Friday, December 14, 2012

Gondarine sensul, St. George slaying the dragon, Walters Manuscript 36.10, fol. 2v

This Ethopian sensul, or "chain" manuscript, was made in the seventeenth century in the Gondarine region. It was created out of a single folded strip of parchment attached to heavy hide "boards" at each end, creating a small book when folded. Comprised solely of inscribed images, this pocket-sized manuscript would have served a devotional function for its owner, who while unidentified, inscribed the first image with a note reminding people under the threat of excommunication not to steal or erase the manuscript. Narrative illuminations, which tell the story of the Virgin Mary, allow for private meditation. The book can also function as something of an icon, for when it is opened to the middle and stood on end, the facing figures of St. George and the Virgin and Child form a small diptych, resembling other icons of this era.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ethiopian canon tables, Canon table, Walters Manuscript W.838, fol. 1v

This fragmentary manuscript, comprised of four canon tables spread over one bifolium, would originally have been the introductory pages of a fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century Gospel Book. Written in the Lake Tana region of Ethiopia, the pages contain canons I-V, which relate the concordance of the Gospels through a chart in which each number corresponds to a Gospel passage, a system originally created by Eusebius of Caesarea in the early fourth century. The numbers here, in keeping with a long tradition, are placed within an arcade of brightly decorated columns and arches. Common within Ethiopian canon table decoration are the curtains, which hang from the sides of the columns, and the interlace-filled arches adorned with birds. These pages provide an excellent example of Ethiopian canon table illumination from the early Solomonic period.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Glossed copy of Eberhard of Bethune's Graecismus, Initial F, Walters Manuscript W.371, fol. 21v

This German manuscript, written on paper ca. 1440, is a copy of Eberhard of Béthune's thirteenth-century grammatical poem Graecismus. The poem is here accompanied by the extensive gloss by Jean-Vincent Metulin, a scholar from Southern France. Having functioned as a textbook, the manuscript's condition suggests it was well-used by students eager to memorize and comprehend Béthune's ideas on the grammatical usage of Greek words.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Vienna book of hours, Entombment, Walters Manuscript W.764, fol. 76v

This book of hours was written in German in Vienna, Austria, ca. 1460-65. It is one of a series of manuscripts commissioned at the court of Emperor Frederick III of Austria (1415-1493), some of which were made for his son, Prince Maximilian (1459-1519). The name of the artist is unknown, but due to his connection with these commissions, he is known as the Master of the Maximilian Schoolbooks. Unfortunately, only three of the original sixteen full-page, richly painted miniatures remain in this manuscript, but ten of the missing folios have been identified. Nine cuttings are in the Musée Bonnat, Bayonne, France (inv. nr. 1244-1252), and one cutting is in the Cleveland Museum of Art (Dudley P. Allen Fund Accession 1959.40). Other related manuscripts include Vienna, Nationalbibliothek Codicies 2368, 2617, and 2289.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gospel Lectionary, Readings from the Gospel of Matthew, Walters Manuscript W.520, fol. 50r

This is an example of a Gospel Lectionary written in the archaic, majuscule form of Greek letters. Liturgical books were inherently conservative and therefore apt to retain such antiquated writing. The scribe, a certain monk Theodore, has recorded his name in a verse at the end of the volume (fol. 179v). A leaf removed from this manuscript ca. 1900 is now in Sofia (National Library of Bulgaria, Greek MS 2).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gospels, Portraits of Mark and Luke, Walters Manuscript W.537, fol. 114v

