The DMMapp (Digitized Medieval Manuscripts App) is a website that links to more than 300 libraries in the world. Each one of these contains medieval manuscripts that can be browsed for free. The DMMapp is a product of Sexy Codicology, an independent project focused on medieval illuminated manuscripts and social media. It maintains a great blog about medieval manuscripts, especially those that are available online.
The images vary widely, but they tend to be very strange and even disturbing—overt sexual acts, defecation, monsters, human-monster hybrids, animals acting like humans. There’s also examples of clergy behaving very badly, the sort of thing you would not expect to see in the margins of a sacred book.Kaitlin Manning of B & L Rootenberg Rare Books and Manuscripts talks to Collector's Weekly (previously) about the exquisitely detailed religious texts surrounded by all manner of illustrated commentary, known today as marginalia.
Identify mystery text, win $1000. "The collection of Homer editions in the Special Collections Research Center – the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana(BHL) – includes a copy of the rare 1504 edition of Homer’s Odyssey that contains, in Book 11 (narrating Odysseus’s journey into Hades) handwritten annotations in a strange and as-yet unidentified script. This marginalia appears only in the pages of Book 11 of the Odyssey; nowhere else in the volume. Although the donor of the BHL is suspicious that this odd script is a form of 19th-century shorthand (likely French), he acknowledges that this hypothesis remains unsupported by any evidence offered to date." And he's willing to pay for that evidence.
Trinity College Dublin has added high-quality scans of the Book of Kells to their archives. These scans are now viewable by the public online.
The Beatus Cycle refers the nearly 30 surviving illuminated manuscripts based on an 8th century commentary on the Book of the Apocalypse by Saint Beatus of Liebana. The commentary is primarily composed of excerpts from works by theologians such as Augustine, Ambrose and Irenaeus. While the original manuscript had illustrations interspersed with the text, beginning with Maius in the mid-10th century, the paintings were moved to more prominent full or double pages with borders. (Here’s an example of the Maius manuscript format.) As the manuscript was repeatedly copied throughout the Christian portions of the Iberian Peninsula, the original iconography combined with Maius’ layout was preserved mostly intact. In 2007 a new Beatus manuscript came to light – the 11th-century Genevan Beatus. [more inside]
Here she discovered photographs of several of the absent illuminations, a partial ownership history, and a surprising fact: Christie’s had listed the book as “APPARENTLY COMPLETE.” In other words, the devotional had been taken apart—“broken” is the industry term—not a hundred years ago, but within the last three years. Its leaves had been stripped for individual sale by a modern-day dealer. “I was almost physically sick,” Treharne told me. “I could not believe what I had in front of me.”
"700 years ago, a monk needed parchment for a new prayer book. He pulled the copy of Archimedes' book off the shelf, cut the pages in half, rotated them 90 degrees, and scraped the surface to remove the ink, creating a palimpsest—fresh writing material made by clearing away older text. Then he wrote his prayers on the nearly-clean pages." - A Prayer for Archimedes
Are paper books becoming obsolete in the digital age, or poised to lead a new cultural renaissance? [more inside]
The Houghton Library is Harvard's largest for rare books and manuscripts, and the tumbler currently showcases an image a day, with a link to the record in the online catalog for anyone who wants to know more about the source or come in to see it in person.
Teddy and Alice
What's a holometer?
Teddy and Alice
What's a holometer?
Inky paw prints have been discovered in a 15th century manuscript. [National Geographic] [Picture#1] [Picture #2] [Interactive] [more inside]
The Geese Book is a lavishly illustrated manuscript of choral music, written for the church of St Lorenz, Nuremberg, between 1504 and 1510. It takes its name from a whimsical illustration showing a choir of geese with a wolf as their choirmaster. The manuscript has now been digitized, and many of the chants recorded, so that you can listen to the music (or even sing along) while following the text. Highlights include Christmas, with a fox and rooster, Ascension Day, with the famous choir of geese, All Saints' Day, with a dragon eating a baby, and the Mass for St Lawrence, with a musical bear.
A small piece of Truman Capote’s famously unfinished novel Answered Prayers has come to light. The six-page story, “Yachts and Things,” found among Capote’s papers in the Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library, is published in the December issue of Vanity Fair, out now in New York and nationally next week. The story will be available online in mid-November. [more inside]
The beautiful library of the Abbey of St. Gall in Switzerland contains over 2000 manuscripts, including hundreds from the Abbey's glory days of the 9th and 10th centuries. The library is open to the public and to scholars, and the Codices Electronici Sangallenses project is making selected codices - 436 so far - available online.
