Genealogical rolls showing the direct descent of English kings from Adam were a major (and blatant) propaganda tool during the Wars of the Roses in later fifteenth-century England. The BiblioPhilly libraries have three from the reign of Edward IV, each very fine — but this one from Lehigh University has an intriguing nineteenth-century housing that makes it especially remarkable.
The Lehigh roll is based on the text of a roll that Roger of St. Albans presented to Henry VI, with continuation into the reign of Edward IV. The survival of considerable numbers of the these rolls suggests, as Alison Allan notes, that “they were the work of a small group of craftsmen,” and that their production was deliberately planned to support the usurpation of the young Yorkist king. They show his superior hereditary claim and hint that his accession was divinely foreordained.
The glass-fronted wood housing with rollers and external knobs for this particular roll is an artifact in and of itself, and the question of how to photograph the roll without destroying its enclosure has been the subject of a great deal of discussion. If removal of the roll from the case is impossible, as seems increasingly likely, the imaging team will explore photographing portions of the roll and digitally stitching it together.
In the meantime, enjoy this video of principal investigator Lois Fischer Black carefully turning the handles to get a full view of the roll.
Lehigh University Ms 8
Roger of St. Albans. Geneaological Roll, in Latin. 15th-century manuscript on a vellum roll 20 feet 5 inches x 12 inches (612.8 x 30 cm.), written in England. Bears the 16th-century inscription “liber Robert Ohlund (?) de Stondlley (?).” Acquired by Lehigh in 1955, the gift of Mr. Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. Chronicle from the time of Adam to the reign of Edward IV. A high-resolution digitization of this image will be prepared as part of the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project.
 Alison Allan, “Yorkist propaganda: Pedigree, prophecy and the ‘British History’ in the Reign of Edward IV.” C. D. Ross, ed., Patronage, Pedigree and Power in Later Medieval England, Alan Sutton, Rowman & Littlefield, 1979.
Not all medieval manuscripts are all about the pretty pictures and salvation (or not). This one is about the body.
This manuscript of Bernard de Gordon’s Lilium medicinae (Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians, 10a 249) is one of a number of manuscript editions of a comprehensive and practical manual for medical practitioners. The work is divided into seven sections that address the body from head to foot. Each section includes definition, causes, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and clarification.
Lilium medicinae survives in a number of copies, including its original Latin and a number of translations including English, a testament to its popularity, especially in England. The College’s copy was made in 1348 and completed at the feast of Corpus Christi (June 20) — almost exactly when the Black Death landed in Melcombe in the county of Dorset.
Chrissie Perella, Archivist at the College of Physicians, translated a 1551 Latin version of Lilium medicinae on the causes of pestilence in her “Medieval Monday” series of blog entries: “Pestilential fevers are those that arrive in the time when crops are destroyed and all is barren because of corrupted air and water. . .The signs of which are common, and some belong to fever. Signs of a future pestilence appear as stars called comets, with a round tail and a meteor, and the way in which it [the weather] is hot and then cold, and then hot and then cold again, many times in one day….” Read more here: Pestilential Fevers, or, The Black Death
CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow Erin Connelly, who reviewed and expanded the cataloging data for Lilium medicinae for the BiblioPhilly project, has a personal interest in the work: her dissertation at the University of Nottingham focused on a manuscript of a fifteenth-century Middle English translation, The Lylye of Medicynes (Oxford Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 1505). In addition to working on an edition of the manuscript, she has mined it for a project called Ancientbiotics that seeks to find new remedies in old sources that can be used when antibiotics have failed.
Where the College of Physicians’ manuscript spent the first century of its life is not known, but it was sold to a John Kokkes of Oxford (d. 1475), possibly a doctor and teacher, who in turn sold it for a reduced price in exchange for medical services.
Another unsolved mystery: what happened to the scribe? Perella wonders whether he survived the Black Death. And so do we…
This is a “very evil fox,” according to Les regnars traversant les perilleuses voyes des folles fiances du monde, a Middle French poem by Jean Bouchet. Monsieur Reynard had done all the bad things, and now he is paying for it in the very hot place. The manuscript is part of the collection of the Rosenbach of the Free Library.
Bouchet’s text and the nine accompanying miniatures have been digitized and are available online as part of the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources. The text and images employ the fox as a metaphor for the vices of contemporary man. They denounce all estates of society: the king, the nobility, the clergy, the merchant class, and the common people. The fox and his friends cavort through the poem polluting a badger’s lair, carrying a flaming torch, dressed as clergymen carrying rosaries, knocking down a church, and dressed as noblemen.
Eventually our fox dies and his soul lands in a cauldron of boiling water, “regretting the hour and day he was born.”
Bouchet was a law clerk and rhetorician from Poitiers, France, but this manuscript copy of his text was produced for Philip the Handsome, archduke of Austria, while he was duke of Burgundy and count of Charolais.
A slightly different version of this text was published, with woodcuts, by the Parisian publisher Antoine Vérard in late 1503 or early 1504. The copy in the Rosenbach survives as the only illuminated manuscript of the text.
We’ve reached a major project milestone, with one hundred Western European medieval and early modern manuscripts now online in our Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis curated collection. The images and metadata are hosted by the Penn Libraries’ OPenn repository.
This represents a little less than 25% of the 450-plus manuscripts that will eventually be digitized and placed on OPenn. Currently more than half of the manuscripts have been imaged, with cataloging undergoing refinement and quality control.
All the BiblioPhilly images are free for the downloading in glorious high resolution or leisurely leafing through with a page-turning interface on the Library of Congress’ ViewShare site.
The actual one-hundredth manuscript, Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 257, is remarkable in a number of ways. Let us count them:
First, it’s written in Middle Dutch — unlike many of the Latin or French Books of Hours collected in Philadelphia-area institutions.
But wait — there’s lots more! It was displayed as part of PACSCL’s 2001 exhibition, “Leaves of Gold.” Curator and catalog editor James R. Tanis  explained the many other ways this manuscript is special:
“Uncommon in several respects, this Dutch Book of Hours begins with the Hours of the Trinity, which, like the more common Hours of the Eternal Wisdom, are almost exclusively found in manuscripts from the northern Netherlands. Three different mediums meet in this unusual opening. On the right is a traditional, fully illuminated opening initial in the so-called aubergine style, with accompanying border decoration. In the upper right corner of this page a colorful bird looks down on a monkey riding a dog in the lower margin. On the facing page a very simply drawn and colored GnadenstuhlI (Throne-of-Grace) Trinity is surrounded by a metal-cut border. The popular monkey appears in the lower border, with a deer to the left of the miniature and a bird to the right.