Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Bodleian Library Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts

John Dee frontispiece - Kalender

Catalogue reference: MS. Ashmole 1789
Object: paper manuscript from England
Author: John Dee
Title: 'A Playne discourse and humble advise for our gratious Queene Elizabeth, her most Excellent Majestie, to peruse and consider as concerning the needful Reformation of the Vulgar Kalender for the civile yeres and daies accompting, or verifyeng, according to the tyme truely spent'
Date: 16th century
Image notes: frontispiece. 'Primi quadriui mysterium'. Coloured diagram. A triangular figure having sentences from Holy Scriptures inscribed in gilt letters on its blue border; within it is a planisphere of the Ptolemaic system.

MS. Auct. D. inf. 2. 13

Catalogue reference: MS. Auct. D. inf. 2. 13
Object: parchment manuscript [England and Holland]
Title: Book of Hours. Use of Sarum (known as 'Queen Mary's Psalter')
Date: late 15th century
Image notes: Introducing Terce (Hours of the Virgin). Full page miniature painted in demi-grisaille surrounded by decorated border. Flagellation. In a vaulted interior, Christ tied to the column in the centre. Three executioners around him brandishing whips. Scene viewed through arch.

MS. Ashmole 1504 (c)

Image description: Alphabet based on human forms.

MS. Ashmole 1504 (b)

Image description: Griffon and Greyhound. Two fierce-looking birds.

MS. Ashmole 1504

Image description: Plantain and Tansy. Deer, lion, stone fountain, well on hill, building.

MS. Ashmole 1504 (a)

Image description: Stylised floral design. Purple flowers. Parrot.

Catalogue reference: (for all four images above) MS. Ashmole 1504
Object: parchment manuscript [East Anglia, England]
Title: The Pattern Book
Date: 1520-1530

MS. Ashmole 391(5)

Catalogue reference: MS. Ashmole 391(5)
Object: parchment manuscript [England]
Author: Nicholas of Lynn
Title: Astronomical calendar, etc.
Date: late 14th century
Image notes: Zodiac man with signs of the zodiac associated with various parts of his body, on arrow-shaped particoloured ground. Text on either side.

MS. Ashmole 370 fol

Catalogue reference: MS. Ashmole 370
Object: parchment manuscript [England]
Author: Nicholas of Lynn
Title: Astronomical calendar
Date: ~1324
Image notes: Lunar volvelle.

MS. Holkham misc. 49

Catalogue reference: MS. Holkham misc. 49
Object: parchment manuscript [Italy]
Author: Giovanni Boccaccio
Title: Decameron
Date: 1460s
Image notes: Detail. Lower margin. Swan with knotted neck (weight hanging from his neck?), gold beams and scroll with motto 'LIE BIEN SECRETE'.

MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1

Image description: The first two rows depict six stages in the career of a successful priest-warrior (calmecac), similarly earned through captives and marked by gradations of costume and equipment. The priest-warriors are distinguished from the others by their blood-smears and hairstyles.

(1) (left) A one-captive priest-warrior: undecorated quilted cotton armour, unembellished shield, obsidian-studded club; (middle) a two-captive priest-warrior: undecorated white feather suit with back device, and ihuiteteyo shield decorated with eight balls of down, obsidian-studded club; (right) a three-captive priest-warrior: undecorated green feather suit with a pamitl-style back device, pointed war stick, and (as entitled from this rank upwards) sandals.

(2) (left) A four-captive priest-warrior: a costume of white circular spots on a black background, perhaps representing the night sky, with pointed hat, and a shield with a volute design; (middle) a five-captive priest-warrior: undecorated red feather suit with momoyactli back device, quauhtetepoyo (eagle-foot) design, obsidian-edged club; (right) a six-captive priest-warrior: coyote costume with matching animal-head helmet, cuexyo shield, war stick (the captive is recognizable from his curved labret and red headband as from the city-state of Huexotzinco). The remaining two rows of this page comprise two sets of imperial officers, with their titles (but the distinction between telpochcalli and calmecac training is no longer clear):

(3) Constables: four officers connected with death sentences and executions: 'Eagle Cactus Fruit', executing criminals in the marketplace; 'Keeper of the House of Darkness'; 'Keeper on the Edge of the Water'; 'Raining Blood'.

(4) Generals, each wearing the prestigious quetzallalpiloni hair ornament: 'Keeper of the House of Darts'; 'Keeper of the Mirrored Snake'; 'Keeper of the Bowl of Fatigue'; 'Keeper of the Worm on Blade of Maize'.

MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1 (a)

Image description: The founding of Tenochtitlan ("Prickly Pear Cactus Growing on a Stone"), capital city of the Aztec empire, on a rock at the centre of a crossway of clear water in an otherwise marshy region. The eagle, still the national emblem of Mexico, is an Aztec symbol for the sun. In the four quadrants (? wards of the city) are depicted the city's ten founders, including their leader Tenuch ("Stone Cactus Fruit") on the left nearest the centre. Below are two standard conquest scenes, each with a pyramid temple toppled and burning. Around the margin is the 51-year count of Tenuch's rule, calculable as 1325 to 1375.The signature and title of André Thevet, the manuscript's earliest owner in Europe, are added at the top.

