The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus' Wife is an article by Ariel Sabar about his quest to trace the providence of a manuscript fragment in which Jesus refers to his wife. The trail leads from Harvard through old East Germany to the Floridian swingers' scene.
X-Rays Reveal 1,300-Year-Old Writings Inside Later Bookbindings [The Guardian] The words of the 8th-century Saint Bede are among those that have been found by detecting iron, copper and zinc – constituents of medieval ink. Medieval manuscripts that have been hidden from view for centuries could reveal their secrets for the first time, thanks to new technology. Dutch scientists and other academics are using an x-ray technique to read fragments of manuscripts that have been reused as bookbindings and which cannot be deciphered with the naked eye. After the middle ages manuscripts were recycled, with pages pasted inside bindings to strengthen them. Those fragments may be the unique remains of certain works.
The Luttrell Psalter is a mid-14th century English illuminated manuscript containing a large number of illustrations of everyday life in medieval England. In 2008 the Psalter was adapted into a 20 minute short film for The Collection Museum in Lincoln, drawing on 35 scenes from the manuscript. There is also a blog describing the making of the film. [more inside]
In March 2014, the Vatican Library announced it was beginning its efforts to digitize a portion of its extensive collection in coordination with the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford. In the past year, they've made good progress, as documented on the project's blog, which provide some good insight into the process and the documents that have been digitized to date. [more inside]
Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index covers journal articles, book reviews, and essays in books about women, sexuality, and gender during the Middle Ages. [some pages may contain medieval nudity] [more inside]
The Holy Junk Heap: In 1896, a cache of manuscripts -- mostly fragments -- was discovered in the storeroom ("genizah") at the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo. The collection outlines a 1,000-year continuum (870 CE to the 19th century) of Jewish Middle-Eastern and North African history and comprises the largest and most diverse collection of medieval manuscripts in the world, including Jewish religious texts such as Biblical, Talmudic and later Rabbinic works (some in the original hands of the authors), "letters, wills, bills of lading, prayers, marriage contracts and writs of divorce, Bibles, money orders, court depositions, business inventories, leases, magic charms and receipts" which give a detailed picture of the economic and cultural life of the North African and Eastern Mediterranean regions, especially during the 10th to 13th centuries. [more inside]
Writing - from the PhD research blog Deathsplanation:
"I almost went to college to study art. I even interviewed for a place. I had a portfolio and everything. That was more than a decade ago and honestly, I can’t even remember if I got in. But I didn’t go. Things changed, life took a drastic turn, and I wanted to leave everything behind. And so I did. I ended up at university, pursuing another passion of mine: archaeology; history, anthropology. [more inside]
"I have never strayed that far from art. It’s always been there, in my life. But recently, it’s been a lot more… present."
Manuscript Miniatures, Effigies & Brasses, Armour in Art, and Aquamanilia are four online databases of medieval art. Together they comprise some 19,506 images. [more inside]
Abdel Kader Haidara awarded Germany's 2014 Africa Prize for rescuing Timbuktu manuscripts. Under his direction centuries' worth of texts were smuggled out when the city was taken by book-burning religious conservatives in 2012. The collection is currently in Mali's capital Bamako where it is being preserved and digitized. More text, slideshow, video, previously previously previously [more inside]
If you have a good cat and you don't want to lose it, you must rub its nose and four legs with butter for three days, and it will never leave the house. [more inside]
Model books, examples for medieval scribes to copy from and adapt in their work, are like illuminated manuscripts in concentrated form. A post from medieval historian Erik Kwakkel's excellent new blog, a longform complement to his excellent Tumblr (previously).
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.
On 24 June 1914, a young man caught the 10.20 train from London to Malvern. At around 12.45 the train stopped at a small country station in Gloucestershire. And what happened then? Well .. nothing much. The station closed in 1966, but this afternoon a special train will be stopping there, unwontedly, to mark the centenary of one of the best-loved poems in the English language. [more inside]
The Emily Dickinson Archive is a collection of high resolution digital images of Emily Dickinson's handwritten manuscripts. Here are, for instance, Because I Could Not Stop for Death, Tell the Truth but Tell It Slant, I Dwell in Possibility, They Shut Me Up in Prose and I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died. The whole collection is fully searchable and the images include the text of the poems as they were written down by Dickinson. The archive is a project of Harvard's Houghton Library but many other institutions provided manuscripts. Perhaps the best place to start is to simply browse the poems by title.
The British Library today unveiled a major addition to its website: Discovering Literature, a portal to digitized collections and supporting material. The first installment, Romantics and Victorians, includes work from Austen, the Brontës, Dickens, and Blake, and forthcoming modules will expand coverage of the site to encompass everything from Beowulf to the present day.
