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THEME 1: The Medieval Encyclopaedia: Science and Practice

Case 1

Boethius, De arithmetica, De musica
England, Canterbury, Christ Church, first third of the twelfth century

The sciences of the quadrivium - arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy - examined the numerical harmonies of God’s creation. The sixth-century Christian philosopher Boethius provided subsequent generations with a definition of the quadrivium and the standard textbooks on two of its branches, arithmetic and music. The copy of De musica in this volume opens with a delicately tinted full-page drawing. It shows Boethius in dialogue with Pythagoras, Plato, and Nichomacus, transmitting the science of the ancient authorities to the Christian world.

Cambridge University Library, MS Ii.3.12, fol. 61v

Honorius Augustodunensis, Imago Mundi, and other texts
England, probably Durham, c.1190

By the early thirteenth century this compilation of geography, history and cosmology belonged to the Cistercian abbey at Sawley in Yorkshire, but it was probably made in the circle of bishop Hugh du Puiset of Durham around 1190. Originally it formed one volume with the University Library manuscript shown on the right. The main text, the Imago Mundi, opens with a world map, the oldest of its kind in England. The image on display introduces one of the shorter texts, the treatise on the wings of angels ascribed to Clement of Lanthony. Assigning different virtues to each feather of a cherub’s wings, it exemplifies the use of pictorial diagrams as mnemonic devices favoured in the Middle Ages.

Corpus Christi College, MS 66, pt. I, fol. 100

Gildas, De excidio Britanniae, and other texts
England, probably Durham, c.1190 and Bury St Edmunds, third quarter of the thirteenth century

Like its sister manuscript displayed on the left, this volume combines historical, ecclesiastical and encyclopaedic works by some of the most distinguished authors of medieval Britain. The full-page image of the Church shown here illustrates De statu ecclesiae by the reforming bishop Gilbert of Limerick. The graceful array of pointed arches incorporates the series of pyramids used by Gilbert to explain the hierarchy of the Church, from the parish to the papacy and Christ himself. A fine example of the use of architecture to structure ideas and aid memory, this pictorial metaphor for the body of true believers that made up the church may well be the earliest undeniably ‘Gothic’ illumination in English art.

Cambridge University Library, MS Ff.1.27, p. 238

Gossuin of Metz, L’Image du Monde, and other texts
England, West Midlands, c.1330

Containing some fifty-five texts, this manuscript is a library in itself, a one-volume encyclopaedia. The devotional, literary, political, historical, and cosmological texts in Anglon-Norman, Latin and Middle English were perhaps assembled by a single mind preoccupied with prophecy, revelation, and prognostication. They were copied by a single scribe and illuminated by a single artist. The Image of the World received cosmological diagrams. That on the left shows the four elements guarded by celestial angels and those on the right illustrate the circular shape of the world.

Cambridge University Library, MS Gg.1.1, fols. 358v-359

Jean Corbechon, Des proprietez de choses
France, Paris, c.1415

Garbed in an academic robe, the physician holds up a urine glass, his badge of office and main diagnostic tool. The miniature introduces the book on medicine in the most popular medieval encyclopaedia, Bartholomaeus Anglicus’ thirteenth-century De proprietatibus rerum (On the property of things). Jean Corbechon’s French translation of 1372, commissioned by Charles V of France, was favoured in court circles. This, one of the most sumptuous surviving copies, was illuminated for Amadeus VIII, Count of Savoy (1383-1451) and grandson of the celebrated manuscript collector Jean Duke of Berry. It was the work of the Boucicaut Master (active c.1400-c.1415), one of the leading illuminators in early fourteenth-century Paris.

Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 251, fol. 54v

Case 2

England, probably Lincolnshire, c.1200

This is one of the best-known Bestiaries. It opens with fully illuminated scenes from the lives of lions, but the majority of its illustrations are ink drawings. The unerring confidence of the draughtsman is impressive and the expressions of the creatures graphically convey their character. With its accounts of animals and mythical creatures, the Bestiary was not simply a record of natural history. It was a deeply religious book. Like the Bible, God’s creation, the natural world, was believed to be divinely encoded with different levels of meaning to be discovered by patient reflection. Animals were understood as prophecies or reminders of biblical events, or as examples of behaviour to be imitated or avoided.

Cambridge University Library, MS Ii.4.26, fol. 1v

Hugh of Fouilloy, Aviarium and Bestiary
France, Paris, c.1230-c.1250

The manuscript opens with the Aviarium of Hugh of Fouilly (c.1100-c.1173), prior of St Laurent-au-Bois at Heilly, near Amiens. This is a text on birds with even more extensive interpretations of their religious significance than those found in a traditional Bestiary. The Aviarium circulated in numerous copies on its own. Only four extant manuscripts, all of Continental origin, combine its text with an abridged Bestiary. This is one of them. It is displayed at the account of the elephant.

