Bronx Doctor Donates Medieval Manuscript Facsimiles to Fordham

This post is cross-blogged from Fordham News.

The Très riches heures, a book of prayers commissioned for a French prince, is one of the most famous illuminated manuscripts of the 15th century. It contains dozens of images painted with rich pigments and embellished with gold. The original sits in the Musée Condé in Chantilly, France.

But thanks to a fine art facsimile of the historic tome in Fordham’s Walsh Library, students can flip through the lush pages and absorb a visual representation of medieval art and religion.

The Très riches heures facsimile is one of 300 books and objects donated to Fordham by Dr. James Leach, a New York physician who’s been curious about medieval manuscripts and liturgical books since he was young.

“When I was growing up, I had an interest in Latin and in the church,” said Leach, who heads the dermatology department at Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx. “The prayer books I was familiar with were a springboard to begin looking at the older manuscripts.”

He began amassing a collection of fine art facsimiles of medieval manuscripts, which have been produced since around 1990, typically in limited-edition runs of 300 to 900 copies. He thought that Fordham, as a Catholic university with an established medieval studies program, would be the perfect repository for these works. Leach also donated a sizable collection of original Catholic prayer missals from the late-19th to early-20th centuries.

Nina Rowe, PhD, chair and associate professor of art history at Fordham, said the University is lucky to have such high-quality reproductions available for students.

“One can certainly lecture in the classroom about the technical aspects of luxury handmade books from the eighth to the 15th centuries in Europe,” Rowe said. “But with high-quality facsimiles, students can get a sense of the ways in which illuminated manuscripts were functional objects, designed to be viewed up close, leafed through, and carried.”

Rowe said the Très riches heures is one of the “greatest hits” of medieval art history. She also has a few other favorites among the collection.

“I’m delighted to be able to teach students from the facsimiles of the Lindisfarne Gospels, an English monastic manuscript made around the year 700 and renowned for its so-called Carpet Pages, full-page designs with intricate interlace, often in the form of the cross,” she said.

“Another favorite facsimile of mine reproduces a Moralized Bible (sometimes called the Saint Louis Bible) from Paris, 1226 to 1236. Every page features eight circles arranged in four pairs, each with little scenes linking a vignette from the Hebrew Bible to a Christian or contemporary commentary. The images are especially fun when they depict the perceived vices of early 13th-century Parisian life, evoking the real world of the street in a remote period.”

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Pages from the collection’s facsimile of a Moralized Bible (sometimes called the Saint Louis Bible)

Linda LoSchiavo, TMC ’72, director of the University libraries, said Leach’s contributions are an important addition to Fordham’s Special Collections.

“The facsimiles are an extraordinary example of medieval artistry,” she said. “They’re done with highly specialized devices, and the bindings are reproductions as well.”

The cover of a facsimile of the Sacramentary of Henry II, a liturgical manuscript from the late-10th to early-11th century, includes an intricate copy of the original’s ivory relief. Other facsimiles Leach has donated include theEton Choirbook and the Lorsch Gospels.

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The cover of a facsimile of the Sacramentary of Henry II, which features an intricate plastic copy of the original’s ivory relief

The recent establishment of Fordham’s Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies, and the collection of Judaica being assembled by Magda Teter, PhD, the chair’s inaugural holder, prompted LoSchiavo to ask Leach if he would consider donating a a Haggadah, a book used during Passover seders. He was happy to oblige, and earlier this year donated a facsimile of the Barcelona Haggadah. The original dates to the middle of the 14th century.

Leach hopes his gifts will help Fordham students learn that art and illuminated manuscripts flourished during the medieval period, even though the era sometimes gets a bad rap.

“Most important is that they realize that ‘medieval’ is not purely a derogatory term,” he said. “It was an age of faith and artistic productivity that contributed to Western civilization.”

 

By Nicole Larosa

Review: Master Class on Scholarly Editing with Christopher Baswell

On the evening of November 12, Dr. Christopher Baswell from Columbia University and Barnard College graced Fordham medievalists with a seminar on scholarly editing. The evening was organized by Dr. Brian Reilly in conjunction with his graduate course Editing Medieval Texts. The discussion centered on the topic of multilingualism on the page, ranging from the fundamental importance of familiarizing oneself with the immediate and material manuscript page, to the varying degrees of literacy of those medieval manuscript owners and users, to the multifarious functions of the different languages employed on a page, and finally to the currently under-explored contact between Celtic languages, Anglo-Saxon, Hebrew, and Arabic and that common triad of languages in England—French, Latin, and English.

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Miniature of the Three Living and the Three Dead, with the Anglo-Norman poem ‘Le dit des trios morts et trios vifs’ below, from the De Lisle Psalter, England (East Anglia), c. 1308 – c. 1340, Arundel MS 83, f. 127v – See more at: The British Library

Dr. Baswell’s enthusiasm for the subject conjured a sense of joy, inquisitiveness, and camaraderie amongst the participants as they collectively admired and investigated a few digital images of manuscript pages. These images included the juxtaposed three living and three dead kings of the DeLisle Psalter, an image described by Dr. Baswell as the “frisson of the deeply creepy.” Typical of Medieval Studies events at Fordham, the seminar drew participants from a variety of departments. Professors from English, History, and Modern Languages and Literatures were present, as well as graduate students from Medieval Studies and the aforementioned departments. The evening concluded with more casual discussion on the topic over a shared meal, while Dr. Baswell graciously continued to offer his time and advice to eager graduate students.

 

 

By Sarah-Kam Gordon

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Andrew Albin

Professor of English Andrew Albin has been awarded a dual appointment in English and Medieval Studies. This distinction recognizes Professor Albin’s scholarship in medieval aurality and literature and honors his contributions to Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies as an instructor since 2012. He has published on Chaucer’s Prioress’s Tale, the Chester shepherd’s play, and the medieval mystic Richard Rolle. While at Fordham, he has taught courses on subjects and authors such as early English drama, medieval embodiment, Chaucer, the Pearl poet, and spiritual sensory experience.

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Professor Albin is on leave for the 2015­-2016 academic year to complete a senior fellowship at Yale University’s Institute for Sacred Music, an interdisciplinary center for music history, musicology, theology, music performance, and ministry. During his fellowship, he is translating Richard Rolle’s Melos Amoris, preserving the alliterative patterns and musical prosody of the original text. Not only will this be the first English translation of the Melos Amoris, but Professor Albin plans to supplement it with groundbreaking research on the marginalia and manuscript context of Rolle’s work to shed light on its reception history. Professor Albin has noted that one of the ten manuscript witnesses of the Melos Amoris was bound with a gathering of mid-­15th century sacred polyphonic music by three English composers. Professor Albin will include a recording, diplomatic edition, and analysis of this music in his forthcoming book and will examine the ways in which the link between medieval mysticism and music was perceived by 15th-­ and 16th-­century readers. His multimedia and intertextual presentation of the Melos Amoris will allow modern readers to get a sense of how Rolle’s text was experienced aurally and conversant with musical practice of the period.

 

By Katherine Briant