping-beast style was derived from Carolingian prototypes, but this cannot be documented—unless indeed the Lindau Gospels lower cover is considered as a precedent Carolingian example" (Needham, Twelve Centuries of Bookbindings 400-1600 [1979] 25-26).

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"The Oldest Western European Codex in Private Hands" (As of 2009) Circa 775

A page fromt he 'Canones concillorum,' written in both unical and miniscule.(View Larger)

When I accessed the website of German rare book and manuscript dealer Dr. Jörn Gunther in June 2009 I found the following manuscript offered for sale under the heading, "The Oldest Western European Codex in Private Hands."

The history of the writing of this manuscript as understood through its palaeography described below. The texts which it contains, and the details of its provenance reflect significant aspects of Carolingian manuscript production, and the history of collecting medieval manuscripts. Here is Dr. Gunther's description:

"Canones conciliorum. Manuscript on vellum, written by an insular scribe. Northern Italy, c.775.

"223 x 175 mm. 94 leaves. Internally complete, lacking one gathering at the beginning and some leaves at the end. The quires are signed with Roman numbers from II-XIII.– Written space fol.1-64v:165 x 130 mm, on fol. 65-94v: 175 x 135 mm, ruled in blind for one column of 24-25 and 19-20 lines. fol. 1-60v written in half uncials and precarolingian minuscules, fol. 61-94v in precarolingian minuscules in olive grey, light brown and dark brown ink. Many capitals in uncial with simple decoration with penwork ornament, including one initial in a form of a fish.– In fine condition for a volume of such antiquity. Right upper corner on fol.70 torn away with some loss of text.– 19th-century brown morocco by the Parisian bookbinder Marcelin Lortic.


"1. The codex was written by an insular scribe from Ireland or Northumbria, working in Northern Italy.

2. Monastery of Reichenau in Germany (at an early date).

3. Bound in Paris by Marcellin Lortic who opened his shop in the Rue St Honoré in 1840.

4. Ms. 17.849 of the collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872); his oldest western manuscript and one of Phillipps's greatest treasures.

5. William Robinson Ltd., cat. 81: Precious Manuscripts, Historic Documents and Rare Books, London 1950, no. 92.

6. Dr. Martin Bodmer, Geneva, Switzerland (1899-1971).

7. Peter and Irene Ludwig, Aachen, ms.XIV 1 (1978-1983).

8. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu (1983-1988).

9. Now: Private collection, Europe.


"fol.1-58: Canones Conciliorum– fol.58-77v: Symmachiana, so-called ‘Symmachian forgeries’– fol.77v-94v: Decretals of Siricius, Boniface I, Innocent I, Zosimus, and Celestine I; end of text missing. Following the death of Pope Gelasius I († 496) Dionysius Exiguus (c.470- c.555), a skythian monk in Rome, was commissioned by the papal court to compile the ‘Collectio Dionysiana’ which united the canons of the councils and papal decretals. This anthology was the first compilation of this kind carried out in the Western Church and forms the foundation of Western Latin canon law. The compilation of Dionysius exists in three editions of which the codex at issue represents the so-called ‘Dionysiana II’. Manuscripts of the ‘Dionysiana II’ are rare uncombined with other texts, while only one codex preserved as a complete book is of an earlier date: ms.fol.v.II.3 in St Petersburg (Rossijskaja Nacionalnaja Biblioteka), a Burgundian codex dating from the 7th century (CLA 11 no.1061). Apart from this manuscript only a fragment in the Biblioteca Amploniana in Erfurt (Ampl.2°74) can be dated earlier having been written during the second half of the 6th century, presumably in Italy.

"After the Canones Conciliorum there follows as an insert, which cannot be found in this form in comparable collections, the so-called ‘Symmachian forgeries’, dating from thetime of Pope Symmachus (498-514; see Landau 1998). He was elected pope after the death of Anastasius II by a certain faction; a second faction declared the archpriest Laurence as pontiff. As a result of the turmoil which followed the elections, the ‘Symmachian forgeries were written, which strove to demonstrate by means of fictitious papal case files that the pope would not be subject to a human court of justice, but solely to the judgment of God.

"The third component of the book comprises decretals compiled under the pontificate of Pope Hormisdas (514-523) and contains the complete corpus of the old canon law, which consisted of the decrees of the Middle Eastern, Greek, African and Roman councils as well as those of the popes. The compilation is known as the Sanblasianus edition, because it was edited on the basis of a manuscript which first belonged to St. Blasien in the Black Forest and then to St. Paul in Lavanttal (Stiftsbibliothek, cod.7/1). Only seven manuscripts of this edition are preserved, three of which are older than the present codex (Paris, BN, lat. 3836, dating from the second half of the 8th century; Cologne, Dombibliothek, ms.213 dating from the first third of the 8th century and the Sanblasianus, which also dates from the mid-8th century). The oldest manuscript within the group (Cologne, Dombibliothek, ms.213) was written in Northumbria and brought to Cologne in the 8th century.

"The Canones conciliorum gained such an importance in subsequent decades that the text was duplicated again and again in the Frankish empire and from this later period over 100 manuscripts are preserved in the Frankish area alone. The codex was written by three different scribes. The main scribe (fol.2-60v) wrote the Canones conciliorum as well as the opening of the ‘Symmachian forgeries’. Palaeographic analysis reveals that this scribe came to the continent from an insular scriptorium and finally settled in northern Italy. It is not ascertainable, however, in which northern Italian scriptorium the manuscript was written. The palaeographic indications cannot be used to date the manuscript to a specific year, but it is very likely that it was executed in the years around 775, making the present manuscript contemporary with the famous copy of the Canones compilation, the so-called Dionysio-Hadriana,which was presented to the Frankish ruler Charlemagne (768-814) by Pope Hadrian I (772-795) in Rome in 774. After the presentation, the wording of the statute book was made compulsory for the Frankish empire, and numerous transcripts of the codex, originally kept in Aachen and now lost, were produced."

Note: I reformatted the description somewhat for this database, and left out the bibliographical references cited at the end of Dr. Gunther's description. The hyperlinks are my additions.

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800 – 900

The Utrecht Psalter, "The Most Frequently Studied of All Illuminated Books" Circa 816 – 850

Page from Utretch Psalter.

Page from Utretch Psalter.

The Utrecht Psalter, one of the most influential of ninth century illuminated manuscripts, with among the most unusual histories of ownership, contains 166 pen illustrations, one accompanying each of 150 psalms and 16 canticles in the manuscript. It was written in imitation rustic capitals. According to the most recent study (1996) the manuscript was written at the monastery of Hautvillers, near Reims, France as it is related in style to the Ebbo Gospels. It may have been sponsored by Ebbo, Archbishop of Reims, in which case it would be dated between 816 and 835. Others have argued for a date circa 850, believing that the psalm illustrations draw from the travels of Saxon theologian Gottschalk of Orbais, and the illustration with the Athanasian Creed and other details pertain more to Archbishop Hincmar, Ebbo's successor.  

The Utrecht Psalter has been characterized as "the most frequently studied of all illuminated books" (van der Horst 24), the authors of which also state that "it occupies a prominent position in every handbook or outline of the history of Western art."

Named for its ownership in Utecht, where it is preserved in the Universiteitsbibliotheek (MS Bibl. Rhenotraiectinae I Nr. 32), the psalter was, after its rediscovery in the library at Utrecht in 1858, thought for a period of time to be a sixth century work because of the archaic style of its rustic capitals. 


"A period spent in the late 9th century in the area of Metz, perhaps at the court of Charles the Bald, has been suggested on the basis of apparent influences from the manuscript in the art of the area. The manuscript had reached Canterbury Cathedral by c. 1000, at which time a copy began to be made of it; this, the Harley Psalter, is in the British Library as MS Harley 603. The Psalter was copied in full three times in the Middle Ages, the second copy being the Eadwine Psalter (Cambridge, Trinity College Library, MS R.17.1) of 1155–60, with additions 1160–70, and the texts extended to five versions of each psalm. The last copy is a fine version in full colour with gold backgrounds that is known as the "Anglo-Catalan Psalter" or MS Lat. 8846 in the BnF, of 1180-90 (Morgan, 47-9). This was half-illustrated by an English artist in about 1180-1200, and completed by a Catalan artist in 1340-50, naturally using a different Gothic style. The images are necessarily somewhat simplified, and the number of figures reduced.

"Earlier there were derivative works in other media; similar groups of figures appear in a Carolingian engraved crystal in the British Museum (the Lothair Crystal, stylistically very different) and metalwork, and some late Carolingian ivories repeat figure compositions found in the Utrecht psalter (Calkins, 211).

"The original manuscript spent at least two centuries at Canterbury from the year 1000, and after the English Dissolution of the Monasteries (Canterbury was a monastic cathedral) came into the possession of Robert Bruce Cotton, the famous English antiquary, at which point it was rebound, with his arms on the cover. Cotton lent the manuscript to the great collector [Thomas Howard], the [21st] Earl of Arundel, who took it into exile with him during the English Civil War; it was taken to the Netherlands in around 1642 and sold on Howard's death by his widow and son. It reached Utrecht University in 1716, at which point it was incorporated into the University Library. It was rediscovered in the library in 1858."


"The Utrecht Psalter is generally considered to be important to the development of Anglo-Saxon art in the late tenth century, as the artistic style of its artwork seems to have been drawn on and adapted by Anglo-Saxon artists of this time. Although it is hardly likely that this single manuscript was solely responsible for beginning an entire new phase, the style which developed from it is sometimes known as the 'Utrecht' style of outline drawing, and survived almost unchanged into the 1020s (Wormald).

"The Psalter is the earliest and most fully illustrated of a 'narrative' group of Carolingian Psalters and other manuscripts; the much greater freedom of their illustrations may represent a different, probably monastic, audience for them from the more hieratic productions for the court and the altar. Images are unframed, often varied and original in iconography, showing a 'liveliness of mind and independence of convention' not found in the more formal books. Other members of the group are the Golden Psalter of St. Gall and the Drogo Sacramentary, which made the important innovation of placing most illustrations in inhabited initials. The Byzantine Chludov Psalter represents a comparable tradition in the East (Hinks, 115-119), and the Reims style was also influenced by artists fleeing Byzantine iconoclasm (Berenson, 163). Meyer Schapiro is among those who have proposed that the Psalter copied illustrations from a Late Antique manuscript; apart from an original perhaps of the 4th or 5th centuries, details of the iconography led him to believe in an intermediary Latin model' of after about 700 (Shapiro, 77, 110 and passim). That the miniatures are in large part based on an earlier manuscript, initially disputed by some (Tselos, 334 etc.), seems to have gained general acceptance, though the precise nature and dates of earlier postulated versions vary.

"The style of the outline drawings is dramatic, marked by activity, leaping creatures and fluttering folds of drapery set in faintly sketched landscape backgrounds stretching the full span of a page. Several different episodes may be shown in an illustration, some interpreting the text very literally, indeed over-literally in typical medieval fashion, others building on an association with the text to create elaborate images, including New Testament scenes or motifs from Christian iconography (Pächt, 168-170). Despite the individuality of the style, the hands of eight different artists have been detected" (Wikipedia article on Utrecht Psalter, accessed 08-01-2011).

A beautiful and authoritative study of the manuscript, placing it within context of related works of the time, is van der Horst, Noel, and Wüstefeld (eds.) The Utrecht Psalter in Medieval Art. Picturing the Psalms of David (1996).  The first facsimile of the Utrecht psalter was published as Latin Psalter in the University Library of Utrecht in 1875. A second printed facsimile was published in Graz, Austria, in 1984.

In February 2014 a digital facsimile was available from the University Library of Utrecht at this link.

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The "Moutier-Grandval Bible," a Masterpiece from the Scriptorium at Tours Circa 830 – 860

One of three surviving illustrated manuscripts of the Bible produced in Tours at the Benedictine abbey of St. Martin in the ninth century, the Moutier-Grandval Bible (British Library Add MS 10546) contains the entire Latin Vulgate text as revised by Alcuin of York. It was probably created during the abbacy of either Adalhard (834-843) or Vivien (843-851) or slightly earlier in the transition period between the abbacies of Fridigus (807-834) and Adalhard. 

Reflective of the scale of book production at Tours during this period, some twenty different scribes worked on this immense volume, which contains 449 folios measuring 495 x 380 mm. The decorated initials are followed by square capitals and uncials which lead into the text script, which is a form of Caroline minuscule, upgraded here by the introduction of some variant letter-forms such as "a"  The four full-page miniatures are derived from classical art.

"The large format, the generous margins, and the richness of decoration reveal the prestigious nature of the manuscripts. The hierarchy of scripts— a large initial, Versal capitals, Uncials and minuscules (in descending order) — are used to great effect.

"The emergence of the Caroline minuscule is one of the great developments in the history of calligraphy. It derived from ancient Roman Half-uncial scripts, incorporating features from local hands. The abbey of Corbie played a major rôle in its evolution, especialy with its Maudramnus script. . . .It is a mature script of enduring quality. It was to be copied and adapted in succeeding centuries by scribes in England, Germany and Italy. Humanist scribes revived it, early in the 15th century, as an appropriate hand for the copying of classical texts. The first Italian printers then adopted it, and it has remained the baiss of Western typography to this day.

"The script of the Moutier Grandval Bible, though very small, is extremely consitent and well formed. Even some of the largers scripts of the Gospels and psalters made at Tours (eg. British Library Harley Mss. 2790 ans 2793) lack its rhythm and structure" (Stan Knight, Historical Scripts from Classical Times to the Renaissance [2009] C5 (p. 51).d). 

From Tours the manuscript passed to the Benedictine abbey of Moutier-Grandval, Jura, canton of Berne, Switzerland (founded in 640 by the abbaye of Luxeuil). During the Swiss reformation in 1534 it was taken by the canons of Moutier-Grandval to Delémont (Delsberg) where they fled and established a new community. This community was  dissolved in 1802 by the concordat between Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Pius VII. In 1821/22 the manuscript was apparently found at the former chapterhouse at Delémont by children and passed to 'demoiselles Verdat', owners of the property. It was bought from Verdat by Alexis Bennot (d. 1837), advocate, vice-president of the court of Delémont, and sold to Henry Speyr-Passavant (1782-1852), a bookseller from Basel, on March 19, 1822. In 1829 Speyr-Passavant issued a monograph on the manuscript that contained many testimonials as to its authenticity, and what we understand today as overstatements of its importance, by leading experts of the time: Description de la bible écrite par Alchuin, de l'an 778-800, et offerte par lui à Charlemagne le jour de son couronnement à Rome, l'an 801. Par son propriétaire, M. J. H. de Speyr-Passavant. In 1836 Speyr-Passavant sold the manuscript to the British Museum for £750, an enormous price for an illuminated manuscript at the time.

In August 2014 a digital facsimile of the Moutier-Grandval Bible was available from the British Library at this link.

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The Earliest Surviving Copy of Aristotle's Biological Works Circa 850

A Greek manuscript of Aristotle's Biological Works, written in Constantinople in the mid-9th century, and preserved at Corpus Christi College, Oxford(Corpus Christi College, MS. 108) is probably the oldest surviving manuscript of the texts that founded the science of biology. It contains annotations in Greek hands of the 12th and 13th centuries.

"A list of contents has been added on the last page (fol. 183v) in an English hand of the mid-13th century, which may be that of Robert Grosseteste, one of the earliest Englishmen to study Greek. Two titles and a few words of the 13th-cent. Latin translation by William of Moerbeke were added. . . in an English humanistic hand possibly identifiable as that of John Farley (d. 1464), fellow of New College and registrar of Oxford University, whose study of Greek is known from other manuscripts" (Hunt, R.W., The Survival of the Classics, Oxford: Bodleian Library [1975] No. 54.).

The manuscript was given to Corpus Christi College, Oxford by Henry Parry in 1623.

"The surviving corpus of Aristotle derives from medieval manuscripts based on a 1st century BC edition. There were no commentaries on the biological works written until they were collectively translated into Arabic. The first appearance of Aristotle's biological writings in the West are Latin translations of an Arabic edition by Michael Scot, which forms the basis of Albertus Magnus's De animalibus. In the 13th century William of Moerbeke produced a Latin translation directly from the Greek. The first printed editions and translations date to the late 15th century, the most widely circulated being that of Theodorus Gaza. In addition to the three works traditionally referred to as History of Animals, Parts of Animals and Generation of Animals, there are a number of briefer ‘essays’ on more specialized topics: On animal motion, On animal locomotion, On respiration, On life and death, On youth and old age, On length and shortness of life, On sleeping and waking, On the senses and their objects (the last six being included in the so-called Parva naturalia). Whether one should consider De Anima (On the soul) part of this project or not is a difficult question. What is certainly clear, however, is that there are important connections between the theoretical approach to the relationship between body and soul defended in that work and the distinctive way that Aristotle approaches the investigation of animals" (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-biology/).

(This entry was last revised on 04-30-2014.)

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The Fables of Phaedrus Circa 850

The Roman fabulist Phaedrus (c. 15 BCE- 50 CE), probably a Thracian slave born in Pydna of Macedonia (now Greece), lived in the reigns of Caesar Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius. He was first writer to translate entire books of fables into Latin, retelling in iambic meter the Greek prose fables of Aesop.

The earliest and most important surviving manuscript of Phaedrus is [Fabularum Aesopiarum libri quinque], also called the Codex Pithoeanus, MS M.906 in the Morgan Library & Museum. This manuscript, probably written at Reims, may have been in the library of the Abbey of Fleury. It was later in the library of Pierre Daniel (1530-1603), from which it passed to François Pithou, who gave it to his brother, the lawyer and scholar Pierre Pithou, in 1595.  At the front of the volume, which was bound c. 1600, is a transcription of the five books of Phaedrus's text by Pierre Pithou, which he prepared for the first printed edition of the text which he published in Troyes, 1596. The manuscript then descended through Pithou's family, belonging to Claude le Peletier (bookplate of the Le Peletier de Rosanbo [also spelled Rosambo] family), and then to the Marquis de Rosanbo at Dusmenil near Mantes, from whom the Morgan Library purchased it in 1961.

Reynolds, Texts and Tranmission. A Survey of the Latin Classics (1983) 300-302.

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Perhaps the Oldest Surviving Jewish Prayer Book Circa 850

On September 26, 2013 it was announced that a Hebrew prayer book or siddur in the collection of the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby arts-and-craft store chain, has been dated by both scholars and Carbon-14 tests to circa 850 CE.  If the date is confirmed it may be the oldest surviving Hebrew codex. Preserved in its original limp vellum binding, and measuring about 11 x 10 cm, the 50-page codex is written in an archaic form of Hebrew with Babylonian vowel pointing. That vowel pointing has led researchers to date the prayer book to the times of the Geonim (Babylonian Talmudic leaders from 589 to 1038 CE).

When the discovery of the book was announced the press release stated that six distinct sections in the siddur had been identified:

"100 blessings/morning prayers (the earliest form of what is in today’s Jewish prayer books, even older than those of Amram Gaon and Saadia Gaon)

"Passover Seder (said at evening Haggadah)  

"Poem on Song of Songs in conjunction with Succoth  

"Poem on the End Times (apocalyptic text of an international battle)

"Poetic form of the book of Zerubbabel  

"Unique section entitled, 'Salvation in Zion'.

On September 26, 2013 the Green family also announced that in 2017 they planned to open a "yet-to-be named" Bible museum in Washington, D. C.  

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The Text of Tacitus' Annals and Histories Survived in Only Two Manuscripts Circa 850 – 1050

Roman Senator and historian Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus, who lived from 56 CE to after 117 CE, wrote the Annales (Annals) and the Historiae (Histories), spanning the history of the Roman Empire from the death of Augustus in 14 to the years of the First Jewish–Roman War in 70 and the death of Domitian in 96. First published separately, with the Histories written and issued first, these two works were meant to form a continuous historical narrative in thirty books. Only about half of Tacitus's original thirty books survived, and their survival was dependent on just two manuscripts.

The first six books of the Annals survived in a single manuscript written in Germany about 850, probably in the Benedictine Abbey of Fulda. This manuscript was later at Corvey Abbey, and is now in Florence at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (MS. plut. 68.1.) and referred to as MS M.

"The script is a pre-carolingian hand which the scribe is changing to Carolingian minuscule, together with occasional small plain majuscules (a 9th century derivative of rustic capitals), a more ornamental version of these letters with decorative shading and some uncial elements, and also a few much larger and heavier capitals of essentially rustic form.  It is generally agreed that it was copied from a text written in 'insular' script which was copied from a manuscript in 'rustic capitals', and it has been suggested that this latter was at least 4th and probably 3rd century, based on an analysis of errors made in copying the titulature and colophons of each book, which are most easily explained if these errors occurred in copying a volume written in the early period in which prose texts were normally written in comparatively large letters and very narrow columns, and the colophons were not laid out in the manner common in 5th century and later books.

"At some time after it was written, the MS was transferred to the monastery of Corvey, in Saxony. There it remained, apparently without ever being copied.

"In 1508 the volume was removed from the library. A letter of Pope Leo X of December 1, 1517 indicates that it had been stolen, and that Leo had paid a large amount of money for it. At all events it passed into the hands of Pope Leo X.

"Leo gave the MS to Filippo Beraldo the Younger, who used it to produce the first edition in 1515, and left numerous annotations in the margins of the MS. The monks of Corvey, who petitioned the Pope for the return of their treasure, were instead sent a copy of the printed volume together with an indulgence to make up the balance" (http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/tacitus/#2, accessed 11-20-2013).

Books 11-16 of the Annals, and what remains of the Histories, also survived in a single manuscript, written at the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, and also preserved in the Laurentian library (MS. plut 68.2.) This is referred to as M. II or 'second Medicean', to distinguish it from the unique codex of Annals 1-6. 

"This MS is written in the difficult Beneventan hand. It was written at Monte Cassino, perhaps during the abbacy of Richer (1038-55 AD). It derives from an ancestor written in Rustic Capitals, as it contains errors of transcription natural to that bookhand.  There is some evidence that it was copied only once in about ten centuries, and that this copy was made from an original in rustic capitals of the 5th century or earlier, but other scholars believe that it was copied via at least one intermediate copy written in a minuscule hand.

"How the MS came to leave Monte Cassino is a matter of mystery.  It was still at Monte Cassino, and was used by Paulus Venetus, Bishop of Puzzuoli, sometime between 1331 and 1344.  However Boccaccio had certainly seen the text by 1371, and the MS is listed among the books given by him at his death to the monastery of S. Spirito in Florence.  Whether he had 'liberated' it, or acquired it from another collector who had done so has been extensively debated, without final result.

"The MS is next seen in 1427, in the hands of the book-collector Niccolo Niccoli, who had furnished bookcases for Boccaccio's collection at S. Spirito. That Niccolo had not acquired the MS legitimately is suggested by a letter to him from his friend Poggio Bracciolini, asking to see it and promising to keep quiet about it.  Knowledge of the text among the humanists is correspondingly limited in this period.

"Poggio returned the MS to Niccolo, complaining about its barbarous script, and comparing it unfavourably with a copy of it in humanist script held by another mutual friend, Salutati.

"At Niccolo's death in 1437, the MS passed with his books to the monastery of San Marco at Florence with the Medici as executors, and the humanist copies all date from this period or later" (http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/tacitus/#2, accessed 11-20-2013. 

E. A. Lowe, "The Unique Manuscript of Tacitus' Histories," in Beiler (ed) Palaeographical Papers 1907-1965 I (1972) 289-302, has this to say relative to Boccaccio and Tacitus on p. 296 (footnotes not included as usual):

"The manuscripts of Varro, Tacitus, and Apuleius probably left Monte Cassino at the same time. They were rescued, as the phrase goes, by some humanist, who was probably none other than Boccaccio. To Petrarch the works of Tacitus and Varro were only known in name. The first to use these authors was Boccaccio; and this good fortune was granted him towards the end of his life. There can be no doubt that he possessed the Beneventan manuscripts of Tacitus and Varro which are now in the Laurentian library. This may be seen, on the one hand, from the copies of these manuscripts which he left in the Convent of S. Spirito in Florence, which correspond perfectly with the original; and from the fact that Boccaccio's citations from Varro and Tacitus, in his Geneologia deorum and De claris mulieribus, as Pierre de Nolhac has shown, are taken only from books preserved in the Beneventan manuscripts, and from no others.

"How these manuscripts came into Boccaccio's hands we do not know, but we can make a shrewd guess. We have reason to believe they were not presented to him during his visits to Monte Cassino. Attracted by the fame of the abbey, as he told his pupil Benvenuto da Imola, he paid it a visit. He found the library shamefully neglected, without bolt or lock, grass growing in the windows, dust thick on the books, monks using the precious manuscripts for turning out prayer-books, which they sold for a few soldi to women and children. Grieved unto tears he left the library 'dolens  et illacrymans recessit.' But none of this I fear, is to be taken seriously. It all sounds uncommonly like an apology. He seems to be anxious to show that it was only act of simple piety to remove the precious classics to a place of safety, say to Florence. The letter which he wrote in 1371 to the Calabrian abbot Niccolò di Montefalcone requesting the return of a quire from the Tacitus, suggests that he probably had accomplices. But no one can doubt that the Tacitus manuscript was dishonestly obtained after reading Poggio's letter of 27 September 1427 to Niccolò Niccoli: "Cornelium Tacitum cum venerit, observabo penes me occulte. Scio enim omnem illam cantilenam, et unde exierit et per quem et quis eum sibi vendicet; sed nil dubites, non exibit a me ne verbo quidem.' "

Poggio's statement was translated as, "When the Cornelius Tacitus comes I shall keep it hidden with me for I know that whole song, 'Where did it come from and who brought it here? Who claims it for his own?' But do not worry, not a word shall escape me." (Two Renaissance Book Hunters. The Letters of Poggius Bracciolini to Nicolaus de Niccolis, Translated from the Latin and edited by Phyllis Walter Goodhart Gordan [1974] 116.)

Tacitus's Opera, containing the Annales XI-XVI and the Historiae, was first published in print in Venice by Vindelinus de Spira, about 1471-72. ISTC. No. it00006000. In February 2014 a digital facsimile of this edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Reynolds, Texts and Transmission. A Survey of the Latin Classics  (1983) 406-409.

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The Oldest Dated Manuscript of a Classical Greek Author 888

The second page of MS. d'Orville 301. (View Larger)

The d'Orville Euclid, dated 888, is the earliest "complete" manuscript of Euclid's Elements, and, according to the Bodleian Library exhibition catalogue, The Survival of Greek Literature, it is the oldest manuscript of a classical Greek author to bear a date.

Bodleian MS. d’Orville 301 was written on parchment in Constantinople by Stephanus Clericus, and bought by Arethas of Patrae, later Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia (Kayseri, Turkey) for 14 nomismata (gold coins).

"The hand of Stephanus is pure minuscule; Arethas added the scholia and some additional matter in small uncials."

From the death of Arethas (c. 939) the ownership of the manuscript is unknown until the seventeenth century, when it was acquired by the Dutch classicist J. P. D’Orville, most of whose collection was eventually purchased by the Bodleian Library in 1804.

Hunt, R.W., The Survival of Ancient Literature, Oxford: Bodleian Library, 1975, No. 55.

(This entry was last revised on 05-04-2014.)

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The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: The First Continuous History Written by Europeans in their Own Language 890

The initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle, marked secondarily by the librarian of the Laud collection in the Bodelian Library. The manuscript is an autograph of the monastic scribes of Peterborough, and the opening sections were likely scribed around 1150. The section displayed is prior to the First Continuation. (View Larger)


About 890 Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in south-west England, ordered monks to compile the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of annals narrating the history of the Anglo-Saxons and their settlement in Britain. The original manuscript of the Chronicle was probably created in Wessex. Copies were were distributed to monasteries across England, where they were independently updated. In one case, the Chronicle was still being actively updated in 1154.

Much of the information in these documents consists of rumors of events that happened elsewhere and may be unreliable. However for some periods and places, the chronicle is the only substantial surviving source of information. "After the original chronicle was compiled, copies were kept at various monasteries and were updated independently. Sometimes with items important to the locals, such as the fertility of the harvest or the paucity of bees, would be eagerly recorded, whereas distant political events could be overlooked. A combination of the individual annals allows us to develop an overall picture, a document that was the first continuous history written by Europeans in their own language."

There are nine surviving manuscripts of the Chronicle, of which eight are written entirely in Anglo-Saxon, while the ninth is in Anglo-Saxon with a translation of each annal into Latin. The oldest (Corpus Christi MS 173) is known as the Winchester Chronicle or the Parker Chronicle, after Matthew Parker who once owned it. This manuscript, preserved in the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, dates from the actual time of compilation—the last decade of the ninth century.

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900 – 1000

The Earliest Surviving Illustrated Surgical Codex Circa 900

Folio 201r of Florence, Laurentian Pluteus 74.7, depicting an orthopedic procedure involving a ladder and pulley. (View Larger)

The earliest surviving illustrated surgical codex was written and illuminated in Constantinople for the Byzantine physician Niketas (Nicetas) about 900 CE. It contains 30 full-page images illustrating the commentary of Apollonios of Kition on the Hippocratic treatise On Dislocations (Peri Arthron) and 63 smaller images scattered through the pages of the treatise on bandaging of Soranos of Ephesos. The Apollonian paintings represent various manipulations and apparatus employed in reducing dislocations; each of the images is framed in the Byzantine style in an archway of ornate design.

According to Karl Sudhoff, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Chirurgie im Mittelalter (1914) 4-7 the origins of these drawings go back to Alexandria or Cyprus where Apollonius wrote his commentary between 81 and 58 BCE, under the patronage of the king Ptolemaius (Ptolemy of Cyprus).

"They were undoubtedly transmitted directly from antiquity, and, therefore, represent the genuine Hippocratic traditions of surgical practice as transmitted through later Greek channels to Byzantium" (Garrison, Introduction to the History of Medicine 2d ed [1917] 108).

According to Vivian Nutton's article on the codex in Grafton et al eds., The Classical Tradition (2010) 638, the Nicetas codex "was included in the library of the Orphanage of Alexius Comnenus, and later in that of the Hospital of the Forty Martyrs." In 1492 or 1495 Greek scholar Janus Laskaris purchased the Nicetas Codex in Crete for Lorenzo de' Medici. By 1530 it belonged to Guilio de' Medici, Pope Clement VII, "who loaned it back to Lascaris for a proposed and never completed edition of the medical and surgical texts it contained. From a copy made by Lascaris, now in Paris in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Ferdinando Balami produced the first Latin translation of Galen's On Bones (1535). This copy, illuminated by Santorinos of Rhodes, entered the library of Cardinal Ridolfi, who arranged for yet a third copy to be prepared by Christoph Auer and sent as a present to Francis I in 1542. This volume, now also in the Bibliothèque Nationale, was taken to Paris by a young Florentine doctor Guido Guidi, who had prepared a Latin translation of the surgical texts" (Nutton, op. cit.) The original Nicetas codex was later acquired by Cardinal Nicolas Rudolfi, and is preserved in the Laurentian Library, Florence (Codex Lxxiv, 7).

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The Morgan Dioscorides Circa 930 – 970

Folio 114v of MS M 652, in the Pierpont Morgan Library. (View Larger)

MS M 652 in the Morgan Library & Museum, written in Greek miniscule and illuminated in Constantinople during the mid-10th century, contains an alphabetical five-book version of Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, including 769 illustrations and several headpieces and tailpieces, on 385 leaves.

Its contents, according to the Morgan Library's online description, are:

"fols. 1v-199v: Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, Book I. Roots and Herbs -- fols. 200r-220v: Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, Book II. Animals, Parts of Animals and Products from Living Creatures -- fols. 221r-242v: Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, Book III. Oils and Ointments. -- fols. 243r-269v: Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, Book IV. Trees -- fols. 270v-305v: Dioscorides, De Materia Medica, Book V. Wines and Minerals etc. -- fols. 306r-319v: Dioscorides, attr., On the Power of Strong Drugs to Help or Harm -- fols. 319v-327v: Dioscorides, attr., On Poisons and their Effect -- fols. 328r-330v: Dioscorides, attr., On the Cure of Efficacious Poisons -- fols. 331r-333v: A Mithridatic Antidote -- fols. 334r-338r: Anonymous Poem on the Powers of Herbs -- fols. 338r-361r, 377r-384v: Eutecnius, Paraphrase of the Theriaca of Nicander -- fols. 361v-375r: Eutecnius, Paraphrase of the Alexipharmaca of Nicander -- fols. 375r-376v: Paraphrase of the Haliutica of Oppianos (incomplete)."

The manuscript was bound in Byzantium in the 14th or 15th century in dark brown leather blind tooled in a lozenge pattern over heavy boards. It was in Constantinople in the 15th century, where it was owned by an Arabic-speaking person, who added inscriptions in Arabic and genitalia to some animals. In the 16th century it remained in Constantinople where was owned by Manuel Eugenicos, 1578 and listed in his library catalogue. By the nineteenth century the manuscript was in Italy where it was owned by Domenico Sestini, ca. 1820. Later it was in the collection of Marchese C. Rinuccini, Florence, 1820-1849 (MS Cod. 69). From the middle of the nineteenth century it appears to have been in England with the booksellers John Thomas Payne and Henry Foss, London, 1849-1857. In the Payne sale (London, Sotheby’s, Apr. 30, 1857) it was sold to Charles Phillipps for Sir Thomas Phillipps (Phillipps Collection, no. 21975).  In 1920 J. P. Morgan Jr. purchased the manuscript from Phillipps’s estate.

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The Most Famous, and Most Significant Manuscript of the Iliad Circa 950

Folio 12r of Venetus A. (View Larger)

The most famous Greek manuscript of the Homeric Iliad, Venetus A (Marcianus Graecus Z. 454 [=822]), is regarded by some as the best text of the epic poem. It also contains several layers of annotations, glosses, and commentaries known as the "A scholia."  These are thought to preserve editorial comments made by scholars at the Royal Library of Alexandria, as well as scholia accumulated by late antique annotators and philologists until the manuscript was written at Constantinople during the Macedonian Renaissance. The manuscript, also includes a summary of the early Greek Epic Cycle which is considered the most important source of information on those lost poems. 

At the end of most of the books of the poem there is a subscription, attributing many of the scholia to four Homeric scholars from antiquity. This was translated as follows:

"Alongside the text lie the Signs of Aristonicus, and Didymus' work On the Edition of Aristarchus, as well as some things from the Prosody of Herodian and Nicanor's On Punctuation."

The first scholar mentioned in the subscription, the Greek grammarian Aristonicus (Ἀριστόνικος Aristonikos) of Alexandria, lived during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius. He taught at Rome, and wrote commentaries and grammatical treatises. Most of his works were related to the Homeric poems, including On the Wanderings of Menelaus (περὶ τῆς Μενελάου πλάνης), On the Critical Signs of the Iliad and Odyssey (περὶ τῶν σημείων τῆς Ἰλιάδος καὶ Ὀδυσσείας), on the marginal signs by which the Alexandrian critics used to mark suspected or interpolated verses in the Homeric poems and in Hesiod's Theogony, and On Ungrammatical Words (ἀσυντάκτων ὀνομάτων βιβλία), a work of six books on irregular grammatical constructions in Homer. These and some other works are for the most part lost, except for fragments preserved in the scholia of Venetus A.

The second scholar mentioned, Greek scholar and grammarian Didymus Chalcenterus (Δίδυμος χαλκέντερος Didymos chalkenteros, "Didymus bronze-guts"), flourished in the time of Cicero and Augustus. His surname "bronze-guts" came from his nearly incredible productivity: he was said to have written so many books that he was unable to recollect what he had written in earlier ones, and so often contradicted himself. (Athenaeus records that he wrote 3500 books; Seneca estimated that he wrote 4000.) As a result Didymos acquired the additional nickname βιβλιολάθης "book-forgetter". Didymos taught in Alexandria and Rome, and is chiefly important as having introduced Alexandrian learning to the Romans. A follower of the school of the Alexandrian grammarian and editor Aristarchus of Samothrace (Ἀρίσταρχος), Didymos wrote a treatise on Aristarchus' edition of Homer entitled On Aristarchus' recension (περὶ τῆς Ἀριστάρχου διορθωσέως), fragments of which are preserved in Venetus A.

The third scholar cited, Aelius Herodianus (Αἴλιος Ἡρωδιανός) or Herodian, was one of the most celebrated grammarians of Greco-Roman antiquity. He was born in Alexandria, and from there he seems to have moved to Rome, where he gained the favor of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, to whom he dedicated a work on prosody. He is usually known as Herodian except when there is a danger of confusion with the historian also named Herodian.

Lastly, the Greek grammarian Nicanor (Νικάνωρ) Stigmatias lived during the reign of Hadrian in the early 2nd century. According to the Suda he came from Alexandria; according to Stephanus of Byzantium he came from Hierapolis. The Suda records that Nicanor acquired the nickname stigmatias (στιγματίας, punctuated) because of his concentration on punctuation. His scholia on the elucidation of Homer's epics through punctuation are extensively quoted in the Venetus A.

"Scholars refer to the work of these men as the 'four-man commentary,' or VMK (from the German Viermännerkommentar). The repeated subscriptions in the Venetus A identify the areas of Homeric studies to which each of the four contributed. Aristonicus wrote on the topic of editorial symbols attached to the text. Herodian wrote on questions of prosody, that is poetic meter. Nicanor wrote about punctuation. And Didymus wrote about the earlier editorial work of the Alexandrian scholar Aristarchus.

"A certain category of scholia, while related to the VMK, has been separately  identified and named the 'D Scholia.' These were once thought to have come originally from Didymus, hence their name, but this view is no longer generally accepted. The D Scholia appear on several Byzantine and medieval manuscripts of the Iliad and generally contain information about mythology, the meanings of obscure words and pieces of allegorical interpretation. On the Venetus A the D Scholia appear as interlinear notes written in a semiuncial script and are largely 'glosses,' short defintions of words in the poems. One of the most interesting aspects of the D Scholia is their lemmata, the Homeric passages that a scholion may quote before commenting. In many cases, these lemmata do not match the Homeric text that appears in the manuscript. Thus, these scholia may offer insights into alternative versions of the text, other examples of traditional material that fell out of the common text of the Iliad by the ninth century, but are preserved here and there in brief quotations by the scholiasts, the writers of these marginal notes.

"Still other scholia on our manuscript derive from the work of the scholar and philosopher Porphyry, who lived during the third century CE. Among his writings, many of which had to do with Platonic philosophy, was a treatise entitled 'Homeric Questions' (Ομηικα Ζητηματα, Homerika Zetemata, or in its more commonly given Latin translation, Quaestiones Homericae). This work exists only in a fragmentary state in the Vatican Library (Vaticanus Graecus 305), and the rest of what we know of its contents comes from close reading of various scholia on Homeric manuscripts. Porphyri's work is an example of the late-antique genre of Ζητηματα, which is generally translated 'Questions,' consisting of inquiries into various topics with (often) varying and debatable answers. Ancient works of Ζητηματα covered ethical, legal, and historical topics, and Porphyry's work on Homer is one of the few examples of literary 'Questions,' consisting of inquries into various topics with (often) varying and debatable answers. The scholiastic material that comes from this work is valuable for a number of reasons, although its value has not always been appreciated. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, scholars dismissed Porphyry as telling us little about Homeric poetry itself, but much about the literary 'parlor games' played by intelligent aristocrats in antiquity. But these scholia preserve some observations on Homeric poetry made by Aristotle and Plato, which in turn can tell us about the particular vocabulary these ancient thinkers used when they discussed epic poetry, and thus much about the ancient experience of listening to this poetry.

"Finally, there are scholia related to a group known as the 'bT' scholia. These get their name from the Townley Manuscript of the Iliad, an eleventh-century codex now in the British Museum (BM, Burney 86); this manuscript is believed to have been one of several copied from an even older manuscript, which is now lost, to which scholars refer by the siglum 'b', hence the 'bT' scholia. These scholia, which may also be derived from the work of Porphyry, offer explanations of thematic matters found in the Iliad, cultural practices, questions of cosmology or theology, and so forth. These scholia have not enjoyed a high reputation among scholars. Their most famous critic, K. Lehrs, said that 'not one word in them is to be believed," (nullum unum verbum iis credendum esse). But more recent students of this material have found them more valuable, suggesting that they offer important insight into how the ancient Greeks understood Homer, but also provide more access to the work of Aristarchus at the Library of Alexandria.

"There is diagreement among scholars as to how and when the VMK was created (proposed dates ranged from the fourth to seventh centuries CE) and whether or not they were created by the same editor. The 20th century scholars most interested in the Homeric scholia believed that the VMK tradition was combined with the D Scholia and the bT Scholia at some time during the eighth century, about two centuries before our nameless scribe produced the elaboratately annotated manuscript we call the Venetus A" (Blackwell & Dué, "Homer and History in the Venetus A," Recapturing a Homeric Legacy. Images and Insights From the Venetus A Manuscript of the Iliad, Dué ed. [2009] 7-9).

How and when Venetus A was transported to Italy is uncertain. At one point it was thought that Giovanni Aurispa brought it there, as in 1424, he mentioned four volumes which he had brought back from Greece in a letter to Ambrogio Traversari in Venice:

Aristarchum super Iliade in duobus voluminibus, opus quoddam spatiosum et pretiosissimum; aliud commentum super Iliade, cuius eundem auctorem esse puto et illius quod ex me Nicolaus noster habuit super Ulixiade.

Aristarchus on the Iliad in two volumes, a large and very precious work; another commentary on the Iliad; I think Aristarchus was the author of that, as well as of the one on the Odyssey that our friend Niccolò Niccoli got from me.

This has been interpretted as a reference to the codices of the Iliad known as Venetus A and B. However, it has also been argued that the two volume commentary referred to was the commentary by the twelfth century Byzantine scholar and archbishop Eustathius of Thessalonica (Laurentianus LIX 2 and 3) attested in Florence a century later in the library of Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, and now in the Laurentian Library.

Eventually, Venetus A came into the possession of Greek immigrant scholar, and book collector Cardinal Basileios Bessarion (Βασίλειος Βησσαρίων), who collected a library of 482 Greek manuscripts and 264 Latin manuscripts before, and especially after, the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Among Bessarion's library was the only complete text of Athenaios' Deipnosophistai; the autograph of Planudes' Greek Anthology; and Venetus A and B. In 1468 Bessarion donated his library to the Republic of Venice; he continued to add to it until his death in 1472. By preserving so many Greek texts Bessarion became one of those most influential on the revival of Greek literature during the Renaissance. Bessarion's library became the core of the Biblioteca Marciana, which since 1554 has been housed to the building designed for it by Sansovino, the Biblioteca Sansoviniana.

With respect to the study of Venetus A, it is known that Martinus Phileticus used the manuscript as a source in the 1480s, followed by Vettore Fausto in 1546 or 1547. After that, Venetus A was largely forgotten until French philologist Jean-Baptiste-Gaspard d'Ansse de Villoison rediscovered and published it, along with the "B scholia" from Venetus B, in his book Ilias Homeri to Veteris Codicis Veneti fidem-recensita; scholia in eam antiquissima, eodem Code ex nunc primum eruta (Venice, 1788). This was the first publication of any Iliadic scholia other than the "D" scholia (the scholia minora). Because of the complexity of the writing on each page of Venetus A, Villoison's work represented a very impressive work of scholarship and a high level of technical achievement in the printing of Greek. In April 2014 high resolution images of each page in Villoison's 716-page work were available from the Center for Hellenic Studies at Harvard at this link.

Once available to scholars, the A and B scholia were a catalyst for several new ideas from the scholar Friedrich August Wolf. In reviewing Villoison's edition, Wolf realized that these scholia proved conclusively that the Homeric epics had been transmitted orally for an unknown length of time before they were written down. This led to his seminal work, Prolegomena ad Homerum, which set the agenda for much of later Homeric scholarship.

In 1901 Venetus A was reproduced in photographic facsimile as Homeri Ilias cum scholiis. Codex Venetus A, Marcianus 454. Phototypice editus. Praefatus est Dominicus Comparetti, and published in Leiden by A. W. Sijthoff. However, the technology of the time could not reproduce all of the small script in the manuscript legibly.

More than 100 years later, in May 2007 both Venetus A and Venetus B were photographed at high resolution, using a Hasselblad H1 camera with a 39 megapixel Phase One P45 digital back, at the Biblioteca Marciana. The availability of truly legible images of all the text in these manuscripts resulted in insights published in 2009 as Hellenic Studies 35, entitled Recapturing a Homeric Legacy. Images and Insights From the Venetus A Manuscript of the Iliad, edited by Casey Dué, and published by the Center for Hellenic Studies at Harvard. In April 2014 this book was available online from homermultitext.org. Also in April 2014 high resolution images of each page in Venetus A and B were available from the same source at this link.

The Homer Multitext project also made available the Greek texts of Venetus A and B online. The site stated that "This site publishes editions of texts from Byzantine manuscripts using the Canonical Text Services protocol. The service is primarily intended for automated use by other computer programs, but you can follow the links below to to browse and read texts." The site also made available images of individual pages of the Townley Homer. However, in April 2014 a much easier to use digital facsimile of that manuscript was available from the British Library at this link.

 (This entry was last revised on 04-26-2014.)

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The Archimedes Palimpsest: Recovering the Lost Mathematics of Archimedes Circa 950

On October 29, 1998 the Archimedes Palimpsest, a 10th-century copy written in Constantinople of an otherwise unknown work of Archimedes of Syracuse and other authors, palimpsested with Christian religious texts by 13th-century monks, was sold at auction by Christie's in New York for $2,000,000 to antiquarian bookseller Simon Finch acting for an anonymous American private collector. The Archimedes Palimpsest had disappeared in the 1910s or 1920s and ended up in a French collection. Its consignor at the auction, Anne Guersan, said that her father, Marie Louis Sirieux, acquired the book from in Constantinople in the 1920s. In 1932, her father-in-law Solomon Guerson, a French Jewish merchant in rare carpets and antique tapestries working in Paris, tried selling the palimpsest, and a manuscript curator identified a leaf as Folio 57 of the Archimedes Manuscript. It seems Guerson used leaves from his manuscripts to make elaborate forgeries. Not recognizing or appreciating the significance of the Archimedes undertext, sometime after 1938 Guerson possibly attempted to enhance the religious value of the palimpsest by painting on four of its leaves forgeries of portraits of the Four Evangelists that resembled images he had seen in Greek manuscripts at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The paintings were forged after 1938 as they contain a synthetic pigment called phlalocyanine green, which was only available after that date. 

At some time in the distant past the palimpsest was in the library of the monastery of Mar Saba, near Jerusalem, a monastery acquired by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1625. Before the auction the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem contended that the palimpsest had been stolen from one of its monasteries in Constantinople in the 1920s. In 1998, prior to the auction, ownership of the palimpsest was litigated in federal court in New York in the case of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem v. Christie's, Inc. The judge ruled in favor of Anne Guerson and Christie's.

The palimpsest seems to have first gained the attention of scholars when the Biblical scholar Constantin von Tischendorf  visited Constantinople in the 1840s, and took a page of it. This page is preserved in Cambridge University Library. In 1906 the historian of mathematics Johan Heiberg studied the manuscript in Constantinople, realized that the undertext was Archimedes, and that the palimpsest included works otherwise lost. Heiberg took photographs, from which he produced transcriptions published between 1910 and 1915 in his edition of the complete works of Archimedes. Shortly thereafter Archimedes' Greek text was translated into English by historian of mathematics T. L. Heath

Because the erasure during the palimpsesting process was incomplete, from 1998 to 2008 scientific and scholarly work using digital image processing produced by ultraviolet, infrared, visible and raking light, and X-ray has made Archimedes' undertext legible. The most remarkable work in the palimpsest is Archimedes' The Method, of which the palimpsest contains the only known copy.

"At the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, the palimpsest was the subject of an extensive imaging study from 1999 to 2008, and conservation (as it had suffered considerably from mold). This was directed by Dr. Will Noel, curator of manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum, and managed by Michael B. Toth of R.B. Toth Associates, with Dr. Abigail Quandt performing the conservation of the manuscript.

"A team of imaging scientists including Dr. Roger L. Easton, Jr. from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Dr. William A. Christens-Barry from Equipoise Imaging, and Dr. Keith Knox (then with Boeing LTS, now with USAF Research Laboratory) used computer processing of digital images from various spectral bands, including ultraviolet, visible, and infrared wavelengths to reveal most of the underlying text, including of Archimedes. After imaging and digitally processing the entire palimpsest in three spectral bands prior to 2006, in 2007 they reimaged the entire palimpsest in 12 spectral bands, plus raking light: UV: 365 nanometers; Visible Light: 445, 470, 505, 530, 570, 617, and 625 nm; Infrared: 700, 735, and 870 nm; and Raking Light: 910 and 470 nm. The team digitally processed these images to reveal more of the underlying text with pseudocolor. They also digitized the original Heiberg images. Dr. Reviel Netz of Stanford Universityand Nigel Wilson have produced a diplomatic transcription of the text, filling in gaps in Heiberg's account with these images.

"Sometime after 1938, one owner of the manuscript forged four Byzantine-style religious images in the manuscript in an effort to increase its value. It appeared that these had rendered the underlying text forever illegible. However, in May 2005, highly focused X-rays produced at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Menlo Park, California, were used by Drs. Uwe Bergman and Bob Morton to begin deciphering the parts of the 174-page text that had not yet been revealed. The production of X-ray fluorescence was described by Keith Hodgson, director of SSRL: "Synchrotron light is created when electrons traveling near the speed of light take a curved path around a storage ring—emitting electromagnetic light in X-ray through infrared wavelengths. The resulting light beam has characteristics that make it ideal for revealing the intricate architecture and utility of many kinds of matter—in this case, the previously hidden work of one of the founding fathers of all science."

"In April 2007, it was announced that a new text had been found in the palimpsest, which was a commentary on the work of Aristotle attributed to Alexander of Aphrodisias. Most of this text was recovered in early 2009 by applying principal component analysis to the three color bands (red, green, and blue) of fluorescent light generated by ultraviolet illumination. Dr. Will Noel said in an interview: "You start thinking striking one palimpsest is gold, and striking two is utterly astonishing. But then something even more extraordinary happened." This referred to the previous discovery of a text by Hypereides, an Athenian politician from the fourth century BC, which has also been found within the palimpsest. It is from his speech Against Diondas, and was published in 2008 in the German scholarly magazine Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, vol. 165, becoming the first new text from the palimpsest to be published in a scholarly journal" (Wikipedia article on Archimedes Palimpsest, accessed 01-26-2014).

In addition to the website and digital editions, thanks to the generosity of its owner, the Archimedes Palimpsest was published in one of the finest scholarly and most physically attractive, large and impressive sets of printed books ever issued on an historical manuscript: Netz, Noel, Tchernetska & Wilson eds., The Archimedes Palimpsest. Volume I: Catalogue and Commentary; Volume II: Images and Transcriptions. Cambridge & Baltimore: Cambridge University Press for The Walters Art Museum, 2011. The set was designed by Jerry Kelly.

A popular account is Netz, Reviel & Noel, William, The Archimedes Codex. How a Medieval Prayer Book is Revealing the true Genius of Antiquity's Greatest Scientist (2007).

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The Paris Psalter: The Most Famous Illuminated Byzantine Codex Circa 950

Produced in Constantinople in the second half of the tenth century, the Paris Psalter (BnF Ms. gr. 139), is the most famous illuminated Byzantine codex. It is unique among the seventy-five illuminated Byzantine psalters that survived for its large size, for the quality of script and text decoration, and for its fourteen magnificent full-page images, seven of which are bound one after another depicting events of David's life in chronological order, the remaining seven connected with the text. The most famous miniature in the DAvid series depicts David playing the harp at the side of the seated female figure of “Melody". Around this central group are the figure of Echo, various animals charmed by music, and even a male figure symbolizing the town of Bethlehem. The composition was probably based on a Graeco-Roman wall painting that depicted Orpheus charming the world with his music.

The psalter is associated with the emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, who has been called "The Scholar Emperor." In A Short History of Byzantium, John Julius Norwich wrote about Constantine:

"He was, we are told, a passionate collector—not only of books and manuscripts but works of art of every kind; more remarkable still for a man of his class, he seems to have been an excellent painter. He was the most generous of patrons—to writers and scholars, artists and craftsmen. Finally, he was an excellent Emperor: a competent, conscientious and hard-working administrator and an inspired picker of men, whose appointments to military, naval, ecclesiastical, civil and academic posts were both imaginative and successful. He did much to develop higher education and took a special interest in the administration of justice"(Norwich p. 181).

The images in the Paris Psalter

"are famous for their apparent classicism in figural style, painting, technique, and coloration. Among the classicizing features are personifications that have been incorporated in the compositions. In the scene of Moses receiving the tablets from God on Mount Sina (fol. 422v) for example, which refers to the Canticle of Moses in Deuteronomy, a seminude figure seen from the back is seated on a rock in the left foreground. Identified as Mount Sinai by the inscription, he holeds a dead tree stump, which together with his nakedness, signifies the barren wateland of the setting. IN the upper-left corner Moses stretches upward to the hand of God to read for the tablets. At the summit of the moutain the Burning Bush is visible. Bel;ow, in the center, a group of Israelites engaged in conversation awaits Moses' return. To the right, on an almost separate plan, Moses is shown again, this time attentively listening to God's instructions on how to build the temp that will house the Tablets of the Law. His finger-to-chin gesture indicates that he is thinking.

"In addition to personifications of time and place that help the view to identify the event depicted, the psalter illustrations contain personfiications representing astract concepts and virtues such as clemency, penance, and wisdom. These figures are suually interpreted as the clearest sign of a revived interest in the antique. For this reason the Paris Psalter as a whole has served as one of the key docuemnts supporting the notion of a Macdedonian renaissance during the tenth century. The large full-age illustrations ahve also given rise to the theory of an 'aristocratic' system of psalter illumination in Byzantium. It was thought otherwise incomprehensible that a repertoire of pagan forms and subjects could ahve a place within a manuscript of Christian liturgical or private devotion" (Evans & Wixom eds., The Glory of Byzantium. Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A. D. 843-1261 [1997] No. 163). Catalogue of an Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The manuscript was acquired in 1557-59 by Jean Hurault of Boistaillé, French ambassador to Contantinople, and a distinguished collector of mainly Greek, but also Arabic, and Hebrew manuscripts and early printing. After his death in 1572 Hurault's library passed to his brother André Hurault de Maisse, who was also a book collector. Later the library came into the possession of his cousin, Philippe Hurault de Cheverny, bishop of Chartres. After the Bishop's death the collection of 409 manuscripts was sold to Louis XIII for 12 000 francs. Louis XIII deposited them in the Bibliothèque royale, which was nationalized in the French Revolution, and is now known as the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

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A Greek Manuscript Owned and Extensively Annotated by Robert Grosseteste Circa 950

Brought to England in the thirteenth century at the instigation of English statesman, scholastic philosopher, theologian, scientist  and Bishop of Lincoln Robert GrossetesteCambridge MS Ff.1.24 was probably written in Constantinople in the tenth century. 

