March 2019-March 2020 (with a weekly post every Friday morning at 6AM EST)
The Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project has provided the opportunity to spend some two and a half years examining nearly five hundred wonderfully diverse manuscripts produced before the year 1600, and now preserved in the great codicological metropolis that is Philadelphia. This ambitious project has led to innumerable discoveries great and small by the team of scholars tasked with cataloguing this vast ensemble. Because the manuscripts in question hail from sixteen collections of differing size and scope (see a map of participating institutions here), the existing descriptions we had to work from varied considerably. In many cases, we were able to build on existing published and unpublished catalogues, but in other cases, scholarly descriptions of manuscripts were non-existent. Manuscripts ranged from the very famous, to those that were essentially identified and located as a result of this very project. However, we make use of the term “discovery” here cautiously, since we are well aware that others (beginning with the very scribes and illuminators responsible for making the manuscripts!) may indeed have previously deduced some of the facts presented in the following posts. Still, we’ve attempted to produce a selection of exciting or unexpected findings made during the course of our study and not otherwise recorded or published. Many of these findings have been enabled by new digital tools, searchable digitized full-text publications, new research on regional schools of book production and illumination undertaken over the past few decades, and good old-fashioned detective work.
Our hope is that by publicizing these discoveries on the internet, by publishing the most significant ones in print, and by including much of this information in our rich metadata, we will in turn facilitate the recognition of these hidden gems by interested researchers around the world. We also hope that some of the discoveries will form the basis for an exhibition in the near future, and, further out on the horizon, a comprehensive multi-institution print catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in Philadelphia-area collections.
This series will occur in no particular order, and is based on observations made between October 2016 and March 2019 by Nicholas Herman with guest contributions by co-catalogers Dot Porter, Amey Hutchins, Erin Connelly, Oliver Mitchell, and Judith Weston.
Curator of Manuscripts
Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies
University of Pennsylvania