Bonfire of the Humanities. "Nobody goes to Timbuktu, right? Patrick Symmes did, to discover what happened when jihadi rebels set out to burn one of the world’s finest collections of ancient manuscripts. Bouncing around by truck, boat, and boots, he got an intimate look at West Africa’s most mythic locale." [Via] [more inside]
The Vatican is digitizing its massive trove of ancient documents to make them available to the world for free online. [more inside]
"As anyone who is familiar with 13th and 14th century illuminated manuscripts can attest, images of armed knights fighting snails are common, especially in marginalia. But the ubiquity of these depictions doesn’t make them any less strange, and we had a long discussion about what such pictures might mean."
Skeleton doodles, crappy D's, cat hats, embroidered book repair, dentistry, and a duck going queck, from the tumblr of Erik Kwakkel, a medieval book historian at Leiden University.
Bess of Hardwick's Letters brings together the correspondence of one of the most powerful women of the Elizabethan era, the builder of one of England's greatest houses and the founder of one of its greatest political dynasties. As well as telling the story of Bess's life, it offers an introduction to early modern letters and a guide to reading early modern handwriting.
Weird, funny, surreal, fun, silly, bawdy, macabre, cool and strangely beautiful. The Discarded Image is a Tumblr collection of Medieval illustrations gleaned from various illuminated manuscripts, bestiaries, books describing the cosmology of the Middle Ages, ordered and maintained by a celestial hierarchy. The Discarded Image is also the name of CS Lewis' last book, about the fascinating Medieval mindset and world picture. [more inside]
In 1731, a fire broke out in Ashburnham House, where the greatest collection of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, the Cottonian Library, was then being stored. Frantically, the trustees raced into the burning library and hurled priceless and unique manuscripts out the windows in order to save them. One of these was the sole manuscript of Beowulf. Today, bearing the charred edges of its brush with extinction, it's been digitized by the British Library, along with a group of other treasures including Leonardo Da Vinci's Codex Arundel and the Harley Golden Gospels.
Early English Laws is a project to publish online and in print new editions and translations of all English legal codes, edicts, and treatises produced up to the time of Magna Carta 1215. [more inside]
The Royal Spanish Library has put online today an interactive version of Leonardo da Vinci's Madrid Codices I & II. There are transcriptions of the text (in Spanish and Italian, click "T" on the bottom menu), animations of many of the mechanical contraptions (click play button "ver animacion") and the "Indice" in the bottom menu organizes the folios by theme.
For more than two years, scholars and imaging scientists have been using advanced scanning techniques to recover the mostly illegible contents of an 1871 field diary kept by the British explorer David Livingstone in Africa. Low on paper and ink, the explorer had resorted to writing on newspaper sheets, with ink made from berries, and over time the original document had become almost impossible to read. Now the team has unveiled an online “multispectral critical edition” with images, transcriptions, and relevant notes, making Livingstone’s first-person account accessible again. They’ve also created a “Livingstone Spectral Images Archive” to give anyone who wants it direct access to the images, transcriptions, and metadata the project has created, no strings attached. Almost everything in both the edition and the archive comes with a Creative Commons license that allows the contents to be reused with attribution. [more inside]
The diaries of Queen Victoria, totaling 47,000 pages and running from the age of 13 until her death, have been digitized. The site will be free to UK users, but open access for the rest of the world only runs through the end of June.
A researcher at St. Andrews University is using a tool called a densitometer to measure which pages in medieval manuscripts are the dirtiest, and therefore the most frequently read. The complete (and well-illustrated) study is available online from the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art. [more inside]
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]
Thanks to a record-breaking £9 million fundraising effort, the British Library has acquired (and fully digitized) the St. Cuthbert Gospel. The manuscript, buried with the eponymous saint in 698 AD, is the oldest European book to survive fully intact. [more inside]
Pages from Beckett's wartime manuscripts - from Watt, written in ink and colored crayons between 1940 and 1945, numbers 945 pages in six notebooks and loose sheets. More from Watt, part of a larger 2006 Samuel Beckett Centenary Exhibition, Fathoms from Anywhere.
The Morgan Library Black Hours, one of the world's most beautiful and striking illuminated manuscripts, has been digitized in its entirety. Richly decorated in blue and gold on black vellum, it is one of a surviving handful of such manuscripts produced in late 15th century Bruges. (Poorer quality, but still interesting, images of another such work, the Black Hours of Charles the Bold, are also online.
Signs & Symbols: Decoding Mediaeval & Renaissance Iconography. An online exhibition from the Dunedin Public Library. Does what is implied on the tin, if you have a grounding in the history of tin-decoration.
Treasures of the Bodleian. Oxford University's Bodleian Library will move into a substantially renovated home in 2015. In preparation, it has put online a selection of highlights from the collection, ranging from papyri to Penguins. You can vote for your favorite treasure, and the top vote-getter will go on display when the library reopens.
