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Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts from the Society of Antiquaries, London: Parts 1-2

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Introduction: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts from the Society ofAntiquaries; London: Parts 1 and 2

Introduction: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts fromthe Society of Antiquaries; London: Parts 1 and 2


The Society of Antiquaries of London was founded in 1707 forthe discussion and study of antiquity and history. Harleys librarian, HumfreyWanley (1672-1726) and the great ballad collector, John Bagford (1651-1716)were founding members and the Society was granted a Royal Charter in 1751.


The first-class library was established to support the manyand varied cross-disciplinary interests of members. The manuscript collectionhas now grown to approximately 900 accessions of which about 60 are datedbefore 1500.


This publication makes available 53 of the choicest itemsfor the Medieval and Renaissance periods. All are filmed in their entirety.Part One concentrates on literary manuscripts. Part Two provides volumes whichare primarily of historical or art-historical significance. However, given thenature of medieval learning, these distinctions are somewhat blurred. The Brutchronicles, for example, could appear in either section, as could a finelyillustrated work such as the Lindsey Psalter.


The volumes included in Part One are: Mss 2, 7, 12, 18, 22,41, 44, 59, 63, 80, 93, 95, 101, 134, 163C, 223, 252, 287, 288, 300, 306, 687,and 716. Highlights are:


Ms 7 A twelfth century text of the Orationes ofAnselm.
Ms 18 A twelfth century text of the Sermons of St. Bernard.
Ms 22 Sir John Harringtons The History of Edward III (XVIIC).
Ms 47 A fifteenth century miscellany with verse and Proverbs.
Ms 95 Henry, Lord Howard, On Women.
Ms 134 Lydgaes Life of Our Lady and Gowers Confessio Amantis.
Ms 252 The medieval romance of Bocchus and Sydrach.
Ms 300 The Pore Caitif and Myrour of Synners.
Ms 687 Langlands Piers Plowman and the Prick of Conscience.

The importance of such central and influential texts needhardly be underlined, but attention should be drawn to the less well-known orunattributed poems included and to the texts of classics (eg. Seneca andVirgil) which are also included and provided the source and inspiration formuch scholarship.


Part Two covers: Mss 3, 5, 8, 13, 19, 37, 38, 39, 55, 58,60, 84, 92, 154, 154*, 227, 248, 285/718, 286, 301, 329, 338, 379, 544, 701,708, 712, 713, 717.


Pride of place of the historical sources must go to Ms 154,the Winton Domesday, and Ms 544, a near contemporary text of MagnaCarta. Both are extremely important documentary sources but under-utilisedas many historians have over-looked the holdings of the Society of Antiquaries.


Two Registers of Peterborough Abbey (Mss 38 and 60) providedetails of life at a more local level, whilst Ms 55, the Historia Bohemia,provides an Italian humanist perspective of events up to the fifteenth century.


Both social and art historians will derive much informationfrom the finely illustrated psalters (Mss 59 and 713) and Books of Hours (Mss5, 13, 19, 329, and 712) which contrast the styles of Dutch, English, Flemishand French artists active in the fifteenth century.


In addition there are materials on astrology, astronomy,law, magic, mathematics, medicine and politics.