Recent Acquisition: A Leaf from the Bohun Family Bible

by David T. Gura, Curator, Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts

This leaf comes from an enormous Bible (447 x 278 mm) produced as a four-volume set in England ca. 1350. A narrower localization to the region of East Anglia is possible. Decoration and chiefly the illuminated miniatures forge a connection to the ‘Bohun group’ of manuscripts, which includes Psalters, Books of Hours, and other books owned by the Bohun family. The Bohuns were the earls of Hereford and their estates in East Anglia were tied to the royal court, so much that their final heiress, Mary, was the wife of Henry IV and mother of Henry V. This particular Bible in its entirety was perhaps commissioned by Edward III’s eldest son, the so-called ‘Black Prince’ (1330-1376).

The earliest provenance of the Bible is to the West in Cheshire, perhaps the Carmelite house in Chester. This Carmelite connection is reinforced by a historiated initial in the Bible which depicts a Carmelite friar. Likewise, the Carmelite house in Chester was endowed by none other than the Black Prince himself in 1353-1358. The manuscript circulated amongst a number of seventeenth century owners as a large number of leaves was already missing by 1678. Beginning in 1927, biblioclasty prevailed over the manuscript’s centuries of resilience. The Bohuns’ Bible was dismembered on Bond Street, London at the hands of Myers & Company and leaves were sold individually.

The story of this illustrious manuscript is the result of Christopher de Hamel’s research. He alone deduced the Bible’s provenance and identified hundreds of extant leaves scattered throughout the world from Chicago to Tokyo to New Zealand.

Bibliography

Christopher de Hamel, ‘The Bohun Bible Leaves,’ Script & Print 32:1 (2008): 49-63.

Lucy Freeman Sandler, Gothic Manuscripts 1285-1385, 2 vols. London, 1986.

Lucy Freeman Sandler, Illuminators and Patrons in Fourteenth-Century England: The Psalter and Hours of Humphrey de Bohun and the Manuscripts of the Bohun Family. Toronto, 2014.

Inquisition Edicts and Book Censorship

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic limits our ability to handle physical collections, Rare Books and Special Collections strives to provide patrons with the next best thing — access to digital surrogates. Last week, we responded to a request for a high quality image of an Inquisition censorship edict, from Mexico, dating to 1809.

Inquisicion de México, Public edict regarding banned works, August 5, 1809. (Inquisition 401, recto)

This item is part of our Harley L. McDevitt Inquisition Collection, which contains manuals, edicts, trials, certificates, accounts of autos de fe, and other materials produced by and about the Inquisition in Spain and the Americas. Revisiting this document at the request of a patron provides an opportunity this week to highlight Inquisition edicts, a major component of our Inquisition manuscript holdings.

This edict is a large format document that would have been posted on a wall or door for public consumption. Edicts such as this one supplemented and updated the more voluminous indices of banned books published and maintained by the Inquisition beginning in 1551. This particular example is quite lengthy and also attests to the Inquisition’s perseverance into the nineteenth century and to its presence in Spain’s American colonies. It bans some 55 works and is signed at the bottom by Inquisition officials.

Titles banned include, of course, works pertaining to Lutheranism. Also on the list are historical works, especially those that are anti-monarchical such as Histoire des révolutions de France, by an anonymous author, and Recherches politiques sur l’état ancien, et moderne de la Pologne. Each of these titles treats the French Revolution. Inquisitorial concern over them speaks to the political situation in Spain, where Napoleon Bonaparte had recently placed his brother on the throne. Mere months after the issuance of this 1809 edict, armed uprisings in support of independence from Spain would begin in Mexico.

The edict also prohibits theatrical plays deemed to include seditious content, due in part to the fears regarding rebellion against Spain in the American colonies. This last category includes a piece entitled, “El Negro, y la Blanca,” (“The Black Man and the White Woman”) by playwright Vicente Rodriguez de Arellano, said to be revolutionary in spirit, with ability to engender civil, political, and moral ruin. It also includes “El Negro Sensible”  (“The Sensible Black Man”), a manuscript play said to encourage enslaved people to rebel against their owners. This play, by Spaniard Luciano Francisco Comella, indeed highlights the evils of slavery. The main character, an enslaved man named Catúl, asserts his humanity and tells his owner that the souls of black men and white men are the same. This work was the inspiration for the later and eponymous play by one of Mexico’s best known authors, José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi.

The Harley L. McDevitt Inquisition Collection has both a finding aid and a dedicated website which includes thematic essays that explore the different types of documents generated by the Inquisition, with references given for further reading. The collection contains over 150 edicts dating from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Here are two additional examples of censorship edicts:

Antonio de Sotomayor, Banned books edict, June 30, 1634. (Inquisition 227, recto and verso)

Inquisicion de Mexico, Public edict regarding banned works, June 1655. (Inquisition 239, recto)

Upcoming Events: November and early December

Please join us for the following public events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, November 7 at 5:00pm | Professor Ege. With the Knife. In the Library. Solving the Murder of 200 Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in Twentieth-Century America” by Scott Gwara (University of South Carolina).

