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 vivae[1] performed multispectral imaging and analysis on a selection of alchemical manuscripts from the Science History Institute based on stains identified during cataloguing by BiblioPhilly.

Many of the most interesting manuscript stains are found in the bindings and folios of soiled, heavily-used medical and alchemical texts. Signs of this practical use may be obvious, such as burn marks from furnaces, but innocuous-looking stains (e.g. appearing to be water damage) may contain hidden information about medicinal or chemical solutions, or even heavy metal contamination, which is not evident by sight alone. The majority of manuscripts identified as potential candidates for stain analysis have never been accessible in either print or digitized formats. This is especially true of medical and alchemical texts, which are often less well-known than medieval literary works and may be considered less “beautiful” than the illuminated and decorated texts commonly regarded as world treasures.

As an example,[2] we can highlight the analysis and investigative process for Othmer 1 of the Science History Institute, a manuscript from North-Western Italy, dated before the end of 1438, containing “Recipes and extracts on alchemy, medicine, metal-working, cosmetics, veterinary science, agriculture, wine-making, and other subjects.”

MS Othmer 1, fol. 68r

When making a first plot of the spectral curves of the various components of the page, we considered the larger bicolored stain as one component, conjecturing that the central core might be a more concentrated element of the same substance throughout the stain. This has a unique shape that was not reconcilable with anything else on the page, and followed only slightly, as is often the case, that of the paper substrate, since it did not cover it completely, masking its spectral response (see image below).

Plotting the spectral curves for the stain in the middle of the columns as a composite

A Principal Component Analysis (PCA) investigation, however, led us to notice the spectral response of the ruling ink, as opposed to the writing one. This also evidenced the pale yellow-brown components of the large stains, but not the greyish core. Further analysis showed that the central greyish core, resembled the response of the writing ink (see image below). This led us to plot the spectral response a second time, and to separate the two components of the central stain in two different spectral curves: one for the inner darker spot, and one for outer light-colored area. The new curves followed the same respective patterns of the writing ink and of the ruling ink (see second image below). As it is clear from the analysis, the stain must have occurred at the time of writing, and not afterwards. The stain thus reveals the work of an untidy scribe, who spilled the ruling ink pot on the recto of folio 68, and then also dropped some writing ink on the same area, resulting in the composite stain that we can see today. This gives us clues regarding the kind of manuscript that Othmer 1 is: a working copy important for its content and not for its appearance.

False color image showing different ink components highlighted in different colors: ruling in yellow, writing ink in red, and rubrics in blue; the central stain shows similar color configurations: inner core in reddish tone and outside area in yellow

Plotting the spectral curves for each component of the central stain, revealing patterns similar to the writing and ruling inks

Similar to BiblioPhilly, the main objective of Labeculae vivae was to reveal and make available new information about lesser known medieval manuscripts in order to provide a foundation for further scholarly endeavours. Along those lines, over the course of the Labeculae vivae project, we have collected about 220 Gb of data that is now hosted by OPENN, University of Pennsylvania Libraries.[3]

[1] Dr. Alberto Campagnolo, Dr. Erin Connelly, and Dr. Heather Wacha (CLIR postdoctoral fellows at the time of the project), with the generous help of Michael (Mike) B. Toth from R.B. Toth Associates and Dr. William (Bill) Christens-Barry of Equipose Imaging.

[2] This excerpt of text and figures is from Alberto Campagnolo, Erin Connelly, and Heather Wacha, “Labeculæ Vivæ: Building a reference library of stains for medieval and early modern manuscripts,” in Manuscript Studies, A Journal of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (forthcoming 2019).

[3] The repository (ark:/81431/p35d8nj0r) is maintained by The citation URL is

“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.

In both Census volumes, the manuscript’s early provenance with the Duderé family in France is briefly recorded, as is its later ownership in the United States by Samuel W. Pennypacker, 23rd Governor of Pennsylvania (1843–1916), who served from 1903 to 1907 (and to whom we shall return). The Duderé provenance is evident through two unequivocal inscriptions within the manuscript. The first, on folio 1r, reads:

1924‑19‑1, fol. 1r, with ownership inscription of Michelle Duderé dated to 1577

Ces heures apartiennent a damoyselle Michelle du Deré femme de Me Loys Dorleans aduocat en la court de Parlement et lesquelles luy sont echeues par la succession de feu son pere Me Jehan Duderé conseiller du roy & auditeur en sa chambre des comptes, 1577; Amour & Humilité sont les doux liens de nostre mariage.