Dated to the tenth century, this manuscript is the oldest Armenian codex in North America and the fifth oldest among documented Armenian Gospel Books. The principal colophon on 2v indicates that Sargis the Priest completed the text in 415 [966]. Within the framed area, the commission of the codex is described: a priest, whose name was replaced by the later owner T’oros, commissioned the work "as decoration and for the splendor of [the] holy church and for the pleasure of the congregation of Rznēr." As the codex was written and commissioned by priests, the manuscript is referred to as the “Gospels of the Priest.” It was formerly known as the “Gospels of the Translators,” as, following the date 415, someone erased the formula “of the Armenian era” and replaced it with “of our Lord,” suggesting an earlier date and that the text was based on the original translation of the Gospels into Armenian during the fifth century. The text is copied in large angular erkat‘agir script. The full page paintings and marginal ornaments bear stylistic characteristics of Armenian illumination of the tenth and eleventh century associated with non-royal patronage. The illustrations comprise the Canon Tables, with only the last two remaining; the Virgin and Child on a wheeled chariot; the framed colophon; ornamental cross with donor’s portrait; portraits of Mathew and Mark together (7sv, at the end of Matthew); and Mark with Luke (114v, at the end of Mark); two unknown saints (192a, at the end of Luke). Marginalia is found throughout the text. It has been suggested that the scribe was also responsible for the illumination.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gospel Book, Evangelist Mark, Walters Manuscript W.527, fol. 1v

The Gospel text in this manuscript is now fragmentary, and its folia are bound out of order. However, it provides a fine and quite early example of the so-called pearl script: a calligraphic form minuscule handwriting that was extremely popular in the Byzantine Empire. The single surviving miniature is interesting on account of the peculiar technique, similar to watercolor, in which it was painted. Another evangelist portrait from the same set survives on Mount Athos, Docheiarou Monastery, MS 56.y

Monday, November 12, 2012

Van Alphen Hours, Initial H with the Sudarium with the face of Christ, Walters Manuscript W.782, fol. 58r

his Dutch Book of Hours was made for a female patron, possibly pictured on fol. 109r, in the mid fifteenth century. Originally richly illuminated by the workshop of the Master of Catherine of Cleves, the manuscript now lacks all of its full-page miniatures, although the eight surviving historiated initials speak to its original grandeur. Its rebinding in the seventeenth century resulted in the loss of several folios and the reordering of many of the texts. While the catalog description here remains faithful to the order of the texts as they appear today, an attempt has been made within the individual parts to reconstruct the original layout of the manuscript.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Evangelists Matthew and Mark from a Gospel Book, St. Matthew, Walters Manuscript W.530.D-E, fol. W.530.Er

These two author portraits once preceded the Gospels of Matthew and Mark in a Gospel book in Mount Athos, Mavra, MS A44. They are attributable to the leading book illuminator in Constantinople during the second quarter of the 12th century. His real name is unknown, and he has been conventionally called the "Kokkinobaphos Master".

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Four Evangelists and Two Apostles, The four evangelists and the two chief apostles, Walters Manuscript W.530.C, fol. 211r

This image originally faced the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles in a late eleventh-century Psalter and New Testament in Mount Athos, Vatopedi Monastery, MS 762. It seems likely that in this manuscript's scribe and illuminator were the same person.
The Evangelists and Apostles appear in the following order: Paul, Peter, John (above), Luke, Matthew, Mark (below).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Peter of Poitier's Historical Genealogy of Christ, Genealogy of Christ from Tare to Zaram, Walters Manuscript W.796, fol. 1v

This English manuscript was created in the early thirteenth century, soon after the death of its author, Peter of Poitiers, theologian and Chancellor of the University of Paris from 1193 to 1205. It is an early copy of his text, the Compendium historiae in Genealogia Christi. Intended as a teaching manual aid, the work provides a visual genealogy of Christ, comprised of portraits in roundels, accompanied by a text discussing the historical background of Christ's lineage. It also includes episodes from biblical history, including Adam and Eve, Noah's ark, the Nativity, the Virgin and Child, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. Ealy manuscripts like this tend to be in the form of a book, and other examples can be found in British Library, Cotton MS Faustina B.VII, and Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS. 83. Later manuscripts of this text are often presented in roll form.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Trebizond Gospels, The Baptism of Christ, Walters Manuscript W.531, fol. 59v

The Holy Spirit is shown descending over Christ in the form of a dove. Two angels wait to receive him when he comes out of the water. The vaguely outlined figure on the lower left is a personification of the river Jordan.