This lecture is co-sponsored by Rare Books & Special Collections and the Medieval Institute

Monday, November 18 at 4:30pm | Finnegans Wake: On Infinite Translation’. The event will include a roundtable on the issues of translatability and reading as a modality of “infinite translation,” featuring Enrico Terrinoni (Professor at the Università per Stranieri di Perugia and Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies).

This event is sponsored by the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the Center for Italian Studies.

Thursday, November 21 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – ” ‘In arts it is repose to life: è filo teso per siti strani.’ The Role of Anglophone Culture in Primo Levi and His Times” by Valentina Geri (Ph.D. Candidate, Notre Dame).

The Italian Research Seminar is sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.

 

The fall exhibit Hellenistic Currents: Reading Greece, Byzantium, and the Renaissance is now open and will run through the end of the semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Touchdowns & Technology: The Evolution of the Media and Notre Dame Football (September – December 2019) and Knute Rockne All American (October – November 2019). Both spotlight exhibits feature materials from the University Archives.

RBSC will be closed during Notre Dame’s Thanksgiving Break
(November 28 – December 1) and will resume regular hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm) on Monday, December 2, 2019.

Announcing: The Florence & Richard C. McBrien and Richard C. McBrien, Jr. Special Collections Lecture Series

Rare Books & Special Collections pleased to announce a new lecture series, The Florence & Richard C. McBrien and Richard C. McBrien, Jr. Special Collections Lecture Series, beginning this fall. All events are open to the public and admission is free.

Please join us for our inaugural lecture of the series on Thursday, November 7 at 5:00pm in Special Collections, featuring Scott Gwara, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina. Gwara will deliver a lecture entitled “Professor Ege. With the Knife. In the Library. Solving the Murder of 200 Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in Twentieth-Century America”.

This lecture is co-sponsored with the Medieval Institute.

 

Scott Gwara is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina, where he is completing his 25th year of service. At South Carolina, Scott regularly teaches graduate Old English and Beowulf, and undergraduate courses as diverse as King Arthur, Shakespeare, the 21st-Century British bestseller, American Apocalyptic fiction, and medieval manuscripts. He is the author of six books and 50 refereed articles. He is perhaps best known for Otto Ege’s Manuscripts, which he calls a “bio-bibliography” on the Cleveland rare book dealer who established the North American market for framed pages of early manuscripts.

Professor Gwara is currently completing a history of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in North America from the beginnings to ca. 1875. Over the past decade he has established a teaching collection of early manuscripts at his university, and his efforts were recognized in October by a “Fresh Voices in the Humanities” award from the Humanities Council of South Carolina. As part of his effort to publicize the South Carolina collection, and manuscript culture more broadly, he has been filming a series of 20 podcasts for release in 2020.

Upcoming Events: October and early November

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, October 3 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – “Reading the Medieval Mediterranean: Navigation, Maps, and Literary Geographies. Questions, Approaches, and Methods” by Roberta Morosini (Wake Forest).

The Italian Research Seminar is sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.

Thursday, November 7 at 5:00pm | Professor Ege. With the Knife. In the Library. Solving the Murder of 200 Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in Twentieth-Century America” by Scott Gwara (University of South Carolina).

This lecture is co-sponsored by Rare Books & Special Collections and the Medieval Institute

 

The fall exhibit Hellenistic Currents: Reading Greece, Byzantium, and the Renaissance is now open and will run through the end of the semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Touchdowns & Technology: The Evolution of the Media and Notre Dame Football (September – December 2019) and Knute Rockne All American (October – November 2019). Both spotlight exhibits feature materials from the University Archives.

RBSC is open regular hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm)
during Notre Dame’s Fall Break (October 19 – 27)

Upcoming Events: September and early October

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, September 5 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – “‘Gli occhi della fantasia.’ Mental Images and Poetic Imagery in Leopardi” by Sabrina Ferri (Notre Dame).

Thursday, September 19 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – “Parabola in Boccaccio (I.1; X.10)” by Ambrogio Camozzi Pistoja (Harvard).

Thursday, October 3 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – “Reading the Medieval Mediterranean: Navigation, Maps, and Literary Geographies. Questions, Approaches, and Methods” by Roberta Morosini (Wake Forest).

The Italian Research Seminar is sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.

