Archive for the ‘New books’ Category

The Parker Library was turned into a party space last week when we held a book launch.  Dr Mara Kalnins, Life Fellow of the College, and formerly University Reader in Modern English Literature, is the author of The Ancient Amber Routes: Travels from Riga to Byzantium. It is part tourist guide, part travelogue, but mainly a cultural history of  the ancient amber routes and a catalogue of amber artefacts.

There is no British distributor, but the book can be purchased from The Baltic Shop for £40, inclusive of postage and packing.  Alternatively, please email Dr Kalnins, who will arrange to have a copy sent to you.


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MS 180, f.1r friars

Friars and devils from the opening of MS 180

Friars in IrelandWe recently received a copy of this book just published by Four Courts Press covering the history of the mendicant orders in Ireland from their arrival to the dissolution, including the art and architecture of the many mendicant houses across Ireland. The cover design features an image from MS 180 in the Parker Library, a copy of Richard Fitzralph’s De pauperie salvatoris (‘On the poverty of the saviour’), an anti-mendicant text, showing friars of four different orders (Franciscan, Dominican, Augustinian and Carmelite), recognisable by their different habits. The Franciscan has a devil sitting on his shoulders.

MS 180, f.1r Fitzralph

Richard Fitzralph (Armachanus) from the opening of MS 180

Fitzralph was born in Dundalk in the late thirteenth century into an Anglo-Irish family that had close relations with the Franciscan community in the town and he may have been educated by them. He went to study in Oxford (c.1314), rising to become chancellor of the university, and in 1346 became archbishop of Armagh. Having previously been supportive of the friars, he seems to have turned against them, perhaps as a result of conflict with them in his archdiocese. The friars’ churches were outside the control of the bishop and Fitzralph condemned the friars for undermining his authority and draining revenue from his diocesan clergy.

Central to the friars’ identity (particularly the Franciscans’) was the concept of voluntary poverty. The friars claimed that they owned nothing and that in doing so, they were following directly in Christ’s footsteps. Fitzralph challenged these assertions in a treatise, the De pauperie salvatoris. The dispute between Fitzralph and the mendicants escalated and resulted in a papal commission to investigate his allegations. He died in 1360, before the commission had reached a verdict but his texts were widely circulated and influential in later anti-mendicant attacks. Another copy of the De pauperie salvatoris is found in MS 103, alongside texts by the most prominent of all medieval critics of the friars, John Wyclif (c.1320-1384).

The Friars in Ireland 1224-1540 by Colmán Ó Clabaigh (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2012)

On Richard Fitzralph, see A fourteenth-century scholar and primate: Richard Fitzralph in Oxford, Avignon and Armagh by Katherine Walsh (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981) or her entry on Fitzralph in the ODNB.

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As well as being responsible for supplying images of books and manuscripts for research and publication, we also take care of image requests for some of the college’s other special collections, including the college portraits and the college silver collection.

We recently fulfilled a request for an image of the oldest and most famous item in the college’s silver collection, the Corpus drinking horn. It has been published in a fascinating article by Morgan Dickson on ‘The role of the drinking horn in medieval England’. The Corpus drinking horn was given to the college on its foundation in 1352, probably  by our founders, the Guilds of Corpus Christi and the Blessed Virgin Mary and it’s still used today by the Fellows and students at college feasts.

Corpus Drinking Horn

Corpus Drinking Horn

The horn is an impressive size, about 70cm from tip to mouth, and holds more than three pints of liquid. It’s believed to come from an aurochs, an extinct ancestor of modern domestic cattle. It has a silver-gilt plaque with the college coat of arms engraved on it and a finial depicting the head of St Cornelius, patron saint of horns.

Corpus Drinking Horn 2

Corpus Drinking Horn from above

Dickson’s article traces the significance of drinking horns from demonstrating the generosity and patronage of Anglo-Saxon lords at feasts and among grave goods through their depiction at Harold’s feast on the Bayeux Tapestry to their roles as vessels of conviviality at college and monastic feasts, like the Corpus drinking horn, and symbols of land tenure, like the Pusey horn, supposedly given, along with the land it represents, by Cnut as a reward to one of his followers.