Sidney Sussex College, MS 100, fols. 33v-34

Case 3

The Peterborough Bestiary
England, c.1300-1310

This is one of the last great Bestiaries, produced as a luxurious volume for bibliophilic delight or pious contemplation. It is known as the Peterborough Bestiary because it is bound with an even more opulent Psalter, which belonged to Hugh of Stukely, prior of Peterborough Abbey in the 1320s. Unusually for a Psalter, the page layout resembles that of a Breviary, with a formal liturgical script in two columns and miniatures set within them. The display opening shows beavers, an ibex, a hyena, a ‘bonnacon’, monkeys, a satyr, and deer. This looks like a book for private piety rather than for general monastic edification. Very many chapters have separate paragraphs marked spritualiter to introduce the moral or theological lessons to be learned from the animals’ habits.

Corpus Christi College, MS 53, fols. 191v-192

Apuleius Platonicus, Herbarius
Germany, fourteenth century

Named after Apuleius Platonicus, the Herbarius corpus survives in more than sixty copies. This is the most extensively illustrated among them. Many of the images can be traced back to late antique prototypes. They include plants, animals, and minerals that could be used in medicine, as well as figural compositions. The display opening shows Herba piretri and Herba ambroxie. The illustrations pick out enough characteristics to distinguish plants of a similar kind. Later corrections and additions reveal that the manuscript continued to be used by those interested in medical matters.

Trinity College, MS O.2.48, fols. 62v-63

Case 4

Roger of Parma, Chirurgia
England, c.1230 - c.1240

Compiled around 1180, the Chirurgia of Roger of Parma was the first Western surgical work to attract figural illustrations. Containing a French translation of Roger’s Chirurgia, this copy is one of the earliest and most important collections of medical texts to survive in Anglo-Norman. The scenes in the lower margins are closely related to the text. The display opening shows a depressed fracture of the cranium treated with a razor and forceps. The central figure seems to offer coins from a purse. These are the magdaliones, round medicaments sold by spicers to help heal the wound made by the surgical incision.

Trinity College, MS O.1.20, fols. 242v-243

England, thirteenth century and c.1440

This manuscript combines three booklets of fifteenth-century medical material copied by Brother John Welles, canon of the Premonstratensian Abbey of Hagnaby, with a thirteenth-century gathering of anatomical drawings. The drawings are witnesses to an ancient series of nine figures whose origins have been traced back to the medical schools of Alexandria at the beginning of the Christian era. The figures represent various systems and organs of the human body. The two leaves displayed here show the vein man and the internal organs.

Gonville and Caius College, MS 190/223, fols. 2v and 5

Medicine and astrology
England, c.1480- c.1500

This volume is a witness to the growing interest in medicine, astrology and alchemy in fifteenth-century England. It is open at the astrological volvelle and the vein man used for blood letting. Working from the outside to the centre of the volvelle, we see the points of the compass in English, the hours, days, and months, then the days within astrological houses and states of digestion, and finally the days of the moon. The movable dial has the signs for the planets and an aperture to reveal the size of the moon. There are two pointing indexes for the sun and the moon. By setting these correctly the medical practitioner could establish whether the relationship between the sun, the moon, and the ruling astrological signs promised successful treatment.

Gonville and Caius College, MS 336/725, fols. 153v-154

Case 5

John de Foxton, Liber cosmographiae
England, 1385-1408

This illustrated compendium of popular science was probably penned by its author and compiler, John de Foxton (c.1369-c.1440). An unbeneficed chaplain in Yorkshire, as Foxton was for most of the period of compilation of the book, would not have intended such an elaborate compilation for his own use, but for that of a generous patron. The illustrations range from astronomical tables drawn up by Foxton himself to elaborate figures of the temperaments and the planets. Mars (shown here) wears the armour called camail, with Scorpio and the sign of Aries, the ram. His expression, gesture, and sword suggest anger. At his feet are his children, stricken by war.

Trinity College, MS R.15.21, fols. 44v-45

John of Rupescissa, Liber de consideratione quintae essentiae, etc.
Southern France, possibly Roussillon area, early fifteenth century

In the fifteenth century, the works of John of Rupescissa, known as pseudo-Ramon Lull, were imported to England from southern France and Catalonia in numerous copies. They focused on quintessential remedies and included images of the common alchemical apparatus. The full-page illustrations of lunaria grass in this manuscript are unusual. Lunaria grass was considered unique in putting forth its fifteen leaves according to the waxing and waning of the moon. It had exceptional medicinal powers on the fifteenth day of the moon. This book testifies to the fascination of fifteenth-century English doctors with pseudo-Lullian alchemy. It became so influential that several English physicians applied for a license to practise quintessential alchemy in an attempt to rescue King Henry VI from his fits of madness in the 1450s.