John Cage Unbound, A Living Archive is a multimedia exhibition created by the New York Public Library documenting their collection of videos, original notes and manuscripts of contemporary American composer and music theorist John Cage (1912-1992). "Cage believed that, following his detailed directions, anyone could make music from any kind of instrument" so the NYPL is asking visitors how they would bring his music to life, by submitting videos of their own interpretations of Cage’s work for possible inclusion in the archive. For more extensive collections of John Cage resources, see: WNYC: A John Cage Web Reliquary and Josh Rosen's fan page. [more inside]
In 2007, a 15th-century illuminated manuscript returned to the George Peabody Library in Baltimore after going missing over 40 years ago. [more inside]
"The British Library holds one of the world's most important collections of Hebrew manuscripts, of which about 300 have some decoration. All of the illuminated manuscripts and those with significant decoration are now in our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts." [more inside]
If a woman has difficulty in giving birth, thae the plant we call pasticanna sivatica, simmer it in water, and give it so that she can bathe herself with it. She will be healed.
The Voynich Manuscript (many previously) has been uploaded in its entirety online for your leisurely perusal by Yale's Beinecke Rare Book Library. [via]
News up on the Archimedes Palimpsest, now being exhibited at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. [website] [previously]
You’ve probably read all the stories you ever want to about killer sows from outer space, but mine is a little different …
The Sobering Saga of Myrtle the Manuscript. A cautionary tale.
The “Copiale Cipher” is a 105 pages manuscript containing all in all around 75 000 characters. Beautifully bound in green and gold brocade paper, written on high quality paper with two different watermarks, the manuscript can be dated back to 1760-1780. [...] the manuscript is completely encoded.[more inside]
The Getty Museum offers some videos of modern artisans demonstrating art techniques from the past. Don't miss the wet collodion photography process - today you can carry a camera in your pocket and look at pictures on your phone, but in 1860 you needed a horse-drawn darkroom to get those shots. [more inside]
An ongoing trial in Tel Aviv is set to determine who will have stewardship of several boxes of Kafka’s original writings, including primary drafts of his published works, currently stored in Zurich and Tel Aviv.
The Koran of Kansuh al-Ghuri is a 500 year old manuscript written on six foot square sheets of a silken, vellum-like fabric which is polished with smooth stones so that ink sits on the surface rather than being absorbed. It is considered "one of the finest, most lavishly illuminated and calligraphically significant Qur’an manuscripts from the late Mamluk period". Too fragile to be displayed, it is also missing two leaves that were discovered in Dublin's Chester Beatty Library in the 1970s. So a unified digitized edition is being prepared that will be freely available on the Internet for researchers. The process is being blogged here.
Gallica (the digital section of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France) has put Charles Baudelaire's heavily annotated proofs of Les Fleurs du Mal on line.
For millions of addicts around the world, Alcoholics Anonymous's basic text - informally known as the Big Book - is the Bible. And as they're about to find out, the Bible was edited. After being hidden away for nearly 70 years and then auctioned twice, the original manuscript by AA co-founder Bill Wilson is about to become public for the first time next week, complete with edits by Wilson-picked commenters that reveal a profound debate in 1939 about how overtly to talk about God.
The Saragossa Manuscript is an unusual movie based on a strange book by a remarkable man. [more inside]
Remembering the pleasures I enjoyed, I renew them, and I laugh at the pains which I have endured and which I no longer feel. Of Giacomo Girolamo Casanova de Seingalt ‘s Histoire de ma vie, Kenneth Rexroth wrote: Purity, simplicity, definition, impact — these qualities of Homer are those of Casanova too. … He has equals but no superiors in the art of direct factual narrative. ... Time and its ruining passage color all the book. His sense of his own imminent death lurks in the dark background of every brilliantly lit lusty and bawdy tableau. After an unusually colorful history, the manuscript has been donated to France's National Library. [more inside]
"[Celtic] knots are most known for their adaptation for use in the ornamentation of Christian monuments and manuscripts like the 8th century St. Teilo Gospels, the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels." [more inside]
The manuscripts of David Kaufmann, Jewish scholar extraordinaire. Wonderful illuminations, inventive typography and even a little bit of naughtiness.
The Shahnama or “Book of Kings” is the longest poem ever written by a single author: Abu’l-Qasim Hasan Firdausi, from Tus in northeastern Iran. His epic work narrates the history of Iran (Persia) since the first king, Kayumars, who established his rule at the dawn of time, down to the conquest of Persia by the Muslim Arab invasions of the early 7th century A.D.