"Twelfth and thirteenth-century scholars were aware that many important theological, philosophical and scientific texts unavailable in the West circulated in the Greek-speaking world. Only a tiny number went to the lengths that Grosseteste did to learn Greek with the aim of obtaining, reading and translating these works.

"The chronicler, Matthew Paris, tells how in the late 1230s, one of Grosseteste’s assistants, John of Basingstoke, recalled seeing a Greek manuscript containing a text called the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs in the library of the metropolitan Michael Choniates when he was in Athens some 40 years earlier. The bishop sent envoys to Athens and MS Ff.1.24, almost certainly Choniates’ copy, was brought to England for him. There are notes in Grosseteste’s hand throughout, demonstrating that he read the whole codex.

"He used the manuscript to prepare a Latin translation of the Testaments which was completed in 1242. Some early manuscripts of the translation contain a colophon recording how Grosseteste produced his text with the help of magister Nicholas Grecus, a native speaker and member of his household.

"Grosseteste and his contemporaries believed that the Greek text was a translation of a Hebrew original consisting of the genuine deathbed exhortations of the twelve sons of Jacob. They identified within the text various passages prophesying the coming of Christ. In translating the text, Grosseteste intended it to be used to convince Jews to convert to Christianity.

"Modern scholarship on the Testaments suggests that it was composed in the first or second centuries C.E. Opinion is divided as to whether it is a Christian work that draws on Jewish sources or a Jewish work with Christian prophetic passages inserted.

"Grosseteste’s translation was enormously popular; over eighty manuscripts survive and there were numerous printed editions. It was the source for vernacular translations into English, French, German, Anglo-Norman, Danish and Czech.

"MS Ff.1.24 offers an insight into the working habits and library of a major intellectual figure of the thirteenth century and, more broadly, casts light on the tradition of Greek scholarship and transmission of Greek texts in the Medieval West" (http://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-FF-00001-00024/7, accessed 02-28-2013; the links are my additions).

In February 2014 a digital facsimile of the manuscript was available at this link.

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The Exeter Book: The Largest Original Collection of Old English Literature Circa 960 – 990

A tenth-century anthology of Anglo-Saxon poetry, the Exeter Book, (Exeter Cathedral Library MS 3501, Codex Exoniensis) is one of the four major Anglo-Saxon literature codices, along with the Vercelli Book, the Nowell Codex and the Junius manuscript. The largest surviving original collection of Old English literature, containing approximately one-sixth of the surviving corpus of Old English verse, it is believed originally to have contained 131 leaves, of which eight original leaves were lost at some point, and replaced with other leaves.

"The precise date when the Exeter Book was compiled and written down is unknown, but it is rightly acknowledged to be one of the great works of the English Benedictine revival of the tenth century, and proposed dates for it range from 960 to 990. This period saw a rise in monastic activity and productivity under the renewed influence of Benedictine principles and standards. At the opening of the period, Dunstan's importance to the Church and to the English kingdom was established, culminating in his appointment to the Archbishopric at Canterbury under Edgar and leading to the monastic reformation by which this era was characterised. Dunstan died in 998, and by the period's close, England under Æthelred faced an increasingly determined Scandinavian incursion, to which it would eventually succumb.

"The Exeter Book's heritage becomes traceable from 1072, when Leofric, Bishop at Exeter, died. Among the treasures which he is recorded to have bestowed in his Will upon the then-impoverished monastery, is one famously described as 'mycel Englisc boc be gehwilcum þingum on leoð-wisan geworht' (i.e., 'a large English book of poetic works about all sorts of things'). This book has been widely assumed to be the Exeter Codex as it survives today.

"Some marginalia were added to the manuscript by Laurence Nowell in the sixteenth century and George Hickes in the seventeenth" (Wikipedia article on Exeter book, accessed 12-24-2013).

During the bishopric of Leofric, the cathedral library at Exeter was the fourth largest in England. Along with the Exeter Book, Leofric bequeathed sixty-five other manuscripts and books to the cathedral—an exceptionally large personal library for the time. Of those, about twenty remain extant.

"Three versions of the donation list drawn up by Leofric survive, which is one of the earliest surviving cathedral library catalogues. The list consists of 31 books used to conduct cathedral services, 24 other ecclesiastical works, and 11 works that were secular. This last group included philosophical works as well as poetry.... Besides the Exeter Book and the Leofric Missal, Leofric's own copy of the Rule of Chrodegang also survives, although it is no longer at Exeter. Now it is at Cambridge University, where it is Corpus Christi College MS 191. Another surviving manuscript from Leofric's collection is a Gospel book written in Latin now in the Bodleian Library, which was probably acquired by Leofric while he was on the continent, as the manuscript was originally written for a Breton monastery" (Wikipedia article on Leofric (bishop), accessed 12-24-2013).

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The Golden Gospels of Henry VIII Circa 977 – 993

The Golden Gospels of Henry VIII was written and decorated by "at least sixteen different scribes" in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Maximin at Trier during the abbacy of Archbishop Egbert. It was written in gold on sheets of vellum colored various shades of purple, from mauve to slate blue, with dye made from berries. The coat of arms of England was added on the verso of the first leaf in the 16th century, probably to denote royal ownership.

The manuscript may have been produced for the coronation of Otto III in 983. It appears as no. 957 in the 1542 inventory of Henry VIII’s Upper Library at Winchester Palace.  According to one tradition, the manuscript was presented to Henry by Pope Leo X in 1521, when he conferred upon him the title of "Defender of the Faith."

In 1747 the manuscript was in the Bibliotheca Palmeriana, the library of Ralph Palmer of Little Chelsea, grandfather of the first Earl Verney (erased inscription reads Bibliotheca Palmeriana 1747). It was bought in 1800 for the Duke of Hamilton; Duke of Hamilton Collection, inv. no. 167; (Hamilton Palace Library, Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland).  It was sold privately in 1883 with the Hamilton Collection to the Royal Museum of Berlin (The Hamilton Palace Libraries, Catalogue of the Hamilton Collection of Manuscripts, 1882, no. 25) and resold with a portion of the Hamilton Collection returned from Berlin (London, Sotheby’s, May 23, 1889, lot 1) to Quaritch); sold (May 26, 1890) by Quaritch (catalogue 99, Sept. 1889, p. 37-39, no. 359, (Hand-list, 1890, no. 1) to Theodore Irwin of Oswego; purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) with the Irwin Collection in 1900. The manuscript is preserved in the Morgan Library & Museum (MS M 0023).

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The Golden Gospels of Henry VIII: Written by Sixteen Different Scribes 977 – 993

The Morgan Golden Gospels (Morgan MS M.23), also known as The Golden Gospels of Henry VIII, was possibly created for the coronation of Otto III in 983. It was later in the library of Henry VIII of England (No. 952 in the 1542 Inventory of Henry VIII's Upper Library at Winchester Palace.). According to one tradition it was presented to Henry by Pope Leo X (Giovanni Lorenzo di Medici) in 1521 when he conferred upon Henry the title of "Defender of the Faith." In the second half of the sixteenth century the arms of England and an inscription addressed to a prince were added on the verso of the first leaf. It was later in the the library of Duke of Hamilton, and was acquired by J. Pierpont Morgan in the Theodore Irwin collection purchased in 1900.

In "The Morgan Golden Gospels: The Date and Origin of the Manuscript," in Miner (ed) Studies in Art and Literature for Belle Da Costa Greene (1954) 266-79, E. A. Lowe showed through paleographical comparison that it was written and decorated in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Maximin at Trier, Germany during the abbacy of Archbishop Egbert, by at least 16 different scribes. 

The manuscript is extraordinary for several reasons: 

1. It was written on vellum painted various shades of purple using dye made from berries. The leaves vary in color from mauve to slate blue. 

2. It was written in an uncial hand in burnished gold letters. The particular special type of uncial used was "heretofore unrecorded" until this manuscript was studied by E. A. Lowe.

3. It was written by at least sixteen different scribes. (When I wrote this entry in March 2014, this was the largest number of different scribes that I had heard of being identified with the writing of a medieval manuscript.)

4. According to E. A. Lowe, it is "one of the finest, if not the finest purple manuscript in existence."

"The practice of writing on purple membranes goes back at least to classical times, and was not unknown among early Christians even when the Church was strugglinig for existence. This form of ostentation, however, was frowned upon by the Fathers. In his oft-quoted preface to Job, St. Jerome (d. 420) takes occasion to remark: 'Let those who want them have ancient books or books written in gold or silver on purple parchment or in what is commonly called uncial letters—written burdens (I call them) rather than books.' No extant purple manuscript of the Bible written in gold goes back to the time of these Fathers. If we may judge by what remains of such Latin books, the Gospels and the Psalater were the favorites. The oldest of them date from the late fifth and sixth centuries and they are all in letters of silver, gold having been reserved for the N omina scara (dominus, deus, Iesus, etc.) and special passages, titles or opening lines. The Latin manuscripts are devoid of decorative initials and lack all prefatory matter and capitularies; the text is Old-Latin, i.e. pre-Jerome. They are so few in number that I enumerate them here:

"1. Codex Veronensis (b). Verona. Bibl. Capitol. vi. Uncial; saec v ex. Facs: C.L.A., IV. 481.

"2. Codex Neapolitanus, olim Vindobonensis (i). Naples. Bibl. Naz. Lat. 3 (=Vienna 1235). Uncial; saec v ex Facs: C.L.A., III. 399.

"3. Codex Palatinus (e). Trent, Mus. Naz. s.n. (Vienna 1185) _ Dublin, Trin. Coll. 1709 +London, Brit. Mus. Add 40107. Uncial asec. V. Facs: C.L.A., II and IV, 487.

"4. Codex Sarzanensis (j). Sarezzano, Bibl. Parrocchiale s.n. Uncial; saec VI in. Fac: C.L.A., IV. 436aq.

"5. Codex Brixianus (f). Brescia, Bibl. Queriniana s.n. Uncial; saec VI. Facs: C.L.A., III. 281.  

"6. Psalterium Sangermanense. Paris, Bibl. Nat. Lat., 11947. Uncial; saec. VI. Facs: C.L.A., V. 616.

"Greek purple manuscripts were doubtless models for our Latin ones. Only six or seven have survived. They are all, with one exception, in silver letters, and none is apparently older than the sixth century. They are: the Vienna Genesis, the Cotton Genesis, the Codex Rossanensis in the Bibliotheca Arcivescovile at Rossano, the Codex Sinopensis at Paris, written entirely in gold, the Codex Beratinus at Berat in Albania, the Codex Purpureus, with its surviving forty-five folios scattered, thirty-three being in the convent of St. John at Patmos, six in the Vatican, four in the British Museum and two at Vienna.

"The custom of producing purple manuscripts apparently died out in the West during the dark centuries of the early Middle Ages, but we know that it was honored in Northumbria in the late seventh century. It flourished agin in the Corolingian period, as is attested by several surviving manuscripts de luxe. Here and there we encounter magnificent books written on ordinary parchment whose beauty was enhanced by the addition of a few purple leaves. It is important to note that in the oldest purple manuscripts as well as in Carolingian codices purpurei the membranes are dyed, whereas in manuscripts of the Ottonian period the urple leaves, apart from the few imported from Byzantium, are painted, as is the case in our Morgan manuscript.

"The writing of a codex aureus purpureus was no ordinary affair in a scriptorium. It not only involved costly material, it also demanded special skill. For writing with the unusual sticky medium which could take the gold leaf was difficult even for the best of scribes. it stands to reason that such sumptuous manuscripts were intended for special occaions, and we know from ancient sources that they were objects of pride. It is theefore surprising to find no record of our splendid manuscript before the beginning of the last century. There is not a single contemporary marginal note or later entry which could throw any light on the vicissitudes of the volume during the entire period of the Middle Ages" (Lowe, op. cit., 266-68).

Lowe's paper on the Morgan Golden Gospels was reprinted in E. A. Lowe, Palaeographical Papers 1907-1965 II (1972) 389ff.

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1000 – 1100

Beowulf: Known from a Unique Medieval Manuscript Circa 1000

The first page of the Beowulf manuscript. (View Larger)

Beowulf, a traditional heroic epic poem written in Old English alliterative verse, and representing with its 3,182 lines 10% of all surviving Old English poetry, is known from one medieval manuscript that dates from between the 8th and the 11th century, perhaps in the first decade after 1000. The manuscript, known as the Nowell Codex or Cotton Vitellius A. xv, is preserved in the British Library.

The volume as it was bound in the 17th century contains two manuscripts: a 12th century manuscript that contains four prose works, and the Nowell codex, named after the q6th century English antiquarian, cartographer, and scholar of Anglo-Saxon language and literature Laurence Nowell, whose name is inscribed on its first page, and who owned the manuscript in the mid-16th century. It was then acquired by Sir Robert Cotton, who placed it in his library as the 15th manuscript on the first shelf of the bookcase that was headed by a bust of Vitellius.

"The unique copy of Beowulf is preserved in the Cottonian collection of manuscripts that suffered from a great fire in 1731. It remained in its burnt binding until the middle of the nineteenth century, when Sir Frederic Madden, Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum, undertook to restore these damaged manuscripts in his care. His bookbinder first traced the outline of each burnt leaf, cut out the center of the tracing except for a retaining edge of about 2mm, and pasted and taped the vellum leaf to the paper frame. Then he rebound the framed leaves in a new cover. The method well preserved the fragile bits of text along the burnt edges of the leaves, but the retaining edges of the paper mounts, and the paste and tape used to secure the leaves to them, hide from view many hundreds of letters and bits of letters. Today they are visible only if one holds a bright light directly behind them, an ineffectual solution if one lacks the manuscript, the bright light, or the permission to use them together" (The Electronic Beowulf, 1993, accessed 06-15-2009).

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1100 – 1200

The Codex Ebnerianus and Early Manuscript Scholarship Circa 1110

The Codex Ebnerianus, a Greek language illuminated manuscript of the New Testament, was probably written in Constantinople at the beginning of the 12th century during the Comnenian Period.

"Its full-page illustrations make it one of the finest of a large group of manuscripts which are the most important representatives of the Comnenian revival in pictorial art.

"The cycle of illustrations is unique among surviving Greek New Testament manuscripts in that it places author portraits and scenes connected with the authors at the beginning, not only of the Gospels, but also at the beginning of Acts and some of the Epistles" (Meredith, "The Illustration of Codex Ebnerianus", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes XXIX (1966) 419.

The codex is named after the Nuremberg diplomat, historian, scholar and patron, Hieronymus Wilhelm Ebner von Eschenbach who founded a library, the Bibliotheca Ebneriana, using his extensive collection. While the codex belonged to Ebner von Eschenbach in 1738 the scholar Conrad Schoenleben issued a pamphlet on it entitled Egregii codicis graeci Novi Testamenti manuscripti quem Noribergae servat vir illustris Hieronymous Gvilielmus Ebner. According to Roland Folter, Schoenleben's 44-page pamphlet with two illustrations was the first publication about a specific medieval manuscript, and also probably the first publication on a specific book in a private library.

The Codex Ebnerianus is preserved in the Bodleian Library. According to Macray's Annals of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, A. D. 1598-A.D. 1867 p. 229, the Bodleian bought the Codex in 1820 from booksellers Payne and Foss. McCray also mentions that Schoenleben's pamphlet was incorporated by De Murr in his Memorabilia Bibliothecarum publicarum Norimbergensium published in 1788, part ii., p. 100. To that version De Murr added "thirteen well-engraved plates of the illuminations, binding and text. It was formerly bound in leather-covered boards, ornamented with gold, with five silver-gilt stars on the sides, and fastened with four silver clasps. This covering being much decayed, Ebner cased the volume in a most costly binding of pure silver, preserving the silver stars, and affixing on the outside a beautiful ivory figure (coaeval with the MS.) of our Saviour, throned, and in the attitude of benediction. Above the figure, Ebner engraved an inscription in Greek characters, corresponding to the style of the MS., praying for a blessing upon himself and his family" (McCray, p. 230). 

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The Hunterian Psalter Circa 1170

Folio 7v of the Hungarian Psalter: a miniature depicting, on top, the creation of Adam, and, on bottom, the temptation of Adam by Eve. (View Larger)


The Hunterian Psalter, a striking example of Romanesque book art, was produced in England in the latter part of the twelfth century.

"It is uncertain where or when, exactly, the manuscript was produced, or for whom. It has been suggested that it was produced for Roger de Mowbray (d. 1188), a prominent 12th century crusader and religious benefactor known to have founded a number of Augustinian and Cistercian monasteries and nunneries. The book also contains three commemorations to Augustine of Hippo, which has led some scholars to conclude that the manuscript might have been created for a house of Augustinian Canons, or by someone with a connection to the Augustinian order.

"The fact that there is no mention of the 29 December feast of Thomas Becket on the page for December is thought to indicate that the book was produced before Becket's canonization in 1173. For most of its history, it was thought to have been the product of a scriptorium in the north of England, owing to its inclusion of a number of

Folio 22r of the Hungarian Psalter, a miniature which incorporates the Beatus Initial. (View Larger)northern saints such as Oswald of Northumbria and John of Beverley (who very seldom occur outside northern manuscripts), although modern scholarly consensus puts its likely origin in the southwest of England.

"There is no definite consensus about the number of artists who worked on the book. It has been suggested that a single master oversaw the work of several assistants, and it has also been put forth that it is the work of an artist working alone, copying and adapting templates from other illuminated manuscripts. It is thought to have been the work of skilled tradesmen, not monks" (Wikipedia article on Hunterian Psalter, accessed 03-27-2010).

Today the manuscript is considered the finest book in the library of 10,000 printed books and 650 manuscripts formed by the physician and connoisseur collector, William Hunter, who bequeathed all his collections to the University of Glasgow. It is preserved in the University of Glasgow Library (Sp Coll MS Hunter U.3.2) (229). In addition to manuscripts and books Hunter made important collections of coins, paintings, minerals, shells, anatomical and natural history specimens.

Hunter acquired this volume at the auction sale conducted by Guillaume-François de Bure of the library of Louis-Jean Gaignat in Paris on April 10, 1769, along with several other books. His French agent, Jean B. Dessain, bought it at the auction on Hunter's behalf for fifty livres and one sou. It was described in the sale catalogue as a "codex pervetustus" (a very old codex), and the price was considerably lower than many of the printed books in the sale, reflecting the tastes and market prices of the time. (The Gaignat library included such treasures as the Gutenberg Bible printed on vellum in the British Library.)

Young & Aitken, A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of the Hunterian Museum in the University of Glasgow (1908) no. 229.

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Massacre of the Jewish Community of York, England Reflected in the Survival of a Single Hebrew Manuscript March 16, 1190

Clifford's Tower. (View Larger)

"The site of Clifford's Tower, the keep of York's medieval castle, still bears witness to the most horrifying event in the history of English Jewry. On the night of 16 March 1190, the feast of Shabbat ha-Gadol, the small Jewish community of York was gathered together for protection inside the tower. Rather than perish at the hands of the violent mob that awaited them outside, many of the Jews took their own lives; others died in the flames they had lit, and those who finally surrendered were massacred and murdered. "Understandably, this appalling event has become the most notorious example of antisemitism in medieval England. Yet, it was by no means an isolated incident, but rather the culmination of a tide of violent feeling which swept the country in the early part of 1190" (Clifford's Tower and the Jews of Medieval York [English Heritage, 1995], quoted by http://ddickerson.igc.org/cliffords-tower.html, accessed 02-11-2009).

The Valmadonna English Pentateuch, the supreme treasure of the Valmadonna Trust Library, was written during the first half of 1489. It is the only extant Hebrew book that can be dated to before the expulsion of the Jews by Edward I (Longshanks) in 1290.  "The survival of this manuscript is remarkably fortuitous, as it was completed by its scribe on the eve of a tumultuous period in the history of English Jewry. At the coronation of Richard I in September 1189, a riot began which resulted in an attack on the Jewish community of London and the murder of many of its members. Similar assaults were launched on Jews throughout England during the following year, culminating in a massacre at York in spring 1190. A contemporary chronicler, Ephraim of Bonn, reported that 'The mob which killed the Jews of York then looted the houses of the slain, took away gold and silver and the beautiful books they wrote, more precious than gold . . . and brought them to Cologne and to other places, where they sold them to the Jews.' Ironically, then, the Valmadonna English Pentateuch may have been saved for posterity largely as a result of its having been plundered" (Sotheby's brochure on the Valadonna Trust Library, accessed 02-13-2009).

See also an article in The New York Times online published on February 11, 2009 concerning the offering en bloc of the Valmadonna Trust Library of about 13,000 volumes collected over his lifetime by Jack V. Lunzer: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/12/books/12hebr.html.

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1200 – 1300

Knowledge of Greek and Greek Texts During the Middle Ages Circa 1200 – 1450

"Not before the fifteenth century were there large collections of Greek manuscripts assembled in the West, and only from the sixteenth century on were they used by a substantial number of Western scholars and other interested parties. The greater portion of the Greek inventory of the Dominican Library in Basel, the Laurentiana in Florence, the Marciana in Venice, the Vaticana in Rome, the Hapsburg Hofbibliothek in Vienna, and the Bibliothèque du Roi in Paris was first brought together through the combined efforts of Greek emigrants, Latin Humanists, and bibliophile princes. Yet ancient Greek book collections were not inaccessible to the Latin Middle Ages. Greek monasteries, none of which could have been completely without books, flourished in Rome from the seventh to the eleventh century. Grottaferrata has preserved parts of its ancient hoard of Greek books even up to the present day.

"There were populous Latin districts in Constantinople during the high Middle Ages, and in this period a great number of Italian scholars lived in the Christian metropolis on the Bosporus and made use of the rare-book libraries of the city. Moses of Bergamo was one of these scholarly Italians in twelfth-century Constantinople; he is the first Westerner known to have collected Greek manuscripts in great volume. If his own testimony is true, then the hunt for Greek manuscripts began two centuries before Guarino of Verona and Giovanni Aurispa.

"The Greek libraries of southern Italy were even closer to the Latins than those in Constantinople. Casole in Apulia, Carbone in the Basilicata, Stilo in Calabria, and Messina in Sicily had the most notable monastic libraries of the Italo-Greeks; the Cathedral Library of Rossano is still in possession of its cimelia, the famous sixth-century Greek purple evangelary ('Codex purpureus Rossanensis'), which was not 'rediscovered' there by scholars until 1879 and which recalls the significance of southern Italy for the transmission of Greek texts.

"Not before the manuscript research of recent years has the astonishing volume and the high quality (manuscripts of the classics!) of Italo-Greek book production and transmission come to light. Manuscript by manuscript, a 'translatio studii' from Byzantium to the West appears, whose line of textual transmission threads its way directly from the Macedonian Renaissance in tenth-century Constantinople, to the court library of the Norman and Hohenstaufen rulers of southern Italy, to the papal library of 1300; the Italian Renaissance picked up this thread as its starting point.

"This hoard of Greek books first appears in 1295 at the end of a catalogue of the papal library:

'Item Dyonisius super celesticam [!] Ierarchicam [!] in greco. Item Simplicius super phisicam Aristotilis . . .'

"With the exception of Dionysius the Areopagite (characteristically placed at the beginning of the list) and one other work, the twenty-three volumes all contain works of natural science and philosophy—a remarkable collection for the papacy (ed. A. Pelzer, Addenda et emendanda ad Francisci Ehrle Historiae Bibliothecae Romanorum Pontificum ... tomum 1 [Rome 1947], pp. 23 f).

"A catalogue of the papal library from 1311 lists the same stock of Greek books:

'tem libri, qui sequuntur scripti in greco: primo scripsimus comentum Procli Permenidem Platonis 'And' et est in papiro . . . .'

"There have been several changes. In all there are now thirty-three Greek codices; ed. F. Ehrle, Historia Bibliothecae Romanorum Pontificum tum Bonifatianae tum Avenionensis (Rome 1890), I, 95-99. In nineteen of these books one finds this remarkable 'And', for which Ehrle provides the hardly convincing resolution antiquus.

"We learn from an inventory of 1327 that the thirty-three Greek codices were kept in two crates; ed. Pelzer, Addenda et emendanda, p. 34. In 1339 they (all of them?) are found in a single crate together with Hebrew books (ibid., p.64); in 1369 there are still seven Greek books in the papal library (cf. Ehrle, Historia Bibliothecae, pp. 376 [no. 1183], 398 [no. 1512], 429 [no. 2007]. The popes obviously managed to carelessly lose their small but fine Greek collection during their Avignon adventures.

"The enigma of the notation And in the catalogue of 1311 has been solved by August Pelzer in a striking way (Addenda et emendanda, pp. 92 f.): it is to be resolved Andegavensis = Anjou! -that is, these books came to the papal library 'from Anjou.' When did the house of Anjou have cause and opportunity to present the papacy with a collection of Greek books? Pelzer answers: after the battle near Benevento (1266), when Charles of Anjou, whom the papacy had summoned to southern Italy, had disposed of the hated Hohenstaufen King Manfred. Thus the core of the Greek collection of the Norman-Staufer court library came into the possession of the papacy in 1266 in a similar way to that by which the Heidelberg Bibliotheca Palatina did in 1623.

"Codicological research has confirmed Pelzer's brilliant conclusions. Nine of the thirty-three Greek books of the 1311 catalogue have now again been identified, and the findings demonstrate clearly that this could not have been a casual acquisition by the popes or by Anjou, nor was it plunder from the conquest of Constantinople in 1204.; rather the collection came from the court in Constantinople to the court in Palermo around the middle of the twelfth century:

'Ces volumes sont de magnifiques produits des ateliers constantinopolitains au moment de la renaissance scientifique et philosophique des IXe et Xe siècles" ('These volumes are the magnificent products of the ateliers in Constantinople at the moment of the scientific and philosophical renaissance of the ninth and tenth centuries;' (P. Canart, "Le livre grec,' p. 149).

"Almost half of all known scientific 'classical manuscripts' of the Byzantine Renaissance of the ninth/tenth century have been preserved via the Norman-Staufer court library (G. Derenzini, 'All origine della traduzione di opere scientifiche classiche: vicende di testi et di codici tra Bisanzio e Palermo,' Physis 18 [1976], 87-103). Thus the history of the Greek court library in the West extends back into the twelfth century, and the Greek collections in Renaissance court libraries in the West were then not altogether without precedents.

"In the outstanding monastic and cathedral libraries of the Middle Ages, there were, however, at most only scattered Greek manuscripts. The Abbey of St. Martin in Tours possessed, at least in fragments, a Greek papyrus codex from Egypt, which contained a homily of Ephraem Syrus on 'Fair Joseph.' An illuminated Greek copy of the XPICΤΙΑΝΙΚΗ ΤΟΠΟΓΡΑΦΙΑ of Cosmas Indicopleustes has been traced to the collection of the early medieval Cathedral Library in York. Reichenau had a precious Greek Psalter from the eighth to the sixteenth century. The Abbey of St. Denis tended the splendid uncial manuscript of the works of Dionysius the Areopagite which Louis the Pious had obtained from Constantinople; various other Greek manuscripts were added in the high and late Middle Ages. In the monastery of St. Simeon, established in the Porta Nigra in Trier, there was a Greek lectionary of the tenth/eleventh century. In the midst of the Investiture Controversy, the wealthy and ostentatious canons of St. Gereon in Cologne procured a magnificent Greek Psalter, which was written and illuminated around 1077 in a scriptorium closely connected with the Greek emperor. The first illumination, by a Greek artist, shows Ο ΑΓΙΟC ΜΑΡΤΥC ΤΟΥ ΧΡΙCΤΟΥ ΓΕΡΕΩΝ.

"Μany other large libraries of the Middle Ages also had their Greek showpieces to exhibit. Occasionally, the Latin West also produced manuscripts entirely in Greek. In the ninth century, as Montfaucon has noted, Sedulius Scottus was capable of writing a Greek Psalter with odes.

"From the Ottonian period on, Greco-Italian southern Italy offered the opportunity to obtain scribes who were acquainted with the Greek alphabet. A lectionary written in 1021 by an Italo-Greek Εν χόρα Φραγκίας κάστρο δε Κoλoνίας (= Cologne?) later made its way to St. Denis. In England even Western scribes ventured to produce various Greek minuscule manuscripts. According to Μ.R. James, the Greek Psalter of Cambridge, Emmanuel College III. 3. 22 is of English origin.

"In the thirteenth century, Bishop Robert Grosseteste commissioned a large-scale Corpus Dionysiacum in Greek minuscules. Grosseteste, his students, and his assistants brought together, by means of purchasing and copying, a significant collection of Greek manuscripts in England, so that it is true, at least for this country, that interest in Greek books had already arisen in the late Middle Ages; to be sure, it was a narrow circle until Humanism created a broader audience for the purely Greek book.

"The typical medieval form of the Greek codex was the bilingual manuscript. It was an inheritance from late antiquity and the Middle Ages in part made good use of it. The Mediterranean cultural symbiosis of the late Roman Empire had brought forth many such bilinguals-Latino-Greek and Greco-Latin. The most famous examples of late antique Latino-Greek editions are the remnants of the bilingual Vergil codices, recovered from the Egyptian sand; thus far, no less than nine such bilinguals of the champion of the imperial Roman cause have been brought to light. During Justinian's time, it was certainly still possible to write codices in both imperial languages in Constantinople; the Florentine digest codex ('Codex Pisanus,' soon after 533) bears impressive witness to this fact. It seems, however, that the Byzantine Empire of the medieval period proper no longer fostered bilingual editions of Roman authors, and—if southern Italy is excluded—produced no Latino-Greek manuscripts at all. 

"A Greco-Latin Homer, the counterpart of a Latino-Greek Vergil, apparently did not exist in late antiquity. The West was interested in Christian bilinguals, in Greco-Latin editions of portions of the Bible; a Greco-Latin anthology of canon law may have also existed during late antiquity, at least in one copy.

"The Latin Middle Ages carried on the tradition of assorted scriptural bilinguals: the Psalter, Gospels, Pauline epistles, and Acts of the Apostles (in fact those four books of the Bible whose comparative study Ambrogio Traversari recommended for self-instruction in Greek!). It would have been easy for the bilingual tradition of the Acts of the Apostles to have disappeared, as other bilingual scriptural texts must have: the tradition has only two witnesses-the 'Codex Bezae' in Cambridge and the 'Codex Laudianus' in Oxford.

"The Carolingian period transmitted only the Psalter, Gospels, and Pauline epistles, to some extent in the new interlinear bilingual form, which was especially cultivated by the Irish.

"In the Ottonian period, the bilingual tradition of the Pauline epistles dies out. The fragmentary 'Codex Waldeccensis' (saec. X ex. ) completes the circle of this bilingual tradition of the Middle Ages, in which the beginning and end are joined; for this bilingual manuscript, the last of the Pauline epistles known from the Middle Ages, is an exact copy of the earliest manuscript—the 'Codex Claromontanus.'

"The production of bilingual texts of the Gospels is extraordinarily rare in the high and late Middle Ages. Yet a bilingual edition of the Apocalypse curiously surfaces at that period. The Greco-Latin Psalter reached the age of Humanism, however, in an unbroken tradition. This Greco-Latin text outlasted all else because it was the text with which the Latin Middle Ages was doubtless most intimately familiar and was thus better suited than any other text to introduce the Latins to a basic study of Greek. This tradition of the Greco-Latin Psalter manuscripts, which span the entire Middle Ages, from the Cod. Verona I (saec. VI- VII) to the Cod. Plut. XVII 13 of the Biblioteca Laurenziana (which was "erst wenige Jahre alt, als in Florenz das große Unionskonzil begann" ["only a few years old as the great Union Council began in Florence"]), and to the great trilingual (Hebreo-Greco-Latin) Psalter produced for Duke Federigo of Urbino in Florence in 1473,  presents scarcely touched material for the further investigation of Greek studies in the Latin Middle Ages.

"The Greek text is presented in various manners in these Psalters: in Greek script (generally majuscule) or in Roman transcription; the Greek and Latin texts on facing pages, in parallel columns, or arranged interlinearly. The base text (left page, left column, or principal line in interlinear versions) is generally Greek. The Psalters in which the Greek text is presented only in Roman transcription must have originally served primarily liturgical purposes: Greek liturgica were always written in the Roman alphabet in the West, since they were to be read or sung aloud and were not intended to be studied. On the other hand, manuscripts with the Greek text written in Greek script were textbooks or even showpieces. The possibilities for combination are numerous and the distinctions between them fluid: even such an obvious example of a textbook as the St. Gall psalterium quadrupartitum presented the Greek text only in Roman transcription. In general, each of the numerous bilingual Psalters of the Middle Ages requires its own particular historico-philological interpretation.

"The other Greco-Latin books of the Middle Ages may be regarded as offshoots from the main trunk of bilingual biblical texts: in the sixth century, bilinguals of the first four ecumenical councils by Dionysius Exiguus; in the eleventh century, Gregory's Dialogi; in the thirteenth century, the liturgical and polemical bilinguals of Abbot Nicholas-Nectarius of Otranto. The Dominican mission in the 'Orient' continued this latter tradition and produced its controversial theological tracts in bilingual editions ('Bartholomaeus, Contra Graecos; Buonaccorsi, Thesaurus veritatis fidei). Leontius Pilatus' translations of Homer and Euripides for the early Florentine Humanists were designed as interlinear bilinguals.

"Finally, one must not forget the striking bilingualism of the imperial correspondence from Constantinople, of which a number of splendid examples from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries have been preserved in Italian archives. When the corpus of manuscripts has finally been fully catalogued, the history of the Greco-Latin bilinguals will open one of the most informative perspectives on the ever-shifting interest in Greek texts that has perished through the ages" (Walter Berschin, "Valuation and Knowledge of Greek," Greek Letters and the Latin Middle Ages. From Jerome to Nicholas of Cusa. Transl. by Jerold C. Frakes [1992]).

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The Tabula Peutingeriana: the only Roman World Map that Survived from Antiquity Circa 1250

Rome and its vicinity, as depicted on a reproduction the Tabula Peutingeriana. (View Full Map - Very Large)

The Tabula Peutingerianaan itinerarium or Roman road map, is the only Roman world map that survived from antiquity. It depicts the road network of the Roman Empire. The map ssurvives in a unique copy, preserved at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna, made by a monk in Colmar, Alsace, in the thirteenth century, of a map that was last revised in the fourth or early fifth century. That, in turn, was a descendent of the map prepared under the direction of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, a friend of Augustus. After Agrippa's death the map was engraved on marble and placed in the Porticus Vipsaniae, not far from the Ara Pacis Augustae in Rome.

Description of the Map

The Tabula Peutingeriana "is a parchment scroll, 0.34 m high and 6.75 m long, assembled from eleven sections, a medieval reproduction of the original scroll. It is a very schematic map: the land masses are distorted, especially in the east-west direction. The map shows many Roman settlements, the roads connecting them, rivers, mountains, forests and seas. The distances between the settlements are also given. Three most important cities of the Roman Empire, Rome, Constantinople and Antioch, are represented with special iconic decoration. Besides the totality of the Empire, the map shows the Near East, India and the Ganges, Sri Lanka (Insula Taprobane), even an indication of China. In the west, the absence of the Iberian Peninsula indicates that a twelfth original section has been lost in the surviving copy.

Constantinople, on the original Tabula Peutingeriana. (View Full Scan - WARNING: 30mb File!)

"The table appears to be based on "itineraries", or lists of destinations along Roman roads, as the distances between points along the routes are indicated. Travellers would not have possessed anything so sophisticated as a map, but they needed to know what lay ahead of them on the road, and how far. The Peutinger table represents these roads as a series of roughly parallel lines along which destinations have been marked in order of travel. The shape of the parchment pages accounts for the conventional rectangular layout. However, a rough similarity to the coordinates of Ptolemy's earth-mapping gives some writers a hope that some terrestrial representation was intended by the unknown compilers.

"The stages and cities are represented by hundreds of functional place symbols, used with discrimination from the simplest icon of a building with two towers to the elaborate individualized "portraits" of the three great cities. Annalina and Mario Levi, the Tabulas editors, conclude that the semi-schematic semi-pictorial symbols reproduce Roman cartographic conventions of the itineraria picta described by Vegetius, of which this is the sole testimony."

History of Ownership and Early Publication

The map is named after Konrad Peutinger, a German humanist and antiquarian, who inherited it from Konrad Birkel or Celtes, who claimed to have "found" it somewhere in a library in 1494.  It was copied for Ortelius and published shortly after his death in 1598. A partial first edition was printed at Antwerp in 1591 as Fragmenta tabulæ antiquæ by Johannes Moretus. Moretus printed the full Tabula in December 1598. The map remained in the Peutinger family until 1714, when it was sold.  After that it passed between royal and elite families until it was purchased by Prince Eugene of Savoy for 100 ducats.  Upon the prince's death in 1737 the map was purchased for the Habsburg Imperial Court Library (Hofbibliothek) in Vienna. 

♦ In preparing his 2010 book Rome's World: The Peutinger Map Reconsidered, historian Richard Talbert collaborated with the staff of the Ancient World Mapping Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and with ISAW's Digital Programs team at New York University, to produce digital tools to record and analyze the map. These were published online, and could be accessed in October 2013: 

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The Most Extensive Medieval Encyclopedia Circa 1250

About 1250 Dominican friar Vincent de Beauvais (Vincent of Beauvais, Vincentius Bellovacensis or Vincentius Burgundus), whose name is associated with the Dominican monastery founded by Louis IX of France at Beauvais, France, compiled the Speculum maius, the largest medieval encyclopedia, and probably the largest reference work compiled in the west until 1600. A compendium of all medieval knowledge, the Speculum maius, or Great Mirror, consisted of three parts: the Speculum naturaleSpeculum doctrinale and Speculum historiale. After the invention of printing all the editions included a fourth part, the Speculum morale, added in the 14th century and mainly compiled from the works of Thomas Aquinas, Stephen de Bourbon, and others. In this form the work contained eighty books and 9, 885 chapters, and extended to about 4.5 million words.

On November 15, 2013 I read medievalist Linda Fagin Davis's entry entitled "Monks and Minnesota" in her very distinctive Manuscript Road Trip blog. In that she reminded me about a two-volume medieval manuscript of Vincent's Speculum naturale which I sold to The Bakken Museum in Minneapolis during the 1970s. This was the first significant medieval manuscript that I ever handled. It was purchased by The Bakken because it contains some of the earliest recorded references to magnetism, as cited in Mottelay's Bibliographical History of Electricity And Magnetism (1922).

The Bakken's volumes were copied about 1280 by the monk Johannes de Resbais and his Cisterican brethren in the scriptorium of the Abbey of Cambron in Belgium. They were part of a seven volume set that eventually extended to about 1500 leaves (3000 pages) of vellum in small folio—an immense project of manuscript book production, and a very expensive set at the time for the cost of the vellum and the scriptorium labor. Linda Davis stated that "Johannes signed two of the volumes ('Johannes de Resbais wrote this; pray for him, beloved brothers, men of God'), and most include the fourteenth-century ex libris 'Liber sanctae mariae de camberonae” ('This book belongs to St. Mary of Cambron')." According to a catalogue of the Cambron Abbey library all seven volumes were still in the abbey as late as 1782. However, it is likely that they were dispersed in the closure of many religious establishments during the Napoleonic Wars (1800-1815). 

"Research into the medieval reception of Vincent's Speculum has turned up only two extant copies of the whole work from a handful that were made in the Middle Ages. The Speculum circulated mostly in partial copies, three hundred of which survive, most of them focused on the Speculum historiale. But even the Speculum historiale survives in only thirty-seven complete copies. Given its massive size, the Speculum was prohibitively expensive to copy except partially. Printing was the key to its circulation either as complete parts during the incunabular period or as a complete set of four in 1591 and 1624. But Vincent of Beauvais was widely known and used as a source in shorter, more portable and affordable encyclopedic compilations. Among these the Libri de proprietatibus by Bartholomaeus Anglicus was widely copied in the Middle Ages and printed nine times down to 1491 and in English as late as 1582" (Blair, Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age [2010] 43-44, see also 41-45).

When I sold the manuscript to The Bakken I knew little about medieval manuscripts, and had only modest appreciation of the significance of this very large compendium. Nor was I aware that the Speculum naturale was rarer than the Speculum historiale, though it would stand to reason that a compilation on "science" might have had smaller circulation during the Middle Ages. The Wikipedia article on Vincent of Beauvais provides a good summary of the vast scope of the Speculum naturale, chiefly adapted from the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1911):

"The vast tome of the Speculum Naturale (Mirror of Nature), divided into thirty-two books and 3,718 chapters, is a summary of all of the science and natural history known to Western Europe towards the middle of the 13th century, a mosaic of quotations from Latin, Greek,Arabic, and even Hebrew authors, with the sources given. Vincent distinguishes, however, his own remarks.

The Speculum Naturale deals with its subjects in the order that they were created: it is essentially a gigantic commentary on Genesis 1. Thus, book i. opens with an account of the Trinity and its relation to creation; then follows a similar series of chapters about angels, their attributes, powers, orders, etc., down to such minute points such as their methods of communicating thought, on which matter the author decides, in his own person, that they have a kind of intelligible speech, and that with angels, to think and to speak are not the same process.

Book ii. treats of the created world, of light, color, the four elements, Lucifer and his fallen angels and the work of the first day.

Books iii. and iv. deal with the phenomena of the heavens and of time, which is measured by the motions of the heavenly bodies, with the sky and all its wonders, fire, rain, thunder, dew, winds, etc.

Books v.-xiv. treat of the sea and the dry land: the discourse of the seas, the ocean and the great rivers, agricultural operations, metals, precious stones, plants, herbs with their seeds, grains and juices, trees wild and cultivated, their fruits and their saps. Under each species, where possible, Vincent gives a chapter on its use in medicine, and he adopts for the most part an alphabetical arrangement. In book vi. c. 7, he incidentally discusses what would become of a stone if it were dropped down a hole, pierced right through the earth, and, curiously enough, decides that it would stay in the centre. In book ix., he gives an early instance of the use of the magnet in navigation.

Book xv. deals with astronomy: the moon, the stars, the zodiac, the sun, the planets, the seasons and the calendar.

Books xvi. and xvii. treat of fowls and fishes, mainly in alphabetical order and with reference to their medical qualities.

Books xviii.-xxii. deal in a similar way with domesticated and wild animals, including the dog, serpents, bees and insects; they also include a general treatise on animal physiology spread over books xxi.-xxii.

Books xxiii.-xxviii. discuss psychology, physiology and anatomy of man, the five senses and their organs, sleep, dreams, ecstasy, memory, reason, etc.

The remaining four books seem more or less supplementary; the last (xxxii.) is a summary of geography and history down to the year 1250, when the book seems to have been given to the world, perhaps along with the Speculum Historiale and possibly an earlier form of the Speculum Doctrinale."

In her blog Ms. Davis told an extraordinary story of the Vincent de Beauvais manuscript, and reminded me of the remarkable coincidence, which I vaguely remember understanding forty years ago, that the Bakken's manuscript belonged to the same medieval copy of Vincent's encyclopedia as two volumes of the Speculum historiale at the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota, also in Minneapolis. From her account of the history of the original set of seven volumes I quote:

"S[peculum]H[istoriale] III was lost, probably destroyed.

"S[peculum]N[aturale] III was acquired by the British Library in 1845, where it is now MS Add. 15583.

"SH II/IV and SN I/II were acquired in 1836 by the great collector Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792 – 1872) in whose collection they were collectively known as MS 8753. Phillipps already owned SH I, having purchased it from the Abbey about a decade before; it was his MS 335. Did he know that the four volumes he bought in 1836 were sisters to the volume he already owned? Your guess is as good as mine.

"After Phillipps’ death in 1872, the five volumes in his collection were further divided. SH I was acquired by the Royal Library of Belgium in 1888 (it’s MS BR II.941). The four remaining Phillipps manuscripts were sold together at an 1897 auction as a single lot to dealer Bernard Quaritch.

"Quaritch seems to have had a hard time selling the volumes. He offered them for sale in 1898 for £60 (here’s the catalogue) and again in 1904 for the same price (here’s that catalogue), selling them at last in 1907 to noted bibliophile Sir Sydney Cockerell (1867-1962). Cockerell sold SN I and II to his friend C. S. St. John Hornby for £40 in 1907; he kept the other two until 1956, when he sold them to New York bookdealer H. P Kraus for £500 (a whopping profit). Kraus sold them in 1957 to the John Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota, where they can still be found under the shelfmark 1280 oVi.

"To recap, we have watched as two volumes (SH II and SH IV) made their way from Belgium to England to New York to Minnesota. But we’re not done yet.

"Hornby kept the remaining two manuscripts (SN I and II) until 1946, when he sold them for £100 to British collector John R. Abbey (1894-1969). In 1975, the volumes were sold at auction by Sotheby’s London to a dealer named Jeremy Norman, who bought them for £4000 (another whopping profit, this time for the Abbey estate) on behalf of…The Bakken! After a journey of hundreds of years and thousands of miles, four of the seven Cambron volumes have been reunited in Minneapolis, in libraries just a few miles apart."

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The Crusader Bible, One of the Greatest Masterpieces of Manuscript Illumination Circa 1250

The Crusader Bible, also known as the Morgan Picture Bible, the Maciejowski Bible, and the Shah ‘Abbas Bible, contains 46 illuminated folios of which 43 are preserved in The Morgan Library & Museum (MS M.638), 2 in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF, Ms n.a.l. 2294 fols 2, 3), and a single folio in the J. Paul Getty Museum, (Ludwig I 6 - 83.MA.55). This picture book, which was probably produced in Paris about 1250, has long been associated with the court of Louis IX, the pious crusader king of France and builder of the Sainte-Chapelle chapel on the Île de la Cité in Paris. Its illuminations, by seven different artists, are renowned for their bold coloring and draftsmanship, which bring Old Testament stories to life in bright images replete with medieval castles, towns, and battling knights in armor, all set in thirteenth-century France. In 346 images on 46 folios the manuscript illustratates portions of Genesis, Exodus Joshua, Judges, Ruth and Samuel. Forty percent of the images are devoted to the life of David.

It is believed that the manuscript originally probably contained only paintings. Around the year 1300 marginal inscriptions in Latin describing the scenes illustrated were added. The manuscript was owned by Cardinal Bernard Maciejowski, Bishop of Cracow, in the early 17th century. On January 3, 1608 Cardinal Maciejowksi had the book given as a gift to Abbas I (Shah of Persia). Abbas ordered the addition of Persian inscriptions, mostly translating the Latin inscriptions previously added. Following the sack of Isfahan by Afghans in 1722, the book was acquired by a Persian-speaking Jew who added inscriptions in Judeo-Persian. The book thus consists of paintings of events from Hebrew scripture, set in the scenery and customs of thirteenth-century France, depicted from a Christian perspective, and surrounded by text in three scripts and five languages: Latin, Persian, Arabic, Judeo-Persian, and Hebrew. It was purchased in Egypt by Giovanni d’Athanasi; his sale (London, Sotheby’s, March 16, 1833, lot 201) to Payne and Foss; Sir Thomas Phillipps (Phillipps Collection, no. 8025); purchased by J.P. Morgan (1867-1943) in 1916.

In November 2014 digital facsimiles of the all of the leaves of the Crusader Bible held by the Morgan Library & Museum were available at this link.

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Survival of the Works of Archimedes was Dependent upon Three Manuscripts, Only One of Which Survived to the Present 1269 – 1544

In contrast to Euclid's Elements, which were written at the Royal Library of Alexandria, and widely disseminated, the writings of the Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer Archimedes were not widely known in antiquity. Survival of their texts was due to interest in Archimedes' writings at the Byzantine capital of Constantinople from the sixth through the tenth centuries.

"It is true that before that time individual works of Archimedes were obviously studied at Alexandria, since Archimedes was often quoted by three eminent mathematicians of Alexandria: Hero, Pappus, and Theon. But it is with the activity of Eutocius of Ascalon, who was born toward the end of the fifth century and studied at Alexandria, that the textual history of a collected edition of Archimedes properly begins. Eutocius composed commentaries on three of Archimedes' works: On the Sphere and the Cylinder, On the Measurement of the Circle, and On the Equilibrium of Planes. These were no doubt the most popular of Archimedes' works at that time. . . . The works of Archimedes and the commentaries of Eutocius were studied and taught by Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, Justinian's architects of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. It was apparently Isidore who was responsible for the first collected edition of at least the three works commented on by Eutocius as well as the commentaries. Later Byzantine authors seem gradually to have added other works to this first collected edition until the ninth century when the educational reformer Leon of Thessalonica produced the compilation represented by Greek manuscript A (adopting the designation used by the editor, J. L. Heiberg).  Manuscript A contained all of the Greek works now known excepting On Floating Bodies, On the Method, Stomachion, and The Cattle Problem. This was one of the two manuscripts available to William of Moerbeke when he made his Latin translations in 1269.  It was the source, directly or indirectly, of all of the Renaissance copies of Archimedes. A second Byzantine manuscript, designated as B, included only the mechanical works: On the Equilibrium of Planes, On the Quadrature of the Parabola and On Floating Bodies (and possibly On Spirals).  It too was available to Moerbeke. But it disappears after an early fourteenth-century reference. Finally we can mention a third Byzantine manuscript, C, a palimpsest whose Archimedean parts are in a hand of the tenth century. It was not available to the Latin West in the Middle Ages, or indeed in modern times until its identification by Heiberg in 1906 at Constantinople (where it had been brought from Jerusalem)" (Marshall Clagett, "Archimedes," Dictionary of Scientific Biography I [1970] 223).

Transmission of Archimedes' writings to the west was largely dependent upon the translation into Latin of most of the Archimedean texts in manuscripts A and B by the Flemish Dominican William of Moerbeke (Willem van Moerbeke) in 1269.  These manuscripts had passed into the Pope's library from the collection of the Norman kings of the Two Sicilies.  Moerbeke's translations of the two manuscripts were not without errors, but they presented the texts in an understandable way. The holograph of Moerbeke's translation survives in the Vatican Library (MS Vat. Ottob. lat. 1850). It was not widely copied. Manuscripts A and B no longer survive.

"In the fifteenth century, knowledge of Archimedes in Europe began to expand. A new latin translation was made by James of Cremona in about 1450 by order of Pope Nicholas V. Since this translation was made exclusively from manuscript A, the translation failed to include On Floating Bodies, but it did include the two treatises in A omitted by Moerbeke, namely The Sand Reckoner and Eutocius' Commentary on the Measurement of the Circle. It appears that this new translation was made with an eye on Moerbeke's translation. . . . There are at least nine extant manuscripts of this translation, one of which was corrrected by Regiomontanus and brought to Germany about 1468. . . . Greek manuscript A itself was copied a number of times. Cardinal Bessarion had one copy prepared between 1449 and 1468 (MS E). Another (MS D) was made from A when it was in the possession fo the well-kinown humanist George [Giorgio] Valla. The fate of A and its various copies has been traced skillfully by J. L. Heiberg in his edition of Archimedes' Opera. The last known use of manuscript A occurred in 1544, after which time it seems to have disappeared.  The first printed Archimedean materials were in fact merely latin excerpts that appeared in George Valla's De expetendis et fugiendis rebus opus (Venice, 1501) and were based on his reading of manuscript A. But the earliest actual printed texts of Archimedes were the Moerbeke translations of On the Measurement of the Circle and On the Quadrature of the Parabola (Teragonismus, id est circuli quadratura etc.) published from the Madrid manuscript by L.[uca] Gaurico (Venice, 1503). In 1543 also at Venice N.[iccolo] Tartaglia republished the same two translations directly from Gaurico's work, and in addition, from the same Madrid manuscript, the Moerbeke translations of On the Equilbrium of Planes and Book I of On Floating Bodes (leaving the erroneous impression that he had made these translations from a Greek manuscript, which he had not since he merely repeated the texts of the Madrid manuscript, with virtually all their errors.) . . . The key event, however, in the further spread of Archimedes was the aforementioned editio princeps of the Greek text with the accompanying Latin translation of James of Cremona at Basel in 1544. . . ." Clagett, op. cit., 228-229).

For the editio princeps the editor Thomas Gechauff, called Venatorius (d. 1551), was able to use the above-mentioned manuscript of James of Cremona's (Jacopo da Cremona's) Latin translation corrected by Regiomontanus, which included the commentaries of Eutocius of Ascalon. For the Greek text Gechauff used a manuscript which had been acquired in Rome by humanist Willibald Pirckheimer, and is preserved today today in Nuremberg City Library.

Existence of a reliable Greek and Latin edition made the texts available to a wider range of scholars, exerting a strong influence on mathematics and physics in the sixteenth century. "One of the imortant effects of that influence can be seen in Kepler's Astronomia nova, in which Archimedes's so-called 'exhaustion procedure' was applied to the measurement of time elapsed between any two points in Mars's orbit" (Hook & Norman, Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine [1991] no. 61).

♦ After disappearing into a European private collection in the early twentieth century, the third key record of Archimedes' texts discussed above, the tenth century Byzantine manuscript C, known as the Archimedes Palimpsest, re-appeared at a Christie's auction in New York on October 28, 1998, where it was purchased by an anonymous private collector in the United States. Since then it has been made widely available to scholars, and has been the subject of much research.

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Foundation of the Library of the Sorbonne, and "Perhaps the Earliest Specific and Organized System of Book Arrangement in a Library" 1271

From a late 14th century copy of Richard de Fournival's 'Biblionomia.' A catalog of the section on philosophy, in which books are described by their dimensions. (View Larger)

In 1271 theologian Gerard d' Abbeville, a Parisian master and neighbor of Robert de Sorbon, bequeathed nearly 300 volumes of manuscripts to the Library of the Sorbonne. This gift became the core of the Sorbonne Library, and of the roughly 300 original volumes, 118 remain preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France today. d'Abbeville's bequest incorporated the library of Richard de Fournival, author of the library catalogue entitled Biblionomia. In his history of the manuscript collections from which the Bibliothèque nationale was formed, Le cabinet des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Impériale, Leopold Delisle characterized this catalogue as "one of the most curious monuments of the bibliographic art of the Middle Ages. The only manuscript which has survived of this small work is 'très-incorrect', and cannot be dated before the beginning of the 15th century. Having belonged to the Collège des Cholets, it is today part of the library of the Université de France at the Sorbonne...." (translation mine, from 518-19).

According to Delisle, Fournival used a garden metaphor to describe his library, in which the various branches of knowledge each have their plot, but beyond the metaphor Fournival described a specific classification scheme, coordinating desk or shelf letters or numbers with different kinds of letters and colors of letters. The first division of the library was devoted to philosophy, which Fournival further broke down into nine categories on eleven shelves, arranged partly according to volume size:

1. Grammar

2. Dialectic

3. Rhetoric

4. Geometry and Arithmetic

5. Music and Astronomy

6. Physics and Metaphysics

7. Metaphysics and Morals

8. Melanges of Philosophy

9. Poetry

The second division of Fournival's Biblionomia was devoted to what Delisle calls "sciences lucratives"--medicine, civil law and canon law.