 

The fall exhibit Hellenistic Currents: Reading Greece, Byzantium, and the Renaissance is now open and will run through the end of the semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Libros de Lectura: Literacy and Education after the Mexican Revolution / Alfabetismo y Educación después de la Revolución Mexicana (June – August 2019) and Art in a 19th-Century Household in Ireland: The Edgeworth Family Album (August – September 2019).

RBSC is closed Monday, September 2nd,
for Labor Day.

Rolling the Dice: Guided by the Stars, Math, and God (in that order)

by Eve Wolynes, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Notre Dame

Special Collections’ spotlight exhibit for May, “Blasphemous Fun: Late Medieval and Early Modern Game of Chance and Fortune,” features a pair of medieval and Early Modern books on fortune-telling dice games: a modern facsimile of the Libro delle Sorti (The Book of Fates) and the Dodechedron de Fortvne.

The original Libro delle Sorti, held at the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice, was written in 1482 by Lorenzo Spirito Gualtieri in Perugia and was illustrated by Umbrian painters in the circle of Pietro Perugino and the young Raphael. Its pages contain a guide to using three six-sided dice to divine the answers to any of twelve questions about the future, in a somewhat comically roundabout method.

First, the reader chooses a question, which then points them to a “king” — an image of one of twelve historical and biblical figures, including Priam, last king of Troy, and King Solomon. These kings then instruct the reader to a “sign” — a table associated with celestial bodies, animals and mythical figures, such as a unicorn, a scorpion, or the moon. These tables provide combinations of dice rolls — whatever the reader rolls, they find that combination on the table, which then directs to a “sphere” of different celestial signs and their Roman Gods — such as the sphere of the Sun (shown in the exhibit) or Taurus (shown here), but also the sphere of Cancer, Capricorn, Mercury, Apollo and Mars. These spheres finally direct to a “list” of decided fates, organized according to the prophets of Christianity. The rather convoluted links of the game intertwine Roman mythology, biblical figures and astrology in its pages to tell a story of Italian medieval culture that dipped into multifaceted heritages — Roman and Catholic pasts interlinked, with astrological stars and theological heavens brought to bear on earthly concerns.

The Dodechedron, meanwhile, is attributed to medieval poet French Jean de Meun, famous for his scandalous and obscene Roman de la Rose, and earliest manuscripts date to roughly the first quarter of the 14th century. The work regained popularity as a printed text in the late 16th and early 17th century – as demonstrated in our 1615 printed edition, and found itself translated into English around the same time. It describes a game of dice played using a 12-sided die connected to the twelve signs of the zodiac in order to predict the future.

Twelve repeats itself frequently throughout the game, which requires that the player choose one of twelve questions from twelve different “houses” (144 questions total) about a wide breadth of topics from a child’s future health to whether a judge in a court case would honestly uphold to justice. Readers then pick a house and a question, correlate those numbers to a 12-by-12 grid and roll a 12-sided die to count out the final tally of their numbered fortune from a list of answers. The repetition of 12 places the Dodechedron into a tradition of spell books that relied upon mathematical calculations founded on astrological divination to calculate the future.

Dice games were nominally frowned upon in the Middle Ages — and gambling with dice barred to members of the church, though that didn’t stop them — and the connections between chance determining the future and pagan practices of divination through dice meant that these games bordered on blasphemous and played on the boundaries of “everyday magic.” Indeed, dice games were often paired with blasphemy as players prayed to God, Mary and saints in the lead up to their rolls — and cursed them when things didn’t go their way. In the 13th century the King of Castile, Alfonso X, attempted to regulate dice games in his Ordinances of Gaming Parlours, and began with punishments for various levels of blasphemy during such games, up to having part of one’s tongue cut off. In discussions of dice games and gambling, the worship of Decius (dice) was often put in contrast with worshipping Deus (God) to characterize such games as a form of pagan or satanic ritual, as referenced in the 14th century Manuale Sacerdotum by John Mirk, preaching that, “He [who gambles with dice] makes of the gaming table an altar for himself, upon which he offers up the goods of the Church to the Devil.” [1]

Fortune-telling games, rather than gambling with dice, however, escaped complete censure by the medieval church and remained closer to the practice of divining “Lots”, also called Sortes Sanctorum (Fates of the Saints), through bible verses and the practical application of astrology, which were both frequently interlocked as such games referenced astrology and the stars throughout their manuals, and games often instructed their players to offer prayers or recite psalms before casting their dice.

The advent of Protestantism after the first half of the 17th century in Europe coincided with a heightened lockdown on fortune-telling as a form of magic that contradicted the omnipotence of God wherein any event was not chance but a direct reflection of personal virtue in God’s eyes. Still, the temptations of chance, future and fortune were hardly daunted by whispers of blasphemy — dice games and fortune telling continued in popularity well into the early modern era and beyond, and live on in our gambling dens and friendly tabletop games today.