(“This Book of Hours belongs to Lady Michelle du Deré wife of Mr. Louis d’Orléans advocate in the court of Parliament and it descended from her deceased father Mr. Jean Duderé counsellor of the King and auditor in his chamber of accounts. 1577. Love and Humility are the sweet bonds of our marriage.”)

It thus transpires that the book was in the possession of Michelle Duderé, wife of the noted French Catholic League pamphleteer Louis Dorléans (1542–1629).[2] In addition to being known for authoring numerous religious tracts, Dorléans was also an occasional poet, and wrote some bucolic verses replete with thinly-veiled references to his beloved wife, but also to his former mistress Catherine de la Sale![3] Interestingly, some of his writings also show an unusual knowledge of Middle French poetry; he even donated a fourteenth-century French translation of the Golden Legend to a Minim convent in Paris in 1561 (Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, ms. 1279). Michelle Duderé, as she herself tells us in the inscription, had inherited the Book of Hours from her father, Jean Duderé, notary and secretary to the French king, whose principal historical importance seems to have been his invocation in a seventeenth-century lawsuit concerning the inheritance of such royal appointments. It appears that the manuscript was then gifted by Michelle Duderé’s blind son to a cousin once-removed, a certain G. Duderé, for on the verso of the first folio we read another French inscription, written some seventy-three years later:

1924‑19‑1, fol. 1r, with ownership inscription of G. Duderé dated to 1650

Ce présent livre m’a esté donné par feu monsieur d’Orléans, fils de mademoiselle d’Orléans nomée Michelle Duderé lequel estoit aveugle et qui estoit digne de cette affliction, mon cousin germain, G. Dudere 1650… les figures qui sont à genoux dans les ymages de ce livre sont de feu damoiselle Michelle de Sauslai [?] mère de deffunct mon frère.

(“This present book was given to me by the late Monsieur D’Orleans son of Madame D’Orleans named Michelle Dudere. He was blind and worthily bore this affliction, my cousin once removed. G. Dudere 1650… the figures which are on their knees in the pictures of this book are portraits of the deceased demoiselle Michelle de Sauslai [?], mother of my deceased father.”)

1924‑19‑1, fols. 124r and 130r (miniature of the Virgin and Child with Angel with a female donor; miniature of the Trinity with an Angel holding the Crown of Thorns with a female donor)

The supposition that the two donor portraits (on folios 124r and 130r; illustrated above) contained in the book depict a certain “Michelle de Sauslai” (?), grandmother of the owner alive in 1650 is manifestly incorrect, since the book dates from the fifteenth century. But there is no reason to doubt the other pieces of evidence situating the book with the Duderé family early in its history.

Portrait of Samuel W. Pennypacker.jpg
Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker (1843–1916)

This is all fine and well, but how did the manuscript come to be owned by the Governor of Pennsylvania, Samuel Pennypacker? Pennypacker was a noted jurist, trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, president of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and local history enthusiast who collected a large amount of material related to the early German and Dutch settlement of South-Eastern Pennsylvania, most of which is today preserved at the Pennypacker Mills house museum. Other manuscripts once owned by Pennypacker that are still in Philadelphia include another Book of Hours (Lewis E 116) and a series of astronomical tables followed by a short text concerning astrology and planetary movements (Lewis E 3), both of which are today in the Free Library. These manuscripts were all auctioned off in the Pennypacker sale in 1906, together with a small number of other manuscripts. Additionally, for the present manuscript, the Faye and Bond supplement to de Ricci’s Census includes the name of an additional owner, the noted Chestnut Hill philanthropist, John Story Jenks (1839–1923). Jenks was a great supporter of the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art (the precursor of the Philadelphia Museum of Art), as a short obituary confirms.[4] It was he who left the manuscript to the museum upon his death.
Portrait of John Story Jenks (1839–1923) by Alice Mumford Roberts