The third division of the library was theology, i.e. texts and commentaries on the Holy Scriptures and writings of the fathers of the church.

Fournival's Biblionomia is "Perhaps the earliest specific and organized system of book arrangement in a library" (M. Davies, "Medieval Libraries,"  Stam (ed.) International Dictionary of Library Histories I [2001] 107).

Delisle pointed out that even though Fournival described the exact content of books in 162 volumes it is difficult to say for sure whether these volumes were ever assembled outside of Fournival's imagination. However, whether imaginary or not, Deslisle felt that the Biblionomia was "rich in valuable information for literary history" and he reprinted the Latin text of Biblionomia in Le cabinet des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Impériale II (1874) 518-535.

According to the Wikipedia article on Fournival, 35 manuscripts from his library remain preserved in various libraries, which would indicate that Fournival owned at least a portion of the works that he described in Biblionomia.

Ullman, The Library of the Sorbonne in the Fourteenth Century. The Septicentennial Celebration of the Founding of the Sorbonne College in the University of Paris. [1953] 38-39.

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Autograph Manuscript by Ibn-al-Nafis on the Art of Medicine Circa 1280

Accepted as the author’s autograph, these three volumes, which are somewhat incomplete, comprise the thirty-third, forty-second, and forty-third volumes of the Comprehensive Book on the Art of Medicine by Ibn al-Nafis who died in Cairo in 1288. It is thought that Ibn-Nafis may completed this work in as many as 300 manuscript volumes, but that he may have published only 80 volumes in manuscript, which would have circulated in scribal copies. Of the very extensive writings that Ibn-Nafis is understood to have written, these volumes, preserved at Stanford University's Lane Medical Library, are the only autograph manuscripts by Ibn-al-Nafis which have survived, and one of a very small number of surviving autograph manuscripts by any famous medieval physician or scientist.

The first volume of these manuscripts contains a study of plants, minerals, and animals from the medical point of view. These are arranged alphabetically Vol. 2 continues the study and covers the letters tā, thā, and jīm. It consists of two sections: Vol. 3 is a study of the use of the hand and surgical instruments for medical purposes.

Al-Nafis, an Egyptian physician of the 13th century, was credited with various innovations, most notably the discovery of the lesser circulation, three centuries before Servetus (1553) and Columbo (1559).

Provenance: Aliyah, a Jewish physician of Damascus, Darwish Abbas (seal bearing date corresponding to CE 1743/4) Ernest Seidel (1852-1922), acquired in Lane Library’s purchase of the Seidel library in 1921.

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1300 – 1400

Lay Readers and Book Owners by the End of the 14th Century Circa 1300

"By the beginning of the fourteenth century the text of Vegetius, in addition to being used as a manual for military fortification by Edward I of England [Edward Longshanks] (1272-1307), was extracted for the preachers' manual compiled by Thomas of Ireland (before 1 July 1306), moralized by medieval preachers, and translated into French by Jean de Vignay.

"This last is a reflection of the increasing importance, at the end of the thirteenth century and in the course of the fourteenth, of an audience of lay readers (or at least of lay book-owners). Growing urbanization, increased literacy, and an overall improvement in the economy—the general lot of western Europe since the twelfth century—ultimately produced a class of country nobility and urban courtiers who patronized bookshops, artists, and translators such as de Vignay. Through the work of such book producers, the deeds of Alexander and the Caesars became as much a part of the noble household as the sermon from the pulpit" (Rouse, The Transmission of the Texts," Jenkyns [ed] The Legacy of Rome: A New Appraisal [1992] 49).

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Perhaps the Earliest Movable Metal Type Circa 1300

Four of twelve metal Chinese characters thought to be the world's oldest extant moveable type.

In January 2012 twelve metal Chinese characters were discovered. These may be the earliest movable type, predating those used to print the Jikji Simche Yojeol in 1377. According to Prof. Nam Kwon-heui of Kyungpook National University (KNU) (경북대학교), abbreviated as Kyungdae(경대), in Daegu, South Korea, the metal characters were located in a private collection in Korea.

"The owner of the movable type was quoted as saying he bought them around 10 years ago and was told they were discovered during Japan's occupation of Korea and that a Japanese collector smuggled them out of Korea after World War II.

"The only other movable metal type presumed to date back to the Koryo Kingdom [The Goryeo Dynasty or Koryŏ] is in the National Museum of Korea[Seoul] and the Kaesong Museum of History [Kaesŏng, North Hwanghae Province, southern North Korea (DPRK)] which have one sample each. The type used to print the "Jikji" has yet to be discovered. The "Jikji," an anthology of the teachings of the Buddha for meditation, is held by the National Library of France since the country looted them during a botched invasion in the late Chosun Dynasty.

"In order for the newly found movable type to be dated correctly, experts need to analyze composition, metal craftsmanship and how they were handed down through history" (http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2010/09/02/2010090200639.html

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The Metz Pontifical: An Unfinished Medieval Masterpiece Circa 1303 – 1316

Folios 7v-8r of the Metz Pontifical.

The Metz Pontifical, an illuminated manuscript produced for Renaut de Bar, Bishop of Metz (1303-1316), and preserved at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, has the added virtue, from the standpoint of historical research, of being unfinished. Its manner of production is shown in an interesting flash animation on the Fitzwilliam website at this link. The manuscript was donated to the Fitzwilliam Museum by Henry Yates Thompson through the auspices of the museum's director, Sydney Cockerell.

Fifty-two other illuminated manuscripts owned by Yates Thompson are preserved in the British Library, which has an extensive article about Thompson and his fabulous collection at this link.

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Islamic History Containing the Earliest Notice of Chinese Printing from a Non-Chinese Source 1307

A scene from Rashid al-Din Tabib's 'Jami al-Tawarikh' in which the Ghazan Khan is converted to Islam. (View Larger)

In 1307 Persian physician of Jewish origin, polymathic writer and historian from HamadanRashīd al-Dīn Tabīb (Persian: رشیدالدین طبیب) also Rashīd al-Dīn Fadhl-allāh Hamadānī (Persian: رشیدالدین فضل‌الله همدانی), a convert to Islam, wrote in the Persian language a history, very long for the time, entitled Jami al-Tawarikh.  

"It was in three volumes with a total of approximately 400 pages, with versions in Persian, Arabic and Mongol. The work describes cultures and major events in world history from China to Europe; in addition, it covers Mongol history, as a way of establishing their cultural legacy. The lavish illustrations and calligraphy required the efforts of hundreds of scribes and artists, with the intent that two new copies (one in Persian, and one in Arabic) would be created each year and distributed to schools and cities around the Ilkhanate, in the Middle East, Central Asia, Asia Minor, and the Indian sub-continent. Approximately 20 illustrated copies were made of the work during Rashid al-Din's lifetime, but only a few portions remain, and the complete text has not survived. The oldest known copy is an Arabic version, of which half has been lost, but one set of pages is currently in the Khalili Collection, comprising 59 folios from the second volume of the work. Another set of pages, with 151 folios from the same volume, is owned by the Edinburgh University Library. Two Persian copies from the first generation of manuscripts survive in the Topkapi Palace Library in Istanbul. The early illustrated manuscripts together represent 'one of the most important surviving examples of Ilkhanid art in any medium' and are the largest surviving body of early examples of the Persian miniature"( Wikipedia article on Jami al-Tawarikh, accessed 01-25-2012).

This history contained a discussion of printing in China. The description of the printing process bears very strong resemblance to the processes used in the large printing ventures in China under Feng Dao (932–953):

"When any book was desired, a copy was made by a skillful calligrapher on tablets and carefully corrected by proof-readers whose names were inscribed on the back of the tablets. The letters were then cut out by expert engravers, and all pages of the books consecutively numbered. When completed, the tablets were placed in sealed bags to be kept by reliable persons, and if anyone wanted a copy of the book, he paid the charges fixed by the government. The tablets were then taken out of the bags and imposed on leaves of paper to obtain the printed sheets as desired. In this way, alterations could not be made and documents could be faithfully transmitted. Under this system he had copies made, lent them to friends, and urged them to transcribe them and return the originals. He had Arabic translations made of those works he composed in Persian, and Persian translations of works composed in Arabic. When the translations had been prepared, he deposited them in the mosque library of the Rab'-e Rashidi" (Wikipedia article on Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, accessed 08-20-2014).

"This is the earliest notice of Chinese printing, aside from the making of paper money, outside of East Asiatic sources. It is evident that Rashid had a reasonably reliable source of information and that the printing in which he was interested was the printing of books, especially historical records. Where he failed was in not grasping the importance of the new art as an economical means of disseminating literature and in seeing it merely as a means of authenticating the exact text—a characteristic of Chinese official printing that has already been noticed . . . ." (Carter, Invention of Printing in China 2nd ed[1955] 173).

In 1980, a 120-page illuminated version of Rashīd al-Dīn's manuscript in Arabic was sold at Sotheby's to Nasser David Khalili of London for £850,000, then the highest price ever paid for an Arabic manuscript. In August 2014 an extensive description of Khalili manuscript was available from Saudi Aramco World at this link.

♦ Also in August 2014 a digital facsimile of the Jami al-Twarikh of Rashid al-Din in Edinburgh University Library, which was considered another portion of the identical manuscript from which the Khalili portion originated, was available from Edinburgh University Library at this link. The Edinburgh portion was collected by Colonel John Baillie and donated to Edinburgh University in 1876.

(This entry was last revised on 08-20-2014.)


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The Rochefoucauld Grail 1315 – 1323

Arthur versus the Saxons as depicted in the Rochefoucauld Grail. (View Larger)

Between 1315 and 1323 The Rochefoulcauld Grail was written and illuminated in Flanders or Artois by the same team of artists and scribes who produced the deluxe copies of the text now London, British Library, Add. MS. 10292-4 and Royal MS.14.E.III) perhaps for Guy VII, baron de La Rochefoucauld. It is one of the principal manuscripts of the greatest romance of the Middle Ages, with 107 miniatures illustrating warfare, chivalry and courtly love. It contains the Lancelot-Grail cycle in French prose, the oldest and most comprehensive version of the legend of King Arthur and the Holy Grail.

The manuscript was sold at Sotheby's London on December 10, 2010 for £2,393,250 including premium. The Sotheby's catalogue description, presumably written by Christopher de Hamel, included the provenance and numerous published references. The manuscript sold consisted of three volumes. A fourth volume of the manuscript is divided between the Bodeleian Library, Oxford (Douce MS 215) and the John Rylands Library, Manchester (MS Fr. 1).

In February 2014 a selection of images from the manuscript was available from Theguardian.com at this link.  

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Renaissance Humanists Hunt for the Manuscripts of Roman Authors Circa 1325 – 1450

"The recognition that they were not Romans, that the Roman past was essentially other, differentiated Renaissance writers from their medieval counterparts. Lovato Lovati's colleague Albertino Mussato (1262-1329) could compose a tragedy in Senecan metre for an ancient purpose, to rouse the citizens of Padua to civic action. Petrarch (1304-74) could compose letters to Cicero in Ciceronian style, though Boccaccio (1313-76) still mingled quotations from ancient and medieval authors without recognizing that they were inherently different. The recognition that Rome was a culture basically distinct from their own was largely the work of humanists and they, as Martines has shown, were trained first and foremost in law. A legal training involved competence in the arts of discourse—in the writing of letters. One letter from Florentine chancellor Coluccio Salutati (1331-1406) was said by a contemporary to be worth 5,000 soldiers. The models of style to which they turned were ancient letters: Seneca's, the Younger Pliny's, Symachus', and (after Petrarch had rediscovered them) Cicero's to Atticus and to others of his friends. Teachers of discourse like Guarino of Verona (1374-1460) were the umanisti or humanists in whose hands lay the revival of Antiquity. The Roman past was recognized as something removed in time, definably different, and of interest as an ideal, which one might escape into as did Petrarch or which one might use as a goad to challenge the indolent present; thereupon it became something to be sought. The hunt was on for manuscripts of Roman authors collecting dust in ecclesiastical libraries. Humanists served as diplomats, and their search for and discoveries of the texts of Roman authors took place in stolen moments in the course of their diplomatic missions to European courts ecclesiastical and secular. Hence Petrarch assembled his text of Livy in Avignon, where his patron Landolfo Colonna attended the papal court; hence Poggio (1380-1459) tired of the business of the Council of Constance (1414-17), explored the book cupboards of St-Gall. Nicholas of Cues  [Nicholas of Cusa] (1401-64) very naturally visited the libraries of Egmont and St. Maximin in Trier, along with scores of others equally interesting, in his capacity as papal legate to Germany. Not unlike their forerunners Lupos of Ferrieres, Wibald of Corvey, Philip of Bayeux, Richard de Fournival, diplomats of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries searched the libraries of abbeys and cathedrals for ancient authors. While libraries were the sources for texts, the agencies by which texts were disseminated were especially two: (1) the international meeting places, such as the seats of ecclesiastical authority, the papal court at Avignon (1309-77), the great Councils of Constance (1414-18) and Basel (1431-49) and Rome itself—crossroads where diplomats from the South met those from the North; and (2) the humanist-diplomats themselves through their networks of like-minded friends and correspondents. Even without external evidence one can see, for example that Petrarch was single-handedly responsble for the introduction to fourteenth-century Italian humanists of a whole series of ancient texts; these are texts for which the parent of an entire branch of the manuscript tradition obviously once belonged to him, since the derivative manuscripts belonged in large part to his friends and their friends" (Rouse, "The Transmission of the Texts," Jenkyns [ed] The Legacy of Rome: A New Appraisal [1992] 50-51).

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Philobiblon, Perhaps the Earliest Treatise on Book Collecting and on Preserving Books & Creating a Library 1345 – 1473

The seal of Richard de Bury. (View Larger)

Shortly before his death in 1345, the priest, bishop, politician, diplomat and bibliophile Richard Aungerville, commonly known as Richard de Bury, wrote Philobiblon, perhaps the earliest treatise on the value of preserving neglected or decaying manuscripts, on building a library, and on book collecting. de Bury was appointed tutor to the future King Edward III while Edward was Prince of Wales, and, according to Thomas Frognall Dibdin, inspired the prince with his own love of books.

Having connections in the court, de Bury somehow became involved in the intrigues preceding the deposition of King Edward II, and in 1325 supplied Queen Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, in Paris with money from the revenues of Brienne, of which province he was treasurer. For a period of time he had to hide in Paris from the officers sent by Edward II to apprehend him.

Upon his ascent to the throne in 1327 Edward III rapidly promoted de Bury, appointing him cofferer to the king, treasurer of the wardrobe and afterwards in 1329 Lord Privy Seal. The king repeatedly recommended him to the pope, and twice sent him, in 1330 and 1333, as ambassador to the papal court in exile at Avignon. On the first of these visits Richard met a fellow bibliophile, Petrarch, who recorded his impression of Aungerville as "not ignorant of literature and from his youth up curious beyond belief of hidden things." Pope John XXII made de Bury his principal chaplain, and presented him with a rochet in earnest of the next vacant bishopric in England. 

During his absence from England in February 1333 de Bury was appointed Dean of Wells. In September of the same year, he was appointed Bishop of Durham by the king. In February 1334 de Bury was made Lord Treasurer, an appointment he exchanged later in the year for that of Lord Chancellor. Richard may have sometimes exploited his political power to collect manuscripts. According to the Wikipedia, an abbot of St Albans bribed him with four valuable books, and de Bury, who procured certain coveted privileges for the monastery, bought from him thirty-two other books for fifty pieces of silver, far less than their normal price. In Philobiblon

"Richard de Bury gives an account of the wearied efforts made by himself and his agents to collect books. He records his intention of founding a hall at Oxford, and in connection with it a library in which his books were to form the nucleus. He even details the dates to be observed for the lending and care of the books, and had already taken the preliminary steps for the foundation. The bishop died, however, in great poverty on 14 April 1345 at Bishop Auckland, and it seems likely that his collection was dispersed immediately after his death. Of it, the traditional account is that the books were sent to the Durham Benedictines Durham College, Oxford which was shortly thereafter founded by Bishop Hatfield, and that on the dissolution of the foundation by Henry VIII they were divided between Duke Humphrey of Gloucester's library, Balliol College, Oxford, and George Owen. Only two of the volumes are known to be in existence; one is a copy of John of Salisbury's works in the British Museum, and the other some theological treatises by Anselm and others in the Bodleian.

"The chief authority for the bishop's life is William de Chambre, printed in Wharton's Anglia Sacra, 1691, and in Historiae conelmensis scriptores tres, Surtees Soc., 1839, who describes him as an amiable and excellent man, charitable in his diocese, and the liberal patron of many learned men, among these being Thomas Bradwardine, afterwards Archbishop of CanterburyRichard Fitzralph, afterwards Archbishop of Armagh, the enemy of the mendicant ordersWalter Burley, who translated Aristotle, John Mauduit the astronomer, Robert Holkot and Richard de KilvingtonJohn Bale and Pits I mention other works of his, Epistolae Familiares and Orationes ad Principes. The opening words of the Philobiblon and the Epistolaeas given by Bale represent those of the Philobiblon and its prologue, of that he apparently made two books out of one treatise. It is possible that the Orationes may represent a letter book of Richard de Bury's, entitled Liber Epistolaris quondam dominiis cardi de Bury, Episcopi Dunelmensis, now in the possession of Lord Harlech.

"This manuscript, the contents of which are fully catalogued in the Fourth Report (1874) of the Historical Manuscripts Commission (Appendix, pp. 379–397), contains numerous letters from various popes, from the king, a correspondence dealing with the affairs of the university of Oxford, another with the province of Gascony, beside some harangues and letters evidently meant as models to be used on various occasions. It has often been asserted that the Philobiblon itself was not written by Richard de Bury at all, but by Robert Holkot. This assertion is supported by the fact that in seven of the extant manuscripts of Philobiblon it is ascribed to Holkote in an introductory page, in these or slightly varying terms: Incipit prologus in re philobiblon ricardi dunelmensis episcopi que libri composuit ag. The Paris manuscript has simply Philobiblon olchoti anglici, and does not contain the usual concluding note of the date when the book was completed by Richard. As a great part of the charm of book lies in the unconscious record of the collector's own character, the establishment of Holkot's authorship would materially alter its value. A notice of Richard de Bury by his contemporary Adam Murimuth (Continuatio ChronicarumRolls series, 1889, p. 171) gives a less favourable account of him than does William de Chambre, asserting that he was only moderately learned, but desired to be regarded as a great scholar (Wikipedia article on Richard de Bury, accessed 02-04-2014).

Philobiblon was published in print for the first time in Cologne, 1473

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The Gough Map: The Oldest Surviving Road Map of Great Britain and the First Map to Depict a Recognizably Accurate Picture of Britain's Coastline Circa 1360

Named after English antiquarian, collector and scholar Richard Gough, who donated the map to the Bodleian Library in 1809, the Gough Map or Bodleian Map is the oldest surviving road map of Great Britain. Gough is believed to have acquired the map from the collection of lawyer, antiquarian and collector "Honest Tom" Martin in 1774. As Gough wrote in 1780, 

"The late Mr. Thomas Martin shewed to the same society (Soc. of Antiquaries) at the same time (1768) a map on vellum, which he supposed to be of the age of Edward III in which the names of London and York were distinguished by large gold letters.  This map I purchased at a sale of his MSS, 1774, and shall subjoin the following account of it, to illustrate the copy made by Mr. Basire, pl VI.  It is drawn on two skins of vellum, in a style superior to any of the maps already described... The roads are marked by lines, and even the miles in each stage.  But the greatest merit of this map is, that it may justly boast itself the first among us wherein the roads and distances are laid down" (Gough, British Topography. Or, an Historical Account of What has been Done for Illustrating the Topographical Antiquities of Great Britain and Ireland [1780] 76).

In June 2015 I found the remarkable website at www.goughmap.org  entitled Linguistic Geographies: The Gough Map of Great Britain, which is most highly recommended. Besides interpretive essays, and a new paleographical study of the writing of place names on the map, and a bibliography, the site offers a digital, searchable version of the map.

"The map's authorship is also unknown. It is thought that much of the information about the map was gained from either one or more men who travelled around Great Britain as part of Edward I's military expeditions into Wales and Scotland. The areas of the map's fringe with the most accurate detail often correspond with those areas in which Edward's troops were present. The accuracy of the map in the South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire areas suggest that the author could be from this region. However, it is also possible that the map was constructed based upon the collation of various people's local knowledge. For example, the cartographic accuracy in Oxfordshire could be explained by the fact that [Bishop] William Rede, Fellow of Merton College, had successfully calculated the geographic coordinates for Oxford in 1340.

"The Gough Map is important due to its break with previous theologically-based mapping. It was the first to show the road network of England, though there are some notable and confusing omissions, such as large sections of Watling Street. The use of numerals to indicate road distances in leagues is unique in comparison to all other pre-17th century maps of Britain. It was also the first map to depict a recognisably accurate picture of Britain's coast, although the accuracy is much greater in England than in Scotland, at the time part of another kingdom. Towns are shown in some detail, with London and York written in gold lettering and other principal settlements illustrated in detail. Despite its accuracy, the map does contain a number of other errors. Notably, islands and lakes such as Anglesey and Windermere are oversized, whilst the strategic importance of rivers is shown by their emphasis. Well known but geographically small features such as the Peninsula in Durham are also overly-prominent. The map contains numerous references to mythology as if they were geographical fact, as illustrated by comments about Brutus' mythical landings in Devon. Nevertheless, it remains the most accurate map of Britain prior to the 16th century" (Wikipedia article on Gough Map, accessed 07-16-2011).

(This entry was last revised on 06-20-2015.)

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The Earliest Surviving Book Printed from Movable Metal Type 1377

In 1377 Jikji Simche Yojeol, (Jikjisimcheyojeol) a Korean Buddhist document written by the Buddhist monk Baegun (Buddhist name Gyeonghan), was printed in Heungdeok Temple in Cheongju, South Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty. The was the first book printed from movable metal type.

Baegun's work, intended as a guide for students of Buddhism, comprised a collection of excerpts from the analects of the most revered Buddhist monks throughout successive generations. Originally issued in 2 volumes, only a single copy of the second volume survived, preserved in the division of Manuscrits orientaux in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.


"The Jikji 'had been in the collection of [Victor Emile Marie Joseph] Collin de Plancy, a chargé d'affaires with the French Embassy in Seoul in 1887 during the reign of King Gojong. The book then passed into the hands of Henri Véver [in an auction at Hotel Drouot in 1911], a collector of classics, and when he died in 1950, it was donated to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, where it has been ever since.' Today only 38 sheets of the second volume of the metal print edition are extant.  

"In May 1886, Korea and France concluded a treaty of defense and commerce, and as a result in 1887 official diplomatic relations were entered into by the treaty's official ratification by Kim Yunsik (1835-1922) and Victor Emile Marie Joseph Collin de Plancy (1853-1924). Plancy, who had majored in law in France and went on to study Chinese, had for six years served as translator at the French Legation in China between 1877 and 1883. In 1888 he came to Seoul as the first French consul to Korea, staying until 1891. During his extended residence in Korea, first as consul and then again as full diplomatic minister from 1896-1906, Victor Collin de Plancy collected Korean ceramics and old books. He let Kulang, who had moved to Seoul as his official secretary, classify them" (Wikipedia article on Jikji, accessed 09-09-2010).

In January 2014 an extensive website devoted to the Jikji was hosted by a South Korean NGO at this link.

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1400 – 1450

The Bedford Hours and its History Circa 1410 – 1430

The Bedford Hours, a late medieval book of hours, was probably produced in Paris for John, Duke of Bedford to celebrate his marriage to Anne, daughter of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Production was was in several stages from about 1410 to about 1430, with new material added as the manuscript passed from owner to owner. Some of its miniatures have been attributed to the Bedford Master (possibly Haincelin of Hagenau, who was working in Paris at the time), or to the Chief Associate of the Bedford Master, or simply to the "Bedford Workshop".

The work of the Bedford Master and the Bedford Workshop have been identified in other manuscripts from the period, including the Salisbury Breviary (Bibliothèque nationale de France MS.lat. 17294), also owned by the Duke of Bedford. The style and quality of the illumination in the Bedford Hours is also related to that in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry illuminated by the Limbourg brothers. It is also possible that some of the miniatures in the Bedford Hours were based on images in the Très Riches Heures.

"The origins of the manuscript are not known with certainty, nor is there agreement on its initial patron. The inclusion of certain heraldic symbols in its decorative programme may suggest an original patronage in the French royal family, perhaps the dauphinLouis of Guyenne (d. 1415). Or this first stage in production might have taken place later, after Louis's death, the heraldic symbols having no immediate reference to patronage, but simply being part of the standard iconographic programme of the workshop.

"In the early 1420s the manuscript was in the possession of John of Lancaster, the Duke of Bedford and regent of France on behalf of his nephew Henry VI from 1422 until his death in 1435. In 1423, he gave the manuscript to his wife Anne of Burgundy as a wedding present. Personalizing additions to the manuscript's illumination that commemorate its ownership by the Duke and Duchess of Bedford include two large portrait miniatures (ff. 256v and 257v), showing John kneeling before St George and Anne of Burgundy kneeling before St Anne.

"In 1430 Anne gave the manuscript as a Christmas present to the nine-year-old Henry VI, who was staying with the Bedfords in Rouen before his coronation as king of France. This gift was memorialized in the manuscript itself, on f. 256r, in an inscription made at the duke's request, written by John Somerset, Henry's tutor and personal physician. It is possible that it was in preparing the book as a gift to Henry that the portrait miniatures of the Bedfords were added, along with other additions to the programme of illumination.

"Later owners include King Henry II of France and his wife Catherine de' Medici (identifiable by their coats of arms, added to the manuscript), and Frances Worsley (1673-1750), wife of Sir Robert Worsley, 4th baronet of Appuldurcombe. Edward Harley probably purchased the manuscript from Frances Worsley, but he did not will it to his widow with the rest of the Harley collection, instead bequeathing it directly to his daughter, Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland...." (Wikipedia article on Bedford Hours, accessed 11-07-2013). 

After the death of the Duchess of Portland, on May 24, 1786 the English bookseller James Edwards purchased the Bedford Hours for £213.3s. at the sale of her collections. Edwards commissioned the antiquarian and writer Richard Gough to prepare a monograph on the manuscript. This work entitled An Account of a Rich Illuminated Missal Executed for John Duke of Bedford, Regent of France under Henry VI, and afterwards in the Possession of the Late Duchess of Portland, was printed by John Nichols and published by T. Payne in London in 1794. A work of 86 pages in quarto format, with 4 black and white engraved plates depicting full-page illuminations in the manuscript, this was the first monograph on an illuminated manuscript published in English, and may be considered the beginning of English scholarship on illuminated manuscripts. Most of its text was devoted to explaining details in each of the 59 full-page miniatures, and discussing details of its prior owners. My copy, which bears the bookplate of the Bibliotheca Lindesiana, contains pencil notes on p. 82 tracing later owners of the copy from which I quote:

"Subsequently belonged to the 5th Duke of Marlbourgh (£687.15.0). John Milner (£800) & Sir John Tobin of Liverpool (£1250), & in Jan. 1852 it was sold by the Rev. John Tobin, son of the last-named, with five other MSS to the bookseller William Boone, who ... transferred all six MSS... to the British Museum for £3000 (2 Feb. 1852)."

The Bedford Hours is preserved in the British Library (Add. MS 18850). In February 2014 a digital facsimile of all aspects of the manuscript was available at this link.

Backhouse, "A Reappraisal of the Bedford Hours" (1981).

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Medieval Mappa Mundi, Stolen during an Auction 1411 – 1419

The De Virga world map. (View Larger

The De Virga world map, drawn by Albertinus de Virga, contained a mention in small letters:

"A. 141.. Albertin diuirga me fecit in vinexia"
"Made by Albertinius de Virga in Venice in 141.."

(the last number of the date is erased by a fold in the map)

The map was "discovered" in a second-hand bookshop in 1911 in Srebrenica, Bosnia by Albert Figdor, a map collector, and it was analysed by Franz Von Weiser of the Austrian State University in Vienna. Authenticated photographs were taken at the time, which are preserved in the British Library. Regrettably the original map was stolen during an auction in 1932, and has never been recovered.  It may have been a source for the Venetian Fra Mauro map (circa 1450), with which it is generally consistent.

"The map is oriented to the North, with a wind rose centered in Central Asia, possibly the observatory of astronomer, mathematician and sultan, Ulugh Begh, in the Mongol city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan, or the western shore of the Caspian sea. The wind rose divides the map in eight sectors.

"The map is colored: the seas are left white, although the Red Sea is colored in red. Continental land is colored in yellow, and several colors are used for islands. The mountains are in brown, the lakes are in blue, and rivers are in brown.

"The extension shows a calendar with depictions of the signs of the zodiac and a table to calculate lunar positions"  (Wikipedia article on De Virga world map, accessed 01-12-2009).

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Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry Circa 1413 – 1416

Folio 64v of Les Très Riches Heures, for the month of June. (View Larger)

About 1413 to 1416 artists Herman, Paul, and Johan Limbourg, working for their patron, Jean, Duc de Berry created the paintings for the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. It is a very richly decorated book of hours containing prayers to be said by the lay faithful at each of the canonical hours of the day.

This book, with its spectacular miniature paintings, has been called the most important illuminated manuscript of the late 15th century, and "le roi des manuscrits enluminés." It remained unfinished at the death of the Duc de Berry in 1416; the artists died the same year, leading to the suggestion that the deaths of artists and patron were caused by plague.

"The Très Riches Heures consists of 416 pages, including 131 with large miniatures and many more with border decorations or historiated initials, that are among the high points of International Gothic painting in spite of their small size. There are 300 decorated capital letters. The book was worked on, over a period of nearly a century, in three stages, led by the Limbourg brothers, Barthélemy van Eyck, and Jean Colombe....

"The writing, illuminated capitals, border decorations, and gilding was most likely executed by other specialists who remain mostly unknown. The Limbourg brothers left the book unfinished and unbound at their, and the Duke's, death in 1416. The work passed to the Duke's cousin, the royal art lover and amateur painter René d'Anjou, who had an unidentified artist, the so-called Master of the Shadows, who was probably Barthélemy van Eyck, work on the book in the 1440s. Forty years later Charles I, Duc de Savoie commissioned Jean Colombe to finish the paintings between 1485 and 1489.The paintings of Colombe are easy to distinguish, as are those of the Master of the Shadows (Barthélemy d'Eyck)" (Wikipedia article on the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, accessed 11-22-2008).

The manuscript is preserved in the Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.

A detail from folio 14v of Les Très Riches Heures. (View Larger)

John of Valois, the Magnificent, "Jean, Duc de Berry", Duke of Berry and Auvergne and Count of Poitiers and Montpensier, has been called the greatest patron of illuminated manuscripts of his age. His library was probably the most artistically significant of all private libraries collected during the late Middle Ages. The third son of King John II of France and Bonne of Luxemburg; his brothers were Charles V, King of France, Louis I of Anjou, King of Naples and Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy.

Jean maintained numerous estates, including vast collections of art works of many kinds. He also died heavily in debt. Even though his library was much smaller in number than other collections it is far better preserved and accounted for since, for example, items with precious metal may have been melted down, and gemstones dispersed.

Numerous inventories of Jean's library were preserved, the earliest from 1402. Ironically perhaps, because of the many debts that Jean left at his death, aspects of his estate had to be liquidated, and the inventory of his books in the Chateau de Mehun prepared for Jean Bourne, "contrôleur de sa maison," was preserved, including appraised values of the 162 manuscripts, the greatest of which were recognized to be of immense monetary value at the time. This inventory, preserved at the Bibliothèque de Saint-Geneviève, Paris, was published completely for the first time by as La librairie de Jean, duc de Berry, au château de Mehun-sur-Yèvre, 1416, publiée en entier pour la première fois des notes by Hiver de Beauvoir (1860). 

A detail from folio 147v of Les Très Riches Heures. (View Larger)

The most comprehensive study of Jean, Duc de Berry's library, which collated all extant inventories and listed a total of 297 manuscripts with their references in the manuscript inventories, was by Léopold Delisle. In this comprehensive study Delisle included an index by author and subject, and provided an inventory of extant manuscripts from the Duc de Berry library in French and foreign libraries. This was Recherches sur la librairie de Charles V. Partie II. Inventaire des livres ayant appartenu aux rois Charles V et Charles VI et à Jean, Duc de Berry (1907). The study of the library of Jean, Duc de Berry, appears on pp. 217-331.

When Delisle published nearly all of the Berry manuscripts were in institutional collections, primarily in France. Manuscripts remaining in private hands included some the most important: "Second morceau des Heures dites de Turin", and The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux illuminated by Jean Pucelle, formerly in the collection of Madam la baronne Adolphe de Rothschild, now at The Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Les Belles Heures du duc de Berry" in the collection of M. le baron Edmond de Rothschild, and now also at the Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The library of Sir Thomas Phillipps contained "Débat sur le roman de la Rose," and Henry Yates Thompson owned "Tomes I et II du Miroir historial, en français", "La Bible historiale donnée par le duc de Berry à Jean Harpedenne", and "Le second volume de la Cité de Dieu en français."

Longnon & Cazelles, The Tres Riches Heures of Jean, Duc of Berry (1969) reproduces the manuscript in facsimile with an introduction that includes information concerning the history of the ownership of the manuscript before it was deposited in the Musée Conde by Henri d'Orleans, Duc d'Aumale in 1897.

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The Largest and Finest Collection of Greek Texts before Bessarion's December 15, 1423

Having spent four years in Constantinople collecting manuscripts, on December 15, 1423 book collector, scholar, and occasional bookseller Giovanni Aurispa arrived in Venice with the largest and finest collection of Greek texts to reach the west prior to those brought by Cardinal Basilios Bessarion.

"In reply to a letter from Ambrogio Traversari, he [Aurispa] says that he brought back 238 manuscripts. These contained all of Plato, all of Plotinus, all of Proclus, much of Iamblichus, many of the Greek poets, including Pindar, and a great deal of Greek history, including volumes of Procopius and Xenophon which had been given to him by the emperor. Also the poems of Callimachus and Oppian, and the Orphic verses; the historical works of Dio Cassius, Diodorus Siculus, and Arrian. Most of the works were hitherto unknown in the west.

"Further items included the oldest manuscript of Athenaeus; a 10th century codex containing 7 plays by Sophocles, 6 by Aeschylus — the only manuscript in the world of these—, plus the Argonautica of Apollonius; the Iliad, Demosthenes, and many more. A Herodotus was also among the collection; also the Geography of Strabo. The texts are all listed in the letter to Traversari" (Wikipedia article Giovanni Aurispa, accessed 11-26-2008).

(This entry was last revised on April 8, 2014.)

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Vespasiano da Bisticci, Leading Bookseller of Florence Before the Era of Print 1440

Having begun his career as a cartolaio, a stationer or dealer in paper and parchment, Vespasiano da Bisticci became the leading bookseller in Italy during the decades immediately before the invention of printing, and during the first years of its introduction in Italy. He retired in 1480 supposedly disappointed by the changes in the book trade brought about by printing.

By the 1440s Vespasiano owned a bookshop in Florence patronized by members of Florence's humanist community, through whom he was in contact with local scribes, illuminators and binders. Though he was not particularly well educated and had only a modest knowledge of Latin, he was a very shrewd businessman, and he left valuable memoirs informing us of some of his achievements. These were first published in print as Vite di uomini illustri del secolo xv by Ludovico Frati (Bologna, 1892-93); they were translated by William George and Emily Waters as The Vespasiano Memoirs: Lives of illustrious Men of the XVth century by Vespasiano da Bisticci, Bookseller (1926).

When Federico de Montefelto, Duke of Urbino set about building a library he hired Vespasiano to supply all of its books. Vespasiano's description of its contents is especially interesting for its recitation of the authors and works that the Duke and his advisors felt should be included in his library. As one would expect, after more than five hundred years, some of these remain familiar to scholars; others, of course, have become more or less obscure. I was less familiar with the Renaissance names than the names from antiquity or early Christianity. Out of curiosity I looked up most of the names that were obscure to me in November 2014, and linked to them when a reference was available.

Another element of Vespasiano's comments, written toward the end the quotation below, is his reference to the catalogues of the library of the Pope (then at the Lateran Palace before it was established in 1451 at the Vatican), the library of San Marco (Florence), and those at Pavia and Oxford, which he had obtained in manuscript for comparison with the Urbino library. This is the earliest reference that I recall reading where the holdings of different libraries were compared. It is significant, I think that Vespasiano was aware of, and could obtain the catalogue of the library at Oxford in addition to major libraries in Italy. One wonders whether he was also aware of the much larger library at the University of Paris, and if he could have obtained a catalogue of the holdings there.

The process of creating and collecting Federico's library took fourteen years, especially since Federico resolved  

"to do what no-one had done for a thousand years or more; that is to create the finest library since ancient times. He spared neither cost nor labour, and when he knew of a fine book, whether in Italy or not, he would send for it. It is now fourteen or more years since he began the library, and he always employed, in Urbino, in Florence and in other places, thirty or forty scribes in his service. He took the only way to make a fine library like this: by beginning with the Latin poets, with any comments on the same which might seem merited; next the orators, with the works of Tully [Cicero] and all Latin writers and grammarians of merit. . . . He sought also all the known works on history in Latin, and not only those, but likewise the histories of Greek writers done into Latin, and the orators as well. The Duke also desired to have every work on moral and natural philosophy in Latin, or in Latin translations from Greek.

"As to the sacred Doctors in Latin, he had the works of all four. . . .After the four Doctors, he was set on having the works of S. Bernard and of all the Doctors of old, without exception, Tertullian, Hilarius, Remigius, Hugh de S. Victor, Isidore, Anselm, Rabanus and all the rest. After Latin works came Greek writings done into Latin, Dionysius the Areopagite, Basil, Cyril, Gregory Nazianzen, John of Damascus, John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nicea, all the works of Eusebius, of Ephreme the monk, and of Origen. . . . Coming to the Latin Doctors in philosophy and theology, all the works of Thomas Aquinas, and of Albertus Magnus; of Alexander ab Alexandro, of Scotus, of Bonaventura, of Richard of Mediavilla [Richard of Middleton], of the Archbishop of Antoninus and of all the recognised modern Doctors, down to the Conformità of S. Francis; all the works on civil law in the finest text, the lectures of Bartolo written on goat-skin. He had an edition of the Bible made in two most beautiful volumes, illustrated in the finest possible manner and bound in gold brocade with rich silver fittings. It was given this rich form as the chief of all writings. With it are all the commentaries of the Master of the Sentences, of Nicolao di Lira, and of all the Greek and Latin Doctors, together with the literal glossary of Nicolao di Lira. Likewise all the writers on astrology, geometry, arithmetic, architecture and De re Militari; books on painting sculpture, music and canon law, and all of the texts and lectures on the Summa of Ostiensis and other works in the same faculty. In medicine all lthe works of Avicenna, Hippocrates, Galen, the Continenti of Almansor and the complete volume of all the Councils, held since ancient times, and the logical, philosophical and muscial works of Boethius.

"There were all lthe works of modern writers beginning with Pope Pius; of Petrarch and Dante in Latin and in the vulgar tongue, of Boccaccio in Latin; of Coluccio and of Lionardo d'Arezzo, original and translations; of Fra Ambroglio, of Giannozzo Manetti and Guerino; the prose and poetical works of Panormita, and Francesco Filelfo, and Compano; as well as everything written by Perrotto, Maffeo Vegio, Nicolo Secondino (who was interpreter of Greek and Latin at the Council of the Greeks in Florence), Pontano, Bartholomeo Fazi, Gasparino, Petro Paolo Vergerio, Giovanni Argiropolo (which includes the Philosophy and Logic of Aristotle and the Politics besides), Francesco Barbaro, Lionardo Giustiniano, Donato Acciaiuoli, Alamanno, Rinuccini, Cristofano da Prato, Vecchio, Poggio, Giovanni Tortello, Francesco d'Arezzo and Lorenzo Valla.

"He added to the books written by ancient and modern doctors on all the faculties all the books known in Greek, also the complete works of Aristotle and Plato (written on the finest goat-skin); of Homer in one volume, the Ilia, the Odyssey, and the Batrachomiomachia; of Sophocles, Pindar and Menander, and all the other Greek poets; a fine volume of Plutarch's lives and his moral works, the Cosmography of Ptolemy illustrated in Greek, and the writings of Herodotus, Pausanius, Thucydides, Polybius, Demosthenes, Aeschines and Plotinus. All the Greek comments, such as those upon Aristotle, the Physica de Plantis and Theophrastus; all the Greek vocabulists—Greek into Latin; the works of Hippocrates, Galen, Xenophon, S. Basil, S. John Chrystotom, S.Athanasius, S. John Damascenas, S. Gregory Nazianzen, S. Gregory of Nicea, Origen, Dionysius the Areopagite, John Climacus, S. Ephrem the monk, Aeneas the Sophist, the Collations of John Cassanus, the book of Paradis, Vitae sanctorum patrum ex Aegypto, the Life of Barlaam and Josephat, a wonderful psalter in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, verse by verse, and all the Greek works on geometry, arithmetic, and astrology. Finding that he lacked a vast number of Greek books by various writers, he sent to seek them so that nothing in that tongue which could be found should be lacking; also whatever books were to be had in Hebrew, beginning with the Bible and all those dealt with by the Rabbi Moses and other commentators. And besides the Holy Scriptures, there are books in Hebrew on medicine, philosophy and the other faculties.

"The Duke, having completed this noble work at the cost of thirty thousand ducats, beside the many other excellent provisions that he made, determined to give every writer a worthy finish by binding his work in scarlet and silver. Beginning with the Bible, as the chief, he had it covered iwth gold brocade, and then he bound in scarlet and silver the Greek and Latin doctors and philosophers, the histories, the books on medicine and the modern doctors, a rich and magnificent sight. In this library all the books are superlatively good, and written with the pen, and had there been one printed volume it would have been ashamed in such company [emphasis mine]. They were beautifully illuminated and written on parchment. This library is remarkable amongst all others in that, taking the works of all writers, sacred and profane, original and translated, there will be found not a single imperfect folio. No other library can show the like, for in all of them the works of certain authors will be wanting in places. A short time before the Duke went to Ferrara it chanced that I was in Urbino with His Lordship, and I had with me the catalogues of the principal Italian libraries: of the papal library, of those of S. Marco at Florence, of Pavia, and even of that of the University of Oxford, which I had procured from England. On comparing them with that of the Duke I remarked how they all failed in one respect; to wit, they possessed the same work in many examples, but lacked the other writings of the author; nor had they writers in all the faculties like this library" (George & Waters, 102-105). 

Vespasiano was responsible for supplying over half of the thousand volumes in the library of the Duke of Urbino. He also performed the same service for Cosimo de' Medici. For that project Vespasiano engaged fifty-five scribes and illuminators who completed two hundred superb manuscripts in under two years. 

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The First "Public" Library in Renaissance Europe 1444

The library at the Dominican Convent of San Marco, designed by Michelozzo. (View Larger)

Foundation of the library at the Dominican Convent of San Marco in Florence by Cosimo de' Medici, designed by Michelozzo.

This has often been considered the first "public library" in Renaissance Europe.

"The ideal of a public library was one treasured by humanists and their patrons. Yet the term public library meant something very different to Renaissance scholars than it does today. It did not designate a library open to all comers. First and oldest of the available meanings of the term public library was that of a common library. Many libraries and colleges of the late medieval period had public libraries in this sense, usually meaning a collection for the collective use of the institutional community. Second was the notion of a library that served the public utility or was used for the public benefit, largely in a political sense; an archive, for example, or a library meant to support the jurisdictional and diplomatic activities of the ecclesiastical or secular political body it served. Third, a library might be in a public building or within the public space of a house or palace.

"Perhaps the best early expression of the modern concept of the public library is to be found in the establishment of the San Marco library, the first public library at Florence. The foundation of the library was Niccoli's collection. Niccoli's intentions were for his library to be brought 'to the common good, to the public service, to a place open to all, so that all eager for education might be able to harvest from it as from a fertile field the rich fruit of learning.' Eventually, the executors of Niccoli's estate permitted Cosimo de' Medici to place the books in the library of the Dominican convent of San Marco, which Cosimo was then on the verge of constructing. The library opened in 1444 and was the first public library in Florence, containing 400 volumes laid out across 64 benches. The San Marco library embodied three different Renaissance concepts of a public library: It was the common library of the Dominican convent in which it was housed, a collection made available to a circle of humanist investigators, and an institution supported by the public patronage of an eminent ruler" (P. Nelles, "Renaissance Libraries", Stam, (ed.) International Dictionary of Library History [2001] 151).

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The Yates Thompson MS 36 of Dante's Divine Comedy 1444 – 1450

One of the very greatest of the illuminated manuscripts of Dante's Divina Commedia is Yates Thompson MS 36, preserved in the British Library. In 1993 John Pope-Hennessy proposed a date for the manuscript of between 1444 and 1450, partly depending on the representations of the dome and cupola of Florence Cathedral, which was under construction during these years. This manuscript, which originated in Tuscany, has a very interesting provenance:

"Alfonso V, king of Aragon, Naples and Sicily (reigned 1416 to 1458): his arms (f. 1r). Ferdinand (Fernando de Aragón), Duke of Calabria (b. 1488, d. 1550): his donation to the convent of San Miguel, Valencia in 1538. The monastery of San Miguel de los Reyes, Valencia, 1613: inscribed 'Ex commissione dominorum Inquisitorum Valentie vidi et expurgavi secundum expurgatorium novum Madriti 1612. et subscripsi die. 14. Septembris 1613. ego frater Antonius Oller' (f. 190v). Bought by Henry Yates Thompson from Señor Luis Mayans, Madrid, May 1901. Henry Yates Thompson (b. 1838, d. 1928), collector of illuminated manuscripts and newspaper proprietor: with his book-plate inscribed '[MS] CV / £blee.e.e [i.e. £1900.0.0] / [bought from] Harris / Madrid / May 29 / 1901' (inside upper cover). Bequeathed to the British Museum in 1941 by Mrs Yates Thompson."

In March 2014 a digital facsimile of Yates Thompson MS 36 was available from the British Library at this link.

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The Most Extensively Portrayed Late Medieval Scribe and Author Circa 1449 – 1472

Detail of painting showing presentation by Jean Miélot to "Philip the Good," Duke of Burgundy, of his translation of the Traité sur l'oraison dominicale. Miniature by Jean le Tavernier, 1454-7, Brussels.  Please click to see entire image.

Detail of grisaille style painting of Jean Miélot writing in his scriptorium. Please click to see entire image.

Detail from a fine portrait of Miélot, by an unknown miniaturist.  Please click to view entire image.

During his employment from 1449 to 1467 as secretary to Philip the GoodDuke of Burgundy, the Burgundian author, translator, manuscript illuminator, scribe and priest Jean Miélot (Miéllot) was primarily engaged in the production of deluxe illuminated manuscripts for Philip's library. Miélot translated many works, both religious and secular, from Latin or Italian into French, and wrote or compiled books himself; he also composed verse. Between his own writings and his translations Miélot produced some twenty-two works while working for Philip, the leading bibliophile in Northern Europe at the time. In the years after his death in 1472 many of Miélot's works appeared in print, influencing the development of French prose style. 

While Miélot usually personally wrote out Philip's copies of his various writings, and was responsible for creating a "minute" or dummy of the planned book showing the subject and location of the various miniatures and illuminated letters, Miélot would not have had the time to produce the miniatures for so many manuscripts, and it is likely that he was influential in allocating commissions to various miniaturists who created the manuscript illuminations. Because the miniaturists were indebted to him for the work, and because of the Burgundian fashion at the time for presentation miniatures, in which the author is shown presenting the book to the duke or other patron, an unusually large number of portraits of Miélot as author and scribe appear in the ducal copies of Miélot's works. 

"Philip the Good was the leading bibliophile of Northern Europe, and employed a number of scribes, copyists and artists, with Miélot holding a leading position among the former groups.... His translations were first produced in draft form, called a 'minute', with sketches of the images and illuminated letters. If this was approved by the Duke, after being examined and read aloud at court, then the final de luxe manuscript for the Duke's library would be produced on fine vellum, and with the sketches worked up by specialist artists. Miélot's minute for his Le Miroir de l'Humaine Salvation survives in the Bibliothèque Royale Albert I in Brussels, which includes two self-portraits of him richly dressed as a layman. The presentation portrait to La controverse de noblesse, a year later, shows him with a clerical tonsure. His illustrations are well composed, but not executed up to the standard of manuscripts for the court. His text, on the other hand, is usually in a very fine Burgundian bastarda blackletter script, and paleographers can recognise his hand" (Wikipedia article on Jean Miélot, accessed 11-04-2013). 

In Miélot's translation of the Traité sur l'oraison dominicale produced for Philip between 1454 and 1457, and preserved in the Bibliothèque Royale, Brussels (Ms. 9082 fol. 1r) there is a miniature by the Flemish painter Jean Le Tavernier showing Miélot presenting the manuscript to Philip. An excellent reproduction of this appears in Wilson & Wilson, A Medieval Mirror (1984) p. 49. About 1456. Miélot completed his manuscript compilation of the Miracles de Notre Dame for Philip. In this manuscript, preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Flemish artist Jean Le Tavernier, an expert in the grisaille technique of manuscript illumination, included a splendid grisaille portrait of Jean Miélot writing in his scriptorium, probably in the ducal library. The portrait, which appears on folio 19r, includes very detailed renderings of the room's furnishings, and the writer's materials, equipment, and activity. Still another fine portrait of Miélot, by an unknown miniaturist, appears in Brussels Royal Library, MS 9278, fol. 10r.

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1450 – 1500

The Library of Hartmann Schedel, One of the Largest Libraries Formed by an Individual in the 15th Century 1450 – 1571

A woodcut from the Nuremburg Chronicle, showing Erfurt, 1493.

Portrait of Johann Jakob Fugger, 1541.

16th century portrait of Albert V, Duke of Bavaria by Hans Mielich.

The library of Hartmann Schedel, physician and author of the Nuremberg Chronicle, was unequalled in fifteenth-century Germany. Schedel was interested in virtually all areas of knowledge of the late Middle Ages: rhetoric, astronomy, philosophy, classical and humanist literature, historiography, geography and cosmography, medicine, law, and theology. As early as the 1450s and 1460s, during his studies at the universities of Leipzig and Padua, he transcribed many works in his own hand. Later Schedel took advantage of the growing supply of printed books in Nuremberg, a center of European trade and publishing. He also made use of an international network of correspondents and suppliers to acquire new publications from other places. At the end of his long life, Schedel's library comprised nearly 700 volumes, including many composite volumes with several items. 

Even though Schedel stipulated in his last will that his library should remain a family heirloom, Schedel's grandson and heir, Melchior (1516-1571), an imperial soldier, sold his grandfather's books to the Augsburg merchant Johann Jakob Fugger in 1552. In 1571 Fugger sold his library, incorporating Schedel's, to Duke Albert V of Bavaria. It became the cornerstone of the what is now the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Today, more than 370 manuscripts and 460 printed items from Schedel's collection are preserved in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. This is the largest private collection of books that survived from fifteenth century Germany.

In November 2014, honoring the 500th anniversary of Schedel's death, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek opened a physical and virtual exhibition of books from Schedel's library. In November 2014 the home page of the virtual exhibition, with links to many downloads of digital editions, including all five editions of the Nuremberg Chronicle, was available at this link.

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Model Book for Manuscript and Printed Book Illumination Circa 1450

The Göttingen Model Book, dating to the mid-15th century, contains instructions for the ornamentation of books and the creation of pigments. These methods can be seen in practice in several early Gutenberg Bibles. (View Larger)

The Göttingen Model Book, preserved at Niedersächische Staats- und Universitäts Bibliothek Göttingen,

 "is a painting book for the drawing of leaves, initials and patterned backgrounds in different color combinations; even the composition of the colors is described in detail. The book decorations described in this manuscript can be found in the earliest period of printing in several Gutenberg Bibles, including the Göttingen copy of the B42" 

The manuscript arrived in Göttingen in 1770 with the bequest of the library of Johann Friedrich Armand von Uffenbach. It was published in print as Lehmann-Haupt (ed) The Göttingen Model Book. A Facsimile Edition and Translation of a Fifteenth-Century Illuminators' Manual (1972). 

In August 2014 a digital facsimile of the Göttingen Model Book was available at this link

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Establishment of the Vatican Library April 30, 1451

A hall of the Vatican Library. (View Larger)

With a Brief on April 30, 1451 "pro communi doctorum virorum commodo" (to facilitate the research of scholars) Pope Nicholas V established the Vatican Library by combining some 350 Greek, Latin and Hebrew codices inherited from his predecessors with his own collection and extensive acquisitions.

The Vatican Library, as originally established by Nicholas V, included manuscripts from the Imperial library of Constantinople, rescued or plundered before that library was burned in 1204 when Constantinople was sacked during the Fourth Crusade.

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The Bulla Turcorum of Calixtus III, of Which One Copy Survives June 29, 1456

Johannes Gutenberg printed the only surviving copy of the Bulla Thurcorum, which instituted special prayers for Christians during the Turkish encroachment in the Balkans as part of an effort to galvanize European unity in preparation for another Crusade. (View Larger)

On June 29, 1456 Pope Calixtus III promulgated the Bulla Turcorum, announcing the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks, and seeking funding for another crusade against the Turks, who were advancing into the Balkans.

"A copy of the Bull reached Mainz and was printed by Johann Gutenberg; only the present copy in the Scheide Library survives. A German translation was also printed by Gutenberg. It too survives in only one copy, in the Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin. Although no surviving example of early European printing is signed by Johann Gutenberg, early evidences and reports converge to show that he was the inventor of European typography. In particular, the “DK” (Donatus and Kalendar) type appears to be his first printing type. It was used in part to print the 31-line Cyprus Indulgence, of which the earliest datable copy, executed in Erfurt on 22 October 1454, is in the Scheide Library: this is the first fixed date at which we know that printing was being carried out in Mainz. Several other DK-type fragments, such as the Sibyllenbuch partial leaf at the Gutenberg Museum, Mainz, show a much less finished state of the font, and are plausibly earlier than 1454. In the late 1450s, the DK type was apparently sold to Bamberg, where it was used to print the 36-line Bible (not after 1461), and other books, some of which are signed by Albrecht Pfister. . . .