 

 

 

[1] Rhiannon Purdie, “Dice-games and the blasphemy of prediction,” in Medieval Futures: Attitudes to the Future in the Middle Ages, 2000. P. 178.

Upcoming Events: May and through the summer

Currently there are no events scheduled to be hosted this summer in Rare Books and Special Collections.

The exhibit As Printers Printed Long Ago: The Saint Dominic’s Press, 1916-1936 will run through the summer and close in late July.

The current spotlight exhibits are The Work of Our Hands: A Multi-Venue Exhibition of Liturgical Vestments (March – May 2019) and Blasphemous Fun: Late Medieval and Early Modern Games of Chance and Fortune (May 2019).

Rare Books and Special Collections is open
regular hours during the summer —
9:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.

RBSC will be closed Monday, May 27th, for Memorial Day and Thursday, July 4th, for Independence Day.

Upcoming Events: March and early April

Please join us for the following event being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Tuesday, March 26 at 4:00pm | “An Enchanted Circle Surrounding Me Like Magic: Heidelburg & its literary heritage from the Middle Ages to today,” a talk with Dr. Gertrud Roesch (Max Kade Distinguished Visiting Professor of German Studies, Notre Dame).

Sponsored by The Department of German and Russian Languages and Literatures.

Wednesday, March 27 at 4:00pm | A Conversation with Sandow Birk. Renowned illustrator Sandow Birk will be visiting Notre Dame on March 27 and 28. He will speak about his work, including his illustrations of the Divine Comedy and the Qur’an.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies , the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Devers Family Program in Dante Studies, and the Program in Liberal Studies.

Thursday, March 28 at 5:00pmThe Italian Research Seminar: “Pasolini Screenwriter for Fellini” by Prof. Claudia Romanelli (Alabama).

Sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.

Thursday, April 4, 5:00pm | Medieval Institute Byzantine Series Lecture: “The Gospel of John in the Byzantine Tradition” by Fr. John Behr (St. Vladimir’s Seminary)


The spring exhibitAs Printers Printed Long Ago. The Saint Dominic’s Press 1916-1936, curated by Dennis Doordan (Emeritus Professor, Notre Dame School of Architecture), opened in January and runs through the summer. The exhibition features different types of publications and posters produced by Saint Dominic’s Press, setting the story of the press within the larger history of the private press movement in England and examining its artistic as well as literary achievements.

The current spotlight exhibits are: Theresienstadt (Terezín), in remembrance of all the victims of the Holocaust, and Creeley/Marisol: Presences (through March 6, 2019). Both spotlight exhibits will be changed in early March to Purchas his Pilgrimes and John Smith (March 2019), and The Work of Our Hands, a multi-venue exhibition organized in conjunction with the Notre Dame Forum 2018-19: “The Catholic Artistic Heritage: Bringing Forth Treasures New and Old” (March – early June 2019).

If you would like to bring a group to Special Collections or schedule a tour of any of our exhibits, please email rarebook @ nd.edu or call 574-631-0290.


Rare Books and Special Collections will be open regular hours, 9am-5pm, during Notre Dame’s Spring Break (March 11-15).

Recent Acquisition: The Golden Qurʼan from the Age of the Seljuks and Atabegs

by Julie Tanaka, Curator, Rare Books

Recently acquired is a full-size, color facsimile of the Golden Qur’an (Cod.arab. 1112), held in the Bavarian State Library (BSB) in Munich. The original manuscript was restored by the BSB’s Institute of Book and Manuscript Restoration in 1967. This true-to-size facsimile replicates both the physical appearance and features of the restored codex. Some loss of the ornamental decoration along the edges indicates the text block was trimmed when the codex received a later binding.

The Golden Qur’an is among a small number of Qur’ans written using colored writing materials. The most notable example of these colored works is the late 9th- or early 10th-century Blue Qur’an from Tunisia that was written in Kufic script on indigo-dyed vellum.

The holy text in the Golden Qur’an is written in black Naskh cursive on gold-coated paper. The image below reveals the reflection from these golden pages.

Each sura heading is framed in blue, white, and reddish-brown script and is decorated with floral and arabesque patterns. Verses are separated by rosettes.

This Qur’an probably originated in Iraq or Iran. It has many features which indicate that it was a product of the school of Ibn al-Bawwab, the early 12th-century Persian illuminator and calligrapher. The Qur’an employs ink colors—white, brown, crimson, and black—that had been introduced by Ibn al-Bawwab. The vertical letters slant slightly to the left and are written in a dense but clear style that is characteristic of his school. In addition, the first page features an unusual arrangement of two sura titles. In the basmala (the name for the Islamic phrase which translates into English as “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”), the Arabic letter “sin” is elongated.