So why did Governor Pennypacker purchase this particular French Book of Hours, prior to its acquisition and donation by Jenks? The answer is provided in an all-but-forgotten issue of a regional historical journal, The Perkiomen Region, Past and Present, published in March of 1901 by Henry S. Dotterer (1841–1903). The short article, entitled “A Sumptuous Devotional Book,” vividly describes the book and asserts that the Governor:

…purchased it because he felt convinced that the family of Duderé mentioned in the inscription was identical with an old Pennsylvanian family—that of Doderer, Dotterer, Dudderer, Duttera, Dudderow. This conviction induced him to pay the large sum quoted for it by the foreign bookseller [i.e. James Tregaskis of London], and to bring it, after a service of more than three centuries, from its native France to the New World.

To find the connecting links from the Duderés of the Sixteenth century to the Dotterers of the Twentieth century would be a great genealogical achievement. Doderers and Dotterers appear in various parts of Europe prior to the date of the arrival, about 1722, of George Philip Dodderer, or Dotterer, in Pennsylvania. Tradition, in some instances, asserts that the Pennsylvania immigrants were of French origin; but not uniformly so, for Alsace, Baden, Wurtemberg and Austria are also named as the place of their nativity. We have unbounded respect for Judge Pennypacker’s insight into genealogy, ethnology, and the kindred sciences, and it will therefore not be a surprise to us if research shall ultimately prove that his intuitions are correct.[5]

The prominent Dotterer family of Pennsylvania was established by George Phillip Dotterer (ca. 1676–1741), who was born in Baden-Württemberg and died in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in 1741. George’s father Hans is thought to have been born in the same region of Germany as his son around 1650. However, this family’s link to the prominent Catholic Duderés of France remains tenuous. As such, Governor Pennypacker’s assumption remains unlikely; perhaps his doubts led him to sell the book on in his 1906 sale. In any case, both G. Duderé’s misattribution of the portraits in the book and the dubious linkage to the Dotterer dynasty made by Governor Pennypacker demonstrate the extent to which an unsuspecting manuscript can become the subject of historical wishful thinking.

[1] Henry G. Gardiner, “The Samuel S. White, 3rd, and Vera White Collection,” Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 63, no. 296/297 (1968): 71–150,; Carl Zigrosser, “The Philip S. Collins Collection of Mediaeval Illuminated Manuscripts,” Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 58, no. 275 (1962): 3–34,

[2] See the entry by Christophe Bernard in Dictionnaire des lettres françaises: le XVIe siècle, ed. Michel Simonin (Paris: Fayard-La Pochothèque, 2001), 370–71.

[3] Anne-Bérangère Rothenburger, “L’Eglogue de la naissance de Jésus-Christ pas Louis Dorléans: datation et filiation poétiques,” in Le poète et son œuvre: de la composition à la publication, ed. Jean-Eudes Girot (Geneva: Droz, 2004), 259–87.

[4] Pennsylvania Museum Bulletin 18, no. 77 (May 1923): 16.

[5] Henry S. Dotterer, “A Sumptuous Devotional Book,” The Perkiomen Region, Past and Present 3, no. 2 (March 1901): 166–7.

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.

This short, rhymed work in French by the Burgundian chronicler and poet Georges Chastellain (c. 1402/1410–1475) is entitled L’outré d’amour pour amour morte, which can be rendered in English as something resembling “The Lover’s Lament over the Death of his Love” (see here for the digitized version of the modern critical edition).[1] The manuscript is housed at The Rosenbach Library and Museum as MS 443/21. The author, Chastellain, was a prominent figure at the Burgundian court, serving dukes Phillip the Good and Charles the Bold with distinction. L’outré d’amour, written in 214 octosyllabic octets, is an example of a Roman à clef, a narrative describing actual events presented as a fictional account using altered names. This is a later name for the genre, but this type of work was popular in mid-fifteenth-century Franco-Burgundian culture, where a fractious political situation sometimes made the overt enunciation of one’s privately-held views problematic.