"Acquired by John H. Scheide from Maggs Bros., London, May 1939. The single gathering of 12 paper leaves was disbound from some unidentified volume; it appears that Maggs acquired the work from some European bookseller without knowing of its earlier survival context. On the first three pages of the two final blank leaves is a densely written tractate concerning crusades and crusading indulgences; it is signed at the end as from the Charterhouse of Erfurt. Unpublished research by Dr. Hope Mayo strongly suggests that the tractate was composed by the Erfurt Carthusian Johannes Indaginis, a prolific writer and determined ecclesiastical reformer. Presumably, therefore, this copy of the Calixtus Bull belonged to the Erfurt Charterhouse. Curiously, the unique Berlin copy of the German printing of the Bull likewise belonged to that convent" (http://diglib.princeton.edu/xquery?_xq=getCollection&_xsl=collection&_pid=whsS2.4-calixtus, accessed 07-10-2009).

ISTC no.ic00060000.

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The 36-Line Bible is Published Circa 1459 – 1461

The 36-line Bible, the second printed edition, was most likely published in Bamberg, Germany, around 1458-1460. No printers name appears in the book, but Johannes Gutenberg may have been involved in its publication. (View Larger)

A 36-line Bible, in the so-called DK types (also known as the type of the 36-line Bible), and either printed in Mainz before 1460 or printed in Bamberg not after 1461, may be the third printed edition of the Bible. ISTC No. ib00527000.  

Arguments have been made for this work to have been printed by Gutenberg; another theory is that it was printed by Albrecht Pfister in Bamberg.

There is a copy in the Scheide Library at Princeton:

"Only 14 copies survive, all on paper. Scheide's copy once belonged to the Benedictines of Würzburg, whose convent was dissolved in 1803, and to Earl Spencer. When Scheide bought it at an auction in November 1991, no copy had been on the market for 200 years" (http://www.princeton.edu/pr/news/02/q2/0524-scheide.html, accessed 01-15-2011).

♦ In November 2013 there were several digital facsimiles of the 36-line bible available. That at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek was available at this link

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Johannes Mentelin Issues the Second Printed Edition of the Bible 1460

The Latin Bible printed by Johannes Mentelin in Strassbourg before 27 June 1466. ISTC No.: ib00624000.


A bust of Johannes Mentelin in the Humanist Library of Selestat.

The Biblia Latina, printed by Johannes Mentelin by 1460 was the second edition of the Bible and first book printed in Strasbourg. Twenty-eight copies survive, all on paper. There is a copy in the Scheide Library at Princeton. "Until Scheide's purchase in 2001, no copy had been sold for more than 75 years."

ISTC No. ib00528000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was availablefrom USB Köln at this link

"Gutenberg seems to have given little thought to his choice of a copy text; he used one of many manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate (the fifth-century translation attributed to Jerome). Yet this unconsidered aspect of the printed book proved extremely influential. Virtually all of the Latin Bibles subsequently published in the fifteenth century (a total of some 94 editions, 81 in plain text and 13 with an accompanying commentary) took a printed bible as their model. The earliest editions used a copy of Gutenberg's Bible as their copy text; later fifteenth-century editions used either Gutenberg or one of thes earlier imitators. Unwittingly, therefore, Gutenberg played a major role in fixing the text of the Vulgate as the standard authorised text of Scripture. This would cast a long shadow over sixteenth-century efforts at revision" (Pettegree, The Book in the Renaissance [2010] 30).

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Peter Schöffer Issues the Earliest Surviving Book List Issued by a Printer June 1469 – September 1470

A portrait of Peter Schoffer.

Between June 1469 and September 1470 printer Peter Schöffer of Mainz issued a broadside offering for sale 21 printed books issued from 1458 to 1469.

"Sixteen of the items can be identied as products of Schöffer's own printing workshop in Mainz, while the rest probably were printed by Ulrich Zell in Cologne. All the works listed are in Latin, beginning with the edition of Bible co-produced by Fust and Schöffer in 1462, followed by theological, legal and humanist texts as well as a treatise dealing with merchants' contracts. The 13th book title, which has been cut off this copy, was certainly the Psalter edition of 1459, whose printing types are reproduced in a sample below the booklist. A note added by hand on the lower margin of the page indicates that the bookseller could be contacted in the in 'Zum wilden Mann', probably referring to a locality in Nuremberg.

"The advertisement is characteristic for the early phase of organised book trade. The intinerant bookseller — seldom the printer himself — travelled with an assortment of books wherever demand was to be found, leaving printed lists with a handwritten indication of where he was staying, for potential customers, the latter being mostly members of universities or monasteries, but also other citizens with some education. Such book lists contained no prices, since these were to be negotiated between the bookseller and the buyer" (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert (2009) no. 77).

Only a single copy of this broadside survived, from the library of physician and writer Hartmann Schedel.  It is preserved in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München (ISTC no. is00320950):

"It survived, albeit as binders waste cut in two halves and pasted printed side down on the inner cover of a manuscript (Clm 458) with astronomical-mantic texts which was owned by the well-known humanist of Nuremberg, Hartmann Schedel. At the end of the 19th century, it was discovered and removed from the book binding" (Wagner, op. cit.).

♦ In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the broadside was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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"De re militari", the First Printed Book on Technology with the First Woodcuts on a Scientific or Technological Subject 1472

This edition of Roberto Valturio's 'De re militari' contains the first woodcuts on a scientific subject, used not for artistic embellishment but for diagraming and explanation. (View Larger)

In 1472 printer Johannes Nicolai de Verona issued from Verona, Italy, the first printed edition of Roberto Valturio's (Valturius's) De re militari, a work which first circulated in manuscript circa 1455-1460. Some of the extant manuscripts appear to have been copied from the printed edition, reflecting the interplay between printed book and manuscript production in the first decades of printing. As Valturio lived until 1475, his De re militari has also been called the first printed book by a living author. It vies for that title with Paolo Bagellardo's De infantium aegritudinibus et remediis issued from Padua also in 1472.

Valturio's work was the first book printed in Verona, the second Italian book printed with illustrations, and the first book printed with woodcuts by Italian artists. Depending on how the counts are made, the book contains at least 90 woodcuts, though because some of the images are composite it is possible to arrive at a higher count. The images were printed in blank spaces left on the page, presumably after the text was printed, using a thinner ink. Some pages in the edition remain blank.

". . . the illustrations are the first true Italian book illustrations, probably after designs by Matteo de Pasti, the medallist and pupil of Alberti. They were preceeded in Italy only by a blockbook [cf. Essling 1] and the 1467 Rome edition of Torquemada which contains a series of rather crude woodcuts probably designed under German influence” (Printing and the Mind of Man No. 10).

From the scientific standpoint  Valturio's work was first printed book on technology, with the first scientific or technological illustrations— in this case woodcuts of war machines. In Prints and Visual Communication (1953; 32) William Ivins pointed out that these woodcuts were the first dated set of book illustrations made for "informational" rather than decorative or religious purposes.

The images in Valturio's book . . ."the majority of which are in Book X, consist of representations of weapons, war chariots, siege engines, canons, flags, water floats, bridges and pontoons and much else. . . . They depend on a tradition of military illustration, which extends from the late Roman Empire, the best-known text being the De rebus bellicis of the 4th century, to Byzantine and Western medieval texts. The text of the De rebus bellicis was rediscovered in an illustrated manuscript of 9th- or 10th-century date in the library of the Cathedral of Speyer, and it was copied for the book collector and humanist Bishop of Padua, Pietro Donato, during the Council of Basel in 1436. These illustrations, in one or another of the various copies made of them, are likely to have been among the sources for the illustrations in the Valturio text. Two other relevant texts concerning military equipment, both illustrated, are those by Konrad Kyeser of Eichstätt, written shortly after 1400, and Mariano Taccola of Siena, known in various versions dating from c. 1427 to 1449“ (Alexander [ed.] The Painted Page. Italian Renaissance Book Illumination 1450-1550 [1994] No. 63). Alexander describes an illustrates a manuscript written circa 1475-80, of Valturio (Munich, Bayerisch Staatsbibliothek, CLM 23467) which, "is a direct copy of the printed edition. The illustrations also are clearly copied from the woodcuts."

Valturio's work may frequently be confused with the Epitoma rei militaris (also referred to as De re militari) by the late 4th century-early 5th century Roman writer Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, the first edition of which was published in print in Utrecht, probably one or two years after the first edition of Valturio's work, in 1473 or 1474.

"A secretary to Pope Eugene IV, then adviser to Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, humanist Roberto Valturio is chiefly known for his treatise on warfare, De re militari, of 1455. The work celebrates the military prowess of Malatesta, who sent copies to Mathias Corvinus, Francesco Sforza, Sultan Mohammed II, and perhaps also King Louis XI of France and Lorenzo de Medici. The illustrations are probably the work of Matteo de Pasti, who built the church of San Francesco in Rimini on the model prescribed by Leon Battista Alberti. Matteo also often drew inspiration from the treatises of Guido da Vigevano, Conrad Kyeser, and Taccola" (website of the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, where you can also watch a brief video about Valturio in Italian, accessed 01-15-2009).

ISTC no. iv00088000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1472 edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

On February 13, 1483 printer Boninus de Boninis, de Ragusia of Verona issued a second edition of Valturio's De re militari in Latin (ISTC no. iv00089000), followed 4 days later by his Opera dell' arte militare, translated into Italian by Paolo Ramusio on February 17, 1483 (ISTC no. iv00090000).  The Italian translation is the first illustrated book on technology published in a vernacular.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1483 edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Dibner, Heralds of Science, no. 172 (citing an incomplete copy of the first edition). 

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The First Printed Edition of "Philobiblon": Collecting, Preserving and Handling Books 1473

From Cologne in 1473 the so-called "Printer of Augustinus De fide" (Goiswin Gops or Johann Schilling?) issued the first printed edition of Richard de Bury's Philobiblon, a work on the love of books and book collecting, and on the maintaining of a library, written in 1345.

In February 2014 the ISTC (no. ir00191000) cited three digital facsimiles of this work, of which that at Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf was available at this link

In January 2014 Elizabeth Arnold published this quotation from Philobiblon in her Ask the Past blog:

"And in the first place as to the opening and closing of books, let there be due moderation, that they be not unclasped in precipitate haste, nor when we have finished our inspection be put away without being duly closed. For it behoves us to guard a book much more carefully than a boot. 
But the race of scholars is commonly badly brought up, and unless they are bridled in by the rules of their elders they indulge in infinite puerilities...You may happen to see some headstrong youth lazily lounging over his studies, and when the winter's frost is sharp, his nose running from the nipping cold drips down, nor does he think of wiping it with his pocket-handkerchief until he has bedewed the book before him with the ugly moisture.... He does not fear to eat fruit or cheese over an open book, or carelessly to carry a cup to and from his mouth... 
But the handling of books is specially to be forbidden to those shameless youths, who as soon as they have learned to form the shapes of letters, straightway, if they have the opportunity, become unhappy commentators, and wherever they find an extra margin about the text, furnish it with monstrous alphabets, or if any other frivolity strikes their fancy, at once their pen begins to write it."
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The Library of Giovanni di Marco da Rimini, Possibly the Earliest Physician's Library Preserved Intact 1474

On his death in 1474 Giovanni di Marco da Rimini, physician to Malatesta Novello,  bequeathed his library of medical manuscripts to the recently established Biblioteca Malatestiana in Cesena, Italy. 

Giovanni's library, which was preserved along with the rest of the Bibliotheca Malatestiana, may be the earliest physician's library to have survived intact. The library contains numerous spectacular codices of the expected standard European and Arab scientific and medical authorities, several dating from the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries, and one (S. XXI.5) dating from the 8th century. Some are finely illuminated. That Giovanni owned several manuscripts from prior centuries suggests that he collected books not only for reference but also out of humanistic and antiquarian interest.

An excellent annotated catalogue of this library was published in large 4to format: Manfron (ed.) La Biblioteca di un Medico del Quattrocento. I codici di Giovanni di Marco da Rimini nella Bibliotheca Malatestiana (1998).  The catalogue contains numerous fine color plates.

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Aristotle's "De animalibus", the First Printed Compilation of Works on Biology 1476

In 1476 printers Johann de Colonia and Johannes Manthen of Venice issued Aristotle's De animalibus, translated from the Greek by Greek humanist Theodorus Gaza (Greek: Θεόδωρος Γαζής, Theodoros Gazis), and edited by Ludovicus Podocatharus, perhaps with expenses born by Podocatharus. Aristotle was the first scientist to gather empirical evidence about the biological world through observation. The printed edition, which contained his De historia animalium (descriptive zoology), De partibus animalium (animal physiology), and De generatione animalium (embryology), was the first printed compilation of works relating to biology. The Historia's "comprehensiveness and acumen made it the outstanding descriptive zoology of ancient times. . . . It outlasted the work of such later encyclopedic compilers as Pliny, and combined with Aristotle's other zoological works it became-- through the Arabic version translated into Latin by Michael Scot-- the major ingredient in Albertus Magnus' De animalibus, which dominated the field until the sixteenth century" (Dictionary of Scientific Biography). Joseph Needham (p. 39) called De generatione animalium "the first great compendium of embryology ever written"; it contained Aristotle's studies of the chick in embryo, and introduced his hypothesis that embryos were produced by the working of the male dynamic element (semen) upon the female plastic element (menstrual blood), to which the semen gave form. Book II presented Aristotle's embryological classification of animals and a discussion of the question of epigenesis versus preformation-- an antithesis that Aristotle was the first to perceive, and which was to define the subsequent history of embryology.

On June 8, 2016 Bonham's in New York auctioned a remarkable copy of this work printed on vellum. Rebecca Rego Barry published an excellent account of it in TheGardian.com on May 11, 2016, from which I quote:

"The rediscovery of a 15th-century illuminated edition of Aristotle’s De animalibus (On Animals) in Tennessee late last year was 'pretty incredible', said Christina Geiger, director of fine books and manuscripts at Bonhams auction house in New York. Not only is the book an 'incunable' – printed before 1501, when the ink was still wet on moveable type – but this deluxe copy was printed on vellum, or animal skin. Only one other copy [printed on vellum] exists and it belongs to the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris....

"An invitation from Pope Nicholas V prompted a new Latin translation of the book by Greek scholar and refugee Theodore Gaza, printed in Venice by John of Cologne and John Manthen in 1476. The auctioneers believe that Gaspare da Padova is the artist responsible for the volume’s decorative initials and borders painted in gold and various colors. A handful of special vellum copies were probably produced for sponsors. Only one was thought to have survived before this recent finding.

"Bonhams will offer the Renaissance-era rarity at auction in New York on 8 June. It is estimated to fetch $300,000 to $500,000. 

"The book last surfaced at auction on 5 March 1891, when American publisher and book collector William Evarts Benjamin purchased it for $850. 'We don’t know if he sold it or kept it,' said Geiger. 'We checked all of his catalogues over at the Grolier Club and we checked his archives at Columbia and couldn’t find a reference to it. But he’s listed as the buyer in 1891, and then it just fell off the map completely.'

"No proof of the volume’s existence appears in the Census of 15th Century Books Owned in America published in 1919. The consignors’ grandmother acquired the book before 1964. The family retains letters between her and a librarian she contacted to make inquiries. 'Those intervening years are a big question mark,' said Geiger.

“ 'Part of what’s interesting for me is that if that sale in 1891 had been just a few years later, [De animalibus] probably would have been bought by Huntington or Morgan or one of the great collectors of incunables in America, but it was just a little bit too early.'

"Geiger’s research turned up a long line of distinguished ownership before that 1891 sale, beginning with Luigi Serra, fourth Duke of Cassano (1747-1825). It then moved through the hands of bookseller James Edwards to Sir Mark Masterman-Sykes, the famed nineteenth-century book collector, who had it re-bound in red morocco gilt. His coat of arms still embellishes the binding.

"It was while De animalibus was in Sir Mark’s collection that the well-known English bibliophile TF Dibdin had the opportunity to see it. He recorded his impression in his Bibliographical Decameron (1817): 'Yet how can I omit to mention, with the distinction which it merits, the very beautiful, if not matchless, copy of Theodore Gaza’s Latin version of Aristotle upon Animals, of the date of 1476, in folio, UPON VELLUM, from the press of John of Cologne – of which my friend Sir MM Sykes is the fortunate possessor?! If my memory be not treacherous, this is the most exquisite specimen of an early Venetian vellum book that I have ever seen.'

"Geiger said: 'This is that very copy, almost exactly 200 years later.You could probably go back and find out when he was at Sykes’ home. I haven’t gone back that deep, but [Dibdin’s] book was published in 1817, so here we are in 2016 and [De animalibus] is in the same condition. That’s the other thing. For a book that fell through the cracks, it didn’t get run over. It’s just in beautiful condition.'

"Other 19th-century owners of the volume include English publisher and bookseller William Pickering, Sir John Hayford Thorold, bookseller and collector Bernard Quaritch, and American railway tycoon and banker Brayton Ives."

J. Norman (ed.), HistoryofMedicine.com Nos. 274; 275; 462. Needham, History of Embryology 37-43. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 69. ISTC No.: ia00973000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

(This entry was last revised on 05-13-2016.)

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The Kennicott Bible, the Most Lavisly Illuminated Hebrew Bible to Survive from Medieval Spain July 24, 1476

In the lengthy colophon at the end of the Hebrew illuminated manuscript known as the Kennicott Bible (Oxford, Bodleian Lib., MS. Kenn. 1) the scribe Moses Ibn Zabara stated that on Wednesday, the third day of the month of Aviv, in the year 5236 from the creation (24th July 1476), he finished the book in the town of La Coruña, in the province of Galicia, Spain. He stated that he was personally responsible for the entire text of all twenty-four books of the Bible: he copied the text, added the vocalization marks, wrote all the notes of the Massorah, and finally corrected it against a traditionally accurate Bible. He wrote the Bible for Isaac, son of Solomon di Braga.

Combining Islamic, Christian, and popular motifs, the Kennicott Bible is the mostly lavishly illuminated Hebrew Bible that survived from medieval Spain, before the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.  It contains the entire Tenakh (Old Testament) together with RaDaK’s (Rabbi David Kimchi) Sefer Mikhlol, a grammatical treatise on the Tenakh. Two hundred and thirty-eight of the 922 pages of the Bible are illuminated. There are 24 canonical book headings, 49 parashah headings structured with gold in different motifs featuring figures in many colors, 27 lavishly-illuminated arcaded pages framing the text of the Sefer Mikhlol, 9 fully illuminated carpet pages, and 150 psalm headings.

Remarkably, the manuscript contains an inscription identifying the artist who created the illuminations and minatures: Joseph ibn Hayyim. This is the only work associated with or signed by ibn Hayyim. Few Hebrew illuminators signed their work.

The history of manuscript from the expulsion of the Jews in 1492 to the eighteenth century remains a mystery. The Bible owes its name to the English Hebraist Benjamin Kennicott, who acquired it in the eighteenth century while Librarian of Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. The manuscript is preserved in the Bodleian Library. 

In December 2013 a digital facsimile of the manuscript was available from the Jewish Museum in New York at this link

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"Arte dell’Abbaco", the First Dated Printed Book on Arithmetic and the Operation of the Abacus December 10, 1478

Page from Arte dell'Abbaco. 

This unpretentious little book could almost be taken as a symbol of the third component in the collection of George A. Plimpton: "reading, writing and ‘rithmetic." It intends to teach commercial arithmetic, starting from the most elementary level to explain numbers and their positions as designators of units, tens, hundreds, and so forth. On the page shown, a reader has noted the method for calculating differences in income for those who invest varying amounts of money at different times. Graphically clear are the various earnings of Piero, Polo and Zuanne. Their names, and indeed the entire text, are in the local vernacular: Venetian dialect, not Italian. Abbacus, or commercial arithmetic, was solidly vernacular, Latin being reserved for the abstract studies of the universities.

Bequest of George Arthur Plimpton, 1936 to Columbia University.

One of a large number of diagrams illustrating how to use an abbacus from a copy of Treviso's Arte dell' abbaco bequeathed to the Cambridge University Library by J.W.L. Glaisher in 1928.

The first dated book on arithmetic is the anonymous Arte dell’Abbaco ..., printed in Treviso, Italy, probably by Gerardus de Lisa, de Flandria on December 10, 1478. It is possible that some undated pamphlets on Algorithmus may predate this work.

"Frank J. Swetz translated the complete work using Smith's notes in 1987 in his Capitalism & Arithmetic: The New Math of the 15th Century. Swetz used a copy of the Treviso housed in the Manuscript Library at Columbia University. The volume found its way to this collection via a curious route. Maffeo Pinelli (1785), an Italian bibliophile, is the first known owner. After his death his library was purchased by a London book dealer and sold at auction on February 6, 1790. The book was obtained for three shillings by Mr. [Michael] Wodhull. About 100 years later the Arithmetic appeared in the library of Brayton Ives, a New York lawyer. When Ives sold the collection of books at auction, George [Arthur] Plimpton, a New York publisher, acquired the Treviso and made it an acquisition to his extensive collection of early scientific [i.e. mathematics] texts. Plimpton donated his library to Columbia University in 1936. Original copies of the Treviso Arithmetic are extremely rare" (Wikipedia article Treviso Arithmetic, accessed 01-10-2009).

ISTC No. ia01141000.

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Discovery of a Lost Painting by Michelangelo? 1487 – 1488

According to Vasari, when he was twelve or thirteen Michelangelo painted a version of The Torment of St. Anthony based on an engraving by Martin Schongauer. This was one of only four known easel paintings by Michelangelo. For centuries art historians debated the existence of such a painting.

In 2008 a painting of The Torment of St. Anthony from a private collection was sold at Sotheby's London, with an attribution from the Florence workshop of Ghirlandaio, to whom Michelangelo was apprenticed. Adam Williams, a New York dealer, bought the painting, believing that it was by Michelangelo. Williams took it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for cleaning and study. In 2009 Williams sold it to the Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.

" 'I had never seen it before,” Mr. Christiansen said. “I looked at it and said this is self-evidently Michelangelo. There’s a section of the rocks with cross-hatching. Nobody else did this kind of emphatic cross-hatching.”

"Michael Gallagher, conservator of paintings at the Metropolitan, cleaned and studied the painting.

" 'It was incredibly dirty,' he said. 'But once the centuries of varnish were removed, its true quality was evident.'

"Claire M. Barry, the Kimbell’s chief curator, heard about the work and came to the Met to see it. She then contacted Mr. Lee, who also inspected it and persuaded his board to buy it. Although no one will disclose the price, experts in the field say they believe the figure was more than $6 million.

"For centuries, art historians have known that Michelangelo copied an engraving of St. Anthony by the 15th-century German master Martin Schongauer for a painting. Michelangelo’s biographer and former student, Ascanio Condivi, said the young Michelangelo told him that while he was working on the painting, he had visited a local market to learn how to depict fish scales, a feature not found in the engraving.

"A painting of St. Anthony is also mentioned in Giorgio Vasari’s chronicle of Michelangelo’s life, although Vasari at first ascribed the original engraving to Dürer. But after Michelangelo complained, Vasari changed his account, naming Schongauer.

"Measuring 18 ½ inches by 13 1/4 inches, 'The Torment of St. Anthony' is at least one-third larger than the engraving. It is also not an exact copy; Michelangelo took liberties. In addition to adding the fish scales, he depicted St. Anthony holding his head more erect and with an expression more detached than sad.

"He also added a landscape to the bottom of the composition, and created monsters that are more dramatic than those in the engraving.

"Mr. Christiansen said studying 'The Torment of St. Anthony' with infrared reflectography had exposed layers of pentimenti, or under drawing, revealing what he called the master’s hand at work. And once the centuries of varnish were removed, the colors suddenly came alive. There is eggplant, lavender, apple green and even a brilliant salmon, which was used to depict the scales of the spiny demons. The palette, Mr. Christiansen said, is a prelude to the colors chosen for the Sistine Chapel’s vault" (Vogel, "By the Hand of a Very Young Master?," NY Times, May 12, 2009).

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The Macclesfield Alphabet Book, the Most Complete Pattern Book from Medieval Britain Circa 1490

The Macclesfield Alphabet Book, a medieval alphabetic pattern book in the library of the Earls of Macclesfield since about 1750, is the most complete set of pattern designs for manuscript decoration that survived from medieval Britain. It contains 14 different types of decorative alphabets.

"These include an alphabet of decorative initials with faces; foliate alphabets; a zoomorphic alphabet of initials, and alphabets in Gothic script. In addition there are large coloured anthropomorphic initials modelled after fifteenth-century woodcuts or engravings, as well as two sets of different types of borders, some of which are fully illuminated in colours and gold.

"This manuscript is thought to have been used as a pattern book for an artist's workshop for the transmission of ideas to assistants, or as a 'sample' book to show to potential customers.

"Only a handful of these books survive and as a result, the discovery of the Macclesfield Alphabet Book, filled with designs for different types of script, letters, initials, and borders is of outstanding significance and will contribute to a greater understanding of how these books were produced and used in the Middle Ages, as well as aid the study of material culture and art history.

"The Macclesfield Alphabet Book sheds light on how such tomes were produced. They did not always rely on the creative expertise of the artist, since alphabets and illustrations similar to some of the Macclesfield examples have been found in earlier books and woodcuts"(http://medievalnews.blogspot.com/2009/07/macclesfield-alphabet-book-bought-by.html, accessed 08-03-2009).

In July 2009 acquisition of the manuscript was completed by the British Library at a cost of £600,000, against an offer from the J. Paul Getty Museum for the same amount.

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Sebastian Brant's "Book Fool", and Others February 11, 1494

In February 1494 Sebastian Brant published Das Narrenschiff (The Ship of Fools) in Basel, Switzerland at the press of Johann Bergmann, de Olpe. Some of the woodcuts illustrating this work were by the young Albrecht Dürer.

Brandt's satire became a great bestseller. It included a characterization and woodcut illustration of the "book fool" who enjoyed owning many books but read few of them. That book-collecting had become a topic for satire by this time is a reflection of the proliferation of books since the invention of printing by movable type.

The popularity of Brandt's satire was also a reflection of the proliferation of books. Twenty-six different editions appeared in the 15th century. Brandt authorized six editions in German during his lifetime and there were at least six other unauthorized editions published. The work was translated into Latin by Jacob Locher in 1497 (Stultifera Navis), into French by Paul Rivière in 1497 and by Jehan Droyn in 1498. An English verse translation by Alexander Barclay appeared in London in 1509, and again in 1570; one in prose by Henry Watson in London, 1509; and again 1517. It was also rendered into Dutch and Low German.

ISTC no. ib01080000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the first edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliotheck at this link.

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The First English Book Printed on Paper Made in England Circa 1496

About 1496 English printer Wynkyn de Worde, successor to William Caxton, printed at Westminister an edition of the encyclopedic work by Bartholomaeus AnglicusDe proprietatibus rerum, in the English translation by John Trevisa, illustrated with woodcuts mostly derived from the numerous earlier editions. This work was the first book printed in England on paper made at the first English paper mill, operated by John Tate from around 1495 till his death in 1507.

Remarkably, the original unillustrated manuscript, substantially marked up by the compositors, for a portion of this work, is preserved in the Plimpton Collection at Columbia University Library. Plimpton

"purchased it from Quaritch who had bought it when Lord Middleton's library was sold at auction in 1925. The large and beautiful codex was made for Sir Thomas Chaworth of Wiverton, Notts., about 1440; it apparently soon became the property of the Willoughby family, neighbors and kin of the Chaworths, in whose possession it remained until the sale of Lord Middleton's books in 1925. (Thomas Willoughby was created Baron Middleton 1 January 1711/12). Throughout the nearly 500 years in which the MS. was in private hands it was all but unknown to scholars" (Three Lions cited below, 18).

Wynkyn de Worde's printed text deviates substantially from the manuscript. A second manuscript source, no longer extant, was also a source for the edition. 

♦ Three Lions and the Cross of Lorraine: Bartholomaeus Anglicus, John of Trevisa, John Tate, Wynkyn de Worde and De Proprietatibus Reum. A Leaf Book with Essays by Howell Heaney, Dr. Lotte Hellinga, Dr. Richard Hills. Newton, PA: Bird & Bull Press (1992) details my role in supplying the very incomplete copy of the Wynkyn de Worde printing, containing 138 leaves, which became the basis for the edition, and determined the number of copies printed.

"Worde is generally credited for moving English printing away from its late-Medieval beginnings and toward a modern model of functioning. Caxton had depended on noble patrons to sustain his enterprise; while de Worde enjoyed the support of patrons too (principally Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII), he shifted his emphasis to the creation of relatively inexpensive books for a commercial audience and the beginnings of a mass market. Where Caxton had used paper imported from the Low Countries, de Worde exploited the product of John Tate, the first English papermaker. De Worde published more than 400 books in over 800 editions (though some are extant only in single copies and many others are extremely rare). His greatest success, in terms of volume, was the Latin grammar of Robert Whittington, which he issued in 155 editions. Religious works dominated his output, in keeping with the tenor of the time; but de Worde also printed volumes ranging from romantic novels to poetry (he published the work of John Skelton and Stephen Hawes), and from children's books to volumes on household practice and animal husbandry. He innovated in the use of illustrations: while only about 20 of Caxton's editions contained woodcuts, 500 of de Worde's editions were illustrated.

"He moved his firm from Caxton's location in Westminster to London; he was the first printer to set up a site on Fleet Street (1500), which for centuries became synonymous with printing. He was also the first man to build a book stall in St. Paul's Churchyard, which soon became a center of the book trade in London.

"De Worde was the first to use italic type (1528) and Hebrew and Arabic characters (1524) in English books; and his 1495 version of Polychronicon by Ranulf Higdon was the first English work to use movable type to print music" (Wikipedia article on Wynkyn de Worde, accessed 01-10-2008).

Dard Hunter, The Literature of Papermaking 1390-1800 (1925) 13. ISTC no. ib00143000 dates Wynkyn de Worde's book "circa 1496."

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1500 – 1550

Leonardo's Lost Painting, "Salvator Mundi", Discovered Circa 1500

On July 10, 2011 artdaily.org reported that:

"A lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci has been identified in an American collection and will be exhibited for the first time this November. Titled Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) and dating around 1500, the newly discovered masterpiece depicts a half-length figure of Christ facing frontally, holding a crystal orb in his left hand as he raises his right in blessing. One of some 15 surviving Leonardo oil paintings, the work will be included in 'Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan,' to be held at the National Gallery in London from November 9, 2011 until February 5, 2012. The last time a Leonardo painting was discovered was in 1909, when the Benois Madonna, now in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, came to light.


"Leonardo's painting of the Salvator Mundi was long known to have existed, but was presumed to have been destroyed. The composition was documented in two preparatory drawings by Leonardo and more than 20 painted copies by students and followers of the artist, as well as a meticulous 1650 etching made after the original painting by the Bohemian artist Wenceslaus Hollar.


"The recently rediscovered painting was first recorded in the art collection of King Charles I of England in 1649. It was sold after his death, returned to the Crown upon the accession of Charles II, and later passed to the collection of the Duke of Buckingham, whose son put it at auction in 1763 following the sale of Buckingham House (now Palace) to the King. All trace of the work was then lost until 1900, when the picture was acquired by Sir Frederick Cook, but by then the painting had been damaged, disfigured by overpaint, and its authorship by Leonardo forgotten. Cook's descendants sold the painting at auction in 1958, when it brought 45 pounds Sterling. A photograph taken before 1912 records its compromised appearance at that time. This photograph has recently been circulated in the media, as has another photo [with Christ in a red tunic], incorrectly identified as the (recently rediscovered) work. In 2005, the painting was acquired from an American estate and brought to a New York art historian and private dealer named Robert Simon for study. The Salvator Mundi is privately owned and not currently for sale.


"After an extensive conservation treatment, the painting was examined by a series of international scholars. An unequivocal consensus was reached that the Salvator Mundi was the original by Leonardo da Vinci. Opinions vary slightly in the matter of dating, with some assigning the work to the late 1490's, and others placing it after 1500.

"Scholars were convinced of Leonardo's authorship due to the painting's adherence in style to the artist's known paintings; the quality of execution; the relationship of the painting to the two preparatory drawings; its correspondence to Wenceslaus Hollar's etching; its superiority to the numerous versions of the known composition; and the presence of pentimenti, or changes by the artist not found in copies" (http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=48949, accessed 07-10-2011).

On March 4, 2014 AFAnews.com reported on the sale of the painting:

"Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi," which was discovered by American art dealer Alexander Parish at an estate sale in the mid-2000s, was sold to an unidentified collector for between $75 milllion and $80 million in May 2013. The details of the sale, which was organized by Sotheby's, remained confidential until this week.

" 'Salvator Mundi,' a half-length protrait of Christ holding a crystal orb in one hand, was created around 1500. Since 1900, the heavily over-painted canvas was attributed to Boltraffio, an artist who worked in da Vinci's studio. It wasn't until Paris acquired the work and it underwent  extensive cleaning and research that it was deemed an original da Vinci formerly owned by King Charles I of England. Prior to last year's sale, Paris and two other art dealers shared ownership of the work.

"In 2012, after raising tens of millions of dollars, the Dallas Museum of Art attempted to buy 'Salvator Mundi.' Museum officials made a formal offer to Paris and the painting's other owners but were rebuffed after some discussion."

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The Rothschild Prayerbook is Illuminated Circa 1500 – 1520

The Rothschild Prayerbook, a Flemish manuscript book of hours, was illuminated from about 1500 to 1520 by several leading miniaturists in the final flowering of the Ghent-Bruges school of manuscript illumination. Most of the sixty-seven large miniatures are by the "Master of the First Prayerbook of Maximilian" (probably Alexander Bening, father of Simon) and Gerard Horenbout or the so-called Master of James IV of Scotland (possibly two names for the same artist). Other miniatures in the manuscript are by Gerard David, who was also a panel painter, or by a pupil working in his style. There are also two miniatures by Simon Bening, and work by other masters.

The early history of the manuscript is obscure, a feature shared by several important manuscripts of the late Ghent-Bruges school, which typically do not contain heraldry and portraits of their original owners. Elements in the book, such as extra mass texts and prayers beyond those usually found in books of hours, relate it to the Chartreuse des Dunes, near Bruges. By 1500 printed books of hours had, for the most part, replaced illuminated manuscripts, with the exception of luxury illuminated books like this, which were generally restricted to the higher nobility and royalty.  In the 16th century the manuscript belonged to the princely Wittelsbach family century, and then to the library of the counts palatine in Heidelberg. It left Heidelberg before 1623, after which its history is unknown until it resurfaced in the collection of the Viennese branch of the Rothschild family in the late 19th century.

In 1938, soon after the Anschluss, or German annexation of Austria, the prayerbook was confiscated from Louis Nathaniel von Rothschild. After the end of World War II the new Austrian government used legislation forbidding the export of culturally significant works of art, partly to pressure the Rothschilds to donate a large number of works to Austrian museums. Under this coercion the prayerbook was "given" to the National Library. In exchange the family was allowed to export other works. In 1999, after international pressure was brought to bear over this coercion, the Austrian government returned the manuscript and other works of art to the Rothschild family. Soon thereafter the manuscript was offered for sale at Christie's in London, where it realized £8,580,000 (then $13,400,000).  When I wrote this database entry in November 2013 this remained the highest price ever paid for an illuminated manuscript.

"This Book of Hours is one of a group of spectacular manuscrits-de-luxe that was produced around 1490 to 1520 for an international clientele and members of the Habsburg court in the Netherlands. These vast undertakings were achieved by the efficient coordination of labor and collaboration of several artists and their workshops. It is closely related to a Book of Hours in the British Library, the Spinola Hours (now at the J. Paul Getty Museum) and the Grimani Breviary (now in Venice, at the Bibl. Marciana). With the Rothschild Prayerbook, these are the most impressive productions of the illuminator Gerard Horenbout, who became court painter to Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands, in 1515, before relocating to England to work for King Henry VIII. As well as painting and illuminating, he designed tapestries and stained glass.

"The illuminated openings, where a miniature faces a complementary full-page border, are some of Horenbout’s most exceptional creations. These scenes are thoughtfully devised and precisely observed, and they provide a fascinating record of liturgical practices of the day and they are some of the finest and most remarkable of all Flemish miniatures. The description of the fabrics of the vestments, the integration of figures in architectural space, and the extensive and atmospheric recession are evoked with a detailed delicacy and a bravura naturalism.

"One of the beguiling features of the Prayerbook is the wide variety in the decorative borders. Many of them, as well as further miniatures, recognizably belong to the repertoire of the illuminator long-known as the Master of the Older Prayerbook of Maximillian, who is now generally accepted as being Alexander Bening, friend of Hugo van der Goes and Joos van Ghent. Alexander’s son also contributed miniatures to the Prayerbook, including the Vision of St Bernard (illustrated top of page). The delicacy and elegance of this scene and the subtlety of handling in the modeling of the flesh and the description of fabric and form demonstrate why Simon went on to become the most celebrated illuminator of his day.

"Several miniatures were painted by the anonymous artist known as the Master of the Prayerbooks of c.1500. This illuminator is particularly valued for his delightful secular work, above all in the Roman de la Rose in the British Library. In the Rothschild Prayerbook he was responsible for some miniatures in the Office of the Virgin, including the Nativity on one of the most colorful and engaging openings where the borders around miniature and text are used to show other episodes from the Christmas story with the lively addition of the scene of joyful, dancing shepherds" (http://artdaily.com/news/65970/Christie-s-announces-centerpiece-of-the-Renaissance-Sale--The-Rothschild-Prayerbook#.UnUUYFCshcY[/).

On October 31, 2013 Christie's announced that it would once again auction the Rothschild Prayerbook on January 29, 2014 in New York. The presale estimate was $12 million to $18 million. They issued an unusually elaborate catalogue for the sale, providing an unusually detailed description of the manuscript. In January 2014 the catalogue could be read on Christie's website at this link. The manuscript was purchased by a private collector bidding over the phone for $13.3 million, just short of the price realized in 1999, but still a record for an illuminated manuscript. In April 2015 it was announced that the manuscript would be displayed at the National Library of Australia from May 22 to August 9, 2015, having been purchased in 2014 by Australian businessman Kerry Stokes.

Walther & Wolf, Codices illustres. The world's most famous illuminated manuscripts 400 to 1600 (2005) 416-17.

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Johannes Trithemius Great Expands his Abbey Library as a Result of the Development of Printing 1505

Tomb relief of Johannes Trithemius

By the time he left the Abbey at Sponheim, Germany Johannes Trithemius expanded its library to 2000 volumes of printed books and manuscripts from the 40 works present in the library when he became Abbot in 1482. 2000 volumes represented an exceptionally large library for the time.

Besides a reflection of Tritheimius's skill and tenacity as a book collector, the growth of the Sponheim Abbey library reflects the increased availability of information after the development and spread of printing in Europe.

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Martin Waldseemüller Creates the First Map to Name America: A Wall Map & Globe Gores April 1507

A portion of the last surviving copy of the Waldseemüller map, made by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in 1507, was the first published map to include the name 'America.' (View Larger)

Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii aliorumque lustrationes, or the Waldseemüller Map, a large wall map of the world drawn by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, was one of the first maps to chart latitude and longitude precisely, following the example of Ptolemy, and the first map to use the name "America".

Waldseemüller also created globe gores, printed maps designed to be cut out and pasted onto spheres to form globes of the Earth. At the time he drew his wall map, Waldseemüller was working as part of the group of scholars of the Vosgean Gymnasium at Saint-Dié-des-Vosges in Lorraine, which then belonged to the Holy Roman Empire. The maps were accompanied by the book Cosmographiae Introductio produced by the Vosgean Gymnasium.  

"The Waldseemüller map depicts North and South America as two large continents. The main map shows the two continents slightly separated, while the small inset map in the top border shows them joined by an isthmus. The name "America" is placed on South America, this being the first map known to use this name. As explained in Cosmographiae Introductio, the name was bestowed in honor of Amerigo Vespucci.

"In depicting the Americas separate from Asia, the map shows a great ocean between the mountainous western coasts of the Americas and the eastern coast of Asia. The first historical records of Europeans to set eyes on this ocean, the Pacific, are recorded as Vasco Núñez de Balboa in 1513 or, Ponce de León in 1512 or 1513. Those dates are five to six years after Waldseemüller made his map. In addition, the map predicts the width of South America at certain latitudes to within 70 miles.

"Apparently among most map-makers until that time, it was still erroneously believed that the lands discovered by Christopher Columbus, Vespucci, and others formed part of the Indies of Asia. Thus some believe that it is impossible that Waldseemüller could have known about the Pacific, which is depicted on his map. The historian Peter Whitfield has theorised that Waldseemüller incorporated the ocean into his map because Vespucci's accounts of the Americas, with their so-called "savage" peoples, could not be reconciled with contemporary knowledge of India, China, and the islands of Indies. Thus, Waldseemüller reasoned, the newly discovered lands could not be part of Asia, but must be separate from it, a leap of intuition that was later proved uncannily precise.

"Most importantly, Mundus Novus, a book attributed to Vespucci (who had himself explored the extensive eastern coast of South America) was widely published throughout Europe after 1504, including by Waldseemüller's group in 1507. It had first introduced to Europeans the idea that this was a new continent and not Asia. It is theorised that this lead to Waldseemüller's separating America from Asia, depicting the Pacific Ocean, and the use of the first name of Vespucci on his map.

"The wall map consists of twelve sections printed from wood engravings measuring 18 x 24.5 inches (46 x 62 cm). Each section is one of four horizontally and three vertically, when assembled. The map uses a modified Ptolemaic conformal projection with curved meridians to depict the entire surface of the Earth."

"Of the one thousand copies of the wall map printed, only one complete copy is known. It was originally owned by Johannes Schöner (1477–1547), a Nuremberg astronomer, geographer, and cartographer. Its existence was unknown for a long time until its rediscovery in 1901 in the library of Prince Johannes zu Waldburg-Wolfegg in Wolfegg Castle in Württemberg, Germany by the Jesuit historian Joseph Fischer. It remained there until 2001 when the United States Library of Congress purchased it from Waldburg-Wolfegg-Waldsee for ten million dollars. Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Federal Republic of Germany symbolically turned over the Waldseemüller map on April 30, 2007, within the context of a formal ceremony at the Library of Congress, in Washington, DC. In her remarks, the chancellor stressed that the U.S. contributions to the development of Germany in the postwar period tipped the scales in the decision to turn over the Waldseemüller map to the Library of Congress as a sign of transatlantic affinity and as an indication of the numerous German roots to the United States. Since 2007 it has been permanently displayed in the Library of Congress, within a display case filled with argon. Prior to display, the entire map was the subject of a scientific analysis project using hyperspectral imaging with an advanced LED camera and illumination system to address preservation storage and display issues.

"Four copies of the globe gores are known still to exist. The first to be rediscovered was found in 1871 and is now in the James Ford Bell Library of the University of Minnesota. Another copy was found inside a Ptolemy atlas and is in the Bavarian State Library in Munich. A third copy was discovered in 1992 bound into an edition of Aristotle in the Stadtbücherei Offenburg, a public library in Germany. A fourth copy came to light in 2003 when its European owner read a newspaper article about the Waldseemüller map. It was sold at auction to Charles Frodsham & Co. for $1,002,267, a world record price for a single sheet map There has been some suggestion that a sheet of the map is from a second edition produced about 1515. Its preservation seems to be due to the several sheets being bound into a single cover by Schöner" (Wikipedia article on Waldseemüller Map, accessed 11-10-2009).

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Ferninand Columbus Collects One of the Largest Private Libraries of the 16th Century Circa 1510 – 1539

Ferdinand Columbus (Fernando Colombo, Fernando Colón), the second son of Christopher Columbus, returned from the New World in 1510, and proceeded to collect one of the largest private libraries of the sixteenth century. This library, La Bibliotheca Colombina, included about 15,000 volumes, of which about 7000 survive today, including 1194 books printed before 1501.

Ferdinand Columbus's library, which also includes a number of volumes from the personal library of his father Christopher Columbus, is preserved in the Cathedral of the City of Seville in Andalucia. Among the volumes in La Bibliotheca Colombina is the manuscript catalogue of Ferdinand's print collection. According to Mark McDonald, editor of this manuscript catalogue listing 3200 sheets (including 390 prints by Albrecht Dürer), no print collection from the fifteenth or sixteenth century has survived, and the manuscript catalogue of Columbus' print collection is the only record of such a print collection that has survived. Columbus's print catalogue is notable for its organizational scheme. McDonald (editor) The Print Collection of Ferndinand Columbus 1488-1539: A Renaissance Collector in Seville (2004).

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The Grimani Breviary: a Remarkable Artistic Collaboration Circa 1515 – 1520

The Grimani Breviary, a key work in the final flowering of the Ghent-Bruges school of manuscript illumination, was produced in Ghent and Bruges from about 1515 to 1520.  By 1520 it was owned by Cardinal Domenico Grimani, Bishop of Ceneda, though it was possibly not originally commissioned by him.

The work was a remarkable artistic collaboration between a group of great masters, who worked under the supervision of Alexander Bening (Sanders Bening).  Other artists who contributed to the manuscript were Bening's son, Simon Bening, the Master of James IV of Scotland and Gerard David.

"Sanders Bening, who was in charge of the work on the Grimani Breviary, was in possession of almost all the drawings made for miniatures and decoration of the manuscripts made before 1484, and formerly attributed to a so-called Master of Mary of Burgundy. Previous generations of art historians have since the 1890's believed that the miniatures in the Grimani Breviary were direct copies after the originals, and several attempts have been made to explain how the various manuscripts could have been brought together and made available to the painters in the workshop. The registration of models used for the Grimani Breviary (and its immediate antecedants from c.1500-1514) has now become so comprehensive, that it would have required the presence in one location of more than six of the major works made before 1484, which is unthinkable. The continuous use of the original model-sheets can only be explained by their presence in the possession of Sanders Bening himself, who inherited many of them in 1482 from Hugo van der Goes and later left them to his son Simon at his death in 1519. Beside the original drawings did Sanders Bening apparently also make personal copies of many miniatures and kept them for his private use. This explains how not only the outlines of the figures and whole compositions could reappear more than 30 years later, but sometimes also be painted partly in the same colours as the first known version" (Drigsdahl, The Grimani Breviary and the Iconographical Heritage in Ghent, CHD Miscellanea 2002, accessed 11-02-2013). 

The manuscript is preserved in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice.

Walther & Wolf, Codices illustres. The World's Most Famous Illuminated Manuscripts 400-1600 (2005) 412-415.

(This entry was last revised on 07-21-2014.)

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Alessandro Minuziano Records the First Documented Legal Case Concerning Copyright 1517

    Alessandro Minuziano was effectively the first to challenge a 'copyright' by reprinting an edition with exclusive rights; the Pope who issued the right was angered, but later allowed the publication after a detailed apology from Minuziano.   (View Larger)

In 1517 printer and publisher Alessandro Minuziano of Milan issued, with official permission of Pope Leo X, P. Cornelii Taciti libri quinque noviter inventi atque cum reliquis eius operibus editi. This was initially an unauthorized reprint or piracy of the first complete edition of the Annales, Historiae and other writings by the Roman historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus, edited, using a manuscript owned by Pope Leo X, by humanist and librarian of the Vatician, Filippo Beroaldo, the Younger. That edition had been first published in Rome by Stephanus Guilleretus de Lotheringia in 1515.

The story began in 1508 when Pope Leo X, formerly Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, had the opportunity to purchase a manuscript of the "lost" first books of Tactitus's Annals. The manuscript had been stolen from the monastery of Corvey in Westphalia, but that did not deter a passionate collector. Wishing to share his collecting discovery with the world, on November 14, 1514 Leo granted Beroaldo the exclusive right or privilegio for printing the text. Violators of the privilegio were threatened with excommunication.  Beroaldo's edition was the first to include Books I-VI of the Annals, and also the first to include the "Annotationes" of the jurist and legal humanist Andrea Alciato (Alciati, Andreas Alciatus).

"According to the well-known story, the codex containing the six books by Tacitus (the so-called 'Mediceo primo" [Laurentianus Mediceus 68.1] had been stolen from the monastery of Corvey in Westphalia. In 1508 it was in the hands of Francesco Soderini from whom it was acquired by Cardinal Giovanini de' Medici (the future Leo X). In 1515, after becoming pope, Leo X granted Beroaldo the exclusive rights to the printing of the book. One of the printed books Leo sent to the Abbey of Corvey, together with a plenary indulgence, as a replacement for the 'borrowed' manuscript. Much to the annoyance of Leo X, the Milanese scholar and publisher Alessandro Minuziano ignored the  paper privilegio and reprinted Beroaldo's edition of Tacitus word-for-word. Minuziano was duly summoned to Rome to answer directly to the Pope. His detailed apology, however, appeased Leo X's anger and, with a papal letter of absolution, Minuziano was permitted to publish the work, provided he came to terms with Filippo Beroaldo" (Witcombe, Copyright in the Renaissance: Prints and the Privilegio in Sixteenth-Century Venice and Rome (2004) 48-49).

Landau and Parshall, The Renaissance Print 1470-1550 (1994) 301-02 point out that Minuziano attempted to skirt the privilegio in a clever way, which involved illegal cooperation with someone working in the printing office of Stephanus Guilleretus de Lotheringia in Rome: 

"In the meantime in Rome the issue of privileges had suddenly been brought to the attention of Leo X when it was discovered in 1515 that the Milanese publisher Alessandro Minuziano had found a loophole in the privilege granted to Filippo Beroaldo for his Storie. Minuziano did not copy the whole book once it had appeared, but page after page (obtained illegally) while it was being printed. The main reason the Pope was so exceeding angry was that he had paid the vast sum of 500 ducats for the manuscript. . . ."

Because he was copying the Rome edition as fast as it was being printed we may presume that Minuziano intended to issue his pirated edition almost simultaneously with the 1515 Rome edition. However his scheme was found out, and the dispute over the privilegio forced Minuziano to suspend publication until the matter was resolved. The matter was serious, especially as Leo X actively involved himself in issues of publication and censorship. Because the case was eventually resolved in Minuziano's favor, he added an appendix to the edition containing the key documents pertaining to the case. These included the papal privilege of November 14, 1514, Minuziano's “supplication and prayers” to Leo X of March 30, 1516, defending himself, remarkably, by claiming ignorance of the Pope’s privilegio, pleading for absolution and to be allowed to finish his edition, and the papal letter of pardon dated September 7, 1516, reiterating Minuziano’s defense, and granting Minuziano permission to publish his edition.

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Daniel van Bomberghen, a Devout Christian, Issues the First Printed Edition of the Complete Babylonian Talmud 1519 – 1523

Having obtained permission from both the Venetian Senate and the Pope to become the first publisher of Hebrew books in Venice, from 1519 to 1523 devout Christian Daniel van Bomberghen (Daniel Bomberg) issued the first complete printed edition of the approximately two million word Babylonian Talmud.

Over his 40 year career Bomberg issued 240 editions of books in Hebrew.

"Based on current knowledge of contemporary Venetian printing practices, we can safely speculate that each Bomberg edition of the Talmud was produced in print-runs of approximately 1500 copies, though of course most of them did not find their way into full sets. We do have evidence from a book catalog printed sometime between 1541 and 1543 that a complete set was available for purchase for the price of twenty-two Venetian ducats. This was at a time when one of Bomberg’s typesetters earned somewhere between 2½ and 3 ducats per month. Thus, even when first printed, these volumes were considered expensive and accessible to only the wealthiest of individuals."

"Bibliographers variously surmise that the Bomberg Talmud was normally bound in twelve or fifteen volumes in a standard order, though this is problematic. Among the fourteen known complete sets that survive as sets from the sixteenth-century, in addition to this set two others are bound in six volumes, one in eight volumes, three in nine, one in ten, one in seventeen, one in twenty-two, and only four sets are bound in twelve volumes. Even among those bound in twelve volumes, there is no standard ordering of the tractates in the various volumes" (Mintz & Goldstein, Printing the Talmud from Bomberg to Schottenstein [2005] No. 20).

On December 22, 2015 antiquarian bookseller Stephan Lowewnetheil of the 19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop purchased the Valmadonna Trust Library complete copy of the Bomberg Talmud at Sotheby's, New York, for $9,300,000. It was announced that Lowentheil acted as agent for billionaire collector Leon Black

Sotheby's excellent description of the set, which comprised tractates from the first (1519/20-23) and second (1525-1539) editions, was available at this link. This was the highest price ever paid for any single piece of Judaica. The Valmadonna copy, which had been preserved for centuries in the library of Westminster Abbey, was the only complete set remaining in private hands, and one of the finest of the few complete sets that survived. 

The Valmadonna Trust Library was formed in the second half of the 20th century by Jack Lunzer. An excellent account of its formation was published in Tabletmag.com on September 9, 2009. Further information was provided by Tablet on December 22, 2015.

Unusual features of Sotheby's description included a complete census of extant complete copies of the Bomberg Talmud including condition comparisons of each set plus a long note concerning book prices in the sixteenth century which considerably expands the quotation from Mintz and Goldstein above.  I quote this in full, including its very extensive bibliography:


Even by sixteenth-century standards these Talmud volumes were expensive, so it seems we should expect more than a bibliophile's interest to explain why these particular publications were so desirable.  A brief survey may be useful to establish that these volumes would have been considered a luxury, where the scudoducataurea and florin/gulden were all roughly of the same value. (For reference purposes, it may also be noted that 20 solidi = 1 lira; 1 ducat = 124 solidi (or 6 ¼ lira ).  Already at the end of the fifteenth-century, legal and academic texts, in folio, regularly sold for between 1 and 2 ducats.  Similar prices for folios printed at other Venetian printing houses continued to be seen throughout the sixteenth-century.  Specifically concerning Bomberg imprints, in 1518 Philip Melanchthon purchased a Bomberg first edition Rabbinic Bible for 14 aurei, and two years later Johannes Reuchlin purchased one for 8 aurei.  Elijah Levita wrote in the second of his two poems following the colophon at the end of the fourth volume of Bomberg's second edition Mikra'ot Gedolot, that the price for the set was six golden ducats, or 1½ ducats per volume.  In fact, Damian Irmi (a wealthy Basel merchant trader with Italy) purchased a copy of Bomberg's second edition Mikra'ot Gedolot for Konrad Pellikan for eleven gulden.  The price for this Rabbinic Bible in Gesner's 1545 list was 10 ducats; Alfasi, three volumes, 18 ducats; Rambam, two volumes,10 ducats.  In a list written sometime after 1532 of books available from Koberger's bookshop in Nürnberg: Bomberg's first edition Mikra'ot Gedolot sold for 14 fl., or approximately 10 ducats.  Finally, it is interesting to note that Johannes Buxtorf the Elder (1564-1629, Basel) and Sebastian Beck (1583-1654, Basel), state that circa 1617 one of the old Bomberg Rabbinic Bibles cost between 30 and 50Reichsthalers, which was the equivalent of 75-125 fl.

