Last week the Parker Library hosted the launch party for Western Illuminated Manuscripts: A Catalogue of the Collection in Cambridge University Library since one of the two editors, Dr Patrick Zutshi, is a Fellow of Corpus Christi. The catalogue is an impressive work of scholarship, 14 years in the making.
It contains entries for 472 manuscripts, all those in the CUL collections, including the University Archives, that contain illumination, illustration or notable decoration. It was inspired by the 3 volumes of Illuminated Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library Oxford published by Otto Pächt and Jonathan Alexander 1966-1973.
The entries are arranged in chronological order within regional categories: British Isles, France, Flanders and the Northern Netherlands, Germany and Austria, Italy and Spain. This arrangement, and the scope and ordering of information is conveniently the same as in the ongoing Illuminated Manuscripts in Cambridge catalogues edited by Stella Panayotova and Nigel Morgan which cover the collections of the Fitzwilliam Museum and the colleges. The descriptions of decoration are perhaps not always as full as in the latter series, notably for the most important decorative manuscripts, but, as in the Illuminated Manuscripts project, each manuscript has been photographed. Black and white images accompany each entry and there are also 200 full-page colour plates. The indexes promise to be enormously useful; as well as a general index and ones covering provenance, authors and titles, scribes, artists and binders, there are also indexes of iconography and of types of books and texts, allowing one to locate all the illustrations of hares or harps and all the hymnals or calendars.
By drawing attention to lesser known items as well as the stars of the collection, the catalogue is sure to stimulate new research and to increase traffic to the Manuscripts Reading Room at the UL. I’m looking forward to seeing what impact this proliferation of new catalogues and digitisation projects will have on the study of Cambridge’s medieval manuscripts by scholars from all over the world.