In the 13th century, thrifty monastic scribes erased an old Archimedes manuscript they had lying around and reused it. Thankfully, they didn't do a very thorough job. Ten years ago today, an anonymous American collector purchased the Archimedes Palimpsest, and has since funded the project to conserve, image, and study the manuscript, which contains several otherwise unknown works. Today, the Archimedes Palimpsest Project has released all its data and images under a Creative Commons license.
The Morgan Museum currently have an exhibition featuring the 1517 Prayer Book of Claude de France, a gorgeous miniature (2.75 x 2 inches) illuminated manuscript, together with the Prayerbook of Claude's mother, Anne de Bretagne. [via]
The Speculum theologiae is a beautiful medieval manuscript. Its diagrams demonstrate visually various aspects of the medieval worldview. The diagrams are explained and translated and most of them are expounded upon in a short essay. My favorite diagrams are The Cherub with Six Wings, The 10 Commandments, Plagues of Egypt and Abuses of the Impious and The Tree of Virtue and The Tree of Vices.
The University of South Carolina recently completed an ambitious survey of all medieval texts in the state for an exhibit at the university library. All the works were scanned and archived electronically. However, not only can you view the texts online, you can hear the university's chorus sing (MP3) the musical manuscripts. [more inside]
Legend has it that the world's biggest bible is the work of the Devil. The Codex Gigas (Giant Book), also known as the Devil's Bible, is the largest medieval manuscript in the world. Housed at the Swedish National Library since the 17th century, it recently returned to the Czech Republic (it originated in a monastery in Bohemia) for display. The book contains an entire pre-Vulgate version of the Latin bible, as well as various other texts and illustrations, including calendars, medical formulas and local records. You can browse the complete Codex Gigas in high resolution here.
WIREDfilter: After a thousand years stuck on a dusty library shelf, the oldest copy of Homer's Iliad is about to go into digital circulation.
"Sing, goddess, the rage of Achilles the son of Peleus, the destructive rage that sent countless pains on the Achaeans..."
For anyone with even a passing interest in Islamic history or cartography, 'The Book of Curiosities of the Sciences and Marvels for the Eyes' site at Oxford University's Bodleian Library will provide a thoroughly interesting timesink. This recently discovered 13th/14th century copy of an 11th century Egyptian manuscript was partly based on Ptolemy and includes the oldest rectangular map of the world...not to mention the famed human-bearing Waq-Waq tree. [via]
One of only ten poems published during Emily Dickinson's lifetime, the poem beginning "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers" continues to be reproduced in conflicting versions. Emily Dickinson Writing a Poem lets us leaf through images of Dickinson's original manuscripts and correspondences concerning the poem. According to the site, this documents surrounding this poem offer "the only example of Emily Dickinson responding directly to another reader's advice." At one point, Dickinson apparently struggled to decide between at least three alternatives of the much-contested second verse. Also included is a history of the poem's early printings, providing an opportunity to note how many publications have ignored Dickinson's idiosyncratic punctuation.
The Book of Kells is one of the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts ever made, a fusion of Celtic motifs, Germanic forms and Christian themes. We can view the image gallerys, or even visit in person, but it's a soulfully thin experience compared to actually holding its weight and turning the pages. Enter the world of Facsimile Books, a faithful re-creation of the original to the extent that it is virtually indistinguishable from the original, where price is no concern, editions are limited, and can cost $20,000 or more and often sell-out quickly. Finns Fine Books is a leading distributor. A list of publishers, mostly European fine arts craftsmen.
Scattered Leaves In the early decades of the 20th century, a Cleveland book collector named Otto Ege removed the pages from 50 medieval manuscript books, divided the pages among 40 boxes, and sold the boxes around the world. Now the University of Saskatchewan plans to digitally remake the book.
'The Cantigas de Santa Maria medieval-era manuscripts were written during the reign of Alfonso X "El Sabio" (1221-1284) and are one of the largest collections of monophonic (solo) songs from the middle ages ... ' Images.
The most mysterious manuscript in the world. The Voynich Manuscript is 235 page manuscript written in a cipher that has yet to be decoded. The manuscript includes many images. Almost all pages of the manuscript are available online. There have also been several books (1,2)written claiming to solve the manuscript. You can also follow the modern day progress of deciphering the Voynich manuscript.
Mark Twain - Back from the Dead! I just caught this on the Jim Lehrer News Hour. The tale behind the tale A Murder, A Mystery, and A Marriage. A complete, unpublished manuscript of Mark Twain has surfaced, and after 125 years will finally find its way to the pages of the Atlantic Monthly this summer.