In general, books printed in Italy were considered expensive already by mid-sixteenth century, as we note that "in 1554 the jurist [Georg] Tanner wrote to Bonifacius Amerbach in Basel that the high price of Italian books prevented many buyers from making purchases."  And specifically about the Bomberg Talmud, we know from an entry dated 25 April 1541, in a daybook concerning purchases in Venice, that a Talmud set was not purchased for the University of Wittenberg because it was felt that the price was exorbitant.

Based on the examples cited above, it is safe to say that in the sixteenth century, each of the forty-four tractates in the Bomberg Talmud (allowing for two editions of Mishna Tohorot, one with the commentary of Maimonides and one with the commentary of Shimshon of Sens), if and when they were available, would have cost at least 1½ -2½ ducats.  Given Bomberg's standard for the highest quality both with regard to materials and workmanship, his folios likely were priced at the upper end of this range.  This results in the contemporary price for a full set to be somewhere around 110 ducats, plus the cost of binding.  For copies printed on heavy watermarked 'royal' paper such as the Valmadonna (#12) and Wittenberg (#1) sets, it is reasonable that they would have garnered two or three times that amount.  In order to put these figures in perspective, there is rather specific wage and income data available for sixteenth-century Italy and this data demonstrates the luxury of owning a complete Bomberg Talmud set. 

The prices we have calculated were realized at a time when a master craftsman earned 30-50 solidi/day, and a semi skilled laborer in construction earned 20-37 solidi/day.  In the mid- to late-fifteenth-century Italian typesetters earned 3ducats/month, a press operator earned 2½, and a foreman earned 5-9 ducats/month.  Contemporary Jewish sources also give a glimpse of wages for rabbis and teachers.  Elijah Capsali tutored Rabbi Isserlein for a sum of 37 ducats per year plus board.  Isaac Corcos, rabbi to the community in Otranto (southern Italy) received 70 ducats per year, Rabbi Azreil in Sulmona (central Italy) received 80 scudi (approximately 73 ducats), and Don David Ibn Yahya was to have received 100 scudi(approximately 92 ducats) as rabbi in Naples (though the promised sum never materialized).  For laborers, rabbis or teachers these wages range between 3 and 7⅔ ducats per month, and an income of anything more than 10 ducats per month would have been considered relative affluence.  And only with some level of affluence would an individual have had sufficient disposable income to purchase Bomberg folios.  Put in more descriptive terms, "a folio volume retailing for 6 or 8 lire, i.e., the equivalent of 3 to 6 days pay for a master, would be difficult but not impossible to buy."  However, while individual folios may have been within the price reach of a skilled laborer, he could not purchase such items on a regular basis and clearly that laborer would not be purchasing multi-volume sets all at once.  Finally, we bring these wage figures only to demonstrate the relative worth of the volumes, since the likelihood that laborers would have actually purchased such texts is negligible, not only due to the issue of disposable income, but we have said nothing of sixteenth-century literacy rates.

Dr. Bruce E. Nielsen, 
Judaic Public Services Librarian and Archivist,
University of Pennsylvania

references for “A Note about Book Prices in the Sixteenth Century”

Currency:  20 solidi = 1 lira; 1 ducat = 124 solidi; 

General folio prices: M. Lowry, "The Printer, the Reader and the Market," pp. 173-206 in, Nicholas Jenson and the rise of Venetian publishing in Renaissance Europe (Oxford, U.K.; Cambridge Mass.:  Blackwell, 1991) 179-180; P. F. Grendler, The Roman Inquisition and the Venetian Press (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1977) 12-14; S.Z. Baruchson-Arbib, "The Prices of Printed Hebrew Books in Cinquecento Italy," Bibliofilia 97.2 (1995) 149-61;

Melancthon: R. Wetzel, ed., Melanchthons Briefwechsel, 15 volumes (Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog, 1991), Bd. 1, 75 letter #24; 

Reuchlin: H. Scheible, ed., Willibald Pirckheimers Briefwechsel, 4 (Munich: C.H.Beck, 1997) 251, letter #693; 

Irmi: B. Riggenbach, ed., Das Chronikon des Konrad Pellikan (Basel: Bahnmaier's Verlag (C. Detloff), 1877) 116; 

Gesner: C. Gesner, Bibliotheca Universalis, vol. II (Tiguri: Christophorum Froschouerum, 1548) 41b-43b; 

Koberger: O. Hase, Die Koberger (Leipzig: Breitkopf u. Härtel, 1885) 386, where one florin = one rheinische Gulden, and 40 ducats = 55 gulden; 

Buxtorf: S. G. Burnett, From Christian Hebraism to Jewish Studies (Leiden:  Brill, 1996) 172 n. 12; 

Tanner: F. Kapp, Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels (Leipzig : Börsenvereins, 1886) 1:312; 

Wittenberg: W. Friedensburg, Urkundenbuch der Universität Wittenberg (Magdeburg : Selbstverlag der Historischen Kommission, 1926-7) 1:225;

Wages: M. Lowry, "The Printer, the Reader and the Market," in Nicholas Jenson and the rise of Venetian publishing in Renaissance Europe (Oxford, UK ; Cambridge, Mass., USA : Blackwell, 1991) 187; Baruchson-Arbib, op.cit. 157-58 with comparison to consumables; R. Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading, 1450-1550 (Wiesbaden : Otto Harrassowitz, 1967) 36; 

Capsali et al.: A. Marx, Studies in Jewish History and Booklore (New York:  JTSA, 1941) 137, 164-65; 

Descriptive terms: P. Grendler, The Roman Inquisition and the Venetian Press, 1540-1605 (Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1977) 14." 

(This entry was last revised on 12-27-2015.)

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Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries Brings Destruction and Dispersal of Libraries 1536 – 1541

 In 1536, King Henry VIII formally disbands all monasteries in his realm and seizes their property, including thousands of books and manuscripts, most of which were subsequently lost or destroyed.  (View Larger)

In a formal process called Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII disbanded monastic communities in England, Wales and Ireland and confiscated their property. Henry was given the authority to do this by the Act of Supremacy, passed by Parliament in 1534, which made him Supreme Head of the Church in England, and by the First Suppression Act (1536) and the Second Suppression Act (1539).

"Along with the destruction of the monasteries, some of them many hundreds of years old, the related destruction of the monastic libraries was perhaps the greatest cultural loss caused by the English Reformation. Worcester Priory (now Worcester Cathedral) had 600 books at the time of the dissolution. Only six of them are known to have survived intact to the present day. At the abbey of the Augustinian Friars at York, a library of 646 volumes was destroyed, leaving only three known survivors. Some books were destroyed for their precious bindings, others were sold off by the cartload. The antiquarian John Leland was commissioned by the King to rescue items of particular interest (especially manuscript sources of Old English history), and other collections were made by private individuals; notably Matthew Parker. Nevertheless much was lost, especially manuscript books of English church music, none of which had then been printed.

A great nombre of them whych purchased those supertycyous mansyons, resrved of those lybrarye bokes, some to serve theyr jakes, some to scoure candelstyckes, and some to rubbe their bootes. Some they solde to the grossers and soapsellers.                   — John Bale, 1549"

(Wikipedia article on Dissolution of the Monasteries, accessed 11-25-2008)

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The Codex Mendoza, Perhaps Commissioned by Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza Circa 1540

Created about 1540, about twenty years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico (August 13,1521) with the intent that it be seen by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, the Codex Mendoza is an Aztec codex containing a history of the Aztec rulers and their conquests, a list of the tribute paid by the conquered, and a description of daily Aztec life, in traditional Aztec pictograms with Spanish explanations and commentary. 

The codex is named after Antonio de Mendoza, the first viceroy of New Spain, who may have commissioned it. It is also known as the Codex Mendocino and La coleccion Mendoza. It is one of a group of ten or more Aztec codices that were created in the first few decades of Spanish rule, and which provide some of the best primary sources for Aztec culture. 

Although there are very few surviving pre-conquest codices, the Aztec tlacuilo (codex painter) tradition endured the transition to colonial culture. As a result, scholars have access to a body of around 500 colonial-era codices. These later Colonial-era Nahuatl language documents are the foundational texts of the New Philology, which utilizes these texts to create scholarly works from the indigenous viewpoint.

The Codex Mendoza has an unusually eventful history.

" . . .[It] was hurriedly created in Mexico City, to be sent by ship to Spain. However, the fleet was attacked by French privateers, and codex along with the rest of the booty taken to France. There it came into the possession of André Thévet, French king Henry II's cosmographer, who wrote his name in five places on the codex, twice with the date 1553. It was later bought by the Englishman Richard Hakluyt for 20 French crowns. Sometime after 1616 it was passed to Samuel Purchas, then to his son, and then to John Selden. The codex was finally deposited into the Bodleian Library at Oxford University in 1659, 5 years after Selden's death, where it remained in obscurity until 1831, when it was rediscovered by Viscount Kingsborough and brought to the attention of scholars." (Wikipedia article on Codex Mendoza, accessed 10-22-2014).

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John Dee Collects Perhaps the Largest Library in Elizabethan England Circa 1540 – 1609

John Dee, the English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occult philosopher, imperialist, and adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination, Hermetic philosophy, and medicine, though he was not a trained physician. One of Tudor England's most extraordinary and enigmatic figures, Dee claimed to own 3000 printed books and 1000 manuscripts, which he kept at his home in Mortlake, London. These were recorded in his library catalogue, a document which surivived and was edited for publication by Julian Roberts and Andrew Watson as John Dee's Library Catalogue (London: Bibliographical Society, 1990). Dee was a persistent annotator of his books, many of which contain extensive, elegantly written legible notes very worthy of study. 

In May 2016 it was my pleasure to visit the Royal College of Physicians in London with members of The Grolier Club to see an exhibition of the more than 100 books from John Dee's library preserved in the library of the RCP. That group, which remains the largest collection of volumes from Dee's library, remarkably, appears to have been stolen, or otherwise parted, from Dee's library when Dee traveled to the Continent in the 1580s, leaving his extremely valuable library and laboratories in the care of his brother-in-law Nicolas Fromond. Instead of caring for the books and scientific instruments Fromond appears to have sold them without Dee's permission, causing most of them to be widely dispersed, to such extent that Dee was never able to recover most of them.

Either by purchase or possibly by theft, the books from Dee's library at the College of Physicians came into the possession of Dee's pupil Nicholas Saunder the Younger who attempted in many cases to conceal Dee's signature or other mark of ownership by overwriting with his own. Saunder's books passed to Henry Pierrepont, Marquis of Dorchester, who was a devoted book collector. Pierrepont's family later donated his library to the Royal College of Physicians. 

John Dee's books in the Royal College of Physicians' library: A handlist. (London: RCP, 2016).

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Guilio Clovio Completes a Masterpiece of High Renaissance Manuscript Illumination 1546

In 1546 Guilio Clovio (Croatian: Juraj Julije Klović), a renaissance illuminator, miniaturist, and painter mostly active in Italy, completed the illumination of the Farnese Hours for Cardinal Alessandro II Farnese, grandson of Pope Paul III. Creation of the 28 miniature paintings (2 double-page) in this manuscript occupied Clovio for nine years. The manuscript was a collaboration between Clovio and the scribe, Francesco Monterchi, secretary to Cardinal Farnese's father, Pier Luigi Farnese. It is widely considered the masterpiece of the greatest manuscript illuminator of the Italian High Renaissance
"Clovio was a friend of the much younger El Greco, the celebrated Greek artist from Crete, who later worked in Spain, during El Greco's early years in Rome. Greco painted two portraits of Clovio; one shows the four painters whom he considered as his masters; in this Clovio is side by side with Michelangelo, Titian and Raphael. Clovio was also known as Michelangelo of the miniature. Books with his miniatures became famous primarily due to his skilled illustrations. He was persuasive in transferring the style of Italian high Renaissance painting into the miniature format" (Wikipedia article on Giulio Clovio, accessed 03-27-2010).
One portrait of Clovio painted by El Greco shows him pointing to the Farnese Hours.
The Farnese Hours was acquired from J. & S. Goldschmidt by J. P. Morgan, and is preserved in the Morgan Library & Museum (MS M. 69)
"The dependence of Clovio on Michel Angelo and his lifting of certain scenes from the Grimani Breviary, are apparent. The Grimani Breviary was owned from 1528, by Clovio's patron Cardinal Domenico Grimani (1460-1523) for whom Clovio executed the Grimani Commentary MS (no. 11) in Sir John Soane's Museum, London. . . ." (http://corsair.morganlibrary.org/msdescr/BBM0069a.pdf, accessed 03-27-2010).
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1550 – 1600

Juan Badiana Translates Aztec Medical Botany & Psychoactive Plants from the Nahuati 1552

A page of the Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis, an Aztec herbal composed in 1552 by Martin de la Cruz and translated into Latin by Juan Badianus, illustrating the tlahcolteocacatl, tlayapaloni, axocotl, and chicomacatl plants, which were used to make a "remedy for a wounded body" and Aztec herbalism.

A portrait of Francesco Barberini by Ottavio Leoni, 1624.

A modern photograph of Lophophora williamsii, a plant in a group of peyotes used as entheogens.

In 1552 the Libellus de medicinalibus indorum herbis, an Aztec herbal manuscript with color paintings of plants describing the medicinal properties of 250 herbs used by the Aztecs, was translated into Latin by Juan Badiano from a Nahuatl original no longer extant. It is the only surviving detailed original account of the ethnobotany of the Aztecs written by Aztecs.

The Nahuatl original was composed in the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, Tlatelolco, Mexico City, in 1552 by Martín de la Cruz. Both Badiano and de la Cruz were native Aztecs who were given European names at the Colegio de Santa Cruz. The Libellus is also known as the Badianus Manuscript, after the translator; the Codex de la Cruz-Badiano, after both the original author and translator; and the Codex Barberini, after Cardinal Francesco Barberini, who owned the manuscript in the early 17th century.

"In 1552 Jacobo de Grado, the friar in charge of the Convent of Tlatelolco and the College of Santa Cruz, had the herbal created and translated for Francisco de Mendoza, son of Antonio de Mendoza, the viceroy of New Spain. Mendoza sent the Latin manuscript to Spain, where it was deposited into the royal library. There it presumably remained until the early 17th century, when it somehow came into the possession of Diego de Cortavila y Sanabria, pharmacist to King Philip IV. From Cortavila it travelled to the Italian Cardinal Francesco Barberini, possibly via intermediate owners. The manuscript remained in the Barberini library until 1902, when the Barberini library became part of the Vatican Library, and the manuscript along with it. Finally, in 1990 — over four centuries after it was sent to Spain — Pope John Paul II returned the Libellus to Mexico, and it is now in the library of the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City.

"A copy was made in the 17th century by Cassiano dal Pozzo, the secretary of Cardinal Barberini. Dal Pozzo's collection, called his Museo Cartaceo ("Papers Museum"), was sold by his heirs to Pope Clement XI, who sold it to his nephew, Cardinal Alessandro Albani, who himself sold it to King George III in 1762. Dal Pozzo's copy is now part of the Royal Library, Windsor. Another copy may have been made by Francesco de' Stelluti, but is now lost. Dal Pozzo and de' Stelluti were both members of the Accademia dei Lincei" (Wikipedia article on Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis, accessed 11-27-2010).

Two different English translations of work, by William Gates and Emily Walcott Emmart, respectively, were published in 1939 and 1940. The Gates translation was reissued with a new introduction by Bruce Byland in 2000. A translation into Spanish by Francisco Guerra was published in 1952, and a different Spanish edition was published in 1964 and 1991.

In 1995 Peter Furst published a study of the entheogens, or psychoactive drugs, included in the codex: "This Little Book of Herbs": Psychoactive Plants as Therapeutic Agents in the Badianus Manuscript of 1552," Schultes & von Reis (eds) Ethnobotany: Evolution of a Discipline (1995) 108-130.

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Otto-Henry, Elector Palatine, Founds the Bibliotheca Palatina Circa 1555

Portrait of Prince-elector Otto Henry by Georg Pencz, 1530-1545. The painting now resides in St. Petersburg. 

A set of images depicting choosing the king from the Heidelberg Sachsenspiegel, circa 1300.

About 1555 Otto-Henry, Elector Palatine, (German: Ottheinrich),Count Palatine of Palatinate-Neuburg from 1505 to 1559 and prince elector of the Palatinate from 1556 to 1559, formally established the Bibliotheca Palatina in Heidelberg. At its peak this library included about 5000 printed books and "3524 manuscripts." The library expanded with important manuscripts acquired from the collection of Ulrich Fugger (d. 1584), notably the illustrated Sachsenspiegel.

"Joseph Scaliger considered this Fugger Library superior to that owned by the Pope; the manuscripts alone were valued at 80,000 crowns, which was a very considerable sum for the 16th century" (Wikipedia article on the Bibliotheca Palatina, accessed 11-23-2008).

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Albert V, Duke of Bavaria, Founds the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek 1558

A portrait of Albreccht V, Duke of Bavaria by Hans Mielich, 16th century.

A painting of Orlando di Lasso directing a chamber ensemble by Hans Mielich, 16th century.

In 1558 Albrecht V, Duke of Bavaria acquired the library of the humanist, orientalist, philologist, and theologian, Johann Albrecht Widmannstetter. This was the origin of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München.

"Albert was a patron of the arts and a collector whose personal accumulations are the basis of the Wittelsbach antique collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, the coin collection and the Wittelsbach treasury in the Munich Residenz; some of his Egyptian antiquities remain in the collection of Egyptian art. His personal library has come to the Bavarian State Library in Munich, inheritor of the Wittelsbach court library.

"Like an American millionaire of the Gilded Age, he bought whole collections in Rome and Venice; in Venice, after tiresome drawn-out negotiations with the aged Andrea Loredan, he purchased the Loredan collection virtually in its entirety: 120 bronzes, 2480 medals and coins, 91 marble heads, 43 marble statues, 33 reliefs and 14 various curiosities, for the sum of 7000 ducats; 'they were all exported from Venice secretly at night in large chests'. At the same time, squabbles among the heirs of Gabriele Vendramin thwarted him in his attempt to purchase the single most important collection in Venice and paintings and antiquities, drawings by the masters and ancient coins. To house his antiquities he commissioned the Antiquarium in the Munich Residenz, the largest Renaissance hall north of the Alps.

"He appointed Orlando di Lasso to a court post and patronized many other artists; this led to a huge burden of debts (½ Mio. Fl.)" (Wikipedia article on Albert V, Duke of Bavaria, accessed 01-03-2010).

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Giorgio Vasari Begins Construction of the Uffizi 1560 – 1581

In 1560 Italian painter, architect, writer and historian Giorgio Vasari began construction of the Palazzo degli Uffizi in Florence (Firenze) for Cosimo I de' Medici as the offices for the Florentine magistrates— hence the name "uffizi" ("offices").

Construction was continued following Vasari's design by Alfonso Parigi and Bernardo Buontalenti, and ended in 1581.

"The cortile (internal courtyard) is so long and narrow, and open to the Arno River at its far end through a Doric screen that articulates the space without blocking it, that architectural historians treat it as the first regularized streetscape of Europe. Vasari, a painter as well as architect, emphasized the perspective length by the matching facades' continuous roof cornices, and unbroken cornices between storeys and the three continuous steps on which the palace-fronts stand. The niches in the piers that alternate with columns were filled with sculptures of famous artists in the 19th century.

"The Palazzo degli Uffizi brought together under one roof the administrative offices, the Tribunal and the state archive (Archivio di Stato). The project that was planned by Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany to arrange that prime works of art in the Medici collections on the piano nobile was effected by Francis I of Tuscany, who commissioned from Buontalenti the famous Tribuna degli Uffizi that united a selection of the outstanding masterpieces in the collection in an ensemble that was a star attraction of the Grand Tour" (Wikipedia article on Uffizi, accessed 09-29-2010).

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Samuel Quiccheberg Publishes the First Treatise on Museums 1565

In 1565 Belgian physician Samuel Quiccheberg (von Quicheberg), scientific and artistic adviser to Albrecht V, Duke of Bavaria, published Inscriptiones vel tituli theatri amplissimi in Munich at the press of Adam Berg. This short work of 64 pages was the first treatise on collecting and museums. It provided a rationale and organizational system for an ideal princely collection of art and Wunderkammer. Quiccheberg combined the traditional fields of art and curiosities with naturalia, mirabilia, artefacta, scientifica, antiquities and exotica into his plans for the Munich Kunstkammer.

In several places, Quiccheberg argued that one of the primary purposes of collecting was to promote technological innovation. He recommended collecting "Tiny models of machines, such as those for drawing water, or cutting wood into boards, or grinding grain, driving piles, propelling boats, stopping floods, and the like; on the basis of these models of little machines and constructions, other larger ones can be properly built and, subsequently, better ones invented." The idea was the prince could collect or commission a library of machines, including alternative designs, and then, when the need arised, have full scale versions built.

Quiccheberg, The First Treatise on Museums. Samuel Quiccheberg's Inscriptions 1565. Translation by Mark A. Meadow and Bruce Robertson. Introduction by Mark A. Meadow (2013). 

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Archbishop Matthew Parker Assembles the First Major Antiquarian Book Collection in England 1568

In 1568 Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker secured a license from Queen Elizabeth to seek out "auncient records or monuments" from the former libraries of the monasteries suppressed by Henry VIII, and from old cathedral priories converted to the use of the Church of England.

"He thus had first choice of many hundreds of manuscripts of the very highest importance. This was the earliest major antiquarian collection ever asssembled in England, long before those of Thomas Bodley (1545-1613) or Robert Cotton (1571-1631), which became the foundations of the libraries of the Bodleian in Oxford and, eventually, the British Library in London" (de Hamel, The Parker Library: Treasures from the Collection [2000] 8). 

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Fulvio Orsini Issues the First Critically Assembled Collection and Edition of Ancient Portraiture 1569 – 1570

Imagines et elogia virorum illustrium et eruditor ex antiquis lapidibus et nomismatib expressa cum annnotationib ex bibliotheca Fulvi Ursini, issued in Rome in 1570 by librarian, collector, epigrapher and classical scholar Fulvio Orsini, was the first critically assembled collection and edition of ancient portraiture. An expert on ancient coins, gems, inscriptions, and statues, Orsini was most advantageously positioned to make the first critical collection of ancient portraiture. In the Imagines et elogia he combined portraits with brief biographies of subjects drawn from ancient history and literature. Unlike previous works such as Paolo Giovio's Vitae virorum illustrium (1549‑57) and Guillaume Rouillé's Promptuarium iconum insigniorum (1553), Orsini emphasized the original physical state of the portraits illustrated rather than modifying his reproductions of the portraits to fit them into a uniform format. He also illustrated the marbles and coins as objects, sometimes presenting one or more examples of each subject. A special feature of Orsini's work was the large number of headless herm (ἑρμῆς) portraits illustrated with inscriptions on their pedestals, making the work first a corpus of epigraphical testimonia to famous and not so famous Greeks and Romans, and secondly a repertory of portraits. 

"Not only did Orsini have access to the most extensive epigraphical and iconographic collections in Rome but, more importantly, the critical method he employed in editing texts of classical authors and inscriptions served him well in the authentication of portraits. In making an identification, Orsini sought the evidence of an ancient inscription either directly on the marble or on a coin or medal that could be associated with a marble. He also collected ancient literary sources relating to the physical appearance or to the existence of ancient portraits of individual subjects. He did not hesitate to reject modern inscriptions whether on marble statuary or on gems, and he similarly rejected numismatic forgeries which by the late sixteenth century had flooded the Roman antiques market."

"In the majority of cases, Orsini (or his patron) owned the ancient coins, gems, busts, and statues that served his identifications. Hence, unlike virtually all of his predecessors, Orsini relied on 'autopsy' or first-hand experience as a critical method, anticipating the rigorous method of nine- teenth-century epigraphers like Theodor Mommsen. Orsini has been called the 'father of ancient iconography,' and, indeed, a glance at Gisela Richter's authoritative Portraits of the Greeks suffices to demonstrate the modern archaeologist's indebtedness to Orsini for the identification of a surprising number of heads of famous Greeks and Romans. Nevertheless, the documentary value of Orsini's earlier work is somewhat compromised by the fact that information about provenance is not presented consistently but, when offered, is usually buried near the end of the elogium" (Dwyer, "André Thevet and Fulvio Orsini: The Beginnings of the Modern Tradition of Classical Portrait Iconography in France," The Art Bulletin, 75, No. 3 (Sept. 1993), 467-480, quoting from 469).

Pierre de Nolhac, "Les collections d'antiquités de Fulvio Orsini," Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire," 4 (1884) 139-231.

de Nolhac, La bibliothèque de Fulvio Orsini (1887).

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Francisco Bravo Issues the First Medical Book Printed in the Western Hemisphere with the Earliest Illustrations of Plants Printed in the Western Hemisphere 1570

Printer Pedro Ocharte, born Pierre Ocharte in Rouen, France, working in Mexico City, issued Opera medicinalia by the Spanish physician, Francisco Bravo in 1570. Ocharte had married the daughter of Juan Pablos, the first printer in the New World, and had inherited his equipment. Opera medicinalia included a woodcut title border and a few botanical woodcuts, including images to distinguish the false sarsaparilla of Mexico from the true Spanish sarsaparilla of Dioscorides. It was the first medical book printed in the Western Hemisphere, and its botanical images were the first illustrations of plants printed in the Western Hemisphere.

Of the original edition only two copies are known, of which the only complete copy is at the Universidad de Puebla, Mexico. In 1862 American bookseller and bibliographer Henry Stevens purchased an incomplete copy at an auction sale of the library of collector/dealer/book thief Guglielmo Libri in London. This he resold to the American collector James Lennox. The Lennox copy is preserved in the New York Public Library.

In 1970 London antiquarian booksellers Dawsons of Pall issued a facsimile of the complete Universidad de Puebla copy with a companion volume of commentary by Francisco Guerra. The two volumes were printed on hand-made paper by J. Barcham Green, Ltd. and bound in parchment by Zaehnsdorf in London. The edition was limited to 250 hand-numbered copies.

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Jeremias Martius Issues Possibly the First Printed Catalogue of Any Private Library 1572

Issued in 1572 by the Augsburg printer Michael Mangerus, Catalogus bibliothecae, the catalogue of the private library of the Augsburg physician, Jeremias Martius (c. 1535-1585), may be the earliest printed catalogue of a private library. 

Maclean, Learning and the Market Place: Essays in the History of the Modern Book (2009) 106.

(This entry was last revised on 03-03-2015.)

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Book Collector Matthew Parker Donates his Library 1574

In 1574 Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker donated his library of about 480 manuscripts and about 1000 printed books to the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

"He was an avid book collector, salvaging medieval manuscripts dispersed at the dissolution of the monasteries; he was particularly keen to preserve materials relating to Anglo-Saxon England, motivated by his search for evidence of an ancient English-speaking Church independent of Rome. The extraordinary collection of documents that resulted from his efforts is still housed at Corpus Christi College, and consists of items spanning from the sixth-century Gospels of St. Augustine to sixteenth century records relating to the English Reformation.

"The Parker Library's holdings of Old English texts accounts for nearly a quarter of all extant manuscripts in Anglo-Saxon, including the earliest copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (c. 890), the Old English Bede and King Alfred´s translation of Gregory the Great´s Pastoral Care. The Parker Library also contains key Anglo-Norman and Middle English texts ranging from the Ancrene Wisse and the Brut Chronicle to one of the finest copies of Chaucer´s Troilus and Criseyde. Other subjects represented in the collection are music, medieval travelogues and maps, bestiaries, royal ceremonies, historical chronicles and Bibles. The Parker Library holds a magnificent collection of English illuminated manuscripts, such as the Bury and Dover Bibles (c. 1135 and c. 1150) and the Chronica maiora by Matthew Paris (c. 1230-50)" (Parker Library on the Web [Beta] accessed 11-27-2008).

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Martín de Murúa Writes the "Historia general del Piru" Circa 1585 – 1616

Historia general del Piru, written by the Basque Mercedarian friar and missionary Martín de Murúa, is an early illustrated treatise on the history of Inca and early colonial Peru, surviving in two manuscript copies. Murúa's chronicle, written during his missionary work in Peru, includes a history of Peru before and after its conquest by the Spanish.

The two surviving manuscripts of Murúa's work are the Galvin Murúa, also known as the "Loyola Murúa," sold to John Galvin by antiquarian bookseller Warren Howell of John Howell - Books in San Francisco, and the Getty Murúa, also known as the "Wellington Murúa". The Galvin copy is remains in the Sean Galvin collection in County Meath, Ireland while the Getty example is preserved at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.

"The Galvin Murúa dates from the 1580s and was completed around 1600. This first version of the chronicle was compiled in Peru by Murúa with the assistance of local scribes and Indigenous artists (one of whom was Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala). By the eighteenth century, the Galvin Murúa ended up in the possession of the Jesuit College in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. Between 1879-1900, the manuscript was housed in a Jesuit enclave in Poyanne, France. Its association with the Jesuits gave the manuscript its title the "Loyola Murúa" (after Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order). . . . 

"The Getty Murúa dates from 1615–16 and was the second version of the chronicle. Most of the text was compiled in Peru and present-day Bolivia, although it was most likely re-edited in Spain. This version received the final approbation for printing, however for unknown reasons it remained unpublished during the seventeenth century. Once in Spain, the manuscript was somehow acquired by Castilian statesman and bibliophile Lorenzo Ramirez de Prado. After Ramirez's death in 1658, it was incorporated into the library of the Colegio Mayor de Cuenca in Salamanca and finally the private library of King Charles IV of Spain in 1802. As a result of the Peninsular War, it came into the possession of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Thus the manscript acquired the title the "Wellington Murúa." It was later sold at auction to a collector in Cologne, Germany, changing hands once more before its "rediscovery" by Manuel Ballesteros Gaibrois in the early 1950s. Ballesteros Gaibrois published a two volume edition of Historia general del Piru in 1962 and 1964 " (Wikipedia article on Fray Martín de Murúa, accessed 07-21-2011). 

In 1983 the Getty Museum acquired the "Wellington Murúa" as part of the Ludwig collection of manuscripts (Ludwig XIII 16).

In 2004 a facsimile of the Galvin Murúa was published by Testimonio Compañia Editorial Madrid.

In 2008 the Getty Museum published a volume of research on both manuscripts together with a facsimile of the Getty manuscript. Among the research results were a demonstration that several images (including two by Guaman Poma) from the Galvin Murúa were removed and pasted into the Getty Murúa, although overall the Galvin Murúa contains more images than its counterpart. The images in both manuscripts were colored using paints, dyes, and silver from the Americas and Europe.

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Sir Robert Bruce Cotton Forms One of the Most Important Private Collections of Manuscripts Ever Collected in England 1588 – 1631

In 1588 English politician Sir Robert Bruce Cotton began collecting original manuscripts, an activity which he continued until his death in 1631. One of the foundations of the British Museum since 1753, and hence of the British Library, Cotton's library of 958 manuscripts has been called the most important collection of manuscripts ever assembled in Britain by a private individual. Competing for this designation would, of course, be Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker's library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Parker, who began collecting in 1568, preceded Cotton in his collecting by a generation. The Sir Thomas Phillipps library, though formed in the nineteenth century and dispersed, was many times larger than either Cotton's or Parker's libraries, and also needs to be considered for the designation. 

Among Cotton's many treasures were the Lindisfarne Gospels, two of the contemporary exemplifications of Magna Carta, and the only surviving manuscript of Beowulf.  The first published catalogue of the Cottonian Library was Thomas Smith's Catalogus Librorum Manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Cottonianae, a substantial folio volume including a life of Robert Cotton and a history of the library published in Oxford in 1696. 

On October 23, 1731 Cotton's library suffered very significant damage in a fire where it was stored at Ashburnham House in London. Of its 958 manuscripts 114 were "lost, burnt or intirely spoiled" and another 98 damaged enough to be considered defective. The Wikipedia article on Ashburnham House states  

"a contemporary records the librarian, Dr. Bentley, leaping from a window with the priceless Codex Alexandrinus under one arm. The manuscript of Beowulf was damaged, and reported in 'The Gentleman's Magazine.' "  

An expert committee was formed to investigate the cause of the fire and assess the damage. This resulted in A Report from the Committee appointed to view the Cottonian Library and such of the Publick Records of this Kingdom as they think proper and to Report to the House the Condition thereof together with what they shall judge fit to be done for the better Reception Preservation and more convenient Use of the same (London, 1732). David Casley (1681/2-1754), deputy librarian of both the Royal and Cottonian collections, and a member of this committee, compiled the list of damaged and destroyed Cotton manuscripts, which was printed in an appendix to the committee's report. Casley described a number of manuscripts as "burnt to a crust." The Committee was also "empowered to investigate the state of the public records as a whole. They found that for the most part they were 'in great Confusion and Disorder' and much in need of care and attention" (Miller, That Noble Cabinet, 36).

The 1732 report also contained an appendix consisting of "A Narrative of the Fire. . . and of the Methods used for preserving and recovering the Manuscripts of the Royal and Cottonian libraries,"  compiled by the Reverend William Whiston the younger, the clerk in charge of the records kept in the Chapter House at Westminster, another notorious firetrap. Almost immediately after the fire attempts at restoration or stabilization of some of the damaged manuscripts was undertaken, mostly by inexperienced workers under the supervision of members of the committee, using whatever methods were available, and thus potentially damaging as much as preserving what remained.  

In April 1837, palaeographer Frederic Madden, Assistant Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum, was shown a garret of the old museum building which contained a large number of burnt and damaged fragments and vellum codices. Madden immediately identified these as part of the Cottonan Library. During his tenure as Keeper of MSS, Madden undertook extensive conservation work on the Cottonian manuscripts, often in the face of opposition from the Museum’s board, who deemed the enterprise prohibitively expensive.

In collaboration with the bookbinder Henry Gough, Madden developed a conservation strategy that restored even the most badly damaged fragments and manuscripts to a usable state. Vellum sheets were cleaned and flattened and mounted in paper frames. Where possible, they were rebound in their original codices. Madden also carried out conservation work on the rest of the Cottonian Library. By 1845 the conservation work was largely complete, though Madden was to suffer one more setback when a fire broke out in the Museum bindery, destroying some additional manuscripts in the Cottonian Library.  The process of restoring and conserving these precious manuscripts, which continues to this day, was studied extensively by Andrew Prescott in " 'Their Present Miserable State of Cremation' : the Restoration of the Cotton Library," Sir Robert Cotton as Collector" Essays on an Early Stuart Courtier and His Legacy, edited by C. J. Wright (1997) 391-454. This paper, and its 357 footnotes, was available online in April 2012.

"The Cottonian Library was the richest private collection of manuscripts ever amassed; of secular libraries it outranked the Royal library, the collections of the Inns of Court and the College of Arms; Cotton's house near the Palace of Westminster became the meeting-place of the Society of Antiquaries and of all the eminent scholars of England; it was eventually donated to the nation by Cotton's grandson and now resides at the British Library.

"The physical arrangement of Cotton's Library continues to be reflected in citations to manuscripts once in his possession. His library was housed in a room 26 feet (7.9 m) long by six feet wide filled with bookpresses, each with the bust of a figure from classical antiquity on top. Counterclockwise, these are catalogued as Julius (i.e., Julius Caesar), Augustus, Cleopatra, Faustina, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. (Domitian had only one shelf, perhaps because it was over the door.) Manuscripts are now designated by library, bookpress, and number: for example, the manuscript of Beowulf is designated Cotton Vitellius A.xv, and the manuscript of Pearl is Cotton Nero A.x" (Wikipedia article on Sir Robert Cotton, accessed 11-22-2008).

The most useful version of Smith's 1696 catalogue of Cotton's library, published in somewhat reduced format, was the offset reprint done from Sir Robert Harley's copy, annotated by his librarian Humfrey Wanley, together with documents relating to the fire of 1731. This annotated edition included translations into English of the Latin essays on the life of Robert Cotton and the history of the library. Edited by C.G.C. Tite, it was published in 1984. See also Tite, The Early Records of Sir Robert Cotton's Library. Formation, Cataloguing, Use (2003). 

Sharpe, Sir Robert Cotton 1586-1631. History and Politics in Early Modern England (1979).

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1600 – 1650

English Book Owners in the 17th Century. A Work in Progress Listing by David Pearson 1600 – 1700

"English book owners in the seventeenth century
A work in progress listing

"How much do we really know about patterns and impacts of book ownership in Britain in the seventeenth century? How well equipped are we to answer questions such as the following?:

 What was a typical private library, in terms of size and content, in the seventeenth century?
 How does the answer to that question vary according to occupation, social status, etc?
 How does the answer vary over time? – how different are ownership patterns in the middle of the century from those of the beginning, and how different are they again at the end?

"Having sound answers to these questions will contribute significantly tour understanding of print culture and the history of the book more widely during this period. 

"Our current state of knowledge is both imperfect, and fragmented. There is no directory or comprehensive reference source on seventeenth-century British book owners, although there are numerous studies of individual collectors. There are well-known names who are regularly cited in this context – Cotton, Dering, Pepys – and accepted wisdom as to collections which were particularly interesting or outstanding, but there is much in this area that deserves to be challenged. Private Libraries in Renaissance England and Books in Cambridge Inventories have developed a more comprehensive approach to a particular (academic) kind of owner, but they are largely focused on the sixteenth century. Sears Jayne, Library Catalogues of the English Renaissance, extends coverage to 1640, based on book lists found in a variety of manuscript sources. The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland (2006) contains much relevant information in this field, summarising existing scholarship, and references to this have been included in individual entries below where appropriate.

"Evidence of book ownership in this period is manifested in a variety of ways, which need to be brought together if we are to develop that fuller picture. Lists of books once owned by particular people can be found in sale catalogues, private catalogues, wills, and other various
kinds of inventory. Many collections for which no such lists exist are witnessed to today by surviving books, with inscriptions, bookplates, armorial bindings, and numerous other kinds of copy-specific markings. Some collections survive entire, where they were bequeathed or
bought en bloc, while others were scattered and are much harder to reconstruct. Working from surviving books is bedevilled not only by the fact that owners did not always mark their books, but also by needing to remember that vast quantities of books have been destroyed
since the seventeenth century. There are many collections which once existed which we will never be able to recognise. The quantity of material in our libraries today is nevertheless sufficient to allow us to make significant advances in our knowledge of early book ownership,
if we can bring together that information.

"This list represents work in progress to construct a reference source on seventeenth-century English book owners, based on all these various kinds of evidence. It does not seek to cover Scottish and Irish owners, unless they were predominantly English-based. The aim is to focus 
on collections which were at least partly, if not entirely, formed within the seventeenth century and the list includes people who died between 1610 and 1715.

"The list draws largely on existing published work but also incorporates evidence of surviving books, taken mainly from sale and library catalogues. One of the challenges of this exercise lies in establishing criteria for inclusion, as regards size of collection. Is a private library of
this period interesting if it contains 50 books, 100 books, or 500 books? There is no simple answer to this; it depends on who the owner was, what the books were, and which part of the century it applies to. The list has been compiled on an essentially intuitive basis with the aim
of including people who did, or are likely to have, owned enough books to be worth noting in the context of developing that wider understanding. Refining and developing the list is part of the research process. We cannot list every individual who owned a Bible and a shelf of
devotional books, but a grocer who owned 50 books in 1620 may be at least as interesting as an academic who owned 500. The list does not include people who are likely to have been owners, but for whom there is no surviving evidence. A number of known users of armorial
binding stamps are included, together with users of bookplates, found the Franks collection, and known to have died before 1715 (these are both areas where other projects and  and directories are being worked on).

"The arrangement of the list should be self-evident, alphabetical by owners’ names, with some entries relating to families rather than individuals (this, again, is an area where more thought is needed as to how best to cope with collections built up over more than one generation). The references cited are not meant to be exhaustive; abbreviated references are expanded in the list at the end.

"One of the ways in which an online resource like this can be useful is by providing quick links to images of the kinds of provenance evidence which various owners left in their books, so that identifications can be verified (is this inscription I’m looking at the man I think it is, or another owner of the same name? etc). I have been gradually adding links to other websites which include useful images like this. One of the features of this latest version of the list is the addition of links to a number of other images of inscriptions and bookplates, which I have put onto Flickr. I will aim to augment this over time. The list also now includes links to the
database of British Armorial Bindings, begun by John Morris and completed by Philip Oldfield, and freely available on the web via the University of Toronto and the sponsorship of the Bibliographical Society. This major reference work contains details and images of all
known armorial binding stamps used by British owners not only in the seventeenth century, but from the earliest use of suecvh stamps in the sixteenth century through to the present day.

"I am sharing this list through bibliographical Internet sites partly because, imperfect and incomplete though it is, the list may already have enough data to be useful in various kinds of ways, and partly in the hope of stimulating responses and ideas as to how it should be developed. It may also be useful as a list of references and sources of further leads on particular owners. I will be very glad to have suggestions for names and references which should be added, or any other feedback from others who are interested in this area of book history as to how to take this project forward (many thanks to everyone who has already contacted me in this way, including Bob Fehrenbach, Peter Hoare, Philip Oldfield, Jeremy Potter, Renae Satterley and David Shaw). I am happy for any or all of the data here to beused in any ways that are helpful to fellow book historians though I would appreciate the source being cited where appropriate.

"David Pearson
Revised December 2013
Email drspearson@dsl.pipex.com" (The Bibliographical Society Electronic Publications 2007 [latest version December 2013], accessed 11-30-2014)

In November 2014 Mr. Pearson's bibliographical listing, including many links to other websites, was available from The Bibliographical Society at this link.

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Matteo Ricci Issues the First European-Style World Map in Chinese & the First Chinese Map to Show the Americas 1602

Drawn by Jesuit missionary, sinologist and polymath, Matteo RicciKūnyú Wànguó Quántú (坤輿萬國全圖 ("A Map of the Myriad Countries of the World") issued in 1602 was the first European-style world map in Chinese. Five feet (1.52 m) high and twelve feet (3.66 m) wide, it was printed from six large woodblocks and intended to be mounted on a folding screen. 

"Drawing of the map followed a first primitive map by Ricci, printed in 1584, named Yudi Shanhai Quantu (舆地山海全图). made in Zhaoqing, in 1584 by the Jesuit priest, Matteo Ricci. Ricci was one of the first Western scholars to live in China, master of Chinese script and the Classical Chinese language. Ricci created smaller versions of the map at the request of the governor of Zhaoqing at the time, Wang Pan, who wanted the document to serve as a resource for explorers and scholars.

"Later, Ricci was the first Westerner to enter Peking, bringing atlases of Europe and the West that were unknown to his hosts. The Chinese had maps of the East that were equally unfamiliar to Western scholars. In 1602, at the request of the Wanli Emperor, Ricci collaborated with Mandarin Zhong Wentao, technical translator Li Zhizao. and other Chinese scholars in what is now Beijing to create what was his third and largest world map.

"In this map, European geographic knowledge, new to the Chinese, was combined with Chinese information to create the first map known to combine Chinese and European cartography. Among other things, this map revealed the existence of America to the Chinese. Ford W. Bell said: 'This was a great collaboration between East and West. It really is a very clear example of how trade was a driving force behind the spread of civilization.'

"Several prints of the map were made in 1602. Only seven original copies of the map are known to exist and only two are in good condition. Known copies are in the Vatican Apostolic Library Collection I; Vatican Apostolic Library Collection II; Japan Kyoto University Collection; collection of Japan Miyagi Prefecture Library; Collection of the Library of the Japanese Cabinet; a private collection in Paris, France and one recently sold in London (formerly in a private collection in Japan). No examples of the map are known to exist in China, where Ricci was revered and buried.

"Ferdinand Verbiest would later develop a similar but improved map, the Kunyu Quantu in 1674" (Wikipedia article on Impossible Black Tulip, accessed 01-13-2010).

In December 2009 The James Ford Bell Trust announced that in October 2009 it had acquired for the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, one of the two "good" copies of the Kūnyú Wànguó Quántú  from Bernard J. Shapero, a noted London dealer in rare books and maps in London, for $1 million. This was the second most expensive map purchase in history after the Library of Congress purchase of the Waldseemüller World Map. The James Ford Bell copy previously was in a private collection in Japan.

The first public exhibition of the Kūnyú Wànguó Quántú was held at the Library of Congress in January 2010.

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Thomas Bodley Founds The Bodleian, the First "Public" Library in England, & the First British National Library November 8, 1602 – 1605

On November 8, 1602 the Bodleian Library at Oxford opened to the "public" with a collection of 2000 books assembled by Thomas Bodley. It was intended to replace the library that had been donated to the Divinity School at Oxford by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (brother of Henry V), but which had been dispersed in the 16th century at the orders of young Edward VI, successor to Henry VIII.

Between 1598 and 1605, when the first catalogue of the Bodleian was published, Bodley and his circle secured sufficient donations of books and cash to create a library of about 8,700 volumes, making it effectively the British national library. From the start the Bodleian was the first "public" rather than "private" library in England, and one of the first "public" libraries in Europe. On May 26, 2015 I had the opportunity to visit the spectacular new facilities of the Bodleian at Clarendon House in Oxford during a Grolier Club gathering in England, and I was able to ask Richard Ovenden, the director of the Bodleian Library, to explain what the concept of a 'public" library meant at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Mr. Ovenden, whose official title is "Bodley's Librarian," explained that public in this context meant that the library was open to qualified scholars, but not to the general public in the way that we define a public library today. The concept of providing a library for the use of qualified scholars at a university was new, as other libraries at the time were essentially private.

The first catalogue of the Bodleian, compiled by its first librarian, Thomas James, indicated its public nature in its title: Catalogus librorum bibliothecae publicae quam vir ornatissimus Thomas Bodleius Eques. . . . When I revised this entry in May 2015 I did not find a digital edition of the 1605 catalogue available; however the catalogue had been reproduced in facsimile as The first printed Catalogue of the Bodleian Library 1605 (Oxford, 1986). From that facsimile one could "read the shelves" in the organizational arrangement by subject favored by Bodley. Most entries listed author, title, place and date of publication. The catalogue concluded with a lengthy author index across all subjects.

"Although the University of Oxford must yield priority at least to the University of Leiden in publishing a general catalogue of its books, it remains true that the Bodleian in 1605 was the first institutional library to produce a substantial and widely distributed record of a collection which had, from its foundation, world-wide fame" (Introduction to the 1986 facsimile, vii.)

Together with its mission of providing service to qualified scholars, the Bodleian required an oath to be sworn by all readers before admission:

"You promise and solemnly engage before God. . . that whenever you shall enter the public library of the University, you will frame your mind to study in modesty and silence, and will use the books and other furniture in such manner that they may last as long as possible. Also that you will neither yourself in your own person steal, change, make erasures, deform, tear, cut, write notes in, interline, wilfully spoil, obliterate, defile, or in any other way retrench, ill-use, wear away or deteriorate any book or books nor authorise anyother person to do the like" (quoted by Pettegree, The Book in the Renaissance [2010] 230). 

Alexander Marr, "Learned Benefaction: Science, Civility and Donations of Books and Instruments to the Bodleian Library Before 1605," Documenting the Early Modern Book World. Inventories and Catalogues in Manuscript and Print, ed. Walsby & Constantinidou (2013) 27-50.

(This entry was last revised on 05-27-2015.)

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Federico Cesi Founds the Accademia dei Lincei, the First Scientific Society August 17, 1603

Believing that nature should be studied through direct observation, and not through the filter of Aristotelian philosophy, on August 17, 1603 scientist, naturalist and son of the first Duke of Acquasparta, Federico Cesi, together with Dutch scientist Johannes van Heeck (Eck), and Count Anastasio De Filiis, and Italian scientist and Latin translator, Francesco Stelluti founded the Accademia dei Lincei (the "Academy of the Lynx-Eyed") in Rome. 

"The four men chose the name 'Lincei' (lynx) from Giambattista della Porta's book 'Magia Naturalis', which had an illustration of the fabled cat on the cover and the words '. . . with lynx like eyes, examining those things which manifest themselves, so that having observed them, he may zealously use them'. Accademia dei Lincei's symbols were both a lynx and an eagle; animals with keen sight. The academy's motto, chosen by Cesi, was: 'Take care of small things if you want to obtain the greatest results' (minima cura si maxima vis). When Cesi visited Naples, he met the polymath della Porta. Della Porta encouraged Cesi to continue with his endeavours. Giambattista della Porta joined Cesi's academy in 1610.

"Galileo was inducted to the exclusive academy on December 25, 1611, and became its intellectual center. Galileo clearly felt honoured by his association with the academy for he adopted Galileo Galilei Linceo as his signature. The academy published his works and supported him throughout his disputes with the Roman Catholic Church. Among the academy's early publications in the fields of astronomy, physics and botany were the study of sunspots and the famous Saggiatore of Galileo, and the Tesoro Messicano (Mexican Treasury) describing the flora, fauna and drugs of the New World, which took decades of labor, down to 1651. With this publication, the first, most famous phase of the Lincei was concluded. Cesi's own intense activity was cut short by his sudden death in 1630 at forty-five.

"The Linceans produced an important collection of micrographs, or drawings made with the help of the newly invented microscope. After Cesi's death, the Accademia dei Lincei closed and the drawings were collected by Cassiano dal Pozzo, a Roman antiquarian, whose heirs sold them. The majority of the collection was procured by George III of the United Kingdom in 1763. The drawings were discovered in Windsor Castle in 1986 by art historian David Freedberg. They are being published as part of The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo" (Wikipedia article on Accademia dei Lincei, accessed 11-27-2010).

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Federico Borromeo Founds the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, the Second "Public" Library in Europe December 8, 1609

On 1609 Cardinal Federico Borromeo founded the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan. Depending on how "public library" is defined, the Ambrosiana was possibly the the second public library in Europe, after the Bodleian at Oxford. However, the Ambrosiana was preceded in Italy by the library at the Domincan convent of San Marco (1444) and the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (1571), both of which were characterized as "public" libraries when they were founded. Thus, there may be some uncertainly as to which library was actually the first "public" library in Europe.

To build up the Ambrosiana's collections Cardinal Borromeo's agents scoured Western Europe, and even Greece and Syria for books and manuscripts. In 1606 they acquired the complete manuscripts of the Benedictine monastery of Bobbio, founded in 614, and the library of the Paduan Vincenzo Pinelli, whose more than 800 manuscripts filled 70 cases when they were sent to Milan, and included the famous extremely early illuminated miniatures of the Iliad, the Ilias Ambrosiana.

"During Cardinal Borromeo's sojourns in Rome, 1585–95 and 1597–1601, he envisioned developing this library in Milan as one open to scholars and that would serve as a bulwark of Catholic scholarship against the treatises issuing from Protestant presses. To house the cardinal's 15,000 manuscripts and twice that many printed books, Construction began in 1603 under designs and direction of Lelio Buzzi and Francesco Maria Richini. When its first reading room, the Sala Fredericiana, opened to the public, December 8, 1609, it was, after the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the second public library in Europe. One innovation was that its books were housed in cases ranged along the walls, rather than chained to reading tables, a practice seen still today in the Laurentian Library of Florence. A printing press was attached to the library, and a school for instruction in the classical languages.

"Cardinal Borromeo gave his collection of paintings and drawings to the library too. Shortly after the cardinal's death his library acquired twelve manuscripts of Leonardo da Vinci, including the Codex Atlanticus. . . ." (Wikipedia article on the Biblioteca Ambroisiana).

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Cassiano & Carlo Antonio dal Pozzo Attempt to Record All Human Knowledge in Visual Form Circa 1625 – 1665

The "Museo Cartaceo" ("Paper Museum"), a collection of more than 7,000 watercolors, drawings and prints assembled by the Roman patron and collector Cassiano dal Pozzo and his youngest brother Carlo Antonio from 1625 to 1665, represents one of the most significant attempts made before the age of photography to embrace the widest range of human knowledge in visual form. Documenting ancient art and architecture, botany, geology, ornithology and zoology, the collection is a significant tool for understanding the cultural and intellectual concerns of a period during which the foundations of our own scientific methods were laid down.

"The Paper Museum reflects the taste and intellectual breadth of Cassiano dal Pozzo, one of the most learned and enthusiastic of all seventeenth-century Roman collectors. As secretary to Cardinal Francesco Barberini, patron of artists such as Poussin, and a friend of Galileo, Cassiano crossed the boundaries of artistic, scientific and political disciplines to create his unique visual encyclopaedia. His patronage extended to both the well-known and the lesser-known artists of his day, and his close connections with leading European scientists, scholars and philosophers kept him informed of the latest archaeological and scientific discoveries. His younger brother Carlo Antonio came to share his interests and played a significant role in augmenting and arranging the collection.

"Through his association with Federico Cesi, Prince of Acquasparta (1585–1630), and his membership of the Accademia dei Lincei (the first modern scientific society, founded by Cesi), Cassiano assembled visual evidence of scientifically – and for the first time microscopically – observed natural phenomena, thus establishing a firm basis for scientific classification. Fruit, flora, fungi, fauna, minerals and fossils – all were meticulously recorded, whether commonplace or exotic. He applied the same rigour and systematic methodology to his antiquarian studies: classical and early medieval monuments and artefacts were painstakingly drawn and classified to form a unique survey of ancient architecture, religion, custom, dress and spectacle" (http://warburg.sas.ac.uk/pozzo/prospectus.pdf, accessed 0-03-2010).

The "Paper Museum" was sold by Cassiano’s heirs to the Albani Pope Clement XI , who resold it to his connoisseur nephew Cardinal Alessandro Albani in the early eighteenth century. It remained in the Albani collection until a substantial portion was acquired by George III, also a scientific amateur, in 1762 for his library at Buckingham House. In 1834, the collection was transferred to the Royal Library created by William IV at Windsor Castle, where it forms part of the Royal Collection. Other portions are at the British Library, the British Museum, the botanical gardens at Kew (mycological specimens) , the library of Sir John Soane's Museum. Portions not purchased for George III are preserved at the Institut de France and various other public and private collections. 

Since the 1990s a project has been underway to publish the drawings and prints in the ‘Museo Cartaceo’ in a series of thirty-six volumes, arranged by subject matter following the method of classification employed by Cassiano himself. The series is entitled The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo ~ A Catalogue Raisonné.

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Gabriel Naudé Issues One of the Earliest Works on Librarianship 1627

While a medical student in 1627 Gabriel Naudé published in Paris one of the earliest works on book-collecting and librarianship: Avis pour dresser une bibliothèque.

Naude's book, written while he served as librarian for Henri de Mesme, Président à Mortier in the Parliament of Paris and councillor to Louis XIII, contained an early mention of the goal of creating a public universal library:

"And therefore I shall ever think it extremely necessary, to collect for this purpose all sorts of books, (under such precautions, yet, as I shall establish) seeing a Library which is erected for the public benefit, ought to be universal; but which it can never be, unlesse it comprehend all the principal authors, that have written upon the great diversity of particular subjects, and chiefly upon all the arts and sciences; [. . .] For certainly there is nothing which renders a Library more recommendable, then when every man findes in it that which he is in search of . . . ."

