What “Use” is it? A Book of Hours rightfully restituted to the Walloon city of Mons

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 10/52

Book of Hours, Use of Mons, Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 89, fol. 1r (beginning of the Hours of the Virgin)

The “Use” in a Book of Hours generally refers to the specific, regional variants found in the central devotional text, the Hours of the Virgin. Because these variants are often specific to a city or region in Europe, determining the “Use” of a Book of Hours can, at least in theory, help us determine where the book was intended to be read and prayed from. This can be helpful information indeed when faced with a Book of Hours that otherwise has no ownership or localization information! Use can be determined by comparing the Antiphon and Chapter readings for two of the Hours of the Virgin–Prime and None–to lists established by scholars on the basis of firmly-situated manuscript Books of Hours or early printed editions, most actually printed in Paris, that nonetheless state explicitly for which town they were meant to be used. 

Read more

Murder in Lombardy! The original owner of a rare Italian Book of Hours identified

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 9/52

http://openn.library.upenn.edu/Data/0023/lewis_e_206/data/web/5506_0039_web.jpg   http://openn.library.upenn.edu/Data/0023/lewis_e_206/data/web/5506_0040_web.jpg
Book of Hours (here identified as the Hours of Cornelia Rhò), Use of Rome, Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 206, fols. 16v-17r (full-page miniature of the Virgin and Child, and beginning of the Hours of the Virgin with historiated initial and coat-of-arms)

Though in rather poor condition, a closer look at this neglected Renaissance Book of Hours from Lombardy, Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 206, can tell us a great deal about its original context. Despite bearing a Lewis shelf mark, the manuscript was a gift to the Free Library from Simon Gratz (1840–1925), a Philadelphia lawyer, education reformer, and autograph collector. Like an item we examined several weeks ago, this manuscript never belonged to John Frederick Lewis and therefore was not described in the 1937 catalogue of the Lewis Collection’s 200 western manuscripts.1 Prior to being owned by Gratz, the book had been in the possession of another lawyer, George T. Strong of New York (1820–1875), who had acquired the book by 1843, when he inscribed his name on one of the flyleaves. Incidentally, Strong’s notoriety stems from the survival of his 2,250-page diary, rediscovered in the 1930s, which records nearly every day of his adult life in great detail, including the purchase on 30 May 1837 of a “a vellum MS., very splendidly and elaborately illuminated, and several large pictures of the Crucifixion, etc.,” which could plausibly refer to this manuscript, if we interpret the Crucifixion pictures as separate items.2 The manuscript thus came to the New World relatively early on, but that is certainly not where its story begins! 

Read more

Stains Alive! BiblioPhilly and Labeculae vivae: The categorization of stains in alchemical manuscripts using multispectral imaging

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 8/52
A guest post by former Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies CLIR Fellow, Dr. Erin Connelly

Recipes and extracts on alchemy, medicine, metal-working, cosmetics, veterinary science, agriculture, wine-making, and other subjects, Northwestern Italy, Probably before 22 December 1438. Philadelphia, Science History Institute, MS Othmer 1, front cover

Labeculae vivae was a project supported by a microgrant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The project ran for one year, from August 2017 to September 2018, during which stains from about forty Western European manuscripts, ranging from the twelfth to sixteenth centuries, held in the special collections of five partner institutions, were imaged, and subsequently analyzed. In 2016, the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project catalogued manuscripts from the Science History Institute and its Othmer Library of Chemical History, which houses over 140,000 objects, including an invaluable collection of medieval alchemy manuscripts. Prior to the recent work of the BiblioPhilly project, these manuscripts were undigitized and several have never had a printed edition. The team members of Labeculae vivae1 performed multispectral imaging and analysis on a selection of alchemical manuscripts from the Science History Institute based on stains identified during cataloguing by BiblioPhilly. 

Read more

“Love and Humility are the sweet bonds of our marriage:” A Book of Hours owned by the wife of a French Catholic propagandist of the 16th century, and the Governor of Pennsylvania!

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 7/52

Book of Hours, Use of Paris, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1924‑19‑1, fol. 24r (miniature of the Annunciation from the Hours of the Virgin)

Books of Hours are highly mobile objects that can often accrue fascinating later histories. Because of their deeply personal nature, they can become associated with historical persons either through legend or fact (or a combination of the two). Only relatively rarely, however, does one later owner purchase a book on account of its earlier ownership history. One such example is a fairly modest Parisian Book of Hours acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1924 (accession number 1924‑19‑1). Unlike the later ensembles of illuminated manuscripts donated to the museum by Samuel and Vera White or Philip S. Collins, this manuscript was not published or described upon its entry into the collection.1 Its only existing description comes from Seymour de Ricci’s Census of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the United States and Canada and its later Supplement, produced by C.U. Faye and W.H. Bond

Read more

The earliest known French bookstamp, and a new addition to the library of a colorful bibliophile: Jacques Thiboust of Bourges

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 6/52

Georges Chastellain, c. 1402/1410–1475, L’outré d’amour pour amour morte, Philadelphia, The Rosenbach Museum and Library, MS 443/21, fol. 1r, with miniature showing The author dreaming

While being attentive to the circumstances surrounding the genesis and production of a Medieval or Renaissance manuscript is often our primary concern as scholars, sometimes the subsequent destiny of an item can be equally engaging, if not more so! This is especially the case when the attested later owner of the book is A) relatively close in date to the production of the manuscript and thus valuable as a witness to the early diffusion of a particular text, and B) known to have owned other books and documented for having had a particular focus to their bibliophilism. Today we will examine a manuscript which, though notable for its textual content and illustrations, is of further interest due to its rich early ownership history, which has never before been remarked upon. 

Read more