Corpus Christi College, MS 395, fols. 49v-50

Hyginus, Astronomica
Italy, Mantua, c.1475

In books II and III of his Astronomica the ancient author Hyginus named forty-two constellations, discussing their place in the sky at night and the mythological stories associated with them. The two books became very popular with humanists and wealthy bibliophiles of the late fifteenth century, as zodiacal astrology reached the peak of its intellectual authority and influence. This manuscript is closely associated with the court of the Gonzaga in Mantua, whose enthusiasm for astrology is well attested. It carries the ownership inscription of Leonora Gonzaga (1493-1543). Rather than a lavish presentation copy, it was probably a personal commission, copied on paper and illustrated with lightly coloured drawings. It is displayed at the constellation ‘Argo’. The artist depicted the mythical Greek ship as a contemporary vessel and marked the position of individual stars within the constellation.

Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 260, fol. 30

THEME 2: The Humanistic Manuscript

Case 6

Marcus Tullius Cicero, De officiis
Italy, Florence, c.1430

Cicero, more than any other Roman author, became the model for the Humanistic revival of classical Latin grammar, rhetoric, philosophy, and ethics. Many Renaissance scribes produced deluxe copies of Cicero’s works for wealthy patrons, but also made fair copies for their own use. The Florentine scribe Domenico di Niccolò Pollini (1395-1473) probably copied this manuscript for himself. The illuminator, Giovanni Varnucci (1416-1457), represented Cicero not in the conventional guise of a Renaissance scholar, but as a replica of a classical relief. Cicero’s image is conceived in the same antiquarian spirit in which the manuscript reconstructs his text.

Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 8442, fols. 2v-3

Suetonius, Vitae duodecim Caesarum
Italy, Milan, 1443

As the work of Suetonius (69-140), Hadrian’s secretary who boasted first-hand knowledge of the imperial court, the Lives of the Caesars would have had a special appeal to the manuscript’s original owner, Gian Matteo Bottigella of Pavia. Appointed superintendent of ecclesiastical benefices in the duchy of Milan in 1443 when this manuscript was made, he became secretary of Filippo Maria Visconti in 1444 and secret councillor of Gian Galeazzo Sforza in 1477. The Milanese scribe Milano Borro (active c.1430-c.1450) signed and dated the manuscript in 1443. It was illuminated by the Master of Ippolita Sforza (active c.1430-c.1470). Emperor Vespasian is shown here in full armour. The sword evokes his military triumphs, while the model of Rome refers to his ambitious building campaigns and renovation of the city, praised by Suetonius.

Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 162, fols. 164v-165

Donato Acciaiuoli, Life of Charlemagne
Italy, Florence, 1461

On the 2nd of January 1462 the Florentine ambassadors presented Louis XI of France (1461-1483) with this deluxe biography of his glorious ancestor. The author, Donato Acciaiuoli (1428-1478), belonged to the prominent family of Florentine bankers, civil and ecclesiastical officials that served the Medici for generations. He was the Medici’s ambassador to Louis XI in 1461. The manuscript was copied by Messer Piero di Benedetto Strozzi (1416-c.1492), the finest Florentine scribe of the time, and illuminated by Francesco di Antonio del Chierico (active c.1452-d.1484), the favourite illuminator of Lorenzo de’ Medici. Few diplomatic gifts could have evoked the Humanistic ideal of the learned monarch more successfully and provided the French king with a more flattering gift.

Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 180, fols. 1v-2

Case 7

Macrobius, Convivia Saturnalia
Italy, Rome, 1466

This manuscript preserves the most important work of the fifth-century Neoplatonic philosopher Macrobius. It formed a magnificent set together with a copy of In Somnium Scipionis, Macrobius’ commentary on Cicero’s Dream of Scipio, now in the Vatican Library. The colophon records that the Cambridge volume was completed in Rome in April 1466 by Antonio Tophio (active c.1460-c.1470), one of the most prominent scribes in the household of Pope Paul II. The opening page, unusually rich and highly individual, is the work of Niccolò Polani, a priest in the households of Pius II and Paul II documented as a miniaturist in the papal accounts between 1459 and 1471.

Cambridge University Library, MS Add 4095, fol. 1

Horace, Opera
Italy, Rome, 1485-1492