When Naudé wrote only three "public" libraries existed in Europe: the Bodleian Library opened at Oxford in 1602, the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana founded in Milan by Cardinal Federigo in 1609, and the Bibliotheca Angelica, opened for public service in Rome, also in 1609.

Naudé's work was first translated into English by John Evelyn, and published as Instructions Concerning Erecting of a Library in 1651.

Clarke, Gabriel Naudé 1600-1653 (1970).

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A Decree of the Star Chamber Concerning Printing July 11, 1637 July 11, 1637

During the reign of Charles I, the English Star Chamber court that sat at the Palace of Westminster issued a decree on July 11, 1637, making it a general offense to print, import, or sell "any seditious, scismaticall, or offensive Bookes or Pamphlets." The decree was published as a pamphlet from London by Robert Barker, "Printer to the King's most Excellent Maiestie: And by the Assignes of John Bill, entitled A Decree of Starre-Chamber, Concerning Printing, Made the eleuenth day of July last past. 1637.

The decree also forbade anything to be printed which had not first been licensed and entered in the Stationers' Register, a record book maintained by the Stationers' Company of London. The company had been given a royal charter in 1557 to regulate the various professions associated with the publishing industry, including printers, bookbinders, booksellers, and publishers in England. The Register itself allowed publishers to document their right to produce a particular printed work, and constituted an early form of copyright law. The Company's charter gave it the right to seize illicit editions and bar the publication of unlicensed books. The decree also stated that nothing could be reprinted without being re-licensed.  

The decree further stated that in all cases the full signed imprimatur was to be printed; the names of the printer and the author were to be printed as well. The decree also limited the number of master printers to twenty, and specifyied the number of presses, journeymen, and apprentices each could have. The decree also made it an offense to work for an unlicensed printer, or to operate an unlicensed press. 

In 1884 The Grolier Club issued a deluxe limited edition reprint of this decree as their first publication, printed by the De Vinne Press, New York. Eric Holzenberg, Publications of the Grolier Club 1884-2009 IN: For Jean Grolier and His Friends, No. P1,

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Bernhard von Mallinckrodt Coins the Term Incunabula 1639

In 1639 Bernhard von Mallinckrodt, dean of Münster cathedral and a noted book collector, issued a pamphlet from Cologne entitled De ortu et progressu artis typographicae (Of the Rise and Progress of the Typographic Art) to mark the bicentennary of the invention of printing by movable type in Europe. Mallinckrodt's work, which defended the priority of Johann Gutenberg, included the phrase prima typographicae incunabula (the first cradle of printing, or more loosely, the infancy of printing). This was the origin of the term incunabula, still used to describe books and broadsheets printed before 1500— the arbitrary cut-off date that Mallinckrodt selected. Today the term incunabula (singular: incunabulum) is typically applied to imprints before 1501.

According to Ohly, "Das Inkunabelverzeichnis Bernhard von Mallinckrodts," Westfälische Studien, Alois Bömer zum 60. Geburtstag, Degerling & Menn, eds. (1928), as cited by Libreria Alberto Govi, Catalogue 2013, no. 99, at his death Mallinckrodt  possessed a library of nearly 5500 works, including about 200 incunabula from over 100 printers.  

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1650 – 1700

Samuel Pepys' Library: One of the Most Significant Private Libraries Preserved Intact from 17th Century England, in its Original Bookcases Circa 1650 – 1703

A painting of Samuel Pepys by John Hayls, 1666.

The title page of Newton's Principia.

The library of diarist Samuel Pepys is one of the most significant private libraries preserved intact from seventeenth century England. At Pepys's death in 1703 it included more than 3,000 volumes, including his diary, kept from 1600-1669, all carefully catalogued and indexed. Preserved at Magdalene College, Cambridge, the library, most of which Pepys collected during the last thirteen years of his life, is arranged by size, from No. 1 (the smallest) to No. 3,000 (the largest), and housed in the original twelve seventeenth-century oak bookcases just as Pepys arranged it.  A peculiarity of Pepys's arrangement was that he wanted each book on each shelf to be the same height, and when any book was shorter than the others he had a wooden base made for it, the visible portion of which was rounded and covered in tooled leather to resemble the spine of the book which would sit on it. Pepys's bookcases, also called presses, are among the earliest surviving examples of bookcases in the modern sense. The fine bindings on the books, mostly done for Pepys, are also significant.

Among the most famous items in the Library are the original bound manuscripts of Pepys's diary, and Pepys's copy of the first edition of Newton's Principia (1687), published under Pepys's imprimatur as President of the Royal Society. The library also includes remarkable holdings of incunabula, manuscripts, and printed ballads.

"Most of his [Pepys's] leisure he now spent on his library. He intensified his search for books and prints, setting himself a target of 3000 volumes. Pepys and his library clerk devised a great three-volume catalogue; collated Pepysian copies with those in other collections; adorned volume upon volume with exquisite title pages written calligraphically by assistants; pasted prints into their guard-books; and inserted indexes and lists of contents" (http://www.magd.cam.ac.uk/pepys/latham.html, accessed 02-28-2015).

Pepys made detailed provisions in his will for the preservation of his book collection. When his nephew and heir, John Jackson, died in 1723, it was transferred intact to the Pepys Library, kept in the Pepys Building on the grounds of Magdalene College.

Hobson, Great Libraries (1970) 212-221.

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David Teniers the Younger Publishes the First Published Illustrated Catalogue of an Art Collection 1660

In 1660 David Teniers the Younger, court painter in Archduke Leopold William's court in Brussels, issued the Theatrum Pictorium, a catalogue of 243 Italian paintings belonging to his patron, Hapsburg Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, cousin of King Philip IV of Spain, and Governor of the Southern Netherlands (comprising most of modern Belgium).  Containing the engraved reproductions of 243 paintings, this was the first published illustrated catalogue of an art collection. Remarkably Teniers had the first edition printed in Dutch, French, Spanish and Latin, and the work later went through five more editions: 1673 (4 languages), 1684 (Latin), c. 1700 (Latin) and 1755 (French). 

During the single decade of his governorship (1646-56) Leopold Wilhelm formed one of the greatest art collections of his age, and Teniers effectively became its curator. Leopold Wilhelm’s collection came to number approximately 1,300 works, including paintings by Holbein, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Van Eyck, Raphael, Giorgione, Veronese and more than 15 works by Titian. This collection now forms the heart of Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum.

van Claerbergen (ed) David Teniers and the Theatre of Painting (2006).

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The First Work in English on the Technique of Engraving and Etching 1662

In 1662 English painter and engraver William Faithorne published in London The Art of Graveing and Etching wherein is exprest the true way of Graveing in Copper, allso the manner & method of that famous Callot & Mr. Bosse, in their seuerall ways of Etching. The first work in English on engraving and etching, Faithorne's book was primarily a translation of Bosse's Tracté des manières de graver en taille douce sur l'airin (1645)The second edition, or second issue, of Faithorne's book appeared in 1702. The 1702 edition added "The way of Printing Copper-Plates, and how to make the Press."

In February 2013 Marlborough Rare Books of London offered for £18,500 a unique copy of the first edition of Faithorne's book, which retained a suppressed second part, comprising pages 49-72, "The Way of Printing Copper-Plates, And withal How to make the Press" that was first published in the second edition. From their description of the copy I quote:

"The book is a translation of Abraham Bosse’s Traité des Manières de grave[r] 1645 which was undertaken by Faithorne. For some unknown reason Faithorne decided to suppress the second part although he had taken the trouble to translate it, engrave the six plates and have it printed. John Evelyn, his ‘Advertisement’ appended to his own translation of Bosse’s work under the title Sculptura, states that he, as well as Faithorne, had made a translation of the second part, ‘but, understanding it to be also the design of Mr. Faithorn, who had (it seems) translated the first part of it, and is himself by Profession a Graver, and an excellent Artist; that I might neither anticipate the worlds expectation, nor the workmans pains, to their prejudice, I desisted from printing my copy, and subjoyning it to this discourse.’

"This second part of Evelyn’s translation did not therefore appear in his Sculptura 1662 or any subsequent edition until the discovery of the manuscript at the Royal Society. The complete Evelyn translation was not to appear until 1906.

"Although the pagination is continuous to both parts of Faithorne’s work the type is slightly different and the sheets are now gathered in fours rather than eight’s. Clearly there was some sort of a hiatus when Faithorne learnt that Evelyn was going to publish a translation. It seems likely that an agreement was decided between the two translators on who indeed was going to actually publish this second part. It is quite possible that Faithorne became aware of the deleterious effect that publishing a guide to printing copperplates could have on his own business and quickly supressed the second part. For whatever reason the only evidence today that the second part ever saw the light of day in 1662 is the present copy.

"It was not until 1921 when a 1702 reissue surfaced, with new title and additional preliminary matter, that this second part was known to have been printed at all. To date ten libraries now hold copies of the 1702 issue, but the only copy of Faithorne’s work as it was intended to be issued is the present copy.

''This copy has only come to market twice in the last 150 years. It appeared sometime in the early 1950s when the Robinson brothers were slowly disposing of the enormous Thomas Phillips collection. Apparently it may have been sold whilst the catalogue was still in proof to the collector C.E. Kenney for £125. It next appeared in the eighth and last sale of C.E. Kenney library on 21st October 1968 as lot 4334 when it was bought by Sanders of Oxford for Christopher Lennox-Boyd at £680."

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Michel de Marolles Writes the First Book on Print Collecting 1666

In 1666 French churchman, translator, and print collector Michel de Marolles, abbé de Villeloin, published in Paris at the press of F. Leonard Catalogue de livres d’estampes et de figures en taille douce, the first book on print collecting. Marolles had his collection of 123,400 engravings "by more than 6,000 masters" bound into 400 large volumes (p. 15). He arranged the collection into schools, and in his preliminary and concluding essays he illuminated market conditions and the methods and tastes of fellow collectors. He also documented the relative weighting, in acquisition decisions, of physical condition, rarity, provenance, artist, engraver and the beauty of the image. Perhaps as a result of this book Louis XIV's finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, purchased Marolles' print collection for 26,000 livres, and it became the basis of the Cabinét des Estampes at the Bibliothèque royale (Bibliothèque nationale de France).

In his Discours en forme de préface (19pp.) Marolles described his project for a History of Painters (Histoire des peintures). Not having a family, he wrote that he put together this catalogue in case he would need to sell his collection. In his book Les Amateurs d'autrefois (1877) museum director, art historian and collector Louis Clément de Ris told of searching unsuccessfully for the terms of Marolles' deal with Colbert. Not finding any record, de Ris suspected that Marolles' may have sold the collection discretely, and that Colbert requested the catalogue.

Marolles distinguished "originals", i.e. those engraved by the master, from those engraved by others. He identified a substantial number of engravers, and he explained to other collectors how to arrange their collections into albums. He also listed the plates in many famous illustrated books subjects like cartography, architecture, travel.

In February 2015 it was my pleasure to acquire for my collection a copy of Marolles' work in a contemporary French red morocco binding. This book, which I bought from Jean-Baptiste de Proyart, was formerly in the library of the distinguished collector and connoiseur Hans (Jean) Fürstenberg.

Schanapper, Curieux du grand siècle, Collections et collectionneurs dans la France du XVIIe siècle II. Oeuvres d'art (1994) 247-48.

In March 2015 a reproduction of an excellent engraved portrait of Marolles by Claude Mellan, and dated 1648, was available from the Art Gallery of New South Wales at this link.

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Construction of Samuel Pepys's Bookshelves -- Among the Earliest Extant August 17, 1667

On August 17, 1667 Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:

"So took up my wife and home, there I to the office, and thence with Sympson, the joyner home to put together the press he hath brought me for my books this day, which pleases me exceedingly."

and a few days later he wrote:

"and then comes Sympson to set up my other new presses for my books, and so he and I fell into the furnishing of my new closett ... so I think it will be as noble a closett as any man hath."

"The surviving bookcases have paired glazed doors each in 21 small panes, over a low section, also with glazed panes, made to hold large folio volumes. The door of the lower section slide to the side like a sash window, probably Pepys' own invention. The base moldings and cornices are finely and robustly carved with acanthus leaf. Such tall bookcases with doors glazed like paned windows, were a contemporary innovation, but Pepys was alert and curious and well-connected in London, and there is no reason to think his "book-presses" were the very first with glass-paned doors. Pepys began with three or four and kept adding to them until he had twelve" (Wikipedia article on Sympson the joyner, accessed 02-18-2009).

Wormald & Wright, The English Library before 1700 (1958) illustrate as plate 2 a drawing preserved in the Pepysian Library showing how the bookcases were originally arranged in Pepys' house in York Buildings before they were moved to Magdalene College, Cambridge.

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François Mauriceau Founds the Science of Obstetrics 1668

Frontpiece detail from Les maladies des femmes grosses et accouchées.  Please click on link below to view and resize image of entire page.

François Mauriceau.

In 1668 French surgeon François Mauriceau published Des maladies des femmes grosses et accouchées. Avec la bonne et veritable méthode de les bien aider en leurs accouchemens naturels, & les moyens de remedier à tous ceux qui sont contre-nature, & aux indispositions des enfans nouveau-nés. Mauriceau issued his book with a frontispiece drawn by Antoine Paillet and engraved by Guillaume Vallet which included a cameo portrait of himself, illustrations of his instruments, and a notice in small print at the foot of the page with the address of his office where he could be consulted, as well as its cross-street. It was unusual in the 17th century for a medical author to advertise his practice on the frontispiece of a serious medical treatise.

Des maladies des femmes grosses et accouchées established obstetrics as a separate science and became, via its many translations, a dominant force in seventeenth-century obstetrical practice. While much in Mauriceau's treatise echoed the teachings of his predecessors, the work also included several important new features, such as Mauriceau's detailed analysis of the mechanism of labor, his introduction of the practice of delivering women in bed rather than in the obstetric chair, the earliest account of the prevention of congenital syphilis by antisyphilitic treatment during pregnancy, and the rebuttal of Paré's erroneous account of pubic separation during birth. The third edition (1681) contained Mauriceau's instructions for extracting the aftercoming head in breech delivery with the aid of an index finger in the infant's mouth, now called the "Mauriceau maneuver."

Mauriceau put the book through a total of four revised editions during his lifetime and translated it into Latin in 1681. It also appeared in German, Dutch, and Italian. In 1673 the work was translated into English by Hugh Chamberlen the elder, who discovered the obstetrical forceps, and whose family succeeded in maintaining a monopoly on the use of this device by keeping it a secret from the medical world for nearly two centuries. 

♦ Mauriceau published a dedication in his book "A tous mes chers confreres: Les Maitres Chirurgiens Jurez de la Ville de Paris." This was the illustrious Confraternité de Saint-Côme established in the 13th century. In 2010 it was my privilege to sell the dedication copy of this work, which Mauriceau presented to the Paris surgical society, bound in contemporary red morocco, gilt, emblazoned on the front and back cover with an inscription that read "Ce Livre Appartient a la Compagnie des Maistres Chirurgiens Jurez de Paris."  At the end of the printed dedication Mauriceau signed with his paraph. Later he noted the publication of each new edition in 1675, 1681, and 1694, by writing a notice to that effect and signing it, thus signing the final page of the dedication a total of four times. Each of the later inscriptions were written in slightly different colored inks. In addition, all pages of the text were red ruled by the binder--a highly unusual practice for a medical book.

Norman, Morton's Medical Bibliography, 5th ed. (1991) no. 6147. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1461. Norman, One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine (1995) no. 33. 

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"On the Burning of a Library": A Work of Self-Consolation 1670

As a result of the burning of his home and the destruction of his library, which included numerous unpublished manuscripts on a wide range of subjects, in 1670 Danish physician and anatomist, Thomas Bartholin, published in Copenhagen (København) De bibliothecae incendio, a work of self-consolation. In this work Bartholin recounted examples in history of other library losses through fire, and catalogued and summarized the vast amount of his intellectual work that was "lost to Vulcan." He also consoled himself with a bibliographical list of his works that had already been published in print, and thus had their content protected from catastrophic loss from fire:

"Books are not so readily exposed to destruction if they have multiplied themselves by the aid of type so that they may be read in more than a thousand copies dispersed throughout the earth, unless this universe which we inhabit be subjected to common ruin or flames spread themselves to all corners of the earth. It is by the benefit of divine art that I am as yet able to collect or seek again from friends or from booksellers my other works which were previously published. If judgment in this matter had been left in the hands of Vulcan, I should be bereft even of this small portion of my books. Unless it is burdensome to the reader, I shall subjoin a catalogue of my personal library constructed from works hitherto published in my name or dedicated to me, which Vulcan consumed with the rest, but with less harm to me since they are available elsewhere." (p. 32).

Bartholin then listed 129 printed works either written and published by him or dedicated to him.  At the end of De bibliothecae incendio Bartholin expressed gratitude that he survived the fire even if his "brain-children" were sacrified, and thanks the king, Christian V, for his support after this tragedy. By this time Bartholin was regarded as the leading physician in Denmark, and because of this tragic accident the king of Denmark freed Bartholin's estate of all taxes and appointed Bartholin his personal physician, with handsome compensation.

♦ Bartholin's work reflects a scholarly perspective very different from our time, and also exhibits what would have to be called credulity, especially with the following reference to Homer written in gold on a dragon's intestine—a story which, according to Bartholin, was repeated by several authorities:

"The library of Constantinople, founded by Theodosius the younger in 473, and a rival to that of Ptolemy [i.e. the Library of Alexandria], in the reign of the Emperor Zeno was consumed by a fire instigated by the leader of the image-breakers, the [later] Emperor Leo the Isaurian. Earlier, in the time of Basilicus Tyrannus, the same library had perished in flames aroused by the plebs in their hatred of Basilicus [Basiliscus], and among the books was the intestine of a dragon twenty feet long on which the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer had been written in letters of gold. But Claudius Clemens in his Bibliothecae Instructio considers that it had been snatched from the conflagration, because when Leo the Isaurian, struck by a mad fury against the sacred images, burned whatsoever volumes had been restored of the thirty-three thousand of the library, Constantinus, Cedrenus, Zonaras and Glycas testify that the intestine was still there, unless perchance, in a kind of veneration a new one had been fashioned in imitation of the former intestine which had perished in the first fire. According to the Annals of Constantinus Manassus [Manasses], translated by Lewenclavius, in which the fire is well described, I am disposed to consider the one instigated by Leo III, the Isaurian, as the first." (p.7.)

Bartholin, On the Burning of His Library and On Medical Travel, translated by C. D. O'Malley (1961) 7, 32. (Bracketed insertions and hyperlinks are my additions.)

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The World's Oldest Auction House is Founded 1674

Stockholms Auktionsverk (Stockholm's Auction House), the world's oldest auction house, was founded in 1674.

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The First Bibliography of Rare Books 1676

In 1678 philologist and bibliographer Johann Hallervord published the first bibliography of rare books issued with the book collector in mind: Bibliotheca curiosa in qua plurimi rarissimi atque paucis cogniti scriptores in Königsberg and Frankfurt. Hallervord (1644-1676) mentioned more than 2800 authors, and included information on anonymous and pseudonymous works. As the son of a bookseller, and probably a scion of the Hallervord family of publishers in Stettin, Hallervord had access to important  public and private libraries in Königsberg and in the Baltic regions, on which he was able to base his research.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 75.

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The First Country-Wide Printed Union Catalogue of Manuscripts 1697

In 1697, the year of the death of English astronomer and scholar Edward BernardCatalogi librorum manuscriptorum Angliae et Hiberniae in unum collecti cum indice alphabeticum was issued from Oxford at the Sheldonian Theatre, in two folio volumes. Listing around 30,000 manuscripts, this was the first printed attempt at a union catalogue of manuscripts for a country—England, including Ireland, the conquest of which had been completed by the British in 1691.  Centuries earlier in the Middle Ages union catalogues of manuscripts had been compiled in England. About 1320 Oxford Franciscans had compiled, on the basis of on-site surveys, the Registrum Anglie de libris doctorum et auctorum ueterum — a manuscript union catalogue of some 1400 manuscript books in England, Scotland and Wales, and around 1350 the Benedictine monk Henry of Kirkestede, prior of the royal abbey of St. Edmund at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk—traditionally known as Boston Burienis, compiled a union catalogue of manuscripts in English libraries entitled Catalogus de libris autenticis et aposcrifis

Bernard had worked on the catalogue for years when in 1692

"a movement started in Oxford to follow up the catalogue of printed books in Bodley with a catalogue of the manuscripts there and in college libraries. Dr. Edwards, Principal of Jesus, approached the curators of the Clarendon Press, who accepted the proposal. The scheme was enlarged to include the collections in Cambridge and in cathedral libraries and finally in private libraries. Cambridge kept aloof; only four colleges sent their catalogues, and the University Library and the remaining colleges were represented only by a reprint of the lists made by Thomas James in 1600. Bernard was in ill health and died on 12 January, 1697, while the book was still in the press" (Simpson, Proof-Reading in the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries [1970] 189, see also 190-94).

Though the printed catalogue identified Edward Bernard as the only author, it was actually a cooperative venture compiled by several scholars. Arthur Charlette, Master of University College, Oxford, seems to have been in charge of gathering information for the catalogue. However, the most significant contributor other than Bernard was probably the Harleian librarian, palaeographer and scholar of Old English Humpfrey Wanley. Wanley researched holdings of collectors in England whose libraries needed to be included, and was the author of four catalogues of holdings within the union catalogue: (1) the Free School at Coventry, (2) Basil Fielding, 4th Earl of Denbigh (3) St. Mary's Church, Warwick, and (4) John Ayres. Wanley also compiled the index to the entire work, wrote the Preface and corrected some of the proofs. References to Wanley's work on the catalogue appear in his letters. See Letters of Humfrey Wanley, Palaeographer, Anglo-Saxonist, Librarian, 1672-1726, Edited by P. L. Heyworth (1989). 

The catalogue is notable for containing the holdings of numerous significant private collectors as well as institutional libraries. Among the better-remembered collectors whose manuscripts are recorded are Samuel Pepys, John EveynWilliam Laud, Thomas Bodley, John Leland, Roger Dodsworth, Richard James, Robert Huntington, and Antony Wood. The crucial holdings of Sir Robert Cotton were not included in Bernard's catalogue because just one year earlier Thomas Smith's Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum bibliothecae Cottonianae had been issued in identical format by the same printer. My copy of Bernard's catalogue was bound at the time with Smith's catalogue of the Cottonian library at the back of its second volume. It would appear that the two works were intended to supplement one another. 

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1700 – 1750

Popol Vuh, The Book of the People, Known from a Single Manuscript 1701 – 2012

Between 1701 and 1703 Domincan priest, scholar and linguist Francesco Ximénez, serving in the parish at Santo Tomás Chichicastenango, a town in the El Quiché department of Guatemala, transcribed the corpus of mytho-historical narratives of the Post Classic K'iche' kingdom known as Popol Vuh (Popol Buj, "Book of the Community", "Book of the Council", "Book of the People"). All editions of this work, written in the Classical K'iche' language, are based on the single manuscript that Father Ximénez transcribed, which is preserved in the Newberry Library, Chicago. Ximénez's manuscript recorded parallel texts in K'iche' and Spanish. What Ximénez transcribed was presumably a codex written shortly after the Spanish conquest by a Quiché native, who had learned to read and write Spanish, containing cosmological concepts and ancient traditions of this aboriginal American people, their history and origin, and the chronology of their kings down to the year 1550. The fate of the original manuscript after its transcription by Ximénez is unknown.

Prior to its arrival at the Newberry, the manuscript passed through several hands. In 1855, French writer, ethnographer, historian and archaeologist Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg found Ximénez's writings in the university library in Guatemala City, and perhaps absconded with the volume and took it to France. In 1861 Brasseur de Bourbourg published in Paris a French translation of the text as Popol Vuh, Le livre sacré et les mythes de l'antiquité américaine. After Brasseur's death in 1874 the Mexico-Guatémalienne collection containing Popol Vuh passed to French explorer, philologist, and ethnographer Alphonse Pinart, through whom it was sold to businessman and collector Edward E. Ayer, who donated his vast library on the history of native Americans in North and Central America to The Newberry Library in 1911. 

Father Ximénez's manuscript was reproduced online, with K'iche' text and Spanish and English translations by The Ohio State University

The first English translation of Popol Vuh was made by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus Griswold Morley from a translation into Spanish by Adrián Recinos and published in 1950 as The Book of the People: Popol Vuh. The National Book of the Ancient Quiché Maya. In 1954 this edition was reissued by the Limited Editions Club, finely printed by Saul Marks at The Plantin Press, Los Angeles. Late in 2012 I acquired copy of the the LEC edition. In their introduction to the translation (p. xv) the translators state that:

"Besides the Mansuscrito de Chichicastenango, the following are the original original Quiché documents which are preserved:

"1. The original manuscript of the Historia Quiché by Don Juan de Torres, dated October 24, 1580, which differens from the manuscript which Fuentes y Guzmán cites and which contains the account of the kings and lords, chiefs of the Great Houses, and of the chinamitales or calpules of the Quiché;

"2. The Spanish translation of the Títulos de los antiquos nuestros antepasados, los que ganaron las tierras de Otzoyá, written apparently in 1524 and bearing the signature of Don Pedro de Alvarado;

"3. The Spanish translation of the Título de los Señores de Totonicapán, dated 1554; and

"4. The Papel de Origen de los Señores included in the Descripción de Zapolitlán y Suchitepec, año de 1579.

"Despite thier brevity, these documents contain interesting accounts of the origin, political organization, and history of the Quiché people, which supplement the information given in the Popol Vuh."

♦ I had been unaware of the Popol Vuh until the later part of 2012 when various articles began appearing in the press concerning what was characterized as the 2012 phenomenon, "a range of eschatological beliefs that cataclysmic or transformative events would occur around 21 December 2012. This date was regarded as the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, and as such, Mayan festivities to commemorate the end of the b'ak'tun 13 took place on 21 December 2012 in the countries that were part of the Mayan empire (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), with main events at Chichén Itzá in Mexico, and Tikal in Guatemala." Because 12-21-12 happened to be my daughter Alex's 21st birthday, the topic became a source of amusement around our house.

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The Bigot Sale, the First Book Auction Conducted in Paris for Which a Catalogue was Printed July – December 1706

The sale by auction of the Bigot family library was conducted by booksellers Jean Boudot, Charles Osmont and Gabriel Martin over the remarkably long duration of five months from July to December, 1706. Prior to this auction several auction catalogues for private libraries were printed in Paris but the libraries were sold privately before auctions could occur. The Bigot sale was in five parts comprising 450 manuscripts and over 15,000 printed books. It was the first book auction conducted in Paris for which a catalogue was published and the first of the 125 auctions conducted by Gabriel Martin, which, over the course of 25 years, established Paris as the leading center for book auctions.

Bookseller, publisher and writer Prosper Marchand organized and catalogued the sale for Martin and Osmont. One of the ways in which the sale was notable was in its introduction of the classification scheme which divided information into five great divisions that Marchand borrowed from the seventeenth century astonomer, scientific intermediator, and librarian, Ismaël Boulliau (Bullialdus). Gabriel Martin promoted this scheme, which originated in the seventeenth century, and may have first been applied in the catalogue of the library of Jacques Auguste de Thou, the Catalogus Bibliothecae Thuanae (1679). The scheme categorized information into the following subject areas: theology, jurisprudence, sciences and arts (initially called philosophy in this catalogue), belles-lettres (humane letters), and history. Book auctions in France would follow this scheme throughout the 18th century, and in the early 19th century Jacques Charles Brunet elaborated on this basic scheme in his Manuel du Libraire et de l'amateur de livres (1810). See Berkvens-Stevelink, Prosper Marchand: la vie et oeuvre (1987) 11-22.

The published auction catalogue was entitled Bibliotheca Bigotiana; seu, Catalogus librorum, quos (dum viverent) summâ curâ & industriâ, ingentique sumptu congressêre vir clarissimi DD. uterque Joannes, Nicolaus, & Lud. Emericus Bigotii, domini de Sommesnil & de Cleuville. . . . 

The Library was begun by Jean Bigot in the early 17th century, and continued by his son, Louis-Emery. It eventually passed to Robert Bigot, sieur de Monville, and was sold at his death in 1706. The library included that of Jean-Jacques de Mesmes, for whom Gabriel Naudé had written Avis pour dresser une bibliothèque in 1627. 

At the auction the abbé de Louvois purchased many books for the Bibliothèque du Roi. "This was Gabriel Martin's first catalogue, and according to Bléchet, Jean-Pierre Nicéron was an editor" (North, Printed Catalogues of French Book Auctions and Sales by Private Treaty 1643-1830 in the Library of the Grolier Club [2004] no. 12).

The Bigot manuscripts were purchased for the Bibliothèque du roi. Over 150 years later they were catalogued by Léopold Delisle as Bibliotheca Bigotiana Manuscripta. Catalogue des manuscrits rassemblés aux XVIIe siecle par les Bigot, mis en vente au mois de juillet 1706, aujourdhui conservé aux Bibliothèque nationale (1877).

Albert, Recherches sur les principes fondamentaux de la classification bibliographique. . . . (1847) 17-19.

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White Kennett Issues the First Bibliography of Americana 1713

White Kennett, Bishop of Peterborough, England, issued Bibliothecae Americanae Primordia. An Attempt Towards Laying the Foundation of an American Library, in Several Books, Papers, and Writings, Humbly given to the Society for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. . . . Published in London in an edition of 250 copies in 1713, this was the library of the first collector of historical documents on the continent of North America. It was also the first bibliography of Americana, carefully listing in chronological order books, charts, maps, and documents with a detailed alphabetical index.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 93.

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Benjamin Franklin & Friends Found the Library Company of Philadelphia, the First Lending Library in America July 1, 1731

On July 1, 1731 Benajmin Franklin and a group of his Philadelphia friends seeking social, economic, intellectual and political advancement, formed a discussion group called "the Junto," also known as "The Leather Apron Club."  An offshoot of the Junto was the Library Company of Philadelphia, founded by Franklin and his friends to provide reference material to support research on subjects under discussion:

"In colonial Pennsylvania at the time there were not many books; Books from London booksellers were expensive to purchase and slow to arrive. Franklin and his friends were mostly of moderate means, and none alone could have afforded a representative library such as a gentleman of leisure might expect to assemble. By pooling their resources in pragmatic Franklinian fashion, as the Library Company's historian wrote, 'the contribution of each created the book capital of all.' The first librarian they hired was Louis Timothee, being America's first.

"Thus fifty subscribers invested 40 shillings each and promised to pay ten shillings a year thereafter to buy books and maintain a shareholder's library. Therefore, 'the Mother of all American subscription libraries; was established, and a list of desired books compiled in part by James Logan, 'the best Judge of Books in these parts,' was sent to London and by autumn the first books were on the shelves" (Wikipedia article on Library Company of Philadelphia, accessed 11-27-2011).

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The Capitoline Museums, the First Public Museums, Open in Rome 1734

First open to the public in the Palazzo Nuovo in 1734 under the auspices of Pope Clement XII, the Capitoline Museums on the Capitoline Hill in Rome are considered the first public museum, defined as a museum where art could be enjoyed by ordinary people and not only by the owners of the art.

The Capitoline Museums remain the greatest museums of ancient Rome, and are significant not only for their content, but for their building design, and for their significance in the preservation of such a remarkable quantity of the most spectacular and historically important Roman antiquities. Their formation began in 1471 when pope Sixtus IV donated to the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the hill four bronze statues that had formally been housed in the pope's Lateran residence. These included the She-wolf, the Sinario (boy pulling a thorn out of his foot), the Camillus, and the bronze head of Constantine with hand and globe. The She-wolf, placed on the facade of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, became the symbol of the city of Rome. The colossal bronze portrait of the emperor Constantine with the palla Sansonis was placed in the external portico. Later, in 1537 Paul III Farnese commissioned Michelangelo to transfer the equestion statue of Marcus Aurelius from the Lateran to the Capitoline and to design a place for it in the center of the piazza. This ancient bronze had probably avoided the fate of other ancient Roman bronzes—mostly being melted down for medieval military use—because during the Middle Ages the statue was thought to represent Constantine, the first Christian emperor. 

The story of Michelangelo's design of the Capitoline Museums and the piazzo is well-documented. Significantly the building project was not completed until 1667. 

Carole Paul, The First Modern Museums of Art (2012)

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Thomas Osborne Issues "The British Librarian", the First Periodical Published in English on Rare Books & Manuscripts 1737 – 1738

From January to June, 1737 London rare book dealer and publisher Thomas Osborne published six issues of The British Librarian: Exhibiting a Compenious Review or Abstract of our most Scarce, Useful and Valuable Books in all Sciences as well in Manuscript as in Print. The six issues were collected and republished as a book in 1738. The British Librarian was the first periodical published in English on rare books and manuscripts, and it may be the first periodical on these topics in any language, as the antiquarian book trade was beginning to become organized around this time. Notably, the earliest recorded full-fledged rare book catalogue— as distinct from an auction catalogue— was also issued in 1738.

The anonymous author of the periodical, William Oldys, included descriptions of unique manuscripts, of examples of early printing such as several works printed by William Caxton, and of other works which were considered rare and collectable at the time. He sometimes included details of bindings, and of private collections. While Oldys' descriptions lean toward the verbose, and there is a certain lack of analysis, the periodical provides valuable insight into how rare books were appreciated and marketed in the first half of the eighteenth century. It is especially helpful since, as Oldys remarks, booksellers' catalogues and library catalogues of this period were primarily listings, and almost never annotated.

William Oldys devoted his life to antiquarian and bibliographic pursuits, compiling valuable notes on Langbaine's Dramatick Poets (1691), writing an important "Life" of Sir Walter Raleigh (published in the 1736 edition of Raleigh's History of the World), and amassing a library of historical and political works. In 1731 Oldys sold his library to Edward Harley (1689-1741), second Earl of Oxford probably the greatest English collector of printed books and manuscripts of his time. From 1738 to 1741 Oldys served as the Earl's librarian, but had to give up the post upon his patron's death. In 1742 The Earl of Oxford's immense library of printed books was purchased by bookseller Thomas Osborne, publisher of The British Librarian and one of England's first rare book dealers. Osborne hired Oldys and Samuel Johnson to prepare a descriptive catalogue of the Harleian collection prior to its sale; the resulting Catalogus bibliothecae Harleianae was issued in four volumes plus a supplementary fifth volume of books from Osborne's stock, between 1743 and 1745. Oldys and Samuel Johnson also worked together on The Harleian Miscellany, an annotated reprint of selected tracts and pamphlets from the Harleian library edited by Oldys and Johnson, and published by Osborne.

After the death of Harley ", . . Oldys worked for the booksellers. His habits were irregular, and in 1751 his debts drove him to the Fleet prison. After two years' imprisonment he was released through the kindness of friends who paid his debts, and in April 1755 he was appointed Norfolk Herald Extraordinary and then Norroy King of Arms by the Duke of Norfolk" (Wikipedia article on William Oldys, which derives material from the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica).

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Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici Founds the Greatest Museums of Florence February 18, 1743

By the terms of the Patto di famiglia, Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici, Electress Palatine and last of the political, banking and royal House of Medici, bequeathed the Medici art collections, assembled since the 16th century, including the contents of the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti and the Medici villas, and her Palatine treasures, to the Tuscan state, on the condition that no part of it could be removed from "the Capital of the grand ducal [sic] State....[and from] the succession of His Serene Grand Duke."

"Anna Maria Luisa's single most enduring act was the Family Pact. It ensured that all the Medicean art and treasures collected over nearly three centuries of political ascendancy remained in Florence. Cynthia Miller Lawrence, an American art-historian, argues that Anna Maria Luisa thus provisioned for Tuscany's future economy through tourism. Sixteen years after her death, the Uffizi Gallery, built by Cosimo the Great, the founder of the Grand Duchy, was made open to public viewing" (Wikipedia article on Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici, accessed 09-29-2010).

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1750 – 1800

Edme-François Gersaint Issues the First Significant Catalogue Raisonné in Western Art History, on Rembrandt's Prints 1751 – 1828

Catalogue raisonné de toutes les pieces qui forment l'oeuvre de Rembrandt by Edme-François Gersaint, P.-C.-A. Helle, and Jean-Baptiste Glomy published in Paris in 1751 was  the "first catalogue raisonné in Western art history" (Sylvia Hochfield, "Rembrandt: Myth, Legend, Truth", ARTnews 7/01/06 accessed 09-29-2011). The primary author, Marchand-mercier Gersaint, immortalized by L'Enseigne de Gersaint (Gersaint's Shop Sign) painted by Jean-Antoine Watteau, was an art dealer, the leading auctioneer in Paris of art objects and natural history specimens, and a scholar and connoisseur. He compiled his catalogue from the collection of Dutch painter and writer Arnold Houbraken, of Amsterdam, which had previously been the property of Jan Six, an intimate firend of Rembrandt and the subject of more than one portrait by the artist. Toward the end of the work, in a chapter on doubtful attributions Gersaint addressed the connoisseurship issues involved in distinguishing Rembrandt's work from that of his pupils. He also included a chapter on portraits and other pieces etched after Rembrandt by other masters

After Gersaint's death in 1750, Gersaint's widow turned over the manuscript of the unfinished catalogue to Helle and Glomy who augmented this compilation by examination of a number of collections in France, and published the catalogue in duodecimo format one year later. An English translation of the catalogue appeared in London in 1752 as A Catalogue and Description of the Etchings of Rembrandt Van-Rhyn, with some Account of his Life. To which is added, A List of the best Pieces of this Master

Publication of Gersaint's catalogue stimulated further research. A supplement to Gersaint's catalogue by printmaker Pieter Yver, based on the collection of M. van Leyden, which had been culled from those of Houbraken, Halling, Maas, Moewater and De Burgy, and which was the largest known collection of Rembrandt at the time, was published in Amsterdam in 1756.  Austrian scholar and artist Adam Bartsch issued a new, revised edition of the catalogue in Vienna in 1797.  In 1796 Daniel Daulby, celebrated in his own lifetime as perhaps the greatest British collector of Rembrandt etchings, issued from Liverpool a new English edition entitled A Descriptive catalogue of the works of Rembrandt ... compiled from original etchings. In 1824 Le Chevalier de Claussin published a revised and expanded edition of the Gersaint catalogue, and in 1828 he published a supplement to that work.

Glorieux, À l'Enseigne de Gersaint: Edme-François Gersaint, marchand d'art sur le Pont Notre-Dame (2002). 

Michel, Le Commerce du tableau à Paris dans la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle (2007).

(This entry was last revised on 05-25-2014.)

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The British Museum is Founded January 11, 1753

The will of English physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane bequeathed his collection of 70,000 objects, including a library, and an herbarium to Britain as the basis for the British Museum.

"When Sloane retired in 1741, his library and cabinet of curiosities . . . had grown to be of unique value. He had acquired the extensive natural history collections of William Courten, Cardinal Filippo Antonio Gualterio, James Petiver, Nehemiah Grew, Leonard Plukenet, the Duchess of Beaufort, the rev. Adam Buddle, Paul Hermann, Franz Kiggelaer and Herman Boerhaave. On his death on 11 January 1753 he bequeathed his books, manuscripts, prints, drawings, flora, fauna, medals, coins, seals, cameos and other curiosities to the nation, on condition that parliament should pay to his executors £20,000, which was a good deal less than the value of the collection. The bequest was accepted on those terms by an act passed the same year, and the collection, together with George II's royal library, etc., was opened to the public at Bloomsbury as the British Museum in 1759. A significant proportion of this collection was later to become the foundation for the Natural History Museum" (Wikipedia article on Sir Hans Sloane).

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The Tallard Sale: A New Level of Connoisseurship in the Cataloguing of Works of Art 1756

In mid-eighteenth century France the level of connoisseurship in art, and in the art market in general, including the rare book trade, made significant advances. A significant landmark was the publication of the Edmé-François Gersaint, P.-C.- A. Helle, and and Jean-Baptiste Glomy catalogue raisonnée of the works of Rembrandt (1752), the first significant catalogue raisonnée in Western art history.

As a result of this growing connoisseurship, and perhaps also as a result of Glomy's experience in editing the Rembrandt catalogue raisonnée, in 1756 commissaires-priseurs Jean-Baptiste Glomy (172?-1786) and Pierre Rémy (1715?-1797?) issued an auction catalogue that reflected a new level of scholarship and sophistication. In the auction catalogue of the sale in Paris of the paintings, sculpture in bronze, sculpture in marble, drawings, prints, porcelain, and furniture collected by Camille d'Hostun, Duc de Tallard, which they called a catalogue raisonnée, the auctionners authoritatively attributed works of art to a specific artist or workshop based on their own expertise. Prior to this catalogue descriptions of paintings in auction catalogues were vague, and often identified only by school, with little distinction made between originals and copies. 

The Tallard auction catalogue was entitled Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, sculptures, tant de marbre que de bronze, desseins et estampes des plus grands maîtres, porcelaines anciennes, meubles précieux, bijoux et autres effets qui composent le cabinet de feu Monsieur le duc de Tallard par les sieurs Remy & Glomy (1756). My copy of this catalogue is of special interest for including in manuscript not only prices realized, but also buyers' names, and also the names of collectors that certain buyers were representing. At the back of the copy is an 8-page printed addenda describing items that were left out of the main catalogue, and a schedule of dates that lots would be sold. This is followed by a second 4-page addenda with further scheduling of lots. The engraved frontispiece depicts an art auction in progress. The single additional engraved plate in the catalogue, facing p. 236, illustrates a very large and very old marble column, to which the auctioneers wanted to draw special attention.  

Watson, From Manet to Manhattan. The Rise of the Modern Art Market (1992) 58-59.

Michel, Le Commerce du tableau à Paris (2007) 232. For Rémy see 73ff.

(This entry was last revised on 06-03-2014.)

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George II Donates the "Old Royal Library" 1757

King George II donated the 'Old Royal Library' of the sovereigns of England to the British Museum. With that gift the British Museum obtained the privilege of acquiring books by copyright receipt.

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The British Museum Opens 1759

Having been founded in 1753 by the bequest of English physician Sir Hans Sloane, the British Museum opened to the public.

Sloane's library of about 40,000 volumes, especially significant for scientific and medical material, was among the largest formed in the eighteenth century. The British Museum retained all the Sloane manuscripts, but during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they dispersed certain printed books from the collection as "duplicates." 

♦ The Sloane Printed Books Catalogue on the British Library website is a project to publish bibliographical descriptions of each volume in Sloane's original library from institutional holdings around the world.

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The First Contemporary Art Exhibition in England is Accompanied by a Catalogue April 21, 1760

In 1760 the first exhibition in England of living artists was staged by the Royal Society of Arts in London. It included works by Joshua Reynolds, Richard WilsonLouis-François Roubiliac and more than 60 other artists. The exhibition was accompanied by a 15, [1]pp. catalogue entitled A Catalogue of the Pictures, Sculptures, Models, Drawings, Prints, &c. of the Present Artists, Exhibited in the Great Room of the Society of the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, on the 21st of April, 1760. The catalogue, which was sold for six pence, listed 130 works divided into three sections: Pictures, 1-74, Sculptures, Models, and Engravings, 75-107, and Drawings, Engravings on Copper, 108-130. In the second section the word engravings was used to categorize engraved gems and medals.

Luckhurst, The Story of Exhibitions (1951) 15-23.

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Bookseller Guillaume François de Bure Begins "Modern" Rare Book Cataloguing 1763 – 1782

"Modern" rare book cataloguing, with researched descriptive annotations, originated between 1763 and 1782 with the publication by antiquarian bookseller and bibliographer Guillaume François de Bure (Debure) of Bibliographie instructive; ou traité de la connoissance des livres rares et singuliersContentant un Catalogue raisonné del la plus grande partie de ces Livres précieux, qui ont paru successivement dans la République des Lettres, depuis l'Invention de l'Imprimerie, jusques à nos jours; avec des Notes sur la différences & la rareté actuelle, & son dégré plus ou moins considérable: la maniere de distinguer les Editions originale, d'avec les contrefaites, avec un Description Typographique particuliere du composé de ces rare Volumes, ou moyen de laquell il sera aisé de reconnoître facilement les Exemplaires, ou mutilés en partie, ou absolument imparfaits, qui s'en recontrent journellement dans le Commerce, & de les distinguer surrement de ceux qui seront exactement completes dans toutes leurs parties. Disposé par order de Matieres & des facultés, suivant de systême Bibliographique généralement adopté; avec un Table générale des Auteurs, & un systême complete de Bibliographie choisie.

This main work appeared in 7 volumes. Volumes 8 and 9, published in 1769, consisted of Supplement à la Bibliographie instructive, our Catalogue des Livres  du Cabinet de feu M. Louis Jean Gaignat. This was the auction catalogue of Gaignat's collection written and published by de Bure. More than a decade later, in 1782, de Bure issued a tenth volume, also subtitled verbosely:

"Contenant une Table destinée à faciliter la recherche des livres anonymes qui ont été announcés par M. de Bure le jeune dans sa Bibliographie instructive & dans le Catalogue de M. Gaignat, & à suppléer à tout ce qui a été omis dans les tables des ces deux ouvrages, précédée d'un discours sur la science bibliographique et sur les devoirs du bibliographe; et accompagné de courtes notes servant de correctif à différens articles de la Bibliographie, & d'additions à quelques-uns de ceux dans lesquels les noms des Auteurs Anonymes n'avoient par été dévoilés. 

De Bure organized his reference work, and the Gaignat auction catalogue, according to the basic five categories originally promoted by Gabriel Martin in the pioneering Bigot sale in 1706. Among the many notable features of the Bibliographie instructive, it was the first to identify and describe the Gutenberg Bible. De Bure's extensive description first appeared in Volume 1, Théologie (1763) pp. 32-40. In 1769 he provided a dealer's description of the same work in Volume One of the Gaignat sale catalogue, Supplement à la bibliographie instructive, lot 16, pp. 6-7.

Roughly one hundred years after the Bibliographie instructive was published Brunet II, 552-53 wrote of this work: 

"une production tout à fait neuve et assez remarkable à l'époque où elle parut: aujourd'hui même elle peut encore être consultée utilement pour plusieurs articles qui n'ont pas été décrits autre part avec autant de détails que là. Ce catalogue donne d'ailleurs une idée exact du goût qui dominait alors parmi des amateurs de livres rare et précieux."

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 107.

My thanks to Jean-Paul Fontaine for pointing out the correct reference for De Bure's first description of the Gutenberg Bible.

(This entry was last revised on 06-15-2014.)

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Von Heineken Issues the First Systematic Guide to Collecting Prints, Blockbooks, and the Earliest Printed books 1768 – 1771

Idée générale d'une collection complette d'estampes. Avec une dissertation sur l'origine de la gravure & sur les premiers livres d'images was the first systematic guide to collecting prints, blockbooks, and the earliest printed books. It was issued in 1771 from Leipzig and Vienna by Karl Heinrich von Heineken (Carl Heinrich von Heinecken), a German art historian, art collector, librarian, diplomat, and director of the Dresden Print Room (Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden). Of the eighteenth century guides to collecting, von Heincken's work was exceptional in the number and quality of its illustrations, including 32 engraved and woodcut plates (21 folding, 11 single-page) and occasional small woodcut text illustrations.

Heineken's 1771 guide represented partly a condensation, reorganization and, and of course, a translation of portions of his much longer Nachrichten von Künstlern und Kunstsachen issued from Leipzig in two volumes in 1768 and 1769. Both works were issued by the same publisher, Johann Paul Kraus, and shared some of the same illustrations. In the Nachrichten Heineken provided an account of the earliest Dutch writers on chalcography, and conjectured that Gutenberg took the idea of printing from playing-card makers, who were the first engravers of subjects intermingled with texts. Heinecken believed, incorrectly, that Gutenberg's early efforts at Strassbourg were ineffectual and that Gutenberg's first successful productions were the product of woodblock printing.

Heineken undertook a multi-volume Dictionnaire des artistes dont nous avons des estampes, avec une notice détaillé de leurs ouvrages gravées. Of this work only the first four volumes were published between 1778 and 1780, covering the letters A-Diz. The manuscript of the remaining work was preserved in Dresden, but has been considered lost since World War II, and was possibly destroyed during the bombing of the city.

Bigmore & Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing (1884; 2001 edition) 320, 310-320.

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James Granger Inspires "Grangerizing," A Mania for Extra-Illustration 1769 – 1774

In 1769 English clergyman, biographer and print collector James Granger published the first two volumes of Biographical History of England, from Egbert the Great to the Revolution, consisting of Characters dispersed in different Classes, and adapted to a Methodical Catalogue of Engraved British Heads. Intended as an Essay towards reducing our Biography to System, and a help to the knowledge of Portraits; with a variety of Anecdotes and Memoirs of a great number of persons not to be found in any other Biographical Work. With a preface, showing the utility of a collection of Engraved Portraits to supply the defect, and answer the various purposes of Medals.

This work, with its supplement published in 1774, and numerous following editions, was responsible for the fashion of "Grangerizing," or collecting additional illustrations to be interleaved with a text, particularly a history of a town or country.  The practice stimulated the destructive process of cutting up copies of books with plates to extra-illustrate other books. 

Granger, himself, owned a collection of about 14,000 engraved portraits which was dispersed in 1778 after his death.

"Before the publication of the first edition of Granger's work in 1769 five shillings was considered a good price by collectors for any English portrait. After the appearance of the ‘Biographical History,’ books, ornamented with engraved portraits, rose in price to five times their original value, and few could be found unmutilated. In 1856 Joseph Lilly and Joseph Willis, booksellers, each offered for sale an illustrated copy of Granger's work. Lilly's copy, which included Noble's ‘Continuation,’ was illustrated by more than thirteen hundred portraits, bound in 27 vols., price £42. The price of Willis's copy, which contained more than three thousand portraits, bound in 19 vols., was £38 10s. It had cost the former owner nearly £200. The following collections have been published in illustration of Granger's work: (a) ‘Portraits illustrating Granger's Biographical History of England’ (known under the name of ‘Richardson's Collection’), 6 pts. Lond. 1792–1812; (b) Samuel Woodburn's ‘Gallery of [over two hundred] Portraits … illustrative of Granger's Biographical History of England, &c.,’ Lond. 1816; (c) ‘A Collection of Portraits to illustrate Granger's Biographical History of England and Noble's continuation to Granger, forming a Supplement to Richardson's Copies of rare Granger Portraits,’ 2 vols. Lond. 1820–2." (Wikipedia article on James Granger, accessed 12-17-2011).

The Huntington Library holds 1000 "Grangerized" or extra-illustrated sets of books on a wide variety of subjects. "Particularly rich are the Kitto Bible, which contains 30,000 prints illustrating the Old and New Testaments, and Granger’s A Biographical History of England, 1769-1774 which numbers 14,000 portraits of British notables" (http://www.huntington.org/huntingtonlibrary.aspx?id=548, accessed 12-17-2011).

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Abel Buell Issues the First Map of the United States Printed in the United States 1784

American goldsmith, jewelry designer, engraver, surveyor, type manufacturer, mint master, textile miller, counterfeiter Abel Buell published in New Haven, Connecticut A New and correct Map of the United States of North America Layd Down from the Latest Observations and Best Authorities agreeable to the Peace of 1783.

Created right after the Treaty of Paris, which marked the formal end of the American Revolutionary War, Buell's map, engraved on four joined sheets creating an image 1094 x 1228 mm (43 x 481/4 inches), was the first map of the new United States created by an American, and published in America.  It was also the first map printed in America to show the flag of the United States and the first map to be copyrighted in the United States. It covers the territory of the 13 colonies and an area east of the Mississippi River. The state boundaries are very different from those today. For example, Virginia extends from the Chesapeake Bay to the Ohio River.

Only seven copies are known, several defective.  The copy in the New Jersey Historical Society, one of the finest copies from the condition standpoint, was sold at Christie's, New York on December 3, 2010 for $2,098,500 including buyer's premium. This was the highest price for any single map sold at auction.  It was purchased by philanthropist David Rubenstein and placed on loan at the Library of Congress.

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Mozart's Autograph Catalogue of His Own Compositions, and its First Printed Editions February 9, 1784 – 1805

From February 1784 to November 1791, just before his death, Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart kept an autograph manuscript catalogue of his own compositions, arranged with dates and description of each work on the left page of each opening (verso), and musical incipits opposite on the right page of each opening (recto). The first entry, dated February 9, 1784, is for the Piano Concerto in E flat (K449), the last (ff. 28v-29r), is dated November 15, 1791, for the Masonic cantata ‘Laut verkünde unsre Freude’ (K623).

In 1800 composer and music publisher Johann Anton André of Offenbach acquired Mozart's catalogue from Mozart's widow Constanze, along with other Mozart manuscripts that she inherited. Creating a published record of Mozart’s works was a priority for both Constanze and André, and soon after acquiring the manuscripts, André used the Verzeichnüss as the basis for a thematic catalogue published in 1805 entitled Thematisches Verzeichniss sämmtlicher Kompositionen von W.A. Mozart, so wie er solches vom 9ten Februar 1784 an, bis zum 15ten November 1791 eigenhändig niedergeschrieben hat nach dem Original-Manuscripte herausgegeben von A. André 1805. Andre's edition—the earliest surviving lithographed book— reproduced the format and order of Mozart’s catalogue while paraphrasing Mozart’s descriptions in German and French. On the verso of each opening, the compositions (usually five per page) were listed by date, title, and instrumentation, while the corresponding musical incipits appeared on the recto.

Mozart's composition catalogue is preserved in the British Library as Zweig MS 63. As befitting Mozart, the manuscript has been intensively studied by generations of scholars, and both the British Library's description of the manuscript, and the bibliography of publications concerning it is unusually exensive. Its ownership history is also is well-documented. The manuscript remained in the André family until it was offered for sale at the auction of manuscripts of the heirs of André in Berlin by L. Liepmannssohn auctioneers, sale 55, October 12, 1929, lot no. 17, where it was unsold. Later it was purchased from Liepmannssohn for Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, biographer and autograph manuscript collector Stefan Zweig by Berlin book & manuscript dealer Paul Graupe  and purchased by Zweig through H. Eisemann in 1935. After Zweig's death his heirs put the manuscript on loan to British Library, and continued to add to Zweig's collection. Then, in 1986 they donated his entire collection of literary, historical and musical autograph collections to the British Library, which summarized its significance as follows:

"Zweig's collection has been called one of the world's greatest collections of autograph manuscripts. Among the music manuscripts are autograph scores of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Composers in the Zweig Collection who were previously poorly represented in manuscript at the British Library, or not represented at all, include Schütz, Gluck, Wagner, Mahler, Debussy, Schoenberg, Ravel, Webern, and Berg."

In December 2013 at digital facsimile of the Mozart's autograph catalogue was available from the British Library at this link. A digital facsimile of the first 1805 lithographed edition was available from Harvard University Library at this link, and a digital facsimile of the second edition of Andre's printed edition (1828) was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] no. 116).