Catalogue reference: (for both images above) MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1
Object: paper manuscript [Mexico]
Title: Codex Mendoza
Date: early 1540s

[previously: Aztec Mexico]

MS. Canon. Class. Lat. 186

Catalogue reference: MS. Canon. Class. Lat. 186
Object: parchment manuscript [Padua, Italy]
Author: Diogenes Laertius (Ambrogio Traversari - translator)
Title: Lives of the philosophers
Date: 1450s
Image description: Detail. Decorated initial 'P' with knotwork on gold ground.

Ms. Bodl. 990

Catalogue reference: MS. Bodl. 990
Object: paper manuscript [Lislebourg = Edinburgh, Scotland]
Author: Esther Inglis
Title: Les proverbes de Salomon
Date: 1599
Image description: Full-page engraving. Coat of arms with crowned and Order of the Garter insigna with motto 'HONI SOIT QVI MAL Y PENSE'.

MS. Laud Msc. 293

Catalogue reference: MS. Laud Misc. 293
Object: parchment manuscript [? England]
Author: Peter Lombard
Title: Commentary on St. Paul's Epistles
Date: early 13th century
Image description: Detail. Top left of the page. Arabesque initial 'P(avlus)' with foliated motifs in red and green ink.

MS Bodl. 764

Catalogue reference: MS. Bodl. 764
Object: parchment manuscript [England]
Title: bestiary
Date: ~1225-1250
Image description: Hedgehogs and grapevine; carries grapes on its prickles.

MS Ashmole 1511

Catalogue reference: MS. Ashmole 1511
Object: parchment manuscript [England]
Title: The Ashmole Bestiary
Date: 1200
Image description: Boat with three sailors lands on whale swallowing fish.

MS Digby 6

Catalogue reference: MS. Digby 46
Object: parchement manuscript [England]
Author: Bernardus Silvester
Title: Liber fortunae, also known as Experimentarius
Date: late 14th century
Image description: Euclid holding sphere and dioptra observing moon and stars; Hermannus holding astrolabe. Coloured drawing.

MS. Barocci 230

Catalogue reference: MS. Barocci 230
Object: parchment manuscript [Constantinople - Byzantine]
Author: Symeon Metaphrastes and others
Title: Menologion for September
Date: late 11th century
Image description: Title page with decorative cartouche.

Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

The Medieval News blog printed a press release in relation to Oxford University's Bodleian Library and the institutional subscription site, ARTstor (announcement), whereby some 24,000 manuscript images are being made available to subscribers.

Additionally, a proportion of these images is accessible by the general public. While I was actively looking through this very impressive collection, the number of images available actually increased from 7,500 to over 8000.

I have so far only scanned through about 2000 of these. The above selection is a fair cross section of the types of material available. Perhaps 15% of the images concentrate on initials and margin motifs. There are Book of Hours, bestiaries, alphabet forms and calligraphy, astronomy and astrology, medical anatomy/botany, building drawings, miniatures and the very occasional binding. I am probably forgetting some. It appears that a number of manuscripts are nearly complete, while others have representative pages or details only.

The images are served via a LunarInsight browser and, although it's a bit cumbersome generally and somewhat finicky at the start, once you become familiar with it, it's quite a fine delivery system allowing for high resolution magnification. There are a number of ways to search, including keywords, and note that the system times out if you leave it for too long - I *think* about 15 minutes - which is only annoying if, like me, you try to go through the material systematically and wander down to the shops halfway through. You could spend weeks in this site.

The vast majority of the commentary accompanying the images above was taken from the notes provided by the Bodleian Library. Some of the images here have been slightly cropped and the colour saturation and brightness were tweaked a little at times.

I'm fairly confident I haven't seen any of these images before, so I believe this is a new (and very significant) release, and not simply a sampling from existing digital stocks. But of course, I see so much visual material continuously, it's sometimes hard to know. After the first dozen Zodiac Man sketches, for instance, they all tend to meld into one*.

*not really


Karla said...

Intriguing. I wonder exactly how the Artstor-for-general-public differs from the subscription version (well, I could go find out when I have a moment). It's good to know that the general public has some amount of access, although as I've been spending close to 8 hours a day on Artstor lately, the thought of it makes me a little seasick.

I'm not sure how long the timeout period is but so long as it occurs while you're near the computer, you can click to extend your visit. This doesn't help when you wander off to shop, of course.

Frumingelo said...

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Nancy Ewart said...

This is amazing - thank you again for all your superb work.

Miguel Gómez Losada said...

maravilloso blog, fantástico. I like very much.

have a nice day

lissa said...

lovely! like a book i couldn't put down,every entry in your blog leads to yet another wonderful discovery! keep up the good work!

Conrad H. Roth said...

"Bernardus Silvester" or "Silvestris", not "Silverster". One of my colleagues here wrote the definitive article on that work.

peacay said...

Thanks Conrad. Fixed.

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