Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Top Beautiful Medieval Manuscripts

Here're what expert Giovanni Scorcioni has determined are the top ten most beautiful medieval manuscripts. Scorcioni is the co-founder of Facsimile Finder, a leading provider of facsimile editions of medieval manuscripts and quality copies of rare books.

1. Lindisfarne Gospels (I blogged about it before)
2. Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux
3. Godescalc Evangelistary
4. Prayer book of Claude de France
5. St. Alban's Psalter
6. Westminster Abbey Bestiary
7. Vienna Genesis
8. Black Hours (I blogged about it before)
9. Morgan Crusader Bible
10. Grimani Breviary

I'm going to talk about three of them here. The rest are blogged here by Medievalists.net. All photographs are copyrighted by Giovanni Scorcioni and used with permission.

Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux, Queen of France
Shelfmark Acc. No. 54.1.2 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The medium used is grisaille (shades of gray), tempera, and ink on vellum. Use of vellum, instead of parchment, and extensive, detailed imagery and hues indicates that this was an expensive book made for a wealthy patron. It was made in Paris c. 1324–1328 by Jean Pucelle. According to the Met: "The figures are rendered in delicate grisaille that imparts an amazingly sculptural quality, and the images are accented with rich reds and blues and touches of orange, yellow, pink, lilac, and turquoise."

Godescalc Evangelistary
Shelfmark MS. Nouv. acq. lat. 1203 from Bibliothèque Nationale de France
The manuscript was commissioned by the Carolingian King Charlemagne on October 7, 781 and finished by the Frankish scribe Godescalc on April 30, 783. According to Wikipedia: "The Evangelistary is the earliest known manuscript produced at the scriptorium in Charlemagne's Court School in Aachen. The manuscript was intended to commemorate Charlemagne's march to Italy, his meeting with Pope Adrian I, and the baptism of his son Pepin."

Prayer Book of Claude de France
Shelfmark MS M. 1166 from the Morgan Library & Museum
It is a tiny jewel-like book that fits in the palm of a hand. It was finished by the artist in Tours in 1517, the year Claude de France was crowned Queen of France. According to the Morgan: "Her coat of arms appears on three different folios. The book is richly illustrated: the borders of each leaf are painted, front and back, with 132 scenes from the lives of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and numerous saints. The colors of his delicate palette are applied in tiny, seemingly invisible brushstrokes."