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The Bill of Rights September 25, 1789 – December 15, 1791

The Bill of Rights, the collective name for the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States, were introduced by James Madison to the 1st United States Congress as a series of legislative articles, and were adopted by the House of Representatives on August 21, 1789.  By joint resolution of Congress they were formally proposed on September 25, 1789, and were ratified by three-fourths of the states on December 15, 1791. 

Once passed in the House of Representatives, the Bill of Rights, along with other legislation passed was printed by Francis Childs and John Swaine, Printers to the United States, in New York, and sent to the Senate for consideration as Acts passed at a Congress of the United States of America, begun and held at the City of New-York on Wednesday the Fourth of March in the Year, M,DCC,LXXXIX and of the Independence of the United States, the Thirteenth. This publication also included a version of the United States Constitution. The first edition was in folio format; a smaller octavo reprint also appeared in 1789. In the folio version owned by George Washington and preserved in the Chapin Library of Williams College

"there are seventeen articles, parts of which are of particular interest in comparison to the final text: for example, the original third article provided not only that 'Congress shall make no law establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' but also that 'the rights of Conscience [shall not] be infringed'; while the original fifth article, establishing “the right of the People to keep and bear arms' in relation to 'a well regulated militia,' also provided that 'no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.'

"The Senate in its deliberations deleted some of the articles written by the House, and combined others. Their preferred text then went to a House-Senate committee, and finally twelve articles, shown in the Chapin Library in a copy of the first printed Acts of Congress, were sent to the states for ratification. The states failed to ratify the first and second articles, which, respectively, concerned the proportion of representation in Congress and the method by which congressional salaries could be changed. Articles three through twelve as approved by Congress became, therefore, in the final ratified Bill of Rights, articles one through ten. (The original second article, concerning congressional salaries, in fact was never officially taken off the table, and was eventually ratified as the 27th Amendment in May 1992) (http://chapin.williams.edu/exhibits/founding.html#rights, accessed 04-22-2012).

The original manuscript of the Bill of Rights is preserved in the National Archives, Washington, D.C., where it is on public display.

♦ On June 22, 2012 Christie's in New York offered for sale at auction George Washington's annotated copy of the 1789 folio edition of the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  The auction catalogue mentioned that Washington owned three copies of the folio edition and three copies of the octavo version.  One of the three was the copy owned by Williams College mentioned above.  The other two, including the copy being auctioned, remained in private hands. The pre-sale estimate was $2,000,000-$3,000,000. The book sold for $9,826,500. million. This set a new high price record for an American book or document. The book was purchased by the non-profit Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union, which maintains the historic Mount Vernon estate in Virginia that was Washington's home, and is now open to the public.

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André-Charles Caillot Issues a Bibliographical Guide to Antiquarian Bookselling and Collecting, with a Pioneering Exposition on Rarity 1790 – 1802

In 1790 antiquarian bookseller and publisher André-Charles Caillot published in 3 volumes Dictionnaire bibliographique, historique et critique des livres rares,

précieux, singulier, curieux, estimés et recherchés qui n'ont aucun prix fix, tant des auteurs connus que de ceux qui ne le sont pas, soit manuscrits, avant & depuis l'invention de l'Imprimerie; soit imprimés, et qui ont paru successivement de nos jours, en François, Grec, Latin, Italien, Espagnol, Anglis, & c. Avec leur valeur. Réduite à une just appréciation, suivant les prix auxquels ils ont été portés dans les ventes publiques, depuis la fin du XVIIe. Siecle jusqu'à présent. Auxquels on a ajouté, des observations & des Notes pour faciliter la connoissance exact & certaine des Editions originales, & les Remarques pour les distinguer les Editions contrefaits. Suivi d'n Essai de Bibliographie, où il est traité de la Connoissance & de l'Amour des Livres, de leurs divers degrés de rareté, & c. &c. Ouvrage utile et nécessaire A tous Littérateurs, Bibliographes, Bibliophiles, & à tous ceux qui veulent exercer, avec quelques connoissances, la Librairie ancienne et moderne.

In the introduction to their work the authors, who are not identified, explain how they were influenced by the Bibliographie instructive; ou traité de la connoissance des livres rares et singuliers issued by antiquarian bookseller Guillaume de Bure in 9 volumes from 1763 to 1769. They also provided a 10-page listing of the catalogues of about 100 auction sales of rare books that took place mainly in Paris from 1708 onward, together with the printed catalogues of a few private libraries, including the Catalogus Bibliothecae Thuanae (1679), from which they compiled their work. 

Perhaps the most notable feature of the work was the Essai de bibliographie, ou De la connissance & de l'amour des Livres, de leurs divers degrés de rareté, de la maniere de les classer, & de l'ordre de leurs facultés published on pp. 484-524 of volume 3.  This is one of the earliest discussions of the qualities of rarity in books, discussing the difference between absolute and relative rarity. By absolute rarity the authors meant books which were published in very small numbers, suppressed, or censored. By relative rarity they meant books which are sought after, collected or in demand even though they may be more or less common. In a footnote on p. 492 the authors referred to increased numbers of printers, lost morality, and increased production of scandalous, libellous or obscene literature as a result of the French Revolution.  In the Essai de bibliographie the authors also presented their refinement and expansion of the five basic subject categories under which information was organized in France since the beginning of the eighteenth century

In 1802 antiquarian bookseller and bibliographer Jacques Charles Brunet published a fourth and supplementary volume to this work. In the preface to that volume Brunet stated that the authors of the work, which was published by Caillot without attribution of authorship, were the abbé R. Duclos and the bookseller-publisher André-Charles Caillot.

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The First U.S. Census is Taken August 2, 1790

The first Census of the United States was conducted on August 2, 1790. The results were used to allocate Congressional seats (congressional apportionment), electoral votes, and funding for government programs.

The federal census records for the first census are missing for five states: Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey and Virginia. They were destroyed some time between the time of the census-taking and 1830. The census estimated the population of the United States at 3,929,214, ". . . of which 697,681 were slaves, and . . . the largest cities were New York City with 33,000 inhabitants, Philadelphia, with 28,000, Boston, with 18,000, Charleston, South Carolina, with 16,000, and Baltimore, with 13,000."

In 1791 approximately 200 copies of the census were printed by Childs and Swaine of Philadelphia as:

Return of the Whole Number of Persons with the Several Districts of the United States, According to 'An Act Providing for the Enumeration of the Inhabitants of the United States:,' Passed March the First, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Nintety-One.

♦ A copy of the original edition with the autograph signature of Thomas Jefferson sold for $122,500 in the James S. Copley sale at Sotheby's, New York, on April 14, 2010.

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Frenchman Louis-Nicolas Robert Invents the First Papermaking Machine, but it is Developed in England by John Gamble, the Fourdriniers & John Dickinson 1798 – 1840

In 1798 French soldier and mechanical engineer Louis-Nicolas Robert invented the first papermaking machine. After completing his military career, in 1790 Robert became indentured at one of the Didot family's Paris publishing houses. First working under Saint-Léger Didot as a clerk, he later switched to a position as "inspector of personnel" at Pierre-François Didot's hand paper-making factory in Corbeil-Essonnes in the suburbs of Paris. This establishment dated back to 1355, and supplied paper to the Ministry of Finance for currency manufacture. Both Robert and Didot grew impatient with the quarrelling workers, vatmen, couchers, and laymen, so Robert was motivated to find a way to mechanize the traditional labor-intensive process of making paper by hand. 

Handmade paper was made one sheet at a time, by manually dipping a rectangular frame or mould with a screen bottom into a vat of pulp. The frame was removed from the vat, and the water was pressed out of the pulp. The remaining pulp was allowed to dry; the frame could not be re-used until the previous sheet of paper was removed from it. Robert's machine had a moving screen belt that would receive a continuous flow of stock and deliver an unbroken sheet of wet paper to a pair of squeeze rolls. As the continuous strip of wet paper came off the machine it was manually hung over a series of cables or bars to dry. This continuous, unbroken sheet of paper later had to be cut. 

Robert applied for a French patent for his machine on September 9, 1798; it was granted on January 18, 1799. According to the French patent database, bases-brevets19e.inpi.fr, in which the patent is recorded as dossier 1BA95, the patent, which was granted for 15 years, was entitled "machine à faire le papier, d'une très grande étendu". The database records that Robert transferred the patent to Léger Didot on June 27, 1800.  The database includes a reproduction of the first page of the manuscript of the patent; as of October 2015, I was unable to determine whether or not the patent was ever printed.

Because of disagreements between Robert and his partners, St. Leger and François Didot, and also because of financial disruptions caused by the French Revolution, François Didot attempted to have the papermaking machine developed in England, sending his English brother-in-law, John Gamble, then employed in the office of the British Commissioner for exchanging prisoners-of-war in France, to London to develop the technology. Gamble left Paris in March 1801, and only a month later received an English patent for the papermaking machine. The patent spcification No. 2487 was granted for an "Invention of Making Paper in single Sheets, without Seam or Joining, from One to Twelve Feet and upwards Wide, and from One to Forty-five Feet and upwards in Length." Gamble's specification was, according to Clapperton, essentially a translation of Robert's patent. The title of the specification, with its emphasis on the production of very large sheets, indicates that the original market for the product was expected to be wallpaper.

In London Gamble was introduced to Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier, of the firm of Bloxam & Fourdrinier, the leading wholesale stationers in London, who took great interest in the invention, and set about trying to improve it. In 1802 the Fourdriniers hired the young English engineer Bryan Donkin to improve the machine and oversee its development at mills which they opened at St. Neots, Huntingdonshire, and at Frogmore and Two Waters, Hertfordshire. Undoubtedly they began manufacturing paper there shortly thereafter, and while tracing the earliest surviving examples of machine-made paper is difficult as there are few records, the first book printed on machine made paper was issued as early as 1804, and copies of that have survived. 

On August 14, 1807 Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier and John Gamble were granted a new British patent  for "Prolonging the Term of Certain Letters Patent assigned to Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier for the Invention of making Paper by means of Machines." The cost savings from machine papermaking were apparently evident almost at once. In his Chronology of the Origin and Progress of Paper and Paper-Making, 5th edition (1876) American printer and printing and papermaking historian Joel Munsell wrote on p. 62 that in 1806

"The patentees of the Fourdrinier machine laid a statement before the public containing a comparative estimate of the expense attending sevent vats, and that attending a machine employed upon paper sized in the engine, preforming the same quantity of work as seven vats, at the rate of twelve hours a day. The expense of seven vats per annum for £2,604: 12s.; a machine doing seven vats' work was £734:12s.; balance saved by the machine per annum, £1,870. The expense of making paper by hand at this time was 16s. per cwt.; by machine, 3s 6d."

Nevertheless, like many new technologies, machine paper-making did not immediately catch on in the British paper industry, and, as had happened with other new technologies, some of the original inventors failed to benefit:

". . .of the early pioneers who invented, developed, and financed the machine through the difficult years of its evolution, Louis Robert, Henry Fourdrinier, Didot St. Leger and Gamble, all died in comparative poverty. Robert died at 66 while managing a small school at Vernouillet, on the 28th August, 1828, leaving a wife and six children. Didot, who had returned to France, died in 1829 near the same village; and Henry Fourdrinier died on the 9th September, 1854, at the age of 88, . . . near Rugeley. John Gamble was still living in 1857, and there does not appear to be any authentic date of his death. These four men, who where so intimately connected with, and who gave so much of their lives and fortunes to, the development of the Fourdrinier machine, lived to see many successful paper-mills in which hundreds of paper-making machines were operating, from which they they themselves werre able to get nothing at all. The Bryan Donkin Company alone had built 197 paper-making machines before Henry Fourdrinier died, and by that time many other engineering firms were also building this type of machine. The Fourdrinier firm, of which Henry Fourdrinier was the head, lost at least £60,000 in the first ten years of the development of the machine, and became bankrupt in the process. Leger Didot lost his paper-mill and his business. Gamble lost his paper-mill at St. Neots to Matthew Towgood; and Robert was left completely out of it by everybody, and eventually got nothing but a statue and memorial many years after he died" (Clapperton, The Paper-Making Machine. Its Invention, Evolution and Development  [1967] quote 12-3, see also 34-44).

In July 1809 English paper dealer and inventor John Dickinson of Aspley, Hertfordshire, patented the cylinder-mould papermaking machine, receiving British patent No. 3191 for "Certain Improvements on my former Patent Machinery for Cutting and Placing Paper, and also certain Machinery for the Manufacture of Paper by a new Method." Dickinson's concept, which he developed through his partnership with George Longman, who provided the initial working capital, was the first to allow for commercially viable machine production of paper, and of the early inventors in papermaking, Dickinson was the only machine paper-maker to a develop a business that remained financially successful for generations. However, Dickinson's machine was apparently not functional originally, and, according to Coleman p. 191 Dickinson initially installed machines of the Fourdrinier type at his mills.

Dickinson's process consisted of a perforated cylinder of metal, with a closely fitting cover of finely woven wire, which revolved in a vat of pulp. The water from the vat was carried off through the axis of the cylinder, leaving the fibers of the pulp clinging to the surface of the wire. An endless web of felt passed through what was known as a 'couching roller' lying upon the cylinder drew off the layer of pulp which when dried became paper. Clapperton, op. cit. 54-77.

Saint-Leger Didot (Leger Didot), then living in England, further improved the technology in 1812 when he was granted British patent No. 3568 for "Certain other Improvements upon the Said Machines for the Making of both Woven and Laid Paper." In 1806 Henry Fourdrinier had obtained patent No. 2951 for a method of making a machine for manufacturing paper of an indefinite length, laid and wove, with separate moulds. However, Fourdrinier's patent for the endless chain-mould machine did not accompany his specification with drawings and did not describe the machine in much detail. Thus Didot and his associates, including Fourdrinier, thought it appropriate to patent a more detailed specification at this time. Clapperton, op. cit., 54-58.

Only a few years after machine-made paper was widely available paper manufacturers desired to make machine-made paper resemble hand-made or laid paper, and in 1825 stationers and inventors John Phipps and Christopher Phipps of London received British patent No. 5075 for "An Improvement or Improvements in Machinery for Making Paper." In their specification they described "the employment of a roller the cylinder part of which is formed of 'laid' wire. . . the effect produced by said roller is that of making impressions upon the sheet of paper upon which said roller passes and thus the paper so made has the appearance of 'laid' paper." This device was known as a "dandy roll."

Around 1820 the quantity of paper made by machine exceeded the quantity of paper made by hand. The earliest discussion and illustrations of papermaking machinery other than the patents involved that I have found is in John Nicholson's The Operative Mechanic, and British Machinist; being a Practical Display of the Manufactories and Mechanical Arts of the United Kingdom (London: Knight and Lacey, 1825), 365-377. Nicolson featured mainly Dickinson's process and reproduced images of his machine from Dickinson's patent. (It is possible that some of the material in Nicolson's volume was adapted from the Mechanics Magazine, also published by Knight and Lacey beginning in 1823.

Even though the Fourdriniers were to a large extent responsible for developing the essential papermaking technology they went bankrupt in 1810 from excessive development costs, and never profited from their effort. Their patent technically extended to 1824, but they received no royalties after they declared bankruptcy. In June 1837 the Fourdriniers were able to have their case for compensation on their expired patent brought before The House of Commons. The official review was published as Report from the Select Committee on Fourdrinier's Patent; with the Minutes of Evidence, and AppendixThat the Fourdriniers were crucial in developing a significant industry in Britain was evident from the testimony, and in 1840 £7000 was paid to Henry Fourdrinier and his family.

In reading through Richard Herring's Paper and Paper-Making Ancient and Modern (London, 1855) I found that Herring made a critical comparison between paper made by hand and paper made by machine and also included in his book samples of hand-made paper and machine-made paper so that users of the book could make comparisons. Herring's comparison of the two paper-making modalities may be the first published, and is also most probably the first to include samples.

Though paper-making by machine became a very large industry, the earliest monograph specifically on the technique of machine-made paper subject that I had identified in 2016 is Carl Hofmann, A Practical Treatise on the Manufacture of Paper in All its Branches. Philadelphia: Henry Carey Baird, 1873. On the title page Hofmann characterized himself as "Late Superintendent of Paper-Mills in Germany and the United States, Recently Manager of the Public Ledger Paper-Mills near Elkton, MD." He cited no prior studies on the subject except articles in trade journals. Hofmann's work, extensively illustrated with 125 engravings and 5 large folding plates, was expanded in several French editions. Only one edition seems to have been published in English. 

Over a century later, in 1976 Janet Fourdrinier sold at auction the original color engineering drawings of Robert's papermaking machine, which were presumably acquired by the Fourdriniers when they purchased Gamble's patent in 1804. Besides the signature of the original artist, the drawings bore the signature of John Gamble, These drawings were purchased by paper dealer, collector and papermaking historian Leonard B. Schlosser. After Schlosser's death the drawings were reproduced in color in their original size and published in a limited edition by Henry Morris of the Bird & Bull Press with an explanatory introduction in Nicolas Louis Robert and his Endless Wire Papermaking Machine with Facsimiles of the Inventor's Original Drawings of the first Paper Machine, Including a chapter on the papermaking historian Leonard B. Schlosser (2000).

Clapperton, The Paper-Making Machine. Its Invention, Evolution and Development (1967).

Coleman, The British Paper Industry 1495-1860 (1958) Chapter 7, "Mechanisation" and pp. 235-45

(This entry was last revised on 03-24-2016.)

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1800 – 1850

Méchain, Delambre, Biot & Arago Calculate the Meter (Metre) Scientifically 1806 – 1821

Between 1806 and 1810 French astronomer and surveyer Pierre Méchain and French mathematician and astronomer Jean Delambre published Base du système mètrique décimal in3 volumes. This work was concluded in 1821 by a fourth volume entitled Recueil d’observations géodésiques, astronomiques et physiques by French physicist, astronomer and mathematician Jean Baptiste Biot and French mathematician, physicist and astronomer François Arago.

In 1788 the French Academy of Sciences, at the suggestion of Talleyrand, proposed the establishment of a new universal decimal system of measurement founded upon some “natural and invariable base” to replace Europe’s diverse regional systems. This project was approved by the Assemblée nationale in 1790 and a basic unit or “meter (metre)” of measurement proposed, which was to be one ten-millionth of the distance between the terrestrial pole and the Equator. In 1792 Méchain and Delambre were appointed to make the necessary geodetic measurements of the meridian passing through Dunkirk and Barcelona, from which the meter would be derived, and in 1793/94 (An II of  the French Revolutionary calendar), the French government introduced the metric system to the country through the publication of Instruction sur les mesures déduites de la grandeur de la terre, uniformes pour toute la république, et sur les calculs relatifs à leur division décimale issued in Paris by the Imprimerie Nationale. 

Méchain and Delambre's scientific project was hampered by France’s political revolution, by the death of Méchain in 1804, and by the tedious calculations involved in converting one system to another; it was not until 1810 that Delambre was able to complete the final volume of the Base du système mètrique décimal.

Méchain and Delambre had determined the length of the meter by taking measurements over a meridian arc of 10 degrees. After Méchain’s death in 1804, the Bureau des Longitudes proposed that the meter’s length be redetermined more accurately by extending measurement of the arc of the meridian south to the Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza. François Arago and Jean Baptiste Biot were assigned to this task. Arago was twenty years old at the start of this project. In 1806 he and Biot journeyed to Spain and began triangulating the Spanish coast. Their work was disrupted by the political unrest that developed after Napoleon’s invasion of Spain in 1807. Biot returned to Paris after they had determined the latitude of Formentera, the southernmost point to which they were to carry the survey. Arago continued the work until 1808, his purpose being to measure a meridian arc in order to determine the exact length of a meter.

After Biot's departure, the political ferment caused by the entrance of the French into Spain extended to the Balearic Islands, and the population suspected Arago's movements and his lighting of fires on the top of mola de l’Esclop as the activities of a spy for the invading army. Their reaction was such that he was obliged to give himself up for imprisonment in the fortress of Bellver in June 1808. On July 28 Arago escaped from the island in a fishing boat, and after an adventurous voyage he reached Algiers on August 3. From there he obtained a passage in a vessel bound for Marseille, but on August 16, just as the vessel was nearing Marseille, it fell into the hands of a Spanish corsair. With the rest the crew, Arago was taken to Roses in Catalonia, and imprisoned first in a windmill, and afterwards in a fortress, until the town fell into the hands of the French, and the prisoners were transferred to Palamós.

After three months' imprisonment, Arago and the others were released on the demand of the dey (ruler) of Algiers, and again set sail for Marseille on the November 28, but when within sight of their port they were driven back by a northerly wind to Bougie on the coast of Africa. Transport to Algiers by sea from this place would have required a delay of three months. Arago, therefore, set out over land, on what had to be a strenuous journey, guided by a Muslim imam, and reached Algiers on Christmas Day. After six months in Algiers, on June 21, 1809, Arago set sail for Marseille, where he had to undergo a monotonous and inhospitable quarantine in the lazaretto before his difficulties were over, roughly one year after he had first been imprisoned. The first letter he received, while in the lazaretto, was from Alexander von Humboldt—the origin of a scientific relationship which lasted over forty years.

In spite of the successive imprisonments, an escape, voyages, and other hardships he endured, Arago had succeeded in preserving the records of his survey; and his first act on his return home was to deposit them in the Bureau des Longitudes in Paris. As a reward for his heroic conduct in the cause of science, he was elected a member of the Académie des Sciences at the remarkably early age of twenty-three, and before the close of 1809 he was chosen by the council of the Ėcole Polytechnique to succeed Gaspard Monge in the chair of analytic geometry. At the same time he was named by the emperor one of the astronomers of the Obsérvatoire royale, which remained his residence till his death, and in this capacity he delivered his remarkably successful series of popular lectures on astronomy from 1812 to 1845. Most of Arago's later scientific contributions were in physics, particularly optics and magnetism: he discovered the phenomena of rotary magnetism (the greater sensitivity for light in the periphery of the eye) and rotary polarization, invented the first polariscope, and performed important experiments supporting the undulatory theory of light. In his capacity as secretary of the Académie des sciences, he championed the photographic process invented by Louis Daguerre, announcing its discovery to the Académie in 1839, and using his influence to obtain publicity and funding for its inventor.

Arago’s results, together with geodetic data obtained in France, England and Scotland, were published in the Recueil d’observations géodésiques, issued as a supplement to Méchain and Delambre’s work 11 years after he carried the data back to France, in 1821. Political opposition to the new system of measurement may have contributed to the unusually long delay in publication. 

Besides his scientific career Arago was a politician, representing a scientific point of view, and accomplishing government projects that were culturally valuable. For a little over one month, from May 9, 1848 to June 24, 1848 he was the 25th Prime Minister of France. Arago detailed his scientific adventures in his Histoire de ma jeunesse published the year after his death, in 1854.  This was translated into English by the Rev. Baden-Powell as History of My Youth (1855). The translation was reprinted in Arago's Biographies of Distinguished Scientific Men (1859).

As a tribute to Arago’s contribution, in 1994 the Arago Association and the city of Paris commissioned a Dutch conceptual artist, Jan Dibbets to create a memorial to Arago. Dibbets came up with the idea of setting 135 bronze Arago Medallions into the ground along the Paris Meridian between the northern and southern limits of Paris: a total distance of 9.2 kilometres/5.7 miles. Each medallion is 12 cm in diameter and marked with the name ARAGO plus N and S pointers; only 121 are documented in the official guide to the medallions. One of these was shown in the film, The Da Vinci Code.

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 260. Daumas, Arago: La jeunesse de la science, ch. IV. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1481.

Alder, The Measure of the World (2003) pp. 7 and 294 refers to Méchain's annotated copy of this set of books in the Karpeles Manuscript Library.  In 2011, when I finished this database entry, I owned Arago's copy of the set.

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The Roxburghe Club, the Oldest Society of Bibliophiles is Founded June 16, 1812

The Roxburghe Club, the oldest society of bibliophiles in the world, was founded on June 16, 1812. Membership was limited to 40.

"The Club came into existence on 16 June 1812 when a group of book-collectors and bibliophiles, inspired by the Revd Thomas Dibdin, panegyrist of Lord Spencer, the greatest collector of the age, dined together on the eve of the sale of John, Duke of Roxburghe’s library, which took place on the following day. This was the greatest private library of the previous age, and the sale was confidently expected to break all records, and it did. The first edition of Boccaccio (then believed to be unique) printed in 1471 made £2,260, a record that stood for more than sixty years, and the Duke’s Caxtons made equally high prices. The diners decided that this occasion should not be forgotten and so they dined again together the next year on June 17, the anniversary of the sale, and again the year after. So the Roxburghe Club was born and its members still dine together each year on, or about, that memorable day" (The Roxburghe Club website).

The archives of The Roxburghe Club are maintained at Arundel Castle, West Sussex.

Barker, Nicolas. The Roxburghe Club. A Bicentenary History (2012).

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Thomas Jefferson's Library Becomes the Core of the New Library of Congress Circa September 1814

Within a month after the burning of the Library of Congress in the United States Capitol building, in September 1814 President Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement. Jefferson spent 50 years accumulating 6,487 books, "putting by everything which related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable in every science." His library was considered one of the finest in the United States.

Heavily indebted, Jefferson sought to use the proceeds of the sale of his library to satisfy his creditors. He anticipated controversy over the nature of his collection, which included books in foreign languages and volumes of philosophy, science, literature, and other topics not normally viewed as part of a legislative library. He wrote: "I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer."

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Francis Scott Key Issues "The Star Spangled Banner" September – November 1814

American lawyer, author and poet Francis Scott Key's The Star Spangled Banner. A Pariotic [sic] Song was printed from two engraved plates and sold by Carr's Music Store in Baltimore, Maryland.

Of the eleven copies of the first edition known in 2010, ten were in institutions; only one remained in private hands. 

"Francis Scott Key's famous patriotic verses were inspired by a shipboard vigil on the night of September 13-14, 1814, when a British naval flotilla bombarded Fort McHenry for hours, prefatory to a planned full-scale assault. Key, a young lawyer, and a colleague had gone on board a British ship under a flag of truce to secure the release of an American physician, Dr. William Beanes, held as a prisoner. To ensure that no military information on the impending attack could be passed to the American defenders, Key too was detained. He spent the night on the deck of the flag-of-truce sloop, which gave him a sweeping view of the dramatic scene. He watched anxiously as British naval cannon-fire and incendiary bombs and rockets rained onto the American fort. During the shelling, the very large stars and stripes flag flying from the fort's ramparts was clearly visible, giving heartening evidence that the fort's defenses had weathered the storm of shot and shell. But when the bombardment unexpectedly ceased, the American flag was obscured. Key was heart-sick. Had the fort been forced to surrender? But at dawn, when the smoke of the shelling lifted, the flag was again visible. Key's patriotic emotions were powerfully stirred by the welcome sight. His first draft of the anthem was written on shipboard, on the back of a letter, then a final version, containing four 8-line stanzas, was completed in the next few days upon Key's return to Baltimore.

"His rousing song perfectly mirrored Americans' heightened patriotic fervor in the wake of the destruction of Washington and the bombardment of Fort McHenry. Broadside and newspaper printings under the title 'The Defence of Fort McHenry,' swiftly circulated, [the first of which appeared on September 17 and is known in only two surviving copies.] The verses' runaway popularity was given strong impetus when Key's lyrics were set to the tune of a well-known drinking tune 'The Anacreontic Song,' attributed to the English composer, John Stafford Smith (1740-1846). . . .

"Capitalizing on the great popularity for the song, the enterprising Baltimore music publisher Thomas Carr (1780-1849) quickly engraved and printed words and music together. Signs are that it was a rushed job: the name of the poet, Francis Scott Key, was omitted, and the heading proclaimed the song to be "A Pariotic Song." The sheet-music edition of the song was available for purchase at Carr's shop before 18 November. In an amended issue from the same plates, Carr corrected the misspelling: parts of the copperplate were rubbed out and re-engraved to read 'A Celebrated Patriotic Song.' No doubt the sheet-music--despite its spelling errors--enjoyed a brisk sale at the time and for years afterwards. Today, though, only 11 copies of the first edition are recorded; all but the present, newly discovered copy are in public institutions" (http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=5382313, accessed 11-24-2010).

On December 3, 2010 the last copy remaining  in private hands sold for $506,500 including the buyer's premium at Christie's in New York.

As recently as 1931 Congress named The Star-Spangled Banner the national anthem.

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Francis Ronalds Builds the First Working Electric Telegraph 1816

In 1816 English meteorologist and inventor Francis Ronalds built the first working electrostatic telegraph. This was the first "electric" medium for communication. Ronalds's device involved two synchronized clocks whose dials were marked with the letters of the alphabet. Instead of hands, each clock had a rotating disk with a notch cut into it so that only one letter on the clock face was visible at a time. Ronalds placed one clock at each end of eight miles of wire insulated by glass tubing that he had laid down in an elaborate series of back & forth coils in his garden in Hammersmith, London, and used electrical impulses to transmit signals between them. He wrote to Viscount Melville, First Lord of the British Admiralty, offering to demonstrate his telegraph, describing his invention as "a mode of conveying telegraphic intelligence with great rapidity, accuracy, and certainty, in all states of the atmosphere, either at night or in the day, and at small expense." However John Barrow, secretary to the admiralty, wrote back to Ronalds saying that "telegraphs of any kind are now [after the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars] totally unnecessary, and that no other than the one now in use [a semaphore telegraph] will be adopted" (quoted in DNB). Ronalds never patented his work. Eventually Charles Wheatstone and William Fothergill Cooke patented and popularized Ronalds's system. 

Ronalds first published an account of his invention in Descriptions of an Electrical Telegraph, and of some other Electrical Apparatus (London, 1823).

Ronalds was also a pioneer collector of books and pamphlets on electricity, magnetism and telegraphy.  Alfred J. Frost edited a catalogue of his library: Catalogue of books, papers... electricity, magnetism, telegraph in the Ronalds Library (1880).

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David Ricardo Explains the Distribution of Wealth, Including How it Applies to the Value of Rare Books 1817

In 1817 David Ricardo published The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation in which he expounded the theory of comparative advantage, "a fundamental argument in favor of free trade among countries and of specialization among individuals. Ricardo argued that there is mutual benefit from trade (or exchange) even if one party (e.g. resource-rich country, highly-skilled artisan) is more productive in every possible area than its trading counterpart (e.g. resource-poor country, unskilled laborer), as long as each concentrates on the activities where it has relative productivity advantage" (Wikipedia article on David Ricardo, accessed 12-27-2008).

Concerning the economic value of rare books and manuscripts Ricardo included pertinent observations in Chapter One, Section 1, paragraph 4:

"There are some commodities, the value of which is determined by their scarcity alone. No labour can increase the quantity of such goods, and therefore their value cannot be lowered by an increased supply. Some rare statues, scarce books and coins, wines of a peculiar quality, which can only be made from grapes grown on a particular soil, of which there is very limited quanity, are all of this description. Their value is wholly independent of the quantity of labour necessary to produce them, and varies with the varying wealth and inclinations of those who desire to possess them." 

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 277.

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"The Book of Life: A Bibliographical Melody" 1820

In 1820 printer John Johnson, who would later be known for his Typographia (1824), issued fifty copies on paper and two on vellum of a poem entitled The Book of Life; A Bibliographical Melody. These copies Richard Thomson presented to the members of The Roxburghe Club on June 17, 1820. In 2013 I obtained an edition of the poem printed at the Feathered Serpent Press by Susan Acker and presented to the members of the Roxburghe Club of San Francisco and the Zamorano Club of Los Angeles by William P. Wreden in October 1990. The text reads as follows:

THE BOOK OF LIFE; A Bibliographical Melody

THAT Life is a Comedy oft hath been shown,

By all who Mortality's changes have known;

But more like a Volume it's actions appear,

Where each Day is Page, and Chapter a Year.

'Tis a Manuscript Time shall full surely unfold,

Though with Black-Letter shaded, or shining with Gold;

The Initial, like Youth, glitters bright on its Page,

But its Text is as dark—as the gloom of Old Age.

Then Life's Counsels of Wisdom engrave on thy breast,

And deep on thine Heart be her lessons imprest.


Though the Title stand first it can little declare,

The Contents which the Pages ensuing shall bear;

As little the first day of Life can explain

The succeeding events which shall glide in its train.

The Book follows next, and delighted we trace,

An Elzevir's beauty, a Guttemberg's grace;

Thus on pleasure we gaze with as 'raptured an eye, 

Till cut off like a Volume imperfect—we die!

The Life's Counsels of Wisdom engrave on thy breast,

And deep on thine Heart be her lessons imprest.


Yet e'en thus imperfect, complete, or defaced,

The skill of the Printer is still to be traced;

And though Death bend us early in life to his will,

The wise hand of our Author is visible still.

Like the Colophon lines, the Epitaph's lay,

Which tells of what age and what nation our day;

And, like the Device of the Printer, we bear

The form of the Founder, whose Image we wear.

The Life's Counsels of Wisdom engrave on thy breast,

And deep on thine Heart be her lessons imprest.


The work thus completed it's Boards shall enclose,

Till a Binding more bright and more beauteous it shows;

And who can deny, when Life's Vision hath past,

That the dark Boards of Death shall surround us at last.

Yet our Volume illumed with fresh splendours shall rise,

To be gazed at by Angels, and read to the skies,

Reviewed by it's Author, revised by his pen,

In a fair New Edition to flourish again.

The Life's Counsels of Wisdom engraved on thy breast,

And deep on thine Heart be her lessons Imprest.

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The Earliest Surviving Photograph: A Process that Never "Caught On" 1826 – 1827

In 1826 or 1827 French inventor Nicéphore Niépce created View from the Window at Le Gras, the oldest surviving photograph, using the process of heliography that he had invented around 1822. The photograph shows parts of the buildings and surrounding countryside of his estate, Le Gras, in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, as seen from a high window. The exposure is thought to have required from eight hours to several days.

"Niépce captured the scene with a camera obscura focused onto a 16.2 cm × 20.2 cm (6.4 in × 8.0 in) pewter plate coated with Bitumen of Judea, a naturally occurring asphalt. The bitumen hardened in the brightly lit areas, but in the dimly lit areas it remained soluble and could be washed away with a mixture of oil of lavender and white petroleum. A very long exposure in the camera was required. Sunlight strikes the buildings on opposite sides, suggesting an exposure that lasted about eight hours, which has become the traditional estimate. A researcher who studied Niépce's notes and recreated his processes found that the exposure must have continued for several days.

"In late 1827, Niépce visited England. He showed this and several other specimens of his work to botanical illustrator Francis Bauer, who encouraged him to present his "heliography" process to the Royal Society. Niépce was unwilling to reveal any specific practical details of his process, so the Royal Society declined his offer. Before returning to France, he gave Bauer the specimens and a draft of the remarks he had prepared to accompany his presentation. After Bauer's death in 1840, the specimens passed through several hands and were occasionally exhibited as historical curiosities. The View from the Window at Le Gras was last seen in 1905 and then fell into oblivion.

"Historian Helmut Gernsheim tracked down the photograph in 1952 and brought it to prominence, reinforcing the claim that Niépce is the inventor of photography. He had an expert at the Kodak Research Laboratory make a modern photographic copy, but it proved extremely difficult to produce an adequate representation of all that could be seen when inspecting the actual plate. Gernsheim heavily retouched one of the copy prints to clean it up and make the scene more comprehensible, and until the late 1970s he allowed only that enhanced version to be published. It was apparently at the time of the copying that the plate acquired disfiguring bumps near three of its corners, causing light to reflect in ways that interfere with the visibility of those areas and of the image as a whole.

"In 1963, Harry Ransom purchased most of Gernsheim's photography collection for The University of Texas at Austin, but the Niépce heliograph was not included in the sale. Shortly thereafter, Gernsheim donated it. Although it has rarely traveled since then, in 2012–2013 it visited Mannheim, Germany as part of an exhibition entitled The Birth of Photography—Highlights of the Helmut Gernsheim Collection. It is normally on display in the main lobby of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center in Austin, Texas " (Wikipedia article on View from the Window at Le Gras, accessed 10-24-2013).

Why then did Niépce's process never catch on? Why is the invention of photography typically credited to Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot?  Clearly the extremely slow speed of developing the image had to be a factor. According to an email I received from historian of science William B. Ashworth, Jr. on March 7, 2014, there were other reasons:

"It is a convoluted, and sad, story.  Niépce travelled to England in 1827 to tend to his mentally ill brother, and he brought several heliographs with him.  He met people who were quite interested in his process, and he tried to make arrangements to give a demonstration to the Royal Society of London.  However, everything went wrong, and it really was no one's fault.  The Royal Society was practically dysfunctional at the time, as the president, Humphry Davy, was dying, and there was considerable scrambling to determine his successor.  John Herschel, who would be a photographic pioneer himself in the 1830s, was so disgusted with the Society that he resigned his position as secretary and refused to attend meetings.  The upshot was that the presentation never came to pass, and the people who would have been the most interested in Niépce’s demonstration, like Herschel, never met Niépce or saw his work.  Niépce returned home, his heliotypes still in his luggage, and although he lived until 1833, and collaborated at the end with Louis Daguerre, he gradually disappeared from public view.  When the Daguerrotype (a different type of photographic process) was first demonstrated to a revitalized Royal Society in 1839, Niépce's name was all but forgotten.  Niépce did all the right things, but he never reached the right people.  Had he made his trip to England a year earlier, or even a year later, he might have found a receptive audience, and the history of photography might have played out quite differently.  Life is like that, sometimes."

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The First Illustrated Antiquarian Bookseller's Catalogue 1829

In 1829 English antiquarian bookseller John Cochran of London issued A Catalogue of Manuscripts, in Different Languages, on Theology; English and Foreign History; Heraldry; Philosophy, Poetry; Romances; the Fine Arts (Including Calligraphy and some Splendid Persian Drawings;) Sports; Alchemy, Astrology, Divination; &c. &c. of Various Dates, from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Century, Many of them upon Vellum, and Adorned with Splendid Illuminations. To Which is Added a Small Collection of Manuscripts in the Oriental Languages; with an Appendix Containing a Few Printed Books, Some of them with Manuscript Notes and Autographs of Eminent Persons. This catalogue, written by John Holmes who was later assistant keeper of manuscripts at the British Museum, listed 650 items, each with annotated descriptions, some quite extensive. Presented in a cloth binding with printed paper label on the spine, this antiquarian bookseller's catalogue was the first to include illustrations of items offered for sale— a folding engraved frontispiece and five additional lithographed plates. The lithographs are all dated May 1829.

A.N.L. Munby, Connoisseurs and Medieval Miniatures 1750-1850 (1972) 123 mentions Holmes and Cochran's catalogue in the context of a discussion of collecting by Bertram, the Fourth Earl of Ashburnham.

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Janos Bolyai Independently Invents Non-Euclidean Geometry 1832 – 1833

In 1833 Hungarian mathematician János Bolyai published "Appendix scientiam spatii absolute veram exhibens: a veritate aut falsitate axiomatis xi Euclidei (a priori haud unquam decidenda) independentem. . . ." appended to a textbook by his mathematician father Farkas Bolyai, entitled Tentamen juventutem studiosam in elementa matheseos purae I pp. [2] [1]-26 [2] pp. (second series). The two volumes appeared in Maros Vasarhelyini, Hungary (now Romania) printed by Joseph and Simon Kali, at the press of the Reform College.

Although the idea of a non-Euclidean geometry had occurred independently to several nineteenth-century mathematicians, János Bolyai was one of the first to publish an organized, deductive and logically based system that was avowedly non-Euclidean. He was preceded only by Lobachevskii (Lobachevsky), whose "O nachalakh geometrii" (On the Foundations of Geometry) had been published in the obscure periodical, Kazanskii vestnik, izdavaemyi pri Imperatorskom Kazamskom Universitete in Kazan, Russia, in 1829-30, but Bolyai remained unaware of the Russian's work until 1848, when he came across the German translation Lobachevskii's Geometrische Untersuchungen (1840). Bolyai and Lobachevskii are generally given equal credit for the invention of non-Euclidean geometry.

János Bolyai began developing his new geometry in 1820, and completed it five years later. He undertook this task despite the warnings of his father, who discouraged his son in the strongest terms from trying to prove or refute Euclid's parallel axiom; in a letter written in 1820, Farkas told his son not to "tempt the parallels" and to "shy away from it as from lewd intercourse, it can deprive you of all your leisure, your health, your peace of mind and your entire happiness." The elder Bolyai found his son's new geometry of "absolute space" unacceptable, but finally, in the summer of 1831, decided to send János's manuscript to his old friend Carl Friedrich Gauss. Neither of the Bolyais knew that Gauss had been working for thirty years on developing his own non-Euclidean geometry, so János was dreadfully shocked to read in Gauss's reply that he [Gauss] could not praise János's system since to do so would be to praise himself! Despite this blow, János agreed to let his paper be published as an appendix to his father's obscure mathematics textbook printed in a small edition by an equally obscure Hungarian school publisher.

Unsurprisingly, Bolyai's paper failed to attract the attention of contemporary mathematicians, and his new geometry remained almost completely unknown until 1867, when German mathematician Heinrich Richard Baltzer publicized the achievements of Bolyai and Lobachevskii in his Elemente der Mathematik.

Bibliographical Comments

The Tentamen was very crudely or amateurishly printed at a school press; copies exhibit the earmarks of non-professional or inexperienced publishing, particularly in the clumsy typography and numerous errata and corrigenda leaves, which must have made the Tentamen extremely difficult to use. These leaves were printed on different paper stocks and were obviously added after the original printing. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 259 included a collation and discussion of tentative issue points. The subscribers' lists in Vol. i (1r+v) and Vol. ii (266v) indicate that 156 copies were subscribed for, and the edition was probably not much larger than this. 

In January 2016 antiquarian bookseller William P. Watson of London published preliminary results of his bibliographical researches on Bolyai's work in his Catalogue 21, Science, Medicine, Natural History, item No. 14, from which I quote:

"... Apart from the Appendix, hardly any two copies of the Tentamen agree in collation, and the great variation amongst them, including cancel leaves and gatherings, indicates that the publishing history of this work was confused, and remains confusing.

"Bolyai illustrates his textbook with 14 folding plates, five of which are inventively augmented with numerous small flaps. These plates contain as many as 10 slips, often concealed one behind the other; plate 10 also displays a single volvelle, which has gone unrecorded in most bibliographies to date; although not described in the printed or on-line catalogue entries, it is present in most copies. One point of bibliographic confusion has been clarified: the Horblit/Grolier Catalogue (based on the Smithsonian copy) lists an overslip on plate 6 that is not recorded in any other copy. Upon investigation it appears that an integral part of the plate (the lower portion of the diagram labelled T.144) was inadvertently detached during rebinding and subsequently reattached on a stub, leading to the conclusion that this was a required flap.

"Fewer than 25 copies are known: Stanford University: Haskell Norman collection (sold 29 October 1998 Christie's New York); Yale (Cushing copy, the first volume with Appendix only); Smithsonian Institution (Dibner copy, which was also the copy described in Horblit); Huntington (formerly the Burndy Library; the copy owned by Bolyai's translaor into English, George Bruce Halsted); Boston Public Library; University of Kentrucky (Louisville), and four in private collections. In Europe there are copies recorded at the Royal Society London; University College London; Austrian National Library; Hungarian National Library (Budapest); Leipzig, Göttingen (two, one Gauss's copy) Bordeaux (Jules Hoüel, translator of the Appendix 1867) and Trento (vol 1 only, and that seriously defective, lacking text and all the plates). There are two copies in private collections, one comprising vol. 1 only. There was one in Berlin (lost or destroyed in WWII). The copy sometimes described at Kanazawa Institute of Technology appears to be a ghost.

"There are numerous variations in collation etc. amongst these copies. We are compiling a detailed census and concordance which should be available shortly...."

Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972) 873-880.

(This entry was last revised on 01-04-2016.)

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The First Great American Contribution to Physiology 1833

In `833 U.S. Army surgeon William Beaumont published Experiments and Observations on the Gastric juice, and the Physiology of Digestion in Plattsburgh, New York at the newspaper press of F. P. Allen. This was the first great American contribution to physiology. While stationed at Fort Mackinac, near Michilimackinac, on Mackinac Island, Michigan, close to the Canadian border— then and now an extremely remote location— Beaumont had been presented with a unique opportunity in the person of one of his patients, the young French Canadian soldier Alexis St. Martin, who was left with a permanent gastric fistula after suffering a gunshot wound to the stomach. Beaumont's experiments and observations, conducted between 1825 and 1831, conclusively established the chemical nature of digestion, the presence and role of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, the temperature of the stomach during digestion, the movement of the stomach walls and the relative digestibility of certain foods—all of which revolutionized current theories of the physiology of digestion.

The most important presentation copy extant of Beaumont's work is the copy Beaumont inscribed to his longtime friend James W. Kingsbury, an army officer whom Beaumont had met when both men were stationed in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin in the early 1830s. Kingsbury was a man of some prominence in St. Louis, where he had married a local heiress, Julia Antoinette Cabanne, and acquired from his father-in-law a 425-acre tract of land that is now home to Kingsbury Place, one of St. Louis's most elegant residential communities. In 1835 Beaumont moved his family to St. Louis, where he remained the rest of his life; his decision to settle in the city, although motivated by professional ambition, certainly also owed something to the presence of his friend Kingsbury there.

Kingsbury was quite familiar with Beaumont's researches on digestion, as Beaumont had continued his experiments with Alexis St. Martin during his tenure at Prairie du Chien. When Beaumont decided to publish his Experiments and Observations by subscription, Kingsbury, who by then was back to St. Louis, acted as one of Beaumont's agents, distributing prospectuses for the book to local booksellers and other likely purchasers. The Beaumont archives at Washington University's Becker Medical Library includes a letter that Kingsbury wrote to Beaumont on July 14, 1833; this is the earliest letter written to Beaumont to contain a reference to Beaumont's book:

"Your book will be valuable to any one whether a medical man, or a plain farmer, especially when Diet is all the rage as it is now. I hope it may prove as profitable to your purse, as it has to your standing in the great world, where you are located you do not require Alex's intestines to gain you a name or practice. Send me on some 4 or 5 of the prospectus. I shall take one or two copies, my friends will take some & I trust that the talent of the country will have & manifest a feeling for kindred abilities."  

At the end of his letter Kingsbury repeats his request:  

"Send your prospectus as soon as you can we have about 16 doctors here to be examined."  

Even though Beaumont's scientific advisors urged him to have his book issued by established medical publishers such as Lippincott in Philadelphia, Beaumont decided to self-publish his book. He had it typeset at the press of the town newspaper in Plattsburgh, New York, and sold through a prospectus and agents. The Beaumont archives in St. Louis include a remarkably complete account of Beaumont's adventure in self-publishing, which included his placing some copies of the first edition for sale in Boston. These were issued with a cancel title and the imprint Lilly, Wait & Co., 1834.  

Only one other presentation copy of this work is recorded: the Haskell F. Norman copy, which sold at Christie's NY in 1998. That was one of fifty copies which Beaumont had bound in full leather. Considering normal book production practice, it is likely that the special full-leather copies were produced after the main edition. The Norman copy was inscribed by Beaumont to William Dunlap, whose relationship with Beaumont is unknown.  

Dibner, Heralds of Science no. 130.  Horblit, One Hundred Books Famous in Science no. 10. Lilly, Notable Medical Books p. 185. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 152. Norman, One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine, no. 61. Peters & Fulton, William Beaumont's Letter to his New Haven Bookseller, Hezekiah Howe. . . , pp. 1-17. Horsman, Frontier Doctor: William Beaumont, America's First Great Medical Scientist. Myer, William Beaumont: A Pioneer American Physiologist. Hunter, Kingsbury Place: The First Two Hundred Years, pp. 5, 7-8.

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The First Commercially Viable Method of Color Printing 1834 – 1835

In 1835 London-based English artist and printer George Baxter received patent No. 6916, "Improvements for Producing Coloured Steel Plate, Copper Plate, and Other Impressions." His patent included an example of a print requiring 14 different impressions on the hand press before completion. The original printed patent in my possession, which reproduced Baxter's original color artwork in black & white like all early patents, could not accurately show the progression of colors involved, but the patent did explain the concepts.  Even though Baxter's process was elaborate, it was the first commercially viable method of color printing. A perfectionist, Baxter never personally profited from the process, probably because he used so many colors and extra hand-touches to achieve his desired results. 

Perhaps also because of the extreme complexity of the technique, Baxter's patent seems not to have been infringed upon. Eventually Baxter licensed the process to other printers, such as George C. Leighton, who being less perfectionistic, modified the process, and produced commercial color prints more efficiently and more profitably.

"Baxter’s process for producing colour prints combined relief and intaglio printing methods. A ‘key’ plate was prepared, usually made of steel and using any combination of engraving, stipple, etching and aquatint. Baxter also appears to have used mezzotint and lithography to create his key plate on occasion. The key plate provided the main lines of the image and much of the tone, light and shade. It was usually printed in a neutral tone, such as light grey or terracotta. Often Baxter used more than one colour to ink the key plate – for example, to gradate the image from blue in the sky, to buff in the middle distance and to a darker colour in the foreground; i.e. inking the plate à la poupée. Usually Baxter used aquatint for landscapes and stipple to work faces and figures.

"Following printing of the key plate, relief blocks were prepared, usually from wood but also from zinc or copper, using impressions of the key plate to create the blocks. Usually one block was prepared for each colour, although sometimes two or more colours or tints were included on the same block, requiring hand inking of each individual area. Each colour was applied and allowed to dry before adding the next colour. It is thought that Baxter usually started printing with a blue tint and then progressed through the other colours in a predetermined order – all blocks were numbered sequentially and labelled with the colour to be used. Sometimes up to 24 separate colours were used, although ten could be considered an average number. Baxter achieved his precise registration by fixing the print over a number of spikes, over which the blocks would also fit.

"Baxter is thought to have used hand-colouring for finishing touches on occasion – for example, '… extra touches of red on the mouths, high white lights upon jewels . . .' It is also believed Baxter occasionally applied glaze via an additional printing step all over the image, composed of his usual varnish with a ‘hard drier’ added to make it insoluble in water. More often, however, it is thought that Baxter glazed areas of the print selectively by hand using a glaze composed of gum arabic, egg white and Castile soap" (Wikipedia article on George Baxter, accessed 05-17-2012).

Probably the first published "Baxter Prints" were two small cameo prints of birds illustrating the title pages of Robert Mudie's The Feathered Tribes of the British Islands (London, 1834). The are captioned in small type, "Engraved on Wood and Printed in Colours, by G. Baxter."  The following year Baxter color printed title page vignettes and also the frontispieces of Mudie's 4-volume set, The Heavens, the Earth, the Sea, and the Air.  My copy of the first edition of Mudie's The Sea, presumably issued after the Baxter's patent was granted, has a color frontispiece entitled "Evening on the Sea,"captioned "Baxter's Patent Oil Colour Printing."

Burch, Colour Printing and Colour Printers (1910) 124-134.  

♦ For collectors and students of Baxter prints there is the New Baxter Society in England.

(This entry was last revised on 03-19-2014.)

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The First Comprehensive Guide to Collecting Autographs 1836

In 1836 Pierre Jules Fontaine published in Paris Manuel de l'amateur d'autographesFontaine's book was the first comprehensive guide to collecting autographes. It provided a history of all the auction sales of autographs that had been conducted in France from their beginning in 1822 up to 1836.

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Sir Thomas Phillipps, the Greatest Private Collector of Manuscripts in the 19th Century, and Maybe Ever 1837 – 1871

From his private press at his estate at Middle Hill, Broadway, Worcestershire, England, Sir Thomas Phillipps issued Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum in bibliotheca d. Thomae Phillips, Bt., listing the most significant collection of manuscripts ever assembled by a collector. According to A.N.L. Munby, this catalogue of Phillipps's manuscript collection, published in fascicules, or parts, over more than thirty years, was issued in only 50 copies, of which only three surviving copies may be considered complete. The fascicules were printed by a variety of printers, only some of whom worked at Phillipps's estate, and Phillipps bound up copies from both corrected and uncorrected sheets, resulting in copies that are exceptional in their bibliographical complexity. The catalogue includes 23,837 entries, which, for various reasons outlined by Munby, describe a considerably larger collection that may have comprised about 60,000 manuscripts. In 1968 Munby issued, in an edition of 500 copies, a facsimile of a complete copy of the Phillips catalogue which belonged at the time to rare book dealer Lew D. Feldman: The Phillipps Manuscripts. Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum . . . with an introduction by A.N.L. Munby. (London: Holland Press).

"Philipps began his collecting while still at Rugby School and continued at Oxford. Such was his devotion that he acquired some 40,000 printed books and 60,000 manuscripts, arguably the largest collection a single individual has created. . . . A.N.L. Munby notes that '[h]e spent perhaps between two hundred thousand and a quarter of a million pounds[,] altogether four or five thousand pounds a year, while accessions came in at the rate of forty or fifty a week.' His success as a collector owed something to the dispersal of the monastic libraries following the French Revolution and the relative cheapness of a large amount of vellum material, in particular English legal documents, many of which owe their survival to Phillipps. He was an assiduous cataloguer who established the Middle Hill Press (named after his country seat at Broadway, Worcestershire) in 1822 not only to record his book holdings but also to publish his findings in English topography and geneology."

"During his lifetime Phillipps attempted to turn over his collection to the British nation and corresponded with the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Disraeli in order that it should be acquired for the British Library. Negotiations proved unsuccessful and ultimately the dispersal of his collection took over 100 years. Phillipps's will stipulated that his books should remain intact at Thirlestaine House, that no bookseller or stranger should rearrange them and that no Roman Catholic should be permitted to view them. In 1885 the Court of Chancery declared this too restrictive and thus made possible the sale of the library which Phillipps’s grandson Thomas FitzRoy Fenwick supervised for the next fifty years. Significant portions of the European material were sold to the national collections on the continent including the Royal Library, Berlin, the Royal Library of Belgium and the Provincial Archives in Utrecht as well as the sale of outstanding individual items to the J. Pierpont Morgan and Henry E. Huntington libraries. By 1946 what was known as the 'residue' was sold to London booksellers Phillip and Lionel Robinson for £100,000, though this part of the collection was uncatalogued and unexamined. The Robinsons endeavored to sell these books through their own published catalogues and a number of Sothebys sales. The final portion of the collection was sold to New York bookseller H.P. Kraus in 1977 who issued a sale catalogue the same year: the last to bear the title Bibliotheca Phillippica. A five-volume history of the collection and its dispersal, Phillipps Studies, by A.N.L. Munby was published between 1951 and 1960" (Wikipedia article on Sir Thomas Phillipps, accessed 11-25-2008).

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Probably the World's Oldest Picture Postcard 1840

What has been characterized as "the world's oldest picture postcard" was sent in 1840 to a writer named Theodore Hook who lived at Fulham in London. The image on the hand-colored card with a Penny Black stamp caricatures the postal service by showing post office "scribes" sitting around an enormous inkwell.  It is thought that Hook, a playwright and novelist noted at the time for his "wit and drollery," probably sent the postcard to himself as a practical joke.

