Detail- burning at the stakeThis week, a researcher discovered that Parker’s own copy of A discouery and playne declaration of sundry subtill practises of the Holy Inquisition of Spayne […] Set forth in Latine, by Reginaldus Gonsaluius Montanus, and lately translated, from 1569, is a rare complete copy, including a full folded sheet that contains an illustrative guide to the various actors and actions of the Spanish Inquisition. Most other copies appear to have lost this sheet, or it was never tipped-in.  

This copy, class mark SP.330, may be in such an ideal condition because it was not only printed by John Day, Parker’s own printer, but also dedicated to him by the translator, V. Skinner. It would be a reasonable assumption that if a copy were presented to him, it would be complete, with care taken to ensure the extra tipped-in woodcut was included. The full sheet depicts a large, complex scene of torture, judgement, and capital punishment and includes a guDetail- Pullieide to each set of actors on the opposite page.

Reginaldus Gonsalvius Montanus was the pseudonym of Casiodoro de Reina (or Reyna), a Spanish Protestant who fled the inquisition and later produced the first complete translation of the Bible into Spanish. After first spending time in London, he moved on to Antwerp when calls for his extradition became too insistent. His original text, Sanctae Inquisitionis hispanicae artes aliquot detectae, ac palam traductae, was published in Heidelberg in 1567. Parker also owned a copy of the Latin version, which is classmark SP.407.

May ImageThe autograph Chronica Maiora of Matthew Paris (c1200-1259), monk of St. Albans, is one of the most famous sources for thirteenth century English history. It is a history of the world, but is especially important for events of the author’s lifetime. The manuscript is in two volumes and contains hundreds of little drawings by Matthew himself. This picture shows the procession of Henry III, king of England 1216-72, bringing the famous relic of the Holy Blood to Westminster Abbey in 1247. Matthew Paris knew Henry III personally, and showed him this manuscript. Henry III had been crowned in Westminster Abbey on Sunday 17 May 1220. [MS 16, folio 216r]

MS 16 is currently on display in the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition at the British Library until 1 September 2015.

MS 106, p. 473

As Britain moves ever closer to the General Election, it is worth looking back on a time of ever so slightly more riotous politics at Cambridge University.

CCCC MS 106 contains a collection of documents pertaining to the sixteenth-century University, and one account, undated but likely from the 1540s, is entitled ‘A broyle upon the attempt of D. Glyn the Lawer for the election of a Vice-Chancellor contrary to the myndes and libertyes of the Regentre’.

The text is told from the point of view of one D. Glyn, and he begins, ‘Mr. Cwnerforth dyde laye violent hands upon the sete where I satt and Mr. Perne dyde pull me bakwarde by the hwde soo that yf the cheere had not beyn upholden by certain that stode bye thaye hade overthroyne hit ande me’.

Later, the gossip continues, as Glyn recounts:

‘Mr. Bambryk sayd at dinner the same daye or apon the mundaye or tuysday or at the lestwayes this wek last past, ‘I love Mr. Conerforth better then any regent in this towne for his doynges and yf he had gevyn D. Glyn a blow or tow he had servyd him well’’.

While this may appear to be an overreaction and a blockage to the democratic process, it is worth bearing in mind that the 1540s were a period of political and financial difficulties for the University. The previous decade had been one of upheaval as the new policies of Henry VIII forced the departure of monks and friars, who has been a key part of university life, and caused general inflation on the prices of basic goods. Money was tight, for example, in 1540–1, £30 had to be borrowed from various benefactions in order to cover the fees for bread and ale, and the university candelabra were pawned as security on these loans.

If nothing else, Glyn’s account underscores the perils of wearing an academic hood among enemies.


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.


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