Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ethiopian Gospels, Diagram showing how the Four Gospels agree in words, Walters Manuscript W.836, fol. 6r

This Gospel book was written in Tǝgray, Northern Ethiopia, in the early fourteenth century, and was once owned by the church of St. George in Däbrä Mä‛ar. It is written by the scribe Mäṭre Krǝstos in the official liturgical language of Ethiopia, Gǝ‛ǝz. Most notable is its prefatory image cycle, which makes references to holy places in Jerusalem, such as Golgotha and the Holy Sepulcher, as they appeared in the sixth century. The manuscript therefore appears to be based on a sixth-century exemplar containing images connected to the Byzantine cult of holy places. Several related manuscripts have been identified that seem to be based on the same prototype, most notably Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale eth. 32, a fragment in the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, Inventory No. 3475 a-b, and another fragment in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, NM B 2034. The Paris manuscript contains a mid-fourteenth-century colophon which helps date the group. Although water has damaged some of its elaborately decorated pages, this Gospel Book is still an important record of the resurgence of monasticism that flourished in fourteenth-century Ethiopia.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Illuminated Manuscript, Album of Indian miniatures and Persian calligraphy, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.669, fol.7a

What a wonderful way to visualize a melodic mode:

This is an album (muraqqaʿ) compiled in the late thirteenth century AH / nineteenth CE, or possibly later. It contains nineteen Deccani paintings and four pages of shikastah calligraphy (fols. 3b, 7b, 8a, and 9b), one of which is dated 1211 AH / 1796 CE (fol. 3b). The paintings, which date to the late twelfth century AH / eighteenth CE or thirteenth century AH / nineteenth CE, come from a ragmala series attributable to the Deccan. A ragmala is a visualization of a musical mode or melody. This album contains a mix of visualizations of ragas (male musical modes) and raginis (female musical modes considered to be the wives of the male musical modes). The codex was formerly in an accordion format, and the multicolor flexible cloth hinges on the leaves are still visible. It was later rebound in a brown goatskin binding with a central lobed oval.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gospel Lectionary, Saint Matthew writing his Gospel, inspired by Wisdom, Walters Manuscript W.535, fol. 67v

This is one of twenty-six known manuscripts by the hand of Luke the Cypriot (active 1583-1625), an accomplished Greek calligrapher who worked after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (1453). He copied it in 1594 at his episcopal see of Buzǎu (in Wallachia, now Romania) and soon took it to Moscow, where it was richly illustrated with New Testament scenes by a team of anonymous Russian artists. The book contains passages taken from the four Gospels and arranged in the order in which they are read out loud in church in the course of the year (hence its name Lectionary, from the Latin "lectio," reading). Short intructions in Slavonic accompany some of the miniatures, offering a glimpse of the painters' working process.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Digitizing History

A wonderful Opinion Piece in the New York Times by James Gleick
Books and Other Fetsh Objects

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Missal of Eberhard von Greiffenklau, Nativity, Walters Manuscript W.174, fol. 17v

The Missal of Eberhard von Greiffenklau is a masterpiece of Dutch manuscript painting. It was originally produced in the second quarter of the fifteenth century for von Greiffenklau, prebendary of Utrecht from 1446. The manuscript features work by the Masters of Zweder van Culemborg, active in the Utrecht area between 1420 and 1440, so-named after the Bishop of Utrecht 1425-33 for whom they produced a magnificent Missal in the late 1420s (now Bressanone, Bibl. del Seminario Maggiore). This Missal also features work by the celebrated Master of Catherine of Cleves, linking it to possibly the finest Dutch illuminated manuscript ever made; the Hours of Catherine of Cleves of c.1440 (Morgan Library & Museum, M.917 & M.945). This extremely elaborate Missal is illuminated with one full-page miniature, 52 column miniatures and 68 historiated initials throughout the manuscript, with the Temporal and Sanctoral sections being particularly richly decorated. In the late 15th century, a selection of prayers and sequences were added to the end of the manuscript in Germany, probably Mainz, and the volume was subsequently rebound with its current brown calf over boards, blind, rebacked binding either at that time or in the early 16th century.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A New Digital Resource for Historians of Islamic Art and Culture: The Islamic Manuscripts of the Walters Art Museum

With the help of a Preservation and Access Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and with additional funding from an anonymous donor, the Walters is pleased to announce the completion of its program to create digital surrogates of its collection of Islamic manuscripts and single leaves. All the data is licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 UnportedAccess Rights, Images are free for any noncommercial use, provided you follow the terms of the license. There is no need to apply to the Walters prior to using the images.

