On the joy of finding a good book about medieval manuscripts

Some time ago I bought a second hand book from a bookshop in Breda, the Netherlands: Around 400 pages, some two or three kilograms of weight, with no title on the cover but only an image coming from a manuscript I have seen many times before: Pal. Lat. 39. The book was in German. Title: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana: Liturgie und Andacht im Mittelalter. Now, I have studied German for around five years but saying that my understanding of such language is basic is making a compliment to myself. Anyway, undeterred, I decided to spend those fifteen euros and bring the book home with me.

Ross.181 XXIVv-25r

Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana: Liturgie und Andacht im Mittelalter — What’s in the book?

First off: it’s a beautiful book; technically an exhibition catalog from 1992 which took place in Koln. It contains the description of 88 of the most stunning manuscripts preserved at the Biblioteca Vaticana. Each manuscript is described codicologicaly, with reference to it’s historical background and importance. Several images are attached next to each description showcasing amazing artworks.

I deeply enjoyed every page (for as much as I my German would allow me) and eventually put the book back together with the rest of my little collection of books about (mostly medieval) books.

Barb.lat.570 11v

A book as guide (and a nice list of amazing, digitized, manuscripts!)

Recently I picked Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana: Liturgie und Andacht im Mittelalter up again, to once again enjoy browsing through it. While I was gazing through the pages and observing the miniatures I suddenly thought:

“My God, some of these books must have been digitized by now! I have to see them all!”

Five seconds later I was on the DMMapp and then on the Biblioteca Vaticana’s page dedicated to their digitized manuscripts and, lo and behold, there they were! Well, at least some of them: 34 out of 88. In any case, what a joy is it to be able to go through them in their digitized form. Here’s a list of which objects from this book have been made available digitally. Trust me, each single one of them is amazing to look at and worth exploring.

Here’s a nice little list with the permalinks to the manuscripts in this book that have been already digitized:

So, what’s the point of this post anyway?

  1. Buy books; new book, second hand books, strange books, cool books. It doesn’t matter, as long as they are about what you love. You never know from which one will give you the most interesting passion!
  2. I am grateful beyond words to the Biblioteca Vaticana for having digitized (and digitizing still) so many manuscripts. Can’t wait for more!

Some considerations:

I love manuscripts; I know some Latin, and some Biblical events. Often when I browse through manuscripts and find a peculiar miniature, I usually manage to understand what is represented. Sometimes though, it is difficult. Some databases have a description (the Getty, Oxford, for example,) but with the Biblioteca Vaticana it is not the case. I understand that one cannot make an “ Utrecht Psalter Project” out of every manuscript, but a small description would be ideal. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana: Liturgie und Andacht im Mittelalter actually has a description of the contents of each manuscript included in the presented manuscripts. One can’t but wish the same for the Biblioteca’s website.

Last thing: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana: Liturgie und Andacht im Mittelalter is out of print. It dates back to 1992. It’s not impossible to find at decent prices over the internet, so if you can get you hands on it, do it! You can find one in very good condition at the Antiquarian Bookshop Hieronymus Bosch.