The Bedford Book of Hours is a lavishly-illustrated early fifteenth century French prayer book made for John, Duke of Bedford, and his wife, Anne of Burgundy. Anne later gave the book to her nine-year-old nephew, Henry VI, as Christmas present. The original manuscript is now in the British Library (Add. MSS 18850). The illustrations were produced in Paris in the workshop of an unnamed artist known to art historians as the “Bedford Master.” The Bedford Book of Hours exemplifies the type of high-end manuscripts produced in secular bookmaking shops for European nobility in the late Middle Ages.
FSU Special Collections & Archives is pleased to announce that three new, high-quality facsimiles have been added to our rare books collections and are ready for use in our Research Center Reading Room.
Codex Rustici – an Italian manuscript from Florence (circa 1444) depicting a pilgrimage from Florence to the Holy Land. This codex, currently housed at the Library of the Archbishop’s Seminary of Florence, is famous for its ink and watercolor illustrations of the architecture of early 15th century Florence. It was recently restored and made into a complete facsimile through a grant from Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, and a video about the codex can be viewed at their website.
Splendor Solis– a sixteenth-century German treatise on alchemy, featuring 19 illuminations of the creation of the philosopher’s stone. It is thought to be the earliest known alchemistic treatise and is an important work for scholars of the history of science.
Officiolum di Francesco da Barberino – a richly illuminated early 14th century Italian manuscript, considered one of the oldest Books of Hours produced in Italy. The original manuscript, thought lost for centuries, is now in private hands and can therefore only be studied through facsimile.
As I sit down to write my final blog entry as the Special Collections and Archives graduate assistant, I can’t help but think about the pivotal moment that started me down this whole career path.
It was the Fall semester of 2011 and I was the nerdiest college sophomore that you’ve ever met. I was completely obsessed with a class I was taking called Illuminated Manuscripts, which my brother still, to this day, jokingly refers to as “laminated manuscripts.” Once a week, our class would meet in one of the classrooms in Strozier Library to study the medieval facsimiles from Special Collections. The rare books librarian, who I thought had the greatest job in the whole world next to Alex Trebek, would administer over these extraordinarily recreated works of art as we students examined the pages with the unflinching attention of a neurosurgeon and took notes (in pencil, of course) on our discoveries.
The facsimile I found the most impressive was the iconic Book of Kells. Likely created around the year 800 CE on the Scottish island of Iona, the Book of Kells is widely regarded as the finest European medieval manuscript to survive. Comprising of the four gospel books of the New Testament, it is created in the Hiberno-Saxon, or Insular, style, which refers to a time period in post Roman Britain before the Viking Age when indigenous artistic conventions, such as stylized interlacing knot and animal motifs, were popular. There are a total of ten full page illustrations, including a whimsically blonde Christ and a vignette of cats eating the Eucharistic host, with numerous decorated initials and smaller abstract illustrations surrounding the text. The manuscript is massive, lavishly decorated, and constructed from the finest materials. Its pages are made of vellum, the highest quality calfskin parchment, and the colorful inks are made from a wide variety of imported materials. Ultimately, this manuscript is a showstopper. It’s the medieval equivalent of a modern day Ai Weiwei or Damien Hirst masterpiece.
And now as I wrap up my assistantship and prepare to graduate I realize I’m sincerely going to miss my friend, the Book of Kells, who sparked my interest in medieval manuscripts and beckoned me to pursue this opportunity in Special Collections. It’s true; those of us who seek a career in libraries envision being surrounded by the materials that we feel the most passionately about. And as great as blonde Jesus is, it’s the people of Special Collections that really make the department so special. Looking forward to commencement and the nebulous unknown of the “real world” that will follow graduate school, I honestly hope that I can find a work environment as supportive and team as cohesive as the one I’ve spent the last year with.