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    The Medieval Manuscripts at Maynooth - Explorations in the Unknown


    Lucas, Peter J. and Lucas, Angela M. (2014) The Medieval Manuscripts at Maynooth - Explorations in the Unknown. Four Courts Press. ISBN 978–1–84682–534–7

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    Abstract

    Foreword : In the middle ages, when the catalogue of a library was a hand-list of its manuscripts, the entries were generally minimal: Horae for a Book of hours, or Commentarius in Exodum, a commentary on the Book of exodus. Nothing more. Thus in a medieval catalogue these two items, which are to be found in this book, would have taken two lines! so much more can be said. There was often no information on who wrote the commentary, and certainly it was rarely stated where and when a manuscript was copied out and decorated. It is therefore a serious challenge to determine these elements. as the authors explain, there can also be false trails, as happened with one of ours, where the fifteenth-century prior stated unambiguously that a fine substantial commentary on psalm 118 was by Alexander of Hales and later, the binder, taking a lead from this, stamped the name of the thirteenth-century Franciscan theologian accordingly, in gold on the spine. It was only through a careful examination of the text that the true author came to light in the person of englebert of admont. again, it was common practice to bind up several works together, with only the title of the first on the binding. so our earliest manuscript from the eleventh century, a record of conciliar events in the diocese of reims in 991, is tucked away at the end of a volume that contains eight separate booklets, spans three centuries and begins with a thirteenth century hand copying a work thought then to be by St Augustine – and with only his name on the spine. a love of detection work is an essential qualification for cataloguing medieval manuscripts. Today, there are still medieval manuscripts in libraries that are one-liners in the catalogue or are not in a catalogue at all. We have been most fortunate, and grateful, that the authors have gone to great trouble to describe in detail the medieval manuscripts in Maynooth. It began with a conversation over a glass of wine at a Christmas party in the 1990s. It came to light that we had a collection of medieval manuscripts which, tantalizingly, were almost unknown to scholars as no list had ever been published: they were hooked, what might they find! the two authors began a very detailed description of each of our latin manuscripts. The Russell library staff devoted much time in assisting them in different ways, glad to see the manuscripts in their care receiving the attention they deserved. We are particularly indebted to Penny Woods for devoting her expertise and knowledge to the process for many years. After the authors moved to Cambridge, they were able to maintain progress by many visits to the library and through transmission of images from the manuscripts. When the catalogue of our library’s large collection of manuscripts in the Irish language was published, the contents became widely known thereby and more easily accessible for consultation. As a result, there were regular visits and enquiries from our own departments, and from readers elsewhere in Ireland and abroad, seeking to examine and research the manuscripts in greater detail. Resulting publications from these researches cite the manuscripts and open their contents still further to readers. Publication of The Medieval Manuscripts at Maynooth: explorations in the unknown will bring our holdings to the notice of medievalists worldwide and each manuscript will become part of the corpus of surviving recensions of its text. The contents of each manuscript have been carefully noted and a detailed physical description given. this will make the book invaluable to students of codicology, learning how medieval books are put together. The authors also made use of the library’s ‘unique to the Book’ project which was devised after they expressed a desire to include manuscript fragments incorporated in the older printed books. As part of the project’s remit, therefore, books in the printed collection were recorded where early binders had used cut-up scraps of vellum manuscripts with fragments of text or sometimes musical notation as part of the bindings. sixty per cent of the Russell Library Collection had been examined by the time of writing, beginning with theology, as that area was known to have many of the earliest bindings. Photographs of these fragments with bibliographical details of the books have been included in this book to tempt further research by other scholars. The book explores sixteen medieval latin manuscripts, some of which are composite – one contains eight separate booklets. They range in date from the eleventh century to 1529. there are three further illuminated single-leaf items, each extracted at some stage from a liturgical manuscript or Book of hours. Because they were decorated, it seems it was a common practice to break up such manuscripts and sell leaves individually as ‘pictures’. Bibliographical details are given of nineteen books ranging in date from 1491 to 1694, each containing scraps of manuscript in its binding. Two of the manuscripts are known to have belonged to laurence renehan, president of maynooth (1845–57), an energetic collector of books and manuscripts. Almost all the manuscripts are very naturally associated with the church. There are five manuscripts that came from Liège, four of them from the Benedictine abbey of St Jacques whose collections were auctioned in 1788. The authors were able to track down others from the same sale, now in other libraries throughout europe. There is a very finely decorated Benedictional that had belonged to a fourteenth-century Archbishop of Aix-en-Provence. the authors visited that city and, with what must have been great excitement, examined a companion pontifical in the same ornate style. There are three Books of hours, with some deftly painted miniatures. While the manuscripts are essentially all in latin, there is some French, italian and dutch present also. This volume is the culmination of many years of work and we have been fortunate enough to get an occasional glimpse of the fruits of that labour over the past decade. The authors previously published two articles in the journal Scriptorium, on six of the manuscripts (tome lviii, 1 (2004), pp 83–99 on the five Liège manuscripts; and tome LXIV, 1 (2010), pp 119–26 on the Benedictional from Aix-en-Provence). The information there has been incorporated and greatly expanded. Peter Lucas also gave a memorable public lecture on the medieval manuscripts on 19 February 2008 in the Russell Library. This is a book whose importance cannot be overstated. It will be an essential tool for a broad spectrum of scholars and researchers. We are not aware of any other Irish libraries that have a whole book devoted to such detailed descriptions of all their medieval latin manuscripts. We are delighted that the medieval manuscripts held at Maynooth have received the attention they deserve and congratulate the authors and all who made this possible.

    Item Type: Book
    Keywords: Medieval; Manuscripts; Maynooth;
    Academic Unit: University Library
    Item ID: 13753
    Depositing User: IR Editor
    Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2020 12:45
    Publisher: Four Courts Press
    Refereed: Yes
    URI:

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