This Gospel Book was probably made in Constantinople in the mid-twelfth century and is remarkable for the fine execution and monumental quality of its full page miniatures. The opening for the Gospel of Matthew is missing, but the other three Gospels are prefaced with a pair of miniatures each: the respective Evangelist on the left, and a scene from the Gospel story on the right. The combination of St. John with the Raising of Lazarus is only found in this manuscript. The text was copied by two scribes whose writing is distinctly different. One of them must have painted the ornament on fol. 175r, which contains curious animal figures.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pontifical, St Gregory the Great, Walters Manuscript W.536, fol. 72v

This manuscript contains liturgical prayers for the use of a bishop. It is among the first known works of one of the most prominent Greek scribes of the Ottoman period, Metropolitan Matthew of Myra (fl. 1596-1624). (If the manuscript ever contained a note with his name, this is now lost, but the peculiar handwriting is clearly attributable to his hand.)

Saint Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome (590-604), is traditionally considered the author of the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, the text of which follows upon this miniature. He is portrayed here in episcopal vestments, holding a Gospel book in one hand and blessing the faithful with the other.

The scribe Matthew of Myra is known to have been in Moscow at the time when this manuscript was copied. Judging from its style, the miniature must be the work of a Russian icon painter.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Two leaves from the Mirror of human salvation, The Annunciation and Moses and the Burning Bush, Walters Manuscript W.149, fol. 2v

This a fragment of a manuscript that was made in Germany in the late fourteenth century. It was part of a brightly illuminated copy of a popular anonymous treatise called the Speculum Humanae Salvationis, or Mirror of Human Salvation, in which events of the old testament were compared to those of the new. In this example, as was often the case, each column is headed by a miniature. These these pages were reused as a wrapper for a book at some later time. The ghosting of the book it adorned can still be seen in the dark, abraded portion that spans the two pages. By the nineteenth century, the value of the pages was recognized, and they were restored to their state as a bifolium.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Imperial Menologion, Exploit of the Holy and Glorious Great Martyr Neophytus, Walters Manuscript W.521, fol. 200r

This manuscript contains the biographies of saints whom the Church commemorates on January 1 through January 31. It was originally part of a set covering the entire year. A companion volume, with texts for March, survives now in Moscow (State Historical Museum, MS Synod. gr. 183). Each chapter in both manuscripts opens with a miniature depicting the death of the respective saint, or less often, another significant event from her or his life. Each text also ends with a seven-line prayer for the well-being of an emperor whose name is spelled by the lines' initial letters as MIChAEL P. This is almost certainly Michael IV, who reigned in 1034-41. The meaning of the letter P is not quite clear. When first used, the books were evidently read out in the emperor's presence, probably in one of the numerous chapels of the great imperial palace in Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. A single leaf from the Walters volume is now kept in Berlin (Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, MS graec. in fol. 31). The manuscript had lost folia by the sixteenth century, and paper leaves were added at this time, copied from a Metaphrastian Menologion.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Book of Hours in Dutch, Foliate initial H (Here in dynre) with beast-legged bishop in margin, Walters Manuscript W.192, fol. 105r

This Book of Hours was created in the Netherlands in the fifteenth century. Written entirely in Dutch, its calendar is for the Use of Utrecht. However, it was probably made in Haarlem, which produced books of hours with this kind of border decoration. Its folios are highly finished, and it is richly illuminated throughout with sprouting foliage, occasionally inhabited by people, animals, and grotesques. Large decorative initials mark the main divisions in the text, the first of which is historiated with an image of the Virgin and Child. Especially notable is the fine quality and abundance of its burnished gold, found in the initials and vegetation on nearly every page of the manuscript.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Henry of Huntingdon's Historia Anglorum, King Stephen directs Baldwin FitzGilbert to address the army before the Battle of Lincoln, Walters Manuscript W.793, fol. 105r

