Which Dr. Wickersham?

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 34/52

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Antiphonal, Philadelphia, The Library Company of Philadelphia, MS 19, front cover and fol. 150v

The Library Company of Philadelphia possesses a small collection of about twenty Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, which are interesting on account of their diverse provenance histories. These manuscripts entered the institution at different times and through a variety of local collectors. Because the Library Company predates the establishment of the Free Library of Philadelphia by 160 years, many of these donations were made relatively early in the history of manuscript collecting in the United States.

An impressive but unadorned Antiphonal preserved at the Library Company of Philadelphia, MS 19, contains almost no provenance information internally, except for a label on the front pastedown stating (in handwriting) that it was presented by a certain “Dr. Wickersham,” and that it was given the Library Company shelf mark “2585 F.” Because there is no existing authoritative catalogue of the Library Company’s manuscripts, very little additional information can be associated with the book. It is described in the Supplement to the De Ricci census of manuscripts in North America as “Written in Spain, ca. 1500. Bound in orig. calf over wood boards, with metal bosses and corner-pieces,” but the prior provenance simply repeats the information on the label and the old shelf mark: “Presented by Dr. Wickersham (2585.F).”1

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The Library Company of Philadelphia, MS 19, front cover and detail of Library Company of Philadelphia label

There are several possible candidates for who this Dr. Wickersham might be.2 At first I thought it could be James P. Wickersham (1825–91), a noted leader in education reform and schooling in Pennsylvania. Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, awarded Wickersham an LL. D. in 1871, so he definitely qualified as doctor later in life. He was also the US chargé d’affaires in Denmark in 1882, which might have given him the opportunity to purchase such a manuscript in Europe.

Another figure from this sprawling Pennsylvania family who might fit the bill is James Pyle Wickersham Crawford (1882–1939), who was a professor of Romance languages in the University of Pennsylvania, and a specialist in Spanish literature. After his death, May Wickersham Crawford presented her husband’s collection on the study of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish fiction and poetry to the University of Pennsylvania and endowed a fund for the acquisition of materials in the Romance languages. Might Wickersham Crawford have decided during his lifetime that this antiphonal from Spain, which doesn’t exactly qualify as literature, would be a good fit for the Library Company’s collections?

Some further sleuthing in the records of the Library Company, however, reveals that it was neither of these individuals who gifted the Antiphonal. The style of the label is typical of that used in the 1870s and 1880s by the Library Company, disqualifying Wickersham Crawford. As it turns out, the Bulletin of the Library Company for July 1883 includes a description of what would first appear to be this manuscript within a “List of the More Important Books Added since January, 1883,” under the subheading “Illuminated MSS etc.” The manuscript is described as a “folio choir book” having been “brought back from Italy by Dr. Morris S. Wickersham,” yielding us the precise identity of this mysterious donor. Apparently, the manuscript was “thought worthy of being put in a glass case at the Ridgway Branch [the Library Company’s impressive neoclassical building on Broad Street], as a notable example of Italian ecclesiastical art in the Middle Ages,” alongside other manuscripts from diverse cultures, already in the collections of the Library Company.

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Bulletin of the Library Company, July 1883, p. 95

Morris S. Wickersham (1815–83) was a Philadelphia Physician, somewhat less renowned than the other Wickershams mentioned above. The details of his life are relatively scarce, but his presence in Italy is confirmed by a letter he wrote to the medical journal The Lancet in early 1881, signed from Ferrara. Further, a report from 1887 records a posthumous donation to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia of a “very curious and valuable collection” of books that he had assembled in Italy.3 Indeed, two manuscripts now in that institution were formerly in his possession: College of Physicians MS 10a 131 and MS 10a 132.

However, there is a problem, as the manuscript described in the Bulletin of the Library Company list of 1883 is said to have 186 pages (or 93 folios), contain one illuminated letter with a portrait, and bear the shelf mark “1315 F.” This description matches up precisely with another antiphonal in the Library Company, MS 7, which lacks a label with Wickersham’s name and was described as being part of the Loganian Library in the original de Ricci Census,4 suggesting that it arrived at the Library Company much earlier in the nineteenth century.

  
Diurnal Antiphonal, Philadelphia, The Library Company of Philadelphia, MS 7, front cover and fol. 23r

So what happened? In the 1883 list, immediately preceding the Antiphonal, two other new manuscript acquisitions are briefly described, without provenance. The first one refers to yet another Antiphonal, Library Company MS 16 (which has not been digitized on account of its size and condition). The second one refers, seemingly, to our Antiphonal, MS 19, as the dimensions match up very closely. However, the shelf mark, “7136. F,” is completely different. Were all three manuscripts gifts from Morris S. Wickersham, even if our MS 19 is the only one with a label? Was the label misapplied to our manuscript when it should have been affixed to MS 7? Or was MS 7 mistakenly described as being a gift from Wickersham when it had instead come to the Library Company much earlier? Such queries demonstrate how provenance research can often yield more questions than answers, and also how labels and published descriptions should never be considered foolproof.

