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Medieval Manuscript Library of Pembroke College, Cambridge: Parts 1-5

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About this Collection

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

Introduction:Medieval Manuscript Library of Pembroke College, Cambridge: Parts 1-5


The MedievalManuscript Library of Pembroke College, Cambridge, consists of just over300 manuscripts, many of these distinguished in terms of contents, decorationand provenance.


Importantly, it contains over 100 volumes formerly in theLibrary of The Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, one of the foremost centres oflearning in medieval England. These were received in 1599 as a gift fromWilliam Smart, Portreeve of Ipswich. They represent by far the greatestsurviving nucleus of any of the great monastic libraries.


Equally, the collection of Pembroke is important in that itis one of only a handful of College Libraries to have preserved the greaterpart of the original medieval manuscripts library of the College itself (About150 volumes).


Each of these aspects enables the modern student toreconstruct the framework of thought of the medieval scholar. Literature,theology, philosophy, mathematics, science and law are all represented.


The first part covers manuscripts 1 to 56 inclusive. Parttwo covers manuscripts 57 to 120 inclusive. Between them these cover all of themanuscripts firmly identified by M.R. James as survivals from the Bury St.Edmunds monastic library; that is, manuscripts 1-5, 7-12, 16-74, 76-81, 83-85,87-92, 94-102, 104, 105, 107-109, 111, 114, 115, 118 and 120. It also coversthe majority of the doubtful Bury St. Thomas volumes (6, 13-15, 75, 82, 86,93, 103, 106, 110, 112, 113, 116, 117 and 119). Authors include Ambrose,Anselm, Aquinas, Augustine, Bede, Bernard, Bonaventure, Cato, Gregory,Hieronymus, Hugo, Isidore, Justinian, Juvenal and Peter Lombard. Themanuscripts date from the early ninth century to the fourteenth century with asignificant number from the twelfth century. Particularly noteworthy are MS 81 an early ninth century text of Bede on the temple of Solomon and Ms 120 afinely illustrated New Testament dating from the eleventh century.


Individually, manuscripts such as On the Temple of Solomonand the New Testament are remarkable and often very beautiful; however, it iswhen the full range of the manuscripts are taken together that the principlebenefits of this edition accrue. There are works on mystical theology,religious and secular poetry, chronicles, works of history and hagiography,dialectic and law. They will enable scholars to share the same resources as themedieval scholars of Bury St. Edmunds, and thus to better understand theirmind-set and the background to their great evangelical and scholarly work.


The complete 1905 M.R. James catalogue is reproduced on thefirst reel and this gives valuable details of provenance and earlier librarycatalogues as well as descriptions of all of the manuscripts.