Produced in the early thirteenth-century, this manuscript is an important textual witness to the Historia Anglorum, the History of the English People, by Henry, archdeacon of Huntingdon. The first version of Henry of Huntingdon’s text had a terminal date of 1129, though there were four more updates containing events through 1135, 1138, 1148 and 1154. Walters W.793 represents the fourth version, covering the events from Britain’s first leaders up to 1148, in which the number of books is increased from eight to ten and three letters by the author were added. The text contains several colored foliate initials, though it is especially notable for its line drawing of King Stephen (d. 1154), grandson of William the Conqueror, and his earls before the Battle of Lincoln on February 2, 1141 (fol. 105r). It is closely related to British Library Arundel MS 48, which is believed to have been the model from which Walters W.793 was copied. Both copies may have been based on a prototype extant during the life of Henry of Blois (d. 1171). Of the approximately three dozen surviving manuscripts copies of the Historia Anglorum, only eight pre-date W.793. It and Arundel 48 are the only known illustrated exemplars.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Franciscan Liturgical Psalter, Initial D with fool holding a club and eating a loaf of bread, Walters Manuscript W.111, fol. 113v

This Psalter was made for Franciscan Use in Cologne in the late thirteenth century. It was owned in the late fifteenth or sixteenth century by the Augustinian nuns of St. Cecilia in Cologne, who added the Calendar, the Breviary texts, prayers, and the Collect at the end. The manuscript is written in Latin and in the Ripuarisch dialect spoken in the Cologne region. The historiated initials, as well as bar borders topped with grotesque compare closely in their style to Walters Ms. W.41 and to the two graduals made for the Franciscans of Cologne in 1299 by Johannes von Valkenburg (Cologne, Diözesanbibliothek, Ms. 1B, and in Bonn, Universitätsbibliothek, Ms. 384). As a whole, it is a well preserved example of High Gothic illumination in Cologne.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Psalter of St. Mary of Strasbourg, Crucifixion, Walters Manuscript W.69, fol. 3r

This Latin Psalter was made in the second half of the thirteenth century for use in the Diocese of Constance, Germany. By the fourteenth century, it was owned by the church of St. Mary of Strasbourg, from which it gets its name. The long life and enthusiastic use of the manuscript is attested to by a multitude of added inscriptions, prayers, and antiphons with neumes, most dating to the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries. An early system of bookmarking is also evident here, for strips of parchment have been cut in some of the margins and folded through a slit in the page, creating tabs that would have helped the reader navigate through the text. Illumination also served this function, for while a short cycle of images from the life of Christ introduces the manuscript, the rest of the illumination, large decorated initials as well as smaller ones in silver and gold, marked the important psalms for the reader. The style of illumination found here is closely related to two other Psalters from Constance: Sigmaringen, Royal State Archives Ms. 11, and Fulda, Hessische Landesbibliothek Fulda, Ms. Aa 82.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book of Hours, Adam, Walters Manuscript W.102, fol. 28v

This is a finely illuminated and iconographically rich Book of Hours, made in England at the end of the thirteenth century. The manuscript is incomplete and misbound. Its main artist can also be found at work in a Bible, Oxford, Bodleian Library Ms. Auct. D.3.2, and a Psalter, Cambridge, Trinity College Cambridge Ms. O.4.16. The manuscript contains a number of unusual texts including the Hours of Jesus Crucified, and the Office of St. Catherine. The patron of the manuscript is not clear: a woman is depicted as praying in many of the initials, but rubrics in the Office of the Dead mention "freres". The imagery is marvellously inventive, and the Hours of Christ Crucified are graced with images depicting the Funeral of Reynard the Fox in its margins. In the absence of a Calendar, it is not possible to locate the origin of the manuscript precisely.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Prayer book of Bishop Leonhard von Laymingen of Passau, Martyrdom of St. Stephen with kneeling bishop and Laymingen heraldry, Walters Manuscript W.163, fol. 175r