The Rosenbach manuscript, which is missing four stanzas between folios 7 and 8, was likely produced in Western France in the 1460s or 1470s, judging by the style of the bâtarde script and the four unframed miniatures (four more spaces for miniatures remain blank); it may well date from Chastellain’s lifetime. Ours is at least the seventh known manuscript copy of the text to be identified, and it can be added to the five exemplars listed in the Archives de littérature du moyen âge (none of which is currently fully digitized), and a copy at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal with eleven miniatures that has very recently been digitized. Chastellain’s text became quite popular in the early sixteenth century, as it was included in the earliest printed anthology of Middle French poetic texts, the Jardin de plaisance et fleur de rethoricquefirst issued by the Parisian printer Antoine Vérard in 1502 and re-printed no fewer than eight times before 1528.

The Rosenbach Museum and Library, MS 443/21, fol. 1r and Georges Chastellain, L’Oultré d’amours pour amour morte, Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Ms 5118, fol. 1r (253 x 174 mm versus 203 x 143 mm in size)

Given the popularity of this text in Renaissance France, the manuscript in question is especially notable on account of its subsequent presence in an important library some fifty years after its creation, when it was well on its way to becoming a classic. The Rosenbach manuscript was in fact once owned by Jacques Thiboust (1492–1555), a noted humanist book collector in early-sixteenth-century France.[2] Thiboust trained as a jurist and remained deeply devoted to the region around his native Bourges, in the Berry. He served as a notary and secretary to King Francis I and his sister Marguerite de Valois in an illustrious career that brought him into contact with a wide range of poets and chroniclers. He is best known for being at the center of a literary circle of friends in Bourges in the 1520s, 30s, and 40s, which brought together local clerics, merchants, scholars, and physicians, but also such luminaries as statesman Guillaume Bochetel, the archbishop of Bourges Jacques Leroy, the poet and translator of classical texts François Habert, and the eminent poet Clément Marot. Thiboust’s renown was such that already at the age of 24 he was the subject of a portrait, currently untraced, by the leading French court artist of the time, Jean Clouet. A number of personal manuscripts in Thiboust’s own hand survive, recording his land holdings surrounding his manor at Quantilly, near Bourges (Bourges, Archives départementales du Cher, G 61 and E 108; Paris, BnF, MS fr. 32954). A fascinating Friendship Book or Liber amicorum that belonged to Thiboust (Paris, BnF, MS fr. 1667) contains numerous odes and poems to Thiboust’s many friends.

We know the precise details of Thiboust’s acquisition of the Rosenbach manuscript on account of an autograph inscription he wrote on the inside front cover, in a fine bâtarde script. It reads:  “C’est au Seigneur de Quantilly M. Jacques Thiboust, notaire et secrétaire du Roy et esleu en Berry. Et le luy a donné sire Jehan Jaupitre son frère. En mars 1535.” (“This belongs to the lord of Quantilly Mr. Jacques Thiboust, notary and secretary to the King, and elected in Berry. And it was given to him by his brother Jean Jaupitre, in March 1535”). Jaupitre appears to have been Thiboust’s wife Jeanne de la Font’s half brother; the manuscript thus exemplifies the type of infra-familial gift of a book that was becoming so popular in Renaissance France. “Des livres de M. Jacques Thiboust” (“From the books of M. Jacques Thiboust”) is additionally written on lower pastedown, and the date of “mars 1535” is repeated on recto of first flyleaf.  The title of the work, “Cy commance le livre de l’outré d’amour pour amour morte,” has also been added in upper margin of folio 1r. Like other books that belonged to Thiboust, this manuscript has his name all over it!

The Rosenbach Museum and Library, MS 443/21, upper pastedown, with inscription by Jacques Thiboust, and lower pastedown, with additional inscription

As if that weren’t definite evidence enough to establish ownership, the manuscript bears Thiboust’s unique, ink-stamped ownership mark on the verso of the front flyleaf and the verso of folio 37.[3] The bookstamp displays Thiboust’s arms. These are, in French heraldic terms: “écartelé au 1 et 4 d’argent à la face de sable, chargé de trois glands d’or accompagné de trois feuilles de chêne de sinople, deux en chef, une en pointe; au 2e d’argent à une anille de moulin de sable [Dumoulin] ; au 3e d’or à deux perroquets adossés de sinople [Rusticat]; et sur le tout d’azur à une étoile-comète d’or [Villemer]. Hand-painted variations of the arms occur in other books owned by Thiboust, including his Paris Liber Amicorum (Paris, BnF, MS fr. 1667) and a manuscript register now in the Bibliothèque municipale of Bourges (Ms 373, fol. 3v). Above and below the square armorial stamp are the mottoes, in Latin and French respectively, “Lex et Regio” and “Qui voit s’esbat,” which can be translated “Law and Region,” or “Law and Land;” and “He who sees frolicks, relaxes, or amuses oneself.”). The latter is in fact an anagram of Thiboust’s first and last names (switching I for J and a V for a U), devised by the noted poet Clément Marot.[4] For good measure, the French motto has been recopied in pen below the stamp on folio 37 verso, and signed, again, by Thiboust himself.  
The Rosenbach Museum and Library, MS 443/21, flyleaf i verso and fol. 37v, showing the armorial bookstamp, motto, and signature of Jacques Thiboust