Highlights of the collection include a fifteenth-century Timurid Qur’an (Ms. W.563); a late seventeenth-century copy of the Book on Navigation by Piri Reis (Ms. W.658); and a sixteenth-century de luxe Mughal manuscript of Amir Khusrau Dhilavi’s Khamsa (Ms. W.624).  As you will see, images were taken of all parts of the manuscript, including the binding, fore-edge, and spine.  Text pages were imaged at 600 dpi; illuminated pages were taken at up to 1200 dpi.  The manuscripts have been catalogued by Adam Gacek (Principal Cataloguer) and Amy Landau. The details are as follows.

The data is up at:
The general ReadMe file is at:
The technical ReadMe file is at:
The easiest way to access the raw data is at:

As you will see, the Islamic Manuscripts are fully catalogued in XML according to  TEI P5 guidelines. You will see English, German, Dutch, Armenian, Byzantine, and Ethiopian Manuscripts up there as well, but these have not yet been fully catalogued, so don’t expect any TEI for them yet: we are in the middle of that process.

Obviously, although this is our core data, this presentation of the material is not primarily for the general public.  We have two main portals for user-friendly derivatives of our data.  All our illustrated pages we post on Flickr, for which check out:

We also publish full PDFs for download of all our manuscripts on the Walters Website:  For example:
Just under the title of the manuscript, you will see that you can download the PDF. The PDF begins with a full human readable catalogue description of the manuscript, transformed as part of the PDF from the TEI XML.

We do hope that this resource will prove useful to you in your work and play.  We would be grateful if you would let your colleagues know about it. If you administer a list-serve, than we would be grateful if you would let your readers know about it.

We would also be most grateful for your feedback, and to hear any questions you may have. Please contact us at,, or

Thank you very much

William Noel
Amy Landau

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Illuminated Manuscript, The Rochester Bible, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.18, fol.146r

This large-format copy of the New Testament was created at, and for, Rochester Cathedral in Rochester, England in the first half of the twelfth century. The manuscript is an important survival, for it is one part of what is believed to be the the earliest decorated Bible produced at the priory scriptorium at Rochester. Originally a five volume work, only one other volume, British Library, Royal I.C.VII., has survived. The book's large size indicates it was designed to be read aloud, either during services or at meals. Large, fanciful initials filled with foliage, dragons, and human faces begin each section of the text, and their vibrant color and intricate designs capture the essence of Romanesque manuscript illumination.

Initial "P" opening the First Epistle of St. Peter the Apostle.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Amida Gospels, Walters Art Museum, Ms W.541, fol. 112v

This highly decorated Gospel Book was made in Armenia in the early seventeenth century. An extensive colophon reveals that it was commissioned by a woman named Napat' as a memorial for herself and her family, and the book was consequently given by her to the Church of Saint Sargis in Amida. The artist, Hovannes, and the scribe, Melk'on, are known collaborators on a number of of other manuscripts, and this book is an excellent example of their skill. Richly painted Evangelist portraits and intricate canon tables are complimented by simpler marginal illuminations that often connects to the Gospel passages they adorn. Related manuscripts by this artist and scribe team include Erevan, Matenadaran, no. 1245, and London, British Museum, Add. Ms. 27, 301. Portrait of the Evangelist Luke.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Four leaves from the Arabic version of Dioscorides' De materia medica, Wild cucumber, Walters Manuscript W.750Aa

One of four consecutive leaves (numbered fols. 237-241) from an illustrated manuscript of the Arabic version of De materia medica by Dioscorides, copied in the seventh century AH / thirteenth CE in Iran. Pedanius Dioscorides wrote his treatise on medicinal plants in the first century CE. It was translated into Syriac and then Arabic in Baghdad in the third century AH / ninth CE. De materia medica by Dioscorides was one of the earliest scientific manuscripts to be translated from Greek to Arabic. The Walters' leaves illustrate five plants: wild cucumber, mezereon (spurge-olive), and three varieties of thymelaea (spurge-laurel).