The article is in vol. 21, numbers 1/2 of the AVISTA Forum Journal, a  journal dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of medieval technology, science and art. This is a special issue dedicated to Medieval Brewing which includes everything from a ‘Blessing of Beer’ to a study of the medieval alewife and an investigation into medieval brewing receipts and recipes.

For more on the Corpus horn – including this excellent illustration of how not to drink from it, see Oliver Rackham’s Treasures of Silver at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (Cambridge, 2002).

Oliver Rackham and the Corpus horn

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Illuminated Manuscripts in Cambridge, Part 2

Illuminated Manuscripts in Cambridge, Part 2

We’re really pleased to have receive our copy of the next instalment of the catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts in Cambridge which covers the collections of the Fitzwilliam Museum and the college libraries. The first part surveyed Germany, Austria, Hungary and the Low Countries; part 2 (in 2 volumes) includes manuscripts produced in Italy and the Iberian peninsula.

Since the catalogue is primarily chronological, the very first entry is for our own MS 286, the 6th-century Gospels of St Augustine; indeed the first four entries are all Corpus manuscripts. Altogether there are 19 entries for Corpus manuscripts, the last being the strange Christian Kabbalistic MS 497. This is a treatise on the Tetragrammaton (the four Hebrew letters representing God) by a Franciscan mystic, Crisostomo Capranica, which was presented King Philip IV of Spain in 1623 and contains some fabulous (in both senses of the word) diagrams and illustrations. Capranica’s treatise urges the king to use these mystical symbols to defeat the Turks. The catalogue reproduces my favourite image from the manuscript of the head of God in a Tetragrammaton hat (fol. 21r):

Catalogue illustration of CCCC MS 497, fol. 21r

Catalogue illustration of CCCC MS 497, fol. 21r

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The facsimile publishing company Quaternio Verlag Luzern (website www.quaternio.ch/en) will publish a complete facsimile of CCC MS 20, the Anglo-Norman Apocalypse. It is expected to be published in 2012.

Two photographer from their printing company worked in the Library for three days last week to take the images for the facsimile.

It is particularly specialised work because the gold illuminations are difficult to reproduce.  These pages had to be photographed twice, with different light conditions each time, to capture the gleam of the gold.

The Apocalypse  dates from the early 14th century and a description and the library’s digitised images can be seen here.

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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.

Western Illuminated Manuscripts: A Catalogue of the Collection in CUL

Western Illuminated Manuscripts: A Catalogue of the Collection in CUL

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.

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The Medieval Book

As I mentioned, last week we went to Sotheby’s for the launch of The Medieval Book, a festschrift presented to Dr de Hamel on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

I’ve now had a chance to take a proper look at the book which is a substantial work – 468 pages, over 150 colour illustrations and some 40 contributions, a fitting testament to Dr de Hamel’s distinguished career and the esteem in which he is held by colleagues and friends.

The book opens with an appreciation and personal reminiscence by Nicolas Barker and a bibliography of Dr de Hamel’s publications, comprising some 125 items. The essays that follow are divided into 3 sections: Books, The Book Trade and Collectors and Collecting. The contributors include scholars, librarians, curators, booksellers and collectors.

It’s difficult to single out individual pieces. I particularly enjoyed reading the reminiscences of Dr de Hamel’s colleagues at Sotheby’s concerning his time there. It’s good to know that the verse pantomime he wrote for the Parker Library staff and friends to perform last year is only the latest in a long line of distinguished theatrical and poetical compositions! And it was fascinating to read insights into the world of bookselling and collecting from such figures as Sam Fogg and Martin Schøyen. Only in a book dedicated to Dr de Hamel would such tales of the saleroom sit so comfortably alongside the more standard academic contributions.

The piece that entertained me the most is by the venerable bookseller Barney Rosenthal who edits and translates a short Latin poem from a single 15th century German manuscript leaf in his possession. The 46 lines of rhyming verse, entitled Speculum Mensae, comprise a comprehensive guide to table manners, including such vital pieces of advice as Sputum quanto minus potestis eiciatis (‘Spit out as little as possible’), Neque quidquam in mensa lingatis (‘Never lick anything that’s on the table’) and Et caseum nisi semel capiatis (‘And help yourself to cheese only once’). He suggests that such verses were probably written by teachers or tutors for their students. Maybe we should have a copy written up for Corpus students??

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