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Bulletin of the Library Company, July 1883, p. 94


 

“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.

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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.

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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.


The prior provenance of one of the first medieval manuscripts to arrive in Philadelphia

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 2/52


Traictie des VII fruis de tribulacion, Philadelphia, The Library Company of Philadelphia, Ms. 18 875.Q, fol. 1r

The Library Company of Philadelphia is justly famous for being the first successful lending library in the western hemisphere, and one of North America’s oldest cultural institutions. And while the Library’s headquarters on Locust Street houses an unparalleled collection of books and manuscripts relating to early American history, few are aware that it is also home to about thirty Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. Several of these are exceptional not, primarily, for their content, but for the early date at which they arrived on American shores. Manuscripts known to have been present in American collections before the turn of the nineteenth century are vanishingly rare, and the paths by which they crossed the Atlantic remain relatively understudied.

A good example of this phenomenon is a late-fifteenth-century manuscript that contains an unpublished devotional text in French, the Traictie des VII fruis de tribulacion or Treatise on the Seven Fruits of Tribulation, written by a member of the Celestine order, an offshoot of the Benedictines founded by Pope Celestine V. The manuscript itself contains a single, heavily damaged opening miniature representing a kneeling layman in prayer before Saint Michael, Saint James (or possibly Saint Roch), and a bishop saint. The unidentified coat-of-arms below it has been erased and crudely re-drawn, frustrating our ability to identify the figure represented in the scene above. The preceding flyleaf contains a later ownership inscription, perhaps dating to circa 1600, also in French, that has unfortunately been partially effaced and rendered illegible, though the somewhat earlier, elaborate, late-Gothic penwork below it is clearly readable as “L’an mil cinq cens et trente huit,” or, the year fifteen-thirty-eight.


The Library Company of Philadelphia, Ms. 18 875.Q, unnumbered flyleaf recto

The manuscript is of special interest to Philadelphians because it once belonged to the pioneering bibliophile William Mackenzie (July 1758–1828), who bequeathed the little book to the Loganian Library, later the Library Company of Philadelphia, in 1828. As Edwin Wolf stated, at the time of his death, Mackenzie possessed “by far the most valuable collection of antiquarian and modern books up to then gathered by an American.”1 The diminutive Traicitie des VII fruis can be found in the first Catalogue of the books belonging to the Loganian library, published in 1837. But the manuscript’s rather unusual title has facilitated the identification of this very volume in a Parisian auction catalog of 1785 (De Bure, Catalogue des livres rare et précieux de M. …. [d’Hess], Paris, 7 March 1785, lot 35).

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This was the sale of Joseph-Louis, Baron d’Heiss, the ambassador of the Palatine Elector in Paris. According to a recent Christie’s sale catalogue the Baron “ruined himself through extravagant book acquisitions and was forced to sell his library in 1781 for 100,000 livres to Antoine-Rene d’Argenson, marquis de Paulmy (1722-1787), founder of the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal…. Able to pay off his debts, but bereft of his library, d’Heiss began to collect again, and in the next few years formed a second library, which was dispersed in his anonymous sale by de Bure.” Throughout the multiple sales of his collection, detailed here in an excellent blog post by Jean-Paul Fontaine, he preferred to remain anonymous, noted only as “M. le Baron d’***,” though his identity may have been an open secret to those in the know.

We do not know how rapidly Mackenzie purchased the manuscript following the sale, nor if he knew anything of its prior provenance. Little is known about William Mackenzie’s life, aside from his book collecting, though he apparently did not travel much beyond Philadelphia. The publication that accompanied a 1995 exhibition held at the Library Company, entitled William Mackenzie: America’s First Rare Book Collector, provides some further information,2 as does the entry in the American National Biography, which recalls that:

The dispersal of hundreds of monastic and aristocratic libraries during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars created an unprecedented opportunity for collectors such as Mackenzie, who were able to acquire a far greater amount of much older and rarer material on the open market than had previous generations. While few sources for Mackenzie’s purchases have been identified, it is known that he bought at local bookstores…. It is likely that he had a European agent looking out for his interests.3

Trade between Europe and the United States had resumed in 1784, so by the following year the acquisition of such a book would have been feasible, though presumably an intermediary was used.

Whether Mackenzie acquired the book directly from this sale via an agent in Europe, or through the intermediary of an American bookseller such as Thomas Dobson (1751–1823), is difficult to ascertain. Nevertheless, the Library Company manuscript represents an extremely early example of an (admittedly modest) object from a major European aristocratic collection being purchased by a New World collector, preceding the large-scale American interest in medieval manuscripts by a century or more.