Thiboust’s serially reproducible woodcut ownership mark is the earliest of its kind to be used in France, though other, earlier examples survive from German-speaking regions. The stamp itself is interesting for its rather cutting-edge design: based on its curling, strapwork ornament, I would date it well into the 1520s, not 1518–1520 as Arthur Rau had assumed (see footnote 3). It is found in other fifteenth-century manuscripts Thiboust owned (for example a copy of Alain Chartier’s L’espérence ou consolation des trois vertus now in the Morgan Library & Museum), in contemporary printed books (a copy of Le couronnement du roi François [Paris, 1520] held at Yale University Library), and in significantly older items, including this twelfth-century version of Josephus’s Antiquities, now in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (ms. lat. 15427), which he gifted to his friend Bochetel. A particularly good example occurs in an example of the anonymous La voie d’enfer et de paradis, Les Enluminures, TM 775, where the stamp’s presence on the first page of this imperfect copy proves that it had already lost its first few leaves by the time it came into Thiboust’s hands (see the excellent Les Enluminures description and additional photos here).

La voie d’enfer et de paradis, Bourges, c. 1460. Les Enluminures, TM 775,  verso of final flyleaf-fol. 1r, an example of another mid-fifteenth-century French manuscript with Jacques Thiboust’s bookstamp and inscription

A final—though conjectural—piece of evidence that might help localize our manuscript even more precisely within Thiboust’s ownership is its potential inclusion within a list of contents of Thiboust’s library found in his Liber Amicorum mentioned above (Paris, BnF, MS fr. 1667). On folio 156r of this album, within what seems to be a list of literary works from which Thiboust drew excerpts, appears (six lines up from the bottom) an entry that can be read as “Le couspré d’Amour,” (?) perhaps a misspelling of “Le l’oustré d’Amour”? The item above it is “La voye du Paradis,” which seems to be identifiable with the manuscript of La voie d’enfer et de paradis, mentioned and illustrated above (Les Enluminures, TM 775). The roman numerals in the right margin of the list, which are not continuous, are puzzling. Could these allude to the year in which Thiboust received the works, in which case the “XXXV” (35) for the mysterious “Le couspré d’Amour” would accord with the 1535 year recorded in the Philadelphia manuscript? Regardless of whether this link can be made definitely, the Philadelphia manuscript remains a previously unnoticed addition to Thiboust’s library, and further confirms this humanist bibliophile’s interest in the creation of a French literary canon through the collection of manuscript exemplars, even at a time when this text was widely available in print.

Paris, BnF, MS fr. 1667, fols. 155v-156r

[1] For L’outré d’amour, see Lemaire, Jacques, “L’Oultré d’Amour de George Chastelain: un exemple ancien de construction en abyme,” Revue romane 11 (1976): 306-316.

[2] For Jacques Thiboust, see Boyer, Hippolite, Un ménage littéraire en Berry au XVIe siècle, Jacques Thiboust et Jeanne de La Font (Bourges: Impr. et Lithographie de Ve. Jollet-Souchois, 1859; Omont, H., “Un Nouveau Manuscrit de Jacques Thiboust de Bourges,” Revue d’Histoire Littéraire de La France 4, no. 1 (1897): pp. 92–97; and Le Clech-Charton, S., “Jacques Thiboust, notaire et secrétaire du roi et familier de Marguerite de Navarre: amitiés littéraires dans le Berry du ‘Beau seizième siècle’,” Cahiers d ‘Archéologie et d’Histoire du Berry 96 (March 1989), pp. 17-28; other books owned by Thiboust are discussed in Le Clech-Charton 1989.