This late medieval German prayerbook is an example of a highly personal devotional item. It was originally made for Leonhard von Laymingen, Bishop of Passau, (1423-1451) circa 1440. The text primarily features a series of prayers to various saints as well as prayer for travelings. Many illuminations and some text pafgges have been excised, but the book is nonetheless extensively decorated. The prayerbook's illuminations consist of thirty miniatures and four historiated initials that complement the text, usually with illustrations of saints. Bishop von Laymingen appears in his prayerbook several times kneeling before the saint to which that particular prayer is dedicated. Additionally, the Laymingen coat of arms appears twenty times throughout the book.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Illuminated manuscript, Book of Hours in Dutch, Two souls kneel in prayer in purgatory, Walters Manuscript W.188, fol. 175r

This illuminated Book of Hours was produced in the second quarter of the fifteenth century. It is written in the Netherlandish translation of Geert Grote. Although lacking in full-page miniatures, the manuscript contains eighteen historiated initials by the Masters of Zweder van Culemborg with ornamental initials and decoration throughout.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Illuminated Manuscript, Gloss on The lamentations of Jeremiah, Walters Manuscript W.30, fol. 3v

This illustrated copy of The lamentations of Jeremiah with the gloss (or interpretation) of Gilbert of Auxerre was written in Austria in the second half of the twelfth century and comes from the monastery of Seitenstetten. Gilbert died in 1134, and the manuscript is an early and important witness to his text. The gloss is written in a small script and is both interlinear and marginal. This layout is typical of glossed books of the Bible from the twelfth century. The illustrations of the sack of Jerusalem and the return to Babylon give valuable information on twelfth-century armor. The manuscript is in its original binding.

Execution of King Sedekiah of Judah's sons; Blinding of Sedekiah; Return to Babylon with the blinded king; Jeremiah lamenting before a walled city.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Illuminated Manuscript, The Rochester Bible, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.18, fol.149v

Initial "S" opening the Second Epistle of St. Peter the Apostle.

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.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Missal of Eberhard von Greiffenklau, Crucifixion, Walters Manuscript W.174, fol. 152v

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.

Illuminated Manuscript, Bible (part), Creation of the world, and Eve, Walters Manuscript W.805, fol. 6v

This large-scale manuscript contains the first eight Old Testament books, Genesis through Ruth. The date of completion is given, February 2, 1507. The illumination of the Creation within a cosmographic scheme is based in part on the woodcut illustrations of Creation in the 1483 Koberger Bible, and the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle by the same printer. Large historiated initials mark the beginning of each book. This large format form of the bible was revived in the low countries and Rhineland in the mid fifteenth century, and later in the century they were being made in south east Germany and Bohemia. The style of the miniatures in this manuscript is typical of upper Austrian miniature painting of the later fifteenth century.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Illuminated Manuscript, Book of Hours, Funeral Mass, Walters Manuscript W.168, fol. 166v

This fine illuminated Book of Hours was produced in two stages in the second and third quarters of the fifteenth century. The manuscript contains eleven full-page miniatures and twenty historiated initials. The first stage of production includes a section attributed to the Masters of Zweder van Culemborg and the calendar (fols. 3r-14v, 52v-211v), while additional prayers illustrated in the style of the workshop of Willem Vrelant were added later in the fifteenth century (fols. 16r-50v, 213r-223r), presumably when the book was bound in its present binding. The Hours of the Virgin is for the Use of Rome. The Use of the Office of the Dead is unidentified, but the calendar is for the Use of Utrecht. The two separate parts of the manuscript were bound together in Flanders. The sections of W.168 attributed to the Masters of Zweder van Culemborg have been compared to Utrecht, Utrecht University Ms. 1037; Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum James Ms. 141; the second hand in New York, Pierpont Morgan Library Ms. M.87; Stockholm, Royal Library A 226, and Philadelphia, Free Library Lewis Ms. 88.