The significance of Hook's card was not realized until 2001, when postal historian Edward B. Proud discovered it in a stamp collection. Until then it had been thought the postcard was invented in Austria, Germany or the United States in the 1860s. 

In March 2002 Hook's postcard sold for £31,750 including buyer's premium, at an auction at the London Stamp Exchange.

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Possibly the First Book Written During Hand Typesetting Rather than on Paper 1843 – 1865

In March 2014 English antiquarian bookseller Simon Beattie drew the attention of the Ex-Libris newsgroup to a book he planned to exhibit at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair beginning on April 3, 2014. This book, which he characterized as "The first unwritten book," was published anonymously by writer and printer C. L. Lordan, "From the Press of J. Lordan, Romsey," England, in 1843. Beattie raised the question to the readers of Ex-Libris whether they knew of any earlier book composed by its author on the "composing stick," the tool used to compose lines of type when typesetting was done by hand, rather than on paper.

Lordan's book was entitled Colloquies, Desultory and Diverse, but Chiefly upon Poetry and Poets: Between an Elder, Enthusiastic, and an Apostle of the Law. It was an octavo (206 x 129 mm) in half-sheets, [4], iv, [2], 200pp. plus a colophon leaf. Beattie stated that the method of writing the book was mentioned in a printed inscription on the leaf preceding the title-page. This leaf reads, "From Circumstances Herinafter Adverted to, The Sixty Copies of this Orignal Edition are Dispensed on Customary 'Considerations.' "

According to Beattie,

"The explanation is provided in full in a long dedication to John Wilson (a.k.a. ‘Christopher North’), the Scottish critic who edited Blackwood’s Magazine: ‘Of the little volume before you, one individual has been the composer, and compositor and imprinter throughout … The pen has been a stranger to the prose part of its composition, and the scribe’s office subverted: — with the exception of acknowledged quotations, I have been unaided by a line of manuscript or other copy. There is a rhythmical extravaganza in the sixth chapter, which I very reluctantly
signalize in this place, because the skeleton of twenty lines of it, or thereabouts, was pen-traced; the composing-stick has otherwise been my sole mechanical 'help to composition'." 

"Included are ‘colloquies’ about Wordsworth and Shakespeare, and ‘twenty minutes talk about Milton’. The text was published in a trade edition the following year, where it was described as ‘the first unwritten book’. The identity of J. Lordan has not been specifically determined; the typography looks fairly normal throughout, save for the first leaf and the colophon, which are printed in a rather primitive type-face. C. L. Lordan’s name appears in the imprint of a number of later books of Romsey interest, but as a publisher rather than a printer.

"OCLC locates 5 copies (BL, Cambridge, Folger, Library of Congress, South Carolina."

Users of this database may have noticed that I sometimes collect copies of items that I write about, especially in the field of book history. That only 60 copies of this very unusual volume were issued, and from the very unusual printing location— the town of Romsey, appealed to me, and I was pleased to successfully order the book. When I wrote this database entry on March 27, 2014 I planned to pick it up at the New York Book Fair in April. 

Whether Lordan's book was actually the first book composed by its printer on the composing stick was unclear from responses that came from readers of Ex-Libris. My first thought was that I had heard, but never confirmed, that the French 18th century printer novelist / pornographer Nicolas-Edme Rétif may have done some of his writing directly on the composing stick. Whether he actually issued a complete book in this manner was unknown to me; perhaps I will have time to research the question some day.

Other books written on the composing stick mentioned by readers of Ex-Libris were:

1. Beattie mentioned that possibly certain works by the paper historian and printer Dard Hunter were written during the hand-typesetting process.

2. Rowan Gibbs wrote that "Benjamin Farjeon is said to have done this with the first edition of his first novel, Shadows on the Snow, published in Dunedin [New Zealand] at the end of 1865. He was working as a compositor on the Otago Daily Times."

3. Others indicated that various, presumably short works, had been written directly into type in various book arts projects in the past few decades. 

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The First Annotated Bibliography of the History of Economics 1845

The Scottish economist John Ramsay McCulloch, Professor of political economy at University College London, wrote extensively on economic policy, and was a pioneer in the collection, statistical analysis and publication of economic data. His The Literature of Political Economy. A Classified Catalogue of Select Publications in the Different Departments of That Science with Historical, Critical, and Biographical Notices, published in London in 1845, was the first annotated and classified bibliography of classics in the historical literature of economics. Some of the annotations extend for more than a page and include extensive quotations. Each section begins with a general introduction, followed by a list of the principal works relating to that aspect of political economy, with notes on the individual works. There is a comprehensive author, title and subject index.

McCulloch was a noted book collector of books on a wide range of subjects besides economics. He published privately a listing of his library as  A Catalogue of Books, the Property of the Author of the Commercial Dictionary (London, 1856). McCulloch was also one of the earliest clients of the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch, and they remained close friends. In his Contributions towards a Dictionary of British Book-Collectors, fascicule VI, Quaritch and historian of economics James Bonar published reminiscences of McCulloch, a photograph, and two facsimiles of letters from McCulloch to Quaritch. After McCulloch's death in 1864 Quaritch sold McCulloch's library to McCulloch's friend, the banker and politician Samuel Jones-Loyd, 1st Baron Overstone for £5000. Bonar states that a significant portion of the books were destroyed in a fire at Overstone's house soon afterward. Lord Overstone's daughter bequeathed the surviving portion of McCulloch's library to the University of Reading.

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The First Separately Published Bibliography on the History of Science 1847

In 1847 mathematician, logician and pioneer collector of the history of mathematics, Augustus de Morgan published Arithmetical Books from the Invention of Printing to the Present Time, being Brief Notices of a Large Number of Works Drawn up from Actual Inspection.

De Morgan's work was the first separately published bibliography on the history of science excluding economics; McCulloch's annotated bibliography of the history of economics preceded it in 1845. The bulk of de Morgan's book consisted of an extensively annotated list of treatises on arithmetic from 1491 to 1846, arranged in chronological order; de Morgan claimed that he had personally examined every book. Most of the books described were from de Morgan’s own library. De Morgan stated that he was able to acquire his library at relatively low cost because of the obscurity of the subjects involved. A few of the books he described came from the libraries of collector friends, and a few from the library of the British Museum. There is an index of 1,580 entries.  In The History and Bibliography of Science in England (1968) A. N. L. Munby stated that “only in the physical descriptions of books cited is De Morgan’s great work disappointing.”

De Morgan was an eloquent exponent of the value of collecting the history of science. He wrote on p. ii his prefatory letter to Arithmetical Books:

“The most worthless book of a bygone day is a record worthy of preservation. Like a telescopic star, its obscurity may render it unavailable for most purposes; but it serves, in hands which know how to use it, to determine the places of more important bodies.”

After de Morgan's death in 1871 his library of about 4500 books, pamphlets, manuscripts and autograph letters was purchased by British banker and politician Samuel Jones-Loyd, 1st Baron Overstone and donated by him to the University of London, becoming the first special collection at the Unversity of London library. Even though de Morgan’s library was not kept together when it was transferred, his books were separately identified in the printed catalogue of the Library published in 1876. Thus it is possible to study one of the pioneering collections of books formed in England not just on mathematics, but on a wide range of the history of physical sciences. In 2012 the Senate House Library of the University of London showed examples from de Morgan's library on its website: http://www.ull.ac.uk/specialcollections/demorganexploration.shtml

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1850 – 1875

Incunabula of the Zulu Language, and a Zulu Beadwork Love Letter 1850 – 1937

On March 1, 2014 Claudia Funke, Curator of Rare Books at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, drew my attention to a non-written Zulu beadwork love letter preserved in the "Curosities Cabinet" at the UNC rare book collection. Zulu, the language of about 10 million people, 95% of whom live in South Africa, was not a written language until contact with missionaries from Europe, who documented the language using Latin script. The first grammar book of the Zulu language was published in Norway, rather than in South Africa, by the Norwegian missionary Hans Schreuder, founder of the first Christian mission in Zululand: Grammatike for Zulu-sproget, forfattet af H.P.S. Schreuder (Christiania [Oslo], 1850). According to the Wikipedia, the first published book printed in Zulu was a Bible translation: Ibaible eli ingcwele; eli Netestamente Elidala, Nelitya, kukitywa kuzo izilimi zokuqala, ku lotywa ngokwesizulu. The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments, translated out of the original tongues, into the Zulu language (New York: American Bible Society, 1883). Considering how late reading and writing came to the Zulus, we can well understand how non-written communication evolved in this culture in interesting ways.

According to Claudia Funke,

"In 1937, Daniel M. Malcolm, Chief Inspector of Native Education in Natal, South Africa, brought the letter to UNC-Chapel Hill as a visual aid for a lecture he gave at that year’s “Conference on Education of American Negroes and African Natives.” Malcolm explained that the letter was written by a girl to her beloved. The white beads indicate the purity of her heart, and the red beads show that her heart is broken and bleeding for her beloved. The four black squares represent four questions about their relationship that he must answer. Malcolm gave the love letter to UNC and its Hanes Foundation for the Study of the Origin and Development of the Book. It subsequently became part of the RBC’s “Curiosities Cabinet,” which houses many other non-codex objects of significance for the history of the book, such as cuneiform tablets and papyrus fragments."

It may be impossible to date the Zulu beadwork love letter at UNC accurately, so I assigned the accession date at UNC as a terminal date for this entry.

Long after Zulus achieved literacy, the tradition of non-written, or at least partly non-written, Zulu love letters appears to be continuing, as reflected in the 2004 film Zulu Love Letter:

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Hermann von Helmholtz Issues "Physiological Optics", Over 11 Years 1856 – 1867

Title page of Hermann von Helmholtz's Handbuch der physiologischen Optik. Please click on link to view and resize entire page.

Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz

German physician, physicist, physiologist, and inventor Hermann von Helmholtz published his Handbuch der physiologischen Optik in 6 parts, as issued in Leipzig by the Allgemeine Encyklopädie der Physik over the 11 years between 1856-1867. Once all six parts, or Lieferungs, were published subscribers could have the book bound, but in this case each part contained a portion of at least one other work by a different author in the Encykopädie, as well as a portion of Helmholtz's book, so in order to have Helmoltz's book bound in coherent way it was necessary to take each of the six parts or fascicules apart to separate out the portions of Helmholtz's book. Probably for this reason only one copy seems to have survived in the original six parts. This copy, formerly in the library of Harrison D. Horblit, passed through my hands in 2011.

The Lieferungen containing Helmholtz’s Handbuch are as follows:

Erste Lieferung (first fascicle), 1856: Signatures 1-12, plates 1-3

Siebente Lieferung (seventh fascicle), 1860: Signatures 13-21, plates 4-5 Achte Lieferung (eighth fascicle), 1860: Signatures 22-27

Siebzehnte Lieferung (seventeenth fascicle), 1866: Signatures 28-32 Achtzehnte Lieferung (eighteenth fascicle), 1866: Signatures 33-41, plate 6 Neunzehnte Lieferung (nineteenth fascicle), 1867: Signatures 42-56, plus titles and preliminaries, plates 7-11

The title-page of the Handbuch in the nineteenth fascicle is dated 1867 (as it is in the book-form version), but Helmholtz noted in his preface to the work that “Die erste Abteilung des vorliegenden Handbuches ist schon im Jahre 1856 erschienen, die zweite 1860, die dritte teils Anfang, teils Ende 1866” (The first section of this manual was published in 1856, the second in 1860, the beginning of the third part in early and late 1866). Helmholtz explained the long delay in finishing the work as being due to both external circumstances (two changes of residence and the pressures of other scientific work) and internal reasons.

Helmholtz inaugurated the science of physiological optics in 1851 with his invention of the ophthamoscope, and his Handbuch der physiologischen Optik incorporates all of the research in this subject since that time. “Volume I, which appeared in 1856, contained a detailed treatment of the dioptrics of the eye . . . In it Helmholtz treated the various imperfections of the lens system and announced the result that the visual axis of the eye does not correspond to its optical axis. Volume I also elaborated Helmholtz’s theory of accommodation and his invention of the ophthalmometer, both announced in 1855. In Volume II Helmholtz introduced [Thomas] Young’s theory [of color vision], calling it a special application of Johannes Müller’s law of specific nerve energies. He also dealt with the complex phenomena of irradiation, afterimages and contrast, which had dominated the interest of German physiologists since Goethe’s Farbehlehre” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography).

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 1046.

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Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" November 24, 1859

The title page of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

On November 24, 1859 Charles Darwin issued through the London publisher, John Murray, his book entitled On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. From its original publication, through the early years of the twenty-first century, this work remained one of the most widely appreciated, or disputed, classics in the history of science.

The idea of species evolution can be traced as far back as the ancient Greek belief in the "great chain of being". Darwin's great achievement was to make this centuries-old "underground" concept acceptable to the scientific community and educated readers by cogently arguing for the existence of a viable mechanism— natural selection— by which new species evolve over vast periods of time.  Darwin's work contained only a single illustration- a branching evolutionary tree, the first known presketch of which appears in Darwin's notebooks in 1839.

Though Darwin stated his case for evolution by natural selection persuasively and in the most diplomatic of tones, the work evoked a storm of controversy, causing Darwin to revise it through six editions during his lifetime. Since its publication the scientific evidence supporting evolution by natural selection has reached a massive—even overwhelming— preponderance, yet the controversy over evolution has never abated.

There is only one issue of the first edition of On the Origin of Species, and although three cloth binding and advertisement variants have been identified, no priority has been established. 1250 copies were printed, of which about 1,170 were available for sale; the remainder consisted of 12 author's copies, 41 review copies, 5 copyright copies, and "Darwin required ninety copies to be sent as presentations to friends, family, and scientists [Correspondence, 8: 554-6]" (Kohler & Kohler, see below, 333). Following Darwin's instructions, these presentation copies were sent out by the publisher, usually inscribed "From the Author" by the publisher's clerk.  The book was offered to booksellers two days earlier on November 22, and oversubscribed by 250 copies causing John Murray to propose a new edition immediately.

On the Origin of Species is undoubtedly the most famous book in the history of the life sciences, and one of the world's most famous books on any subject. It is also perhaps the most published book in the history of science and the most translated book originally published in English. As a result of this fame, a great deal of historical research has been concentrated on this work. Early in 2009 Cambridge University Press published The Cambridge Companion to the "Origin of Species," edited by Michael Ruse and Robert J. Richards. Most pertinent to book collecting and book history is the excellent chapter on "The Origin of Species as a Book" by Michèle Kohler and Chris Kohler.

Among the many very informative details the Kohlers include, of particular interest to the history of collecting rare books in the history of science is their observation that the first edition may have first been offered as collectable "rare book" by Bernard Quaritch Ltd in 1903 for £2-10-0, "a premium on the price of a new copy, not a discount." (p. 345). They also observe that the price of the first edition remained essentially static in the rare book trade until it began to rise in the 1920s, after which it very gradually moved upward. When I first opened my shop at the beginning of 1971 the price of a fine copy of the first edition in the original cloth was $1000. At this time the work was relatively common, and there were usually several copies of the first edition on the market at one time. In 2014 a fine copy of the first edition was worth approximately $150,000. This represented an appreciation rate far higher than most other science classics.

♦ In 2014 darwin-onlin.org.uk made available Darwin's complete publications, his private papers and manuscripts, and so-called "supplementary works." When I visited the site its index page advertised,"over 400 million hits since 2006."  Another site, the Darwin Manuscripts Project at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, provided DARBASE, a union catalogue of Darwin manuscripts in institutions and private collections.  An intriguing brief manuscript in Darwin's hand reproduced there showed that Darwin apparently considered writing a chapter "On the Geological Antiquity of Man And on the Descent (origin) of Species by variation." This was a topic of interest to me in 2014 as we prepared our book on The Discovery of Human Origins. My research till 2014 indicated that Darwin avoided publishing on the topic of human origins, leaving it to Huxley, Lyell and others. 

According to their children's accounts, Charles and Emma Darwin and their children had a happy family life, and Darwin was known not to be protective of his manuscripts after they were published. As a result, the Darwin children were allowed to doodle on the versos of some of his manuscripts, including the original manuscript of On the Origin of Species. In February 2014 reproductions of some of the more elaborate of those doodles were reproduced at this link.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 593.

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The Autograph Manuscript of Mill's "Considerations on Representative Government" 1860 – 1861

By 1980, at the end of my first decade as an independent antiquarian bookseller, I had accumulated twelve extraordinary manuscripts on diverse subjects, each of considerable historic significance. These we offered for sale in our eighth catalogue, entitled simply Twelve Manuscripts. At the time I had a sense that my ownership of several of these manuscripts was a once in a lifetime experience. What I did not appreciate was my exceptional luck in finding each of the manuscripts. Though it was, and continues to be, my privilege to handle many exceptionally fine and significant books and manuscripts in the course of business, I never again had the opportunity to assemble a comparable dozen.

Of the twelve, one of the most remarkable was the autograph manuscript of John Stuart Mill's Considerations on Representative Government, handwritten by Mill in 1860, and published in 1861. Looking back on my experience cataloguing and selling this manuscript, in 1980 Japanese institutions were very actively acquiring western rare books and manuscripts, so close readers of the description below will see that it was pitched toward the Japanese market. As it turned out, the manuscript did eventually sell to a Japanese bookseller who passed it to a Japanese university. By 2014 when I wrote this database entry, the balance of trade had shifted, and I suspected that the manuscript would have found a purchaser in the United States had it been offered for sale thirty-four years later. Our description from 1980 is quoted in full:

Complete Autograph Manuscript for one of "The Great Books of the Western World"

Mill, John Stuart (1806-73). Untitled autograph manuscript draft of Considerations on representative government. 224 leaves, mostly written on rectos with occaisonal notes on verso, with extensive current revision & later light revision. 23.5 x 18.5 cm. Gathered in 11 quires, marked A-K by Mill, each separately sewn, probably at a later date, uncut. In fine condition, in a full moroco box, gilt label. Composed in part if not entirely at Avignon, in 1860.

The most important Mill discovery of the century, this manuscript represents the only complete autograph manuscript extant of a major work of political theory by Mill. The only other known manuscripts by Mill relating to politcial theory are an incomplete autograph press copy of Principles of political economy (1848) at the Pierpont Morgan Library, and a manuscript of Chapters on socialism (1879), sold at Sotheby's in 1922, but presently unlocatable. In fact, there are a bare half-dozen manuscripts of major works by Mill extant, on whatever subject. Among these, only two others represent early drafts, as our manuscript does—an early draft of the Autobiography (1873) at the University of Illinois and an early version of A system of logic (1843) at the Pierpoint Morgan Library. The remaining major Mill manuscripts are an autograph press copy of A system of logic in the British Library, the final autograph copy of the Autobiography at Columbia University, and the scribal press copy of the Autobiography in the John Rylands Library. The autobiography and scribal copies of Three essays on religion (1874) were sold by Sotheby's in 1922, but like the Chapters on socialism have since disappeared.

Considering Mill's position as the major British philosopher, economist, and political thinker of the 19th century, and considering his productivity, it is remarkable that only a half-dozen of his major manuscripts are still in existence, and that, aside from correspondence, only about half a dozen interesting minor manuscripts remain extant. This scarcity of Mill manuscripts has come about because of the unusual and unfortunate circumstances in which Mill's library was disposed of at the turn of the century. While a few manuscripts remained in the hands of friends or family in England until donated to libraries or sold at auction, the large repository of Mill's papers and books at his home in Avignon (where he spent several months of each year from 1858 on) was sold in 1905 to a provincial French bookseller by members of the family who had little or no comprehension of its significance. Our untitled manuscript of Consdierations on representative government, which we know was composed in 1860 at least partly in Avignon, was quite probably part of this group, which the French bookseller sold off bit by bit. Thus it remained unknown to the public until now, in the hands of a French family who obtained it at auction in the 1930s.

It is all the more remarkable, then, that the untitled manuscript salvaged from near oblivion should turn out to be of such high caliber—the complete first draft of Mill's most significant work of political theory, and the text chosen, along with Mill's On liberty (1859) and his Utilitarianism (1863), for the Great books of the western world series (volume 43 in company with the United States' Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, The Federalist, etc.). To the best of our knowledge this manuscript of Representative government is the only autograph manuscript of the complete text of any classic from the entire Great books series which remains in private hands. The few other existing autograph manuscripts for these epochal achievements in the history of thought are in institutions. Mill's manuscripts for Utilitarianism and On liberty have, of course, never been found.

Our manuscript of Representative government is not an early draft in any preliminary sense, but the first full draft of the text, with the author's extensive autograph revisions. Professor John M. Robson, the general editor of the multi-volume standard edition of the Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, has made a preliminary examination of the manuscript and prepared a two-page report, a copy of which is included with the manuscript. He confirms that the manuscript is entirely in Mill's hand, and considers it to be the first draft of the text (on the basis of Mill's coments in the Autobiography and the few extant manuscripts, Mill habitually wrote two complete drafts). Professor Robson points out to us that Mill made a large number of revisions in rewriting the work, altering its structure in in interesting ways and expanding the text, particularly changing the order of chapters from the middle on, although retaining chapter headings in a wording close to that in the printed version.

'It is my impression that a careful collation of the text [of the manuscript] with that of the first and later editions would result in deeper understanding of Mill's formulation of democratic theory, in terms of the detail and of the argument supporting the conclusions. Even more certain is the significance of the comparison for a fuller appreciation of the workings of Mill's mind as writer and as theoretician. Had this manuscript been available to me when I edited the text (in its first scholarly and collated version) for the Collected Works of J. S. Mill, Vol. XIX, the text and the commentary would have been significantly different [italics ours]; both will, in the future, have to be revised, if and when the manuscript becomes available to an editor" (communication from Professor Robson). 

From its publication in 1861, Considerations on representive government was a signal success. It went through three Library editions in the next four years and was widely quoted by practical politicians as well as other theorists, not only in England, but in new democracies such as Japan. It is a text still in print today—an eminently readable outline of the principal issues in democratic theory, by a proclaimed democrat and worker in the British Reform Movement from his youth who had carefully considered popular movements in North America, Europe, and the British Empire.

Like other works of Mill's maturity, such as his System of Logic and Principles of Political economy, Considerations on  representative government is characterized by thoughtful attention to central issues. In this work especially Mill directs attention to the potential dangers of political democracy, particularly the problem of combining the abilities of enlightened leadership with the need for wide participation. This was an issue of pressing urgency to the emergence of popular democracy in less modern states such as Russia and Japan. In fact, Representative government played an important role in the struggle to form a democratic government out of feudal Japan.

The text was translated into Japanese three times between 1873 and 1890, along with the texts of On liberty, Utilitarianism, Principles of political economy, and the Subjection of women. Mill's political ideas informed the famous memorial of 1874 calling for the establishment of a popularly elected assembly, and the memorial's author, Furusawa Uru, quoted from Representative government in his criticism of the conservative position. Although the conseravatives eventually triumphed, establishing a constitutional code in 1889 on the model of the German imperial constitution, the influence of Mill on the development of Japanese democratic thought cannot be underestimated. Even in the face of increasing government repression, interest in Mill did not entirely dissipate, and underwent a rebirth after World War II.

D.S.B. Holman, "J.S. Mill's library, Provence, 1906," and "J.S. Mill's library: a further note," Mill news letter (Spring & Fall, 1971) 20-21 & 18. Written communication from Professor John M. Robson, University of Toronto, general editor of the Collected works of J.S. Mill (a copy of his 2-page report will be supplied with the manuscript). Sugihara & Yamashita. "J.S. Mill and Modern Japan," Mill news letter (Summer, 1977) 2-6.

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Lincoln Issues the Emancipation Proclamation January 1, 1863 – 1864

By executive order on January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the single most important act of his presidency.

The proclamation

"proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the ten states then in rebellion, thus applying to 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves in the U.S. at that time. The Proclamation immediately freed 50,000 slaves, with nearly all the rest (of the 3.1 million) freed as Union armies advanced. The Proclamation did not compensate the owners, did not itself outlaw slavery, and did not make the ex-slaves (called freedmen) citizens.

"On September 22, 1862, Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation that he would order the emancipation of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863. None returned, and the order, signed and issued January 1, 1863, took effect except in locations where the Union had already mostly regained control. The Proclamation made abolition a central goal of the war (in addition to reunion), outraged white Southerners who envisioned a race war, angered some Northern Democrats, energized anti-slavery forces, and weakened forces in Europe that wanted to intervene to help the Confederacy. Slavery was made illegal everywhere in the U.S. by the Thirteenth Amendment, which took effect in December 1865" (Wikipedia article on Emancipation Proclamation, accessed 06-25-2012).

The original Emancipation Proclamation document is preserved in the U. S. National Archives; images of all 5 pages of the original manuscript are available from the National Archives website

In 1864, in order to aid Union troops, an "Authorized Edition" of the Emancipation Proclamation was printed on one sheet, 17-1/4x 21-3/4 inches, on J. Whatman watermarked paper, and signed by Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, and John Nicolay, the President's private secretary. Copies were sold at the Philadelphia Great Central Fair in aid of the U.S. Sanitary Commission.  Of the 48 copies signed by Lincoln, 26 were known to survive in 2012.  On June 26, 2012 one of those copies was auctioned in New York City at Robert A. Siegel Galleries in association with  Seth Kaller, Inc. The presale estimate was $1,800,000- $2,400,000; price realized was $1,850,000 plus premium or $2,100,000.  A copy once owned by Robert Kennedy sold for $3.8 million in 2010

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The Role of Women as Typesetters in the French Printing Industry 1865 – 1867

While in Paris in September 2012 I acquired an album or scrapbook  in 4to format bound in 19th century blindstamped red cloth.  It is labeled on the spine simply Receuil de Journaux. On all 184 pages of the album someone pasted newspaper clippings from printing trade journals and other souvenirs of the printing trade published between 1865 and 1867.  The articles emphasize social issues in the printing trade, especially in typesetting.

Two topics in the collection of clippings and ephemera stand out: pp. 24-65 and 74-76 concern the employment of women as typesetters. This seems to be the one place in the print shop where women were sometimes employed at the time. Considering the large amount of coverage of this unusual subject one wonders if the album might have been assembled by a woman. The second half of the album mainly concerns issues regarding the exhibition of the printing trades in the Paris Exhibition of 1867. 

There is no identification of ownership in the album except an unusual French diamond-shaped bookplate reflecting a serious interest in the history of printing. This contains a monogram which may be read PLM or LMP, or some other combination of the letters.

Images in the album show women doing typesetting, a lithography plant, a bank note printing plant, and some unusual ephemera. Whoever assembled the album went to the great effort of preparing what appears to be a complete manuscript index to people and places mentioned, making this an unusually valuable reference source for two years in the long history of printing in Paris.

Beginning quite early in the history of printing women were from time to time employed as typesetters. The first press known to have employed women was the press of the monastery of San Jacopo di Ripoli which employed nuns from its convent as compositors setting type. The press was in operation in Tuscany from 1476-1484. However, the employment of women in the male-dominated printing trade remained controversial throughout the 19th century. The images in the spectacular book advertising the very large Alfred Mame printing company show no women employed in any aspect of book production.

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Joel Munsell Produces a Sale Catalogue of His Collection of Rare Books on Printing and Related Topics 1868

Just after the American Civil War, in 1868 printer, publisher and author Joel Munsell of Albany, New York, decided to offer his personal library of rare and scarce books on the history of printing and related subjects for sale in a priced catalogue. This was entitled Catalogue of Books on Printing and the Kindred Arts: Embracing Also Works on Copyright, Liberty of the Press, Lbel, Literary Property, Bibliography, Etc. According to Bigmore & Wyman's Bibliography of Printing II (1880-86) 66, Munsell sold nearly the entire collection, on which he had spent about $3000, to the New York State Library in Albany.

As a collector and writer about books on the history of printing, as will be evident from this database, I often wonder how earlier collectors appreciated and valued the works we view as classics today. Reading Munsell's catalogue provides some insight in this regard, both in Munsell's choice of books and how he priced them relative to one another. The prices range in the catalogue from $1 to $25.00— prices which even updated to current values with respect to inflation, cannot in any way equate to the values of equivalent items today. Notably, the single highest price in the catalogue is $25.00 for Munsell's copy of the first edition of Moxon's Mechanick Exercises (1683-84), a work which, depending upon condition, would be valued in the upper five figures or low six figures in 2015. Beneath the price of Moxon, only a few books in Munsell's catalogue are priced $20. These include the Manuale Tipografico of Giambattista Bodoni (1818) originally issued in only about 290 copies. When I checked online in February 2015 a copy of the original edition was offered for $44,980. But other prices by Munsell are more difficult to understand and may simply reflect what he paid. For example a pamphlet by Camus, Notice d'une livre imprimé à Bamberg en MDCCCLXII (1462), which I purchased for around $150, is priced $7.50 by Munsell, and a late edition of Dibden's Bibliomania (1842) is priced $10. This book is very common today and can be bought for about $500. Perhaps Munsell fairly priced his copy of Fournier's Manuel typographique (1764-66) $10.00 in the money of his time, but strangely he characterized it as "unique", which it has never been. He then priced a very much rarer work by Fournier, Caractères de l'imprimerie, a duodecimo type specimen published in 1742, for only $1, characterizing it as "very curious."  He priced the Biographical Memoir of Luke Hansard by James Hansard (1829) $10. This scarce work in a deluxe binding cost me a bit over $300 in 2015. Another work where Munsell's prices seem very out of sync with the modern view is Paul Lacroix's Histoire de l'imprimerie et des arts et professions qui se rattachent (1852). This work with hand-colored plates can be bought today for about $200;  Munsell priced it $10. In constrast Munsell priced La Caille's, Histoire de l'imprimerie et de la librairie (1689), a book which sells for between $5250 and $2500 today, for only $5. On the other hand, Munsell priced Piette, Traité de la coloration des pates a papier (1863) $18, presumably reflecting its high cost and practical value, since the work was virtually new when he sold it. A copy of this book with pasted-in samples, issued in a very small edition, was offered for $10,000 in 2015. He also priced Savage, Practical Hints on Decorative Printing (1822) $10.  Savage's book might sell in the range of $7,500 to $15,000 today. However, later in his catalogue Munsell offers John Jackson's Treatise on Wood Engraving, Historical and Practical (1839) for $20. I have acquired three copies of this for around $200 each. 

From all of these comparisons of prices Munsell set with present values we may conclude that few books on the history of printing were perceived as scarce or especially expensive in 1868. Also, I think the market was more limited for this kind of book in the United States than it was in Europe at the time, and being aware of that, Munsell seems to have priced his books with the intention of mainly recovering his $3000 global cost. Beyond that there are vogues in all fields of collecting, and in my experience there are many bargains in rare books on the history of printing today.

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Charles Babbage's Library: the First Catalogue of a Library on Computing and its History 1872

In 1872, the year after his death, Charles Babbage’s scientific library was sold at auction. The auction catalogue, containing over two thousand items on topics such as mathematical tables, cryptography, and calculating machines, and including many rare volumes, may be the first catalogue of a library on computing and its history.

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1875 – 1900

The First American Bibliography on the History of Printing 1877

In 1877 American printing press inventor and manufacturer Richard March Hoe published The Literature of Printing. A Catalogue of the Library Illustrative of the History and Art of Typography Chalcography and Lithography.  A New Yorker, Hoe had this catalogue privately printed on handmade paper at the Chiswick Press in London in a small, but unspecified number of copies.  Its only illustration was a frontispiece showing one of Hoe's high speed presses. According to the Catalogue of the Wlliam Blades Library (1899) this catalogue was compiled by bibliographer and antiquarian bookseller Edward C. Bigmore, co-author of the Bigmore and Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing (1880-1886).  

That Hoe, an American at the center of the American printing industry, chose to have the catalogue of his private library on the history and technique of printing published in London in 1877 rather than by a fine printer in America leads me to believe that he was motivated by the Caxton Quadricentennial Celebration, and its catalogue, which occurred in London in that year. Hoe's name appears on the list of the General Committee for the celebration printed on p. xvii of the celebration catalogue.  Because of this, I think we might reasonably speculate that Hoe wanted to show some of his fellow printing history enthusiasts in England the treasures that he had gathered in America on the history of the subjects.  Whatever Hoe's motivation, his catalogue was the first American bibliography on the history of printing and typography.

My copy of Hoe's catalogue has Hoe's signed inscription to the American minister, journalist and politician Rev. Samuel J. Barrows, who had worked for Richard Hoe as a very young man.  

Hoe died in 1886. In January 1887, ten years after Hoe's catalogue was published, his library was dispersed at auction in New York by Bangs & Co. The first 1433 lots consisted of Hoe's library on the history of printing; the remainder of the roughly 2000 lots included miscellaneous subjects.

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Richard Owen Calls Darwin the "Copernicus of Biology" November 5, 1882

Following the death on April 19, 1882 of Charles Darwin, English Paleontologist Richard Owen wrote to Spencer Walpole, Home Secretary in several governments and a trustee of the Natural History Museum in London, which had been built largely as a result of Owen's efforts. The purpose of the letter was to recommend that a statue of Darwin be placed in Westminster Abbey. This was the highest honor that England could bestow.

In the 1970s I acquired this letter as part of the Paul Victorius collection on Darwin and evolution. I sold it at auction in 1992 when I dispersed my Darwin's Century collection. It was described as lot 311 in the auction catalogue. I had always thought of the letter as a remarkable tribute to Darwin's achievements by his greatest opponent, and had viewed the letter as a kind of reversal of Owen's opposition to Darwin's ideas in Owen's old age. In the letter Owen acknowledges the general acceptance by scientists of Darwin's theory of natural selection and points out the progress that has occurred in science by its acceptance. He compares Darwin to Copernicus in the sense that Darwin caused caused rejection of the origin of species by "primary law' or creation, replacing it with the "secondary law" of natural selection, while Copernicus caused rejection of the geocentric theory of the solar system, replacing it by the heliocentric.

In February 2011 at the San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair David Archibald pointed out the criticisms of Darwin's work which were cached, so-to-speak, in Owen's letter, and sent me a copy of the article by Kevin Padian "Owen's Parthian Shot," Nature, 412, July 12, 2001, 123-124. In this paper Padian pointed out various subtle criticisms of Darwin expressed in the letter, for details of which see his paper.

Where Owen expresses ambivalence seems primarily to be in the continuation of his comparison of Darwin with Copernicus. To me, just comparing the two is a reflection of Owen's appreciation of Darwin's place in history. However, Owen points out that Copernicus did not understand how the planets rotated around the sun and it took Galileo, Kepler, and Newton to answer these questions. Similarly Darwin did not understand the specific nature of the biological processes that caused natural selection to work, and Owen expresses the expectation that biology will eventually have its own Galileo, Kepler, and Newton. But, while Copernicus wrote a theoretical work, Darwin did understand the phenomenon accurately enough in terms of species populations. The hereditary mechanisms did not become understood in any detail until Watson and Crick's discovery of the "double helix," which had an impact on biology similar to Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Owen also points out that the "adoption of Darwin's hypothesis of the evolutional way of work is not general. . . ." Clearly, as Padian points out, Owen remained ambivalent about Darwin's contributions to science even as he acknowledged Darwin's place in history. 

Here is the text of Owen's letter:

"Sheen Lodge, Richmond Par, E. Sheen, S.W.

"5th November 1882

"Dear Mr. Walpole,

"In compliance with your request I have the pleasure to send the following on the subject we last discussed. Charles Darwin had peculiar claims to fitting posthumous recognition of his services to natural science. Of independent means, he devoted himself to the successful termination of his University career to the advancement of natural history. His desi re to accompany as naturalist the circumnavigatory expedition of H.M.S. Beagle under Captain Fitzroy was granted. The results to his favorite science were equal to, if they did not surpass, those of the naturalist Banks and Solander in the circumnavigatory voayge of Captain Cook. Darwin brough home rich collections in zoology, botany and palaeontology, and liberally made them over to national museums, on the condition of their being described by the competent officers.

"The results are the richly illustrated quartos, published by the Government, forming with Darwin's own Notes on the Voyage, in the well-known 8vo work, the most instructive and exemplary record of the natural-history gains of the circumnavigation. Perhaps the most important and novel researches made during the voyage are those in the nature and growth of coral-formations classified by him as 'atolls', barrier-reefs' and 'fringing-reefs', the description and explanation of which Darwin gives in his classical work on The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs (8vo, 1842).

"Since that date he has enriched his favorite science from time to time by monographs throwing most acceptable light on structures and vital actions of plants and animals; they are classical and perennial acquisitions to biology. The guiding principle underlying these works is that advocated in the Philosophie Zoologique of Lamarck, on the origin, viz., of species by secondary law, or evolution. But Lamarck's notion of the way of operation of that 'law', viz., by conditions affecting the exercise or disuse of parts of the body, is but partially accepted by Darwin; he substitutes another, a wider, and as he deems, a truer way of the operation of such 'secondary law', which he sums up under the term 'Natural Selection'.

"The great value of Darwin's series of works, summarizing all the evidences of embryology, physiology, paleontology then accessible, with experiments on the variation of species, is exemplified in the general acceptance by biologists of the 'secondary law by evolution' of the 'origin of species.' As a result, summaries and monographs now published in natural history are penned under the influence or in acceptance of that 'law'. In this respect Charles Darwin stands to biology in the relation in which Copernicus stood to astronomy. The rejection of the origin of species by primary law, or direct creation, is equivalent to the rejection of the fixity, centrality, and supreme magnitude of the Earth; it parallels the substitution of the heliocentric for the geocentric hypothesis. The accelerated progress of natural history under the guidance of 'evolution' resembles that of astronomy under the guidance of 'heliocentricity.'

"But the adoption of Darwin's hypothesis of the evolutional way of work is not general: Lamarck's hypothesis is found in some cases to be more applicable. And so it seems that Darwin parallels Coperncicus; save that the latter no only knew not, nor feigned to know, how the planets revolved round the sun.

"For that knowledge were requisite the subsequent labours of a Galileo, a Kepler, a Newton. Analogy raises the cheerful hope, if not condident expectation, that the science of living things will also be helped by its Galileo, its Kepler, finally its Newton; and that the way of operation of the 'secondary law originating species' will be as firmly established as the 'law of gravitation'. Meanwhile our British 'Copernicus of Biology' merits the mainfestation of gratitude and the honour which the Empire confers by a Statue in Westminster Abbey. In the British Museum sculptural memorials have been accorded to meritorious offers;—to Panizzi in relation to the Department of Printed Books; to John Edward Gray, in relation to the Department of Zoology. Whether the estimate of scientists at home or abroad of Charles Darwin's claims to posthumous honour be met, or their expectations fulfilled, by placing a statue in the Museum of Natural History may be a question for 'Administration.'

"Believe me,

   "Faithfully yours,

      "Richard Owen

"Rt. Hon. Spencer Horatio Walpole, M.P.

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"La Marquise", The World's Oldest Running Automobile, is Sold 1884

On October 8, 2011 the world's oldest running motor car, a 1884 De Dion-Bouton Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout, sold for $4.62 million at RM Auctions in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Commissioned by French entrepreneur, Count de Dion, the car was named ‘La Marquise’ after his mother. 

"In 1887, the Count of Dion drove La Marquise in an exhibition that has sometimes been called the world’s first car race, though his was the only car that showed up. It made the 20-odd-mile Paris-to-Versailles round trip at an average speed of almost 16 m.p.h. The next year, he beat Bouton on a three-wheeler with an average speed of 18 m.p.h.

"Fueled by coal, wood and bits of paper, the car takes half an hour to forty minutes to build up enough steam to drive. Top speed is 38 miles per hour (61 km/h).

As the oldest car, it wore the number "0" in the 1996 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. The vehicle was sold at the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance for US$3,520,000" (Wikipedia article on La Marquise, accessed 10-09-2011).

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Foundation of The Grolier Club January 23, 1884

On January 23, 1884 printing press manufacturer and book collector, Robert Hoe, and eight of his book collector friends, founded The Grolier Club in New York. It became the leading society of bibliophiles in the United States, and a leading venue for exhibitions relating to book history. 

The library of The Grolier Club became a leading research center for book history, for the history of libraries, the history of book collecting and the book trade.

I was very pleased to join The Grolier Club in 1989.

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"How the Other Half Lives": Pioneering Photojournalistic Muckraking 1890

Camera lenses of the 1880s were slow, as was the emulsion of photographic plates, the technology used before film negatives. Thus photographers could not take pictures in the dark or in most interior scenes. However, in early 1887 Danish American social reformer, journalist and photographer Jacob Riis of New York learned that flash power, a mixture of magnesium with potassium chlorate and antimony sulfide for added stability, could be used in a pistol-like device that fired cartridges, for flash photography. Using this technology Riis illustrated his book How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York, published in 1890.  

"The title of the book is a reference to a sentence by French writer François Rabelais, who famously wrote in Pantagruel: "one half of the world does not know how the other half lives" ("la moitié du monde ne sait pas comment l'autre vit").

"In How the Other Half Lives Riis describes the system of tenement housing that had failed, as he claims, due to greed and neglect from wealthier people. He claims a correlation between the high crime rate, drunkenness and reckless behaviour of the poor and their lack of a proper home. Chapter by chapter he uses his words and photographs to expose the conditions inhabited by the poor in a manner that “spoke directly to people's hearts”.

"He ends How the Other Half Lives with a plan of how to fix the problem. He asserts that the plan is achievable and that the upper classes will not only profit financially from such ventures, but have a moral obligation to tend to them as well.

"How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York explained not only the living conditions in New York slums, but also the sweatshops in some tenements which paid workers only a few cents a day. The book explains the plight of working children; they would work in factories and at other jobs. Some children became garment workers and newsies (newsboys).

"The effect was the tearing down of New York's worst tenements, sweatshops, and the reformation of the city's schools. The book led to a decade of improvements in Lower East Side conditions, with sewers, garbage collection, and indoor plumbing all following soon after, thanks to public reaction" (Wikipedia article on How the Other Half Lives, accessed 01-12-2013).

My attention to Riis's book was drawn by an article published in The New York Times on January 11, 2014 by journalist Ted Gup, entitled "The 1890 Book I Had to Have." It described Gup's experience in 2009-2010 buying the author's annotated copy of Riis's How the Other Half Lives, his appreciation of the unique copy, and the book's relevance to socio-economic problems today.

In January 2014 an audio version of Riis's complete book was available from LibriVox.org at this link.

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The Invention of "Basket Ball" (Basketball) December 1891

In December 1891 Canadian sports coach, physician, and innovator, James Naismith, invented basketball as an indoor sport to be played in winter by writing thirteen rules for the new sport and posting these rules in the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA gym. As far as I know, this is the only major sport in which the invention can be traced to a specific document.

"The first game of "Basket Ball" was played in December 1891. In a handwritten report, Naismith described the circumstances of the inaugural match; in contrast to modern basketball, the players played nine versus nine, handled a soccer ball, not a basketball, and instead of shooting at two hoops, the goals were a pair of peach baskets: 'When Mr. Stubbins brot [sic] up the peach baskets to the gym I secured them on the inside of the railing of the gallery. This was about 10 feet from the floor, one at each end of the gymnasium. I then put the 13 rules on the bulletin board just behind the instructor's platform, secured a soccer ball and awaited the arrival of the class... The class did not show much enthusiasm but followed my lead. . . I then explained what they had to do to make goals, tossed the ball up between the two center men & tried to keep them somewhat near the rules. Most of the fouls were called for running with the ball, though tackling the man with the ball was not uncommon.' In contrast to modern basketball, the original rules did not include what is known today as the dribble. Since the ball could only be moved up the court via a pass early players tossed the ball over their heads as they ran up court. Also, following each 'goal' a jump ball was taken in the middle of the court. Both practices are obsolete in the rules of modern basketball

"By 1892, basketball had grown so popular on campus that Dennis Horkenbach (editor-in-chief of The Triangle, the Springfield college newspaper) featured it in an article called 'A New Game', and there were calls to call this new game 'Naismith Ball', but Naismith refused. By 1893, basketball was introduced internationally by the YMCA movement. From Springfield, Naismith went to Denver where he acquired a medical degree and in 1898 he joined the University of Kansas faculty at Lawrence, Kansas" (Wikipedia article on James Naismith, accessed 12-11-2010).

♦ On December 10, 2010 Sotheby's in New York auctioned Naismith's original typewritten and hand-written manuscript of the rules which created basketball. To promote the sale, which benefited the Naismith Foundation, they published a separate catalogue which was available online. The document sold for $4,338,500, including buyer's premium. According to CBSsports.com, the buyers were David and Suzanne Booth, who intended to donate the manuscript to the University of Kansas at Lawrence where Naismith was the first basketball coach. Mr. Booth is an alumnus of the University of Kansas. The price was a record high for sports memorabilia.

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The Press on which William Morris Printed the Kelmscott Chaucer is Sold, Again 1894

On December 6, 2013 the Floor Model Albion Press No. 6551 produced by Hopkinson & Cope, and used by William Morris's Kelmscott Press in Kelmscott, England, to print the Kelmscott Chaucer and other books, was auctioned by Christie's in New York. The press was consigned by Jethro K. Lieberman, who inherited it from his father J. Ben Lieberman. Ben Lieberman acquired the press in 1960, prior to which it had been owned by typographer Frederic W. Goudy, and by C. R. Ashbee at his Essex House Press. The price realized was $233,000. 

"Undoubtedly the most famous printing press in the annals of modern fine press publishing, William Morris's Albion 6551 handled the monumental task of printing his masterpiece, Chaucer's Works in 1896. The Kelmscott Press started printing in January 1891 at the press's premises on Upper Mall, a few doors down from Kelmscott House. About ten or twelve pressmen and compositors were employed, and as output increased rooms were taken in the adjacent building known as Sussex House. Soon after T.J. Cobden-Sanderson set up his Doves Bindery opposite Sussex House in 1893, Morris was able to rent rooms upstairs for his proofreaders who stayed there in the summer of 1894. Additional premises were taken on 1 January 1895 to accommodate this third Albion press, which was specifically purchased to print the folio Chaucer, which had fallen behind schedule (see Linda Parry, ed., William Morris, New York, 1996, pp.313-4).

Called "THE FINEST BOOK SINCE GUTENBERG" by Colin Franklin, the Chaucer is the supreme achievement of the forty-year artistic collaboration between Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris and the Kelmscott Press: "the final chapter of co-operation; the venture in which their particular talents are combined for the last time, and to spectacular effect" (Robinson). It is the largest and most highly praised of all the Kelmscott books, which Burne-Jones famously referred to as "a pocket cathedral -- it is so full of design." Earliest plans for the work dated to 1891 but printing of the book did not begin until August 1894, and it was only issued to subscribers in June 1896.

Purchased by Morris in 1894 for £52.10s, No. 6551 was one of the three full-sized Albions he was to own at the Kelmscott Press. Morris chose this Albion for the formidable task of printing the Kelmscott Chaucer and had the press reinforced with iron bands to keep the staple from cracking under the extra pressure required to print the heavy forms of this monumental book. After Morris' death, the Albion was owned first by C.R. Ashbee's Essex House Press, and then subsequently by the Old Bourne and Pear Tree Presses, before it was purchased by Bertha and Frederic Goudy in 1924. The Goudys brought the Albion to America where it joined the typecasters and other foundry equipment of the Village Press and their Press of the Woolly Whale. In 1960, Elizabeth and Ben Lieberman acquired the press after it had resided with several additional printers. When the Liebermans' Herity Press took possession of the Albion, its history was so ingrained that it was dubbed the Kelmscott/Goudy Press, nicknamed "K/G." The Liebermans placed a Liberty Bell to the top of the press, and the Morris Society approved of the alteration "as a pledge to the freedom of the press which the personal printer represents and helps sustain." 
See William S. Peterson, The Kelmscott Press: A History of William Morris's Typographical Adventure, University of California Press, 1991, p. 342'; Franklin, Private Presses, p.192; Peterson A40; Robinson,William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and the Kelmscott Chaucer; Sparling 40" (http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/books-manuscripts/kelmscott-press-floor-model-albion-press-5754413-details.aspx, accessed 12-08-2013).

On December 10, 2013 the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at the Rochester Institute of Technology announced that they bought the press:

"In 1924, American type designer Frederic Goudy imported Albion No. 6551 from England to Marlborough, N.Y., for use in his Village Press. Shortly thereafter, Goudy sold it to Spencer Kellogg Jr., who ran the Aries Press of Eden, N.Y.

“From 1932 to 1941, Albion No. 6551 was owned by the Cary Collection’s namesake, Melbert B. Cary Jr., director of Continental Type Founders Association and proprietor of the private Press of the Woolly Whale,” Galbraith explained.

“Cary bequeathed the press to his pressman George Van Vechten, and in 1960, J. Ben and Elizabeth Lieberman acquired Albion No. 6551 for their Herity Press. They topped the press with a Liberty Bell, a reminder of the vital role that private presses play in the freedom of the press.”

"Albion No. 6551 will join the Cary Collection’s Arthur M Lowenthal Memorial Pressroom, a working collection of 15 historical printing presses and more than 1,500 fonts of metal and wood type. Supporting study of the press is a collection of Kelmscott Press publications and archives of material related to Frederic Goudy and Cary’s Press of the Woolly Whale."

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The Largest and Most Diverse Collection of Medieval Manuscripts in the World 1896 – 1902

In 1896 Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson, identical-twin sisters and Semitic scholars, who between them learned twelve languages, returned to Cambridge from a trip to the Middle East bearing leaves from several ancient Hebrew manuscripts that they had purchased from a Cairo bookseller. They showed the parchment leaves to Solomon Schechter, reader in Talmudic Studies at Cambridge, who was surprised to discover among them in May 1896 an 11th or 12 century copy of the Hebrew proverbs of Ben Sira, a second-century BCE Hebrew book of wisdom. Through translations, where it is known as Sirach in Greek, or Ecclesiasticus in Latin (not to be confused with Ecclesiastes) the work became part of the Christian Bible,  This he published with English translation, introduction, and notes in the Expositor for July 1896, (p. i seqq.)

Wanting to share news of his discovery Schechter wrote to his friend Adolf Neubauer, sublibrarian at the Bodleian Library and reader in Rabbinic Hebrew at Oxford, that he had discovered a fragment of Sirach (xxxix. 15 to xl. 7) in Hebrew. In response to Schechter's postcard, Neubauer replied  two weeks later that he and his assistant, Arthur Cowley, had “coincidentally" discovered nine pages of Ben Sira at Oxford. Of course, this was no coincidence. Schechter's discovery had prompted Neubauer to restudy much more carefully a collection of Hebrew manuscripts that he had previously dismissed and had intended to sell—a box of about 10,000 pages of manuscripts that had been obtained from the genizah in 1895 by Oxford Assyriologist and linguist Archibald Sayce. Using Schechter's discovery and finds from Sayce's donation, in 1897 Neubauer and A. E. Cowley published The Original Hebrew of a Portion of Ecclesiasticus (xxxix.14 to ILIX.11) Together with the Early Versions and an English Translation Followed by the Quotations from Ben Sira in Rabbinical Literature. This was probably the first scholarly book in English on manuscripts from the Cairo genizah. 

Not wanting to miss out on any more discoveries, Schechter set out for Egypt where, with the financial assistance of Hebraist Charles Taylor, then Master of St. John's College, Cambridge, he purchased what he considered the most significant portion of the contents of the genizah (Geniza), a sacred storeroom in the loft of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat, presently Old Cairo.

"According to rabbinic law (see, for instance, Mishna Shabbat 16:1), once a holy book can no longer be used (because it is too old, or because its text is no longer relevant) it cannot be destroyed or casually discarded: texts containing the name of God should be buried or, if burial is not possible, placed in a genizah.  

"At least from the early 11th century, the Jews of Fustat, one of the most important and richest Jewish communities of the Mediterranean world, reverently placed their old texts in the Genizah. Remarkably, however, they placed not only the expected religious works, such as Bibles, prayer books and compendia of Jewish law, but also what we would regard as secular works and everyday documents: shopping lists, marriage contracts, divorce deeds, pages from Arabic fables, works of Sufi and Shi'ite philosophy, medical books, magical amulets, business letters and accounts, and hundreds of letters: examples of practically every kind of written text produced by the Jewish communities of the Near East can now be found in the Genizah Collection, and it presents an unparalleled insight into the medieval Jewish world" (http://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/collections/genizah, accessed 12-14-2012).

Schechter sent back to Cambridge about 193,000 manuscripts from the genizah. These became the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection at Cambridge University Library. In 2012 this entire collection was in the process of being digitized and placed online as part of the Cambridge Digital Library.

        When Schechter assumed the presidency of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York in 1902 he brought an additional collection of manuscripts from the genizah to that library. Currently the Jewish Theological Seminary holds about 40,000 manuscripts or fragments from the Cairo genizah. An additional 11,000 fragments are at the John Rylands University Library at the University of Manchester, purchased from the estate of Dr. Moses Gaster in 1954. Smaller portions are preserved in other universities around the world.

"The Cairo Genizah, mostly discovered late in the nineteenth century but still resurfacing in our own day, is a collection of over 200,000 fragmentary Jewish texts (which may well equal three times that number of folios). Many of these were stored in the loft of the ancient Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat medieval Cairo, to the south-west of the modern city) between the 11th and 19th centuries. A genizah is a storage room where copies of respected texts with scribal errors or physical damaged, or unusable documents, are kept until they can be ritually buried. The dark, sealed, room in the arid Egyptian climate contributed to the preservation of the documents, the earliest of which may go back to the eighth and ninth centuries.

"These manuscripts outline a 1,000-year continuum of Middle-Eastern history and comprise the largest and most diverse collection of medieval manuscripts in the world. The Genizah can be described as one of the greatest Jewish treasures ever found.

"Early visitors to the Genizah were wary of examining its contents because of the local superstition that foretold disaster for anyone who might remove any of its contents. This, too, contributed to the preservation of the documents.

"In the second half of the 19th century some texts were sold by synagogue officials to dealers, scholars and visitors. Famous libraries in St. Petersburg, Paris, London, Oxford, Cambridge and Philadelphia acquired major collections.

"In the early 1890's Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Wertheimer, a Torah scholar, collector and researcher, living in Jerusalem, began publishing manuscripts that he had purchased from the Cairo Genizah with his identifications and explanations – among them rare and important texts. He also sold some of these manuscripts to collectors in order to finance the purchase of additional ones. To some extent, he was one of the first to recognize the treasure trove that was the Cairo Genizah."

These quotations were from the website of the Friedberg Genizah Project, an effort underway in Jerusalem to digitize and preserve all surviving portions of the Cairo Genizah from around the world.


In December 2013 BBC News announced that historic rivals Oxford and Cambridge Universities had jointly raised £1.2m to purchase the Lewis-Gibson Genizah collection, containing about 1,700 documents and fragments, that twin-sisters