[3] For Thiboust’s stamped bookplate, perhaps the earliest of its kind to be used in France, see Rau, Arthur, “The Earliest Extant French Armorial Ex-libris,” The Book Collector (Fall 1961), pp. 331-332.

[4] See Boyer, Un ménage littéraire, p. 58.

A helping hand: barely discernible instructions for a miniaturist

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 5/52

Book of Hours, Use of Rome, Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 107, fol. 100v (miniature of the Crowning of Thorns with instructions in left margin)

Marginal directions for illuminators—be they in written or in sketch form—are relatively common in the thirteenth century, and though they could no doubt be studied further, a very useful discussion of them is provided in Jonathan J. G. Alexander’s landmark Medieval Illuminators and their Methods of Work, published in 1992 (chp. 3, “Programmes and Instructions for Illuminators,” pp. 52–72). However, such notations become quite unusual as time goes on, especially in Books of Hours. The thinking is that standardized iconographies and massive workshop production made the usual iconographical cycle found in a Book of Hours so familiar to miniaturists that they needed no guiding words to help them. Those who (today) handle Books of Hours on a routine basis will surely understand how the typical iconography found in the various sections of these books quickly becomes almost entirely predictable.
Book of Hours, Use of Rome, Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 107, fols. 38v–39r (end of Gospel Lessons and beginning of Hours of the Virgin)

In cataloguing a rather late and somewhat scruffy Northern French Book of Hours from the first quarter of the sixteenth century, Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 107, I discovered some faint, barely legible inscriptions in the margins adjacent to some of the more unusual miniatures. In certain cases, these short texts are partially covered over by the shell gold and paint of the miniatures, proving that they were indeed production notes and not after-the-fact annotations. While there are no inscriptions next to the canonical scenes in the Hours of the Virgin (for example in the Annunciation for Matins of the Hours of the Virgin, fol. 39r, shown above), inscriptions do appear next to the relatively uncommon cycle of miniatures in the combined Hours of the Cross and Hours of the Holy Spirit. For example, for the scene of Christ presented as the Man of Sorrows (known as the “Ecce Homo” in Latin), the word “homo,” or man appears in the margin.

This is an image of fol. 101v from Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 107, Book of Hours, Use of Rome (Flanders, 1500 - 1525).
Book of Hours, Use of Rome, Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 107, fol. 101v (miniature of the Man of Sorrows with “homo” marginal instruction)

Elsewhere, the brief notations seem to have been partially rubbed away to erase them after the completion of the miniatures, rendering them hard to read. For the miniature showing the Resurrection, the Latin word “Resurrexit” seems to be partially discernible, though this is one instance where even the best digital (or analog) images don’t convey as much information as the first-hand examination of the page.

This is an image of fol. 108r from Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 107, Book of Hours, Use of Rome (Flanders, 1500 - 1525).
Book of Hours, Use of Rome, Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 107, fol. 108r (miniature of the Resurrection with “Resurrexit” marginal instruction)

In other cases, the accompanying words are almost illegible. They are scrawl-like, highly abbreviated, and typical of earlier instructions for illuminators in that they seem to condense iconographies into short phrases. These are quite different from the longer, more expository instructions, sometimes in the vernacular, that accompanied romances, histories, or arcane religious texts in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The illuminator at work here apparently needed a helping hand: he had already deviated from normal practice in depicting the Circumcision at Nones in the Hours of the Virgin, instead of the canonical Presentation (of Christ) in the Temple. These, of course, are two distinct events in the New Testament narrative, though they occasionally came to be conflated in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In our case, was this the result of specific instructions, local tradition, or mere oversight?
Book of Hours, Use of Rome, Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 107, fol. 77r (miniature of the Circumcision of Christ in lieu of the habitual Presentation in the Temple)


The Star of Salvation, an unknown Franciscan devotional dialogue in Italian with a lost sister copy in Croatia

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 4/52

Stella di Salute, Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 205, fol. 1r (introductory rubric with the name of the author and date of composition)

