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.