The library of King Matthias I of Hungary, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, was "the second greatest collection of books in Europe in the Renaissance period, after that of the Vatican." Destroyed following the 15th century Turkish invasion of Hungary (despite the efforts of Matthias' vassal Vlad III the Impaler), a few surviving codices have been digitized by the National Széchényi Library and the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. [more inside]
Ancient books inherited in private family libraries could change our knowledge of late mediaeval arab culture, but most are hidden in private libraries. Gripping article about the unknown treasures that may be lurking in Mauritanian family libraries, considering the little that has already been found, resistance to cataloguing and problematic future if the region continues to be destabilised. How the manuscripts are famous in the muslim world.More on the open libraries and archive efforts. Some years back on bbc i saw an explorer track down some ancient ethiopian christian manuscripts to an ethiopian monastery, only to be shown some burnt remains from a fire a few months back. What treasures must lurk in this continent, and with digital cameras, how easy to document them without damage or intruding on their owners! Being christians, there are pictures and some history.
In honor of the museum's 50th anniversary, the Anne Frank House has created a virtual tour of the Secret Annex and the rest of the house. The complete manuscript of Anne's diary has also gone on display at the museum for the first time.
"Seventy two specimens of castes in India". This illustrated manuscript made in southern India in 1837 consists of 72 full-colour hand-painted images of men and women of the various castes and religious and ethnic groups found in Madura, India at that time. Search or browse (recommended) all the images, in very good resolution, from Yale's Beinecke Library. [more inside]
The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas today announced that it has acquired the papers of David Foster Wallace. The collection includes "manuscript materials for Wallace's books, stories and essays; research materials; Wallace's college and graduate school writings; juvenilia, including poems, stories and letters; teaching materials and books." The Center's blog has more details.
Timelines: Sources from History is a decade-by-decade visual index to the holdings of the British Library from the 1210s to the present.
Visitors to the Morgan Library in New York will have a rare opportunity to view one of the great masterworks of medieval illumination, the Hours of Catherine of Cleves. But if you don't have a chance to visit, all 157 miniatures have been digitized.
An expert in Elizabethan handwriting is attempting to decipher the inscriptions on a 400-year-old slate tablet discovered by archaeologists working at Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America. Want to take a crack at it yourself? First, you're going to want to take English Handwriting, 1500-1700: An Online Course. Then, keep your skills sharp with a daily dose of Early Modern Paleography. (This week's images will be well known to a certain MeFite.)
The papers of Edward Alleyn, the Elizabethan actor-manager, are now available online in a digital edition. Most of what we know about the London theatre in the age of Shakespeare comes from this archive; highlights include the only surviving example of a 'part' or script written out for an actor in an Elizabethan play (image) and the contract for building the Fortune playhouse in 1600, just a year after the building of the Globe. Sadly, the archive doesn't include any manuscripts relating to Shakespeare, because Alleyn worked for the Admiral's Men, one of the two main theatre companies in London, whereas Shakespeare worked for the competition (the Lord Chamberlain's Men), though that didn't stop the nineteenth-century forger John Payne Collier from faking a few documents of his own to fill the gap.
Graduel à l'usage de Saint-Dié digitizes a French gradual (choir music for the Mass) created in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. For more information about what's what, see the handy definitions offered by the British Library or Celebrating the Liturgy's Books. [more inside]
Jay Walker's Library was just profiled by Wired [via], but they failed to mention where many of those books came from. Big players like Maggs, Simon Finch and the Baumans still compose most of the rare book world. (Heritage is gone but Michael Sharp got four of their employees.) They're all excellent places to shop if you're building an Überlibrary, but, if you're Jay Walker, you start with Phillip J. Pirages. [more inside]
The Prague Bible (1489) is a splendid three-volume MS of the Tanakh, once in the possession of Enlightenment luminary Moses Mendelssohn. There are several other beautiful examples of medieval and early modern Hebrew MSS online, including the Illuminated Hebrew Manuscripts collection (New York Public Library), the Illuminated Haggadah Exhibit (Klau University), selections from Moses Maimonides' Moreh Nevukim (Leiden University), and the Prato Haggadah (Jewish Theological Seminary). See also the introduction to the Hebraic Collections at the Library of Congress.
Columbia University's Digital Scriptorium is a database of high quality scans from medieval and renaissance manuscripts. The highlights section alone is breathtaking, but you can search and browse through over 5000 manuscripts and almost 25000 individual images.
Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities features strange and surprising things from the rare book and manuscript collections of the Beinecke Library in Yale, including death masks, the philosophy of origami, the real adventures of Tintin, famous people and their pets, and American transvestite magazines from the 1960s.
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