John Frederick Lewis’ wonderful collection of two hundred Western Medieval codices, dozens of non-European manuscripts, and thousands of cuttings and single leaves is justly famous. This outstanding ensemble has been housed at the Free Library of Philadelphia since it was gifted to the institution by John Frederick’s widow, Anne Baker Lewis, in 1933. Four years later, the two hundred codices were the subject of a summary catalogue authored by Edwin Wolf.[1] And yet the Free Library is home to more than fifty additional manuscripts, which were somewhat confusingly given “Lewis E” shelfmarks of 201 and above, that made their way to the Rare Book Department on the third floor of Parkway Central Library by other means. Because they were not published in the 1937 catalogue, these manuscripts are generally less well-known. Some, including the subject of today’s post, were in fact acquired earlier; in this case, through the William Pepper Fund seven years prior to the Lewis donation, in 1926.

This book, Lewis E 205, consists of an unpublished Italian devotional treatise, composed in question-and-answer form, entitled the Stella di Salute (Star of Salvation). The author, as stated in the introductory rubric (fol. 1r), is a Franciscan friar from the province of the Marche by the name of Santi de Bon Cor (unless this was a convenient pen name!). The text was composed, according to the rubric, on the twenty-fifth day of February, 1450. It is unclear whether the present copy is contemporary or slightly later in date; its script and style of decoration appear to be from the mid-fifteenth century. The book is written in an elegant, Southern Textualis or Rotunda script. The colophon on fol. 205v states that the scribe’s name was Faustino, unfortunately a rather common first name in fifteenth-century Italy.

Lewis E 205, fol. 250v (colophon with the name of the scribe, Faustino)

Lewis E 205, fol. 1r (detail of inhabited initial S with a haloed bishop)

The text begins with an illuminated first page containing a historiated initial S depicting a haloed bishop, though it is unclear who this might be intended to represent. A manuscript with the same text and with a similar number of folios, but apparently with more lavish decoration, is listed in Hans Folnesics’ survey of illuminated manuscripts in Dalmatia.[2] In Folsesics’ corpus, which was published in 1917, the sister manuscript is described as being housed in the library of the State Italian College of Zadar (Gimnasio superiore di Zara), at a time when Zadar was still part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Today, of course, Zadar is in the Republic of Croatia, but throughout the Middle Ages and early modern period it was closely linked to the Eastern coast of Italy and the Marche region via the Adriatic. Interestingly, the Zadar manuscript’s opening miniature is described as being quite a bit more complex, showing the Franciscan author embracing the bow of a ship named “gentil navicella,” upon which the figure of a woman stands, holding a rosary and pointing upwards to the Redeemer. If any readers are aware of the present-day location of this related manuscript, please do let us know!

[1] Edwin Wolf, A. S. W. Rosenbach, and Richard W. Ellis, A descriptive catalogue of the John Frederick Lewis collection of European manuscripts in the Free library of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Free Library of Philadelphia, 1937).

[2] Hans Folsenics, Die illuminierten Handschriften in Dalmatien (Leipzig: Hiersemann, 1917), p. 50

The identification of a Spanish patron for a neglected Book of Hours

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 3/52
Book of Hours, Use of Rome, Bethlehem, PA, Lehigh University, Linderman Library, Codex 19, fol. 3r

Lehigh University’s small but excellent collection of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts deserves to be better known–and soon will be thanks to the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis digitization project! Only the first sixteen of the university’s manuscripts to be acquired were described (and briefly at that) in Seymour de Ricci’s Census of medieval and renaissance manuscripts in the United States and Canada (1935–1940); later acquisitions were not listed in the supplement to the census published in 1962. In 1970, the young John C. Hirsh (now a professor of English at Georgetown University), who received his doctorate from Lehigh that very year, organized an exhibition of the manuscripts and published a short guidebook to them, which was the first attempt at a complete checklist: Western Manuscripts of the Twelfth through the Sixteenth Centuries in Lehigh University Libraries: A Guide to the Exhibition.

The 1970 exhibition provided some new information about Lehigh’s manuscripts, but nothing like a comprehensive catalog, and there remains much research to be done on this collection. A case in point is Lehigh Codex 19, a Book of Hours of the Use of Rome described by Hirsh as a “15th-century manuscript on vellum, written in France.” A closer examination of the manuscript in fact reveals that it was produced in Flanders for export to Spain, a phenomenon that was quite widespread in the fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries (and another example of which may be the famous Collins Hours at the Philadelphia Museum of Art).[1]

To begin with, the coat-of-arms visible on fol. 3r, nestled amidst a charming “Ghent-Bruges”-style border more typical of Flanders in the early sixteenth century, is identifiable as that of the Ayala family of Toledo, Spain: Argent, two wolves passant sable in pale, a bordure gules charged with eight saltires or (in Spanish, “En campo de plata, dos lobos de sable, uno sobre otro; bordura de gules, con ocho aspas de oro”). The Ayala de Toldeo family was prominent in royal affairs in Spain around the turn of the sixteenth century, having been awarded the Duchy of Fuensalida by Henry IV of Castile in 1470.[2] While the book contains no further information as to the exact original owner of the book, an examination of the Ayala dynasty allows us to posit a number of potential candidates, either among the sons and daughters of Pedro López de Ayala II, whose death in 1486 probably occurred before the book was made, or among the children of Alfonso de Silva y Ayala, perhaps Pedro López de Ayala IV, who died in 1537. [edit: As Peter Kidd rightly points out in a comment below, the Obsecro te and O intemerata prayers, as well as the prayer of Saint Augustine, contain feminine forms, confirming that the book’s first intended recipient was a woman. This makes the most likely owner Leonor de Ayala, about whom little is known, or perhaps one of her sisters or her niece, Maria de Silva Ayala.]


Family tree drawn from Juan Ramon Palencia Herrejón, “Elementos Simbólicos de Poder de la Nobleza urbana en Castilla: los Ayala de Toledo al final del Medievo,” En la España medieval 18 (1995): 177 (article pp. 163–180)

The imposing Ayala residence in Toledo, the Palacio de Fuensalida, survives today as the headquarters of the presidency of Castilla-La Mancha. The building’s interior and facade are emblazoned with the coat-of-arms found in our Book of Hours.   Palacio de Fuensalida 000.jpg
Exterior facade and interior courtyard of the Palacio de Fuensalida, Toledo, Spain

Other evidence of our manuscript’s intended use and eventual presence in Spain abounds. The manuscript contains Castilian rubrics for a series of fifteen unusual prayers that appear to be associated with Giles of Rome (lived ca. 1243–1316; fols. 109r-181v), and an inquisition verification inscription on fol. 181v, dated to 1573.
Lehigh University, Linderman Library, Codex 19, fols. 190r and 181v

By coincidence, another manuscripts preserved in the region, at The Rosenbach Library and Museum, also contains a (previously identified) coat-of-arms of this same family. Rosenbach MS 482/2, a Spanish translation of De regimine principum produced around the year 1500, includes the Ayala de Toldeo arms in the bottom right hand corner of folio 18r. Interestingly, this treatise on the conduct of princes was originally written by Giles of Rome, the author to whom some of the prayers in the Lehigh Book of Hours seem to be connected. Might there be an Ayala family preference at play here?
De regimine principum, The Rosenbach Library and Museum, MS 482/2, fol. 18r, with detail of Ayala coat-of-arms below compared to that in Lehigh Codex 19


[1] For this phenomenon see Javier Docampo Capilla, “Horas Scriptas / Horas de Enprenta: Producción y Comercio de Libros de Horas En La Península Ibérica,” in Del Autor Al Lector: El Comercio y Distribución Del Libro Medieval y Moderno, ed. Manuel José Pedraza Gracia, Carlos Yolanda San Román, and Nicolás Bas Martín (Zaragoza: Prensas de la Universidad de Zaragoza, 2017), 15–36; and idem, “La importación de manuscritos iluminados y su influencia en la miniatura de la Península Ibérica: 1470-1570,” in La miniatura medieval en la Península Ibérica, ed. Joaquin Yarza Luaces (Murcia: Nausicaa, 2007), 255–311.

[2] For this family, see Juan Ramon Palencia Herrejón, “Elementos Simbólicos de Poder de la Nobleza urbana en Castilla: los Ayala de Toledo al final del Medievo,” En la España medieval 18 (1995): 163–180; and idem, Los Ayala de Toledo: desarrollo e instrumentos de poder de un linaje nobiliario en el siglo XV (Toledo: Concejalía de Cultura, 1996).