MS 66, p. 069Richard Fahey, a PhD candidate at the University of Notre Dame, just wrote a blog post about the mythological treatment of Woden in Anglo-Saxon genealogies, using CCCC MS 66, p. 69 to illustrate. Click through and compare MS 66’s illustration with that of the British Library’s Cotton Caligula A.viii.

April Image

This is one of two known manuscripts of Jean Galopes, Le livre doré de la vie nostre seigneur Jesu Crist, a life of Christ, made for presentation to Henry V, king of England 1413-22. The English armies had occupied France following the Battle of Agincourt, whose anniversary falls this year (1415), and the manuscript of Galopes was made for King Henry in Paris around 1420. He died in 1422. The book afterwards belonged to Anne, countess of Stafford (1383-1438), and then to her son, Cardinal Bourchier (c. 1411-1486). Henry V had been crowned in Westminster Abbey on Sunday 9 April 1413. [MS 213, folio 1r]

MS 291, f. 3r

MS 291, f. 3r

While today we simply have to struggle to adapt to the one-hour difference when the clocks change before enjoying a convenient bank holiday weekend, our medieval predecessors struggled to reach a consensus as to when Easter fell in the year, and how to pinpoint it. In the early Middle Ages, constructing a calendar was complicated not just by the need to make the lunar and solar calendars agree, but also to reach an accord between Roman and Jewish measurements of time, which were both crucial to knowing when Biblical events occurred in the year and across history.  In response to this, church scholars developed a combination of mathematics, theology and science, called computus, to determine the date of Easter, which was often the source of controversy among church leaders- perhaps most famously leading to the Synod of Whitby in 664.

CCCC MS 291 is a compilation of material concerning the reckoning of time, written at St Augustine’s, Canterbury in the late eleventh or early twelfth century.  Towards the end, it also contains a full Easter table for 1064 to 1595, a complete Dionysiac Great Paschal Cycle (532 years, the product of the 19-year lunar cycle and the 28-year cycle of days of the week).

One of the most influential computus texts throughout the Middle Ages, Bede’s eighth century work, De temporum ratione, is included in MS 291. In it, Bede discusses the solar calendar and how to calculate the Paschal tables. The text focuses on practical methods, and works through progressive mathematical concepts, beginning with basic methods of addition, multiplication, and division, and proceeding through different ways of counting time, including methods such as the Greek zodiac.

MS 291, f. 22r- Eostre

MS 291, f. 22r

Bede’s text is also the only witness to the name of the Anglo-Saxon deity who gave her name to the month of April: Eostre. Eostremonath was the original name of the closest temporal equivalent to the Roman month of April, and, according to Bede, was a time to honour the goddess. With the arrival of the Christian holiday, the Anglo-Saxon name was applied to the new holy event, while the Roman name gained precedence for the fixed month.

The texts contained in MS 291 thus cross through the disciplines of astronomy, myth, history, religion, science and maths- all in the pursuit of accurately celebrating Easter. Explore the manuscript yourself at Parker on the Web.


Dr. Paola Ricciardi demonstrates spectroscopy

Today the Parker Library hosted some much more modern equipment than the usual cutting-edge medieval book technology that we tend to handle!

A team from the Miniare project at the Fitzwilliam Museum came to analyse the pigments in volume two of the Dover Bible (MS 4) using spectroscopy- a method of bouncing light off of pigments to determine their chemical makeup. This requires surrounding darkness and a small point of light that goes into the infrared and ultraviolet range, which is then reflected off of whatever pigment, ink, or other surface that is being studied.

The Dover Bible is an aptly-named ‘giant Bible’ from the 12th century, measuring a massive 532 x 360mm and containing multiple illuminated and historiated initials. MSS 3 and 4 form the two-volume bible that was made for Dover Priory, a dependency of Christ Church Cathedral Priory, in Canterbury. It was a truly high-spec production, not only in the unusual size of the books, but in the quality of the bright colours created by rare minerals that were carefully sourced, processed, and applied. The goal of the spectroscopy study is to determine which pigments were used in its production and how the materials used to make the pigments- lapis, vermillion, copper, ultramarine, minium, azurite, lead, organics, etc.-  correspond to known art historical trends.

March ImageThere are relatively few German manuscripts in the Parker Library. This is a unique illustrated chronicle of the Holy Roman emperors, probably made around 1114, perhaps in Würzburg, for Matilda (1102-1167), daughter of Henry I of England, to teach her about the ancestors of her new husband, the Emperor Henry V, whom she married in that year. It contains portraits of his imperial predecessors from Pipin, father of Charlemagne, to Henry V himself. This picture shows his namesake, the great Henry IV, emperor 1084-1105, seated on his throne: he was crowned by the pope in Rome on Easter Day, Sunday 31 March 1084. [MS 373, folio 60r]


The 2014 Panizzi Lectures were given by Donnelley Fellow Librarian, Dr Christopher de Hamel. The first, on Monday 27th October looked principally at the Bury Bible, now in the Parker Library.



There are more details about the lectures, which take place at the British Library, here.





You can now see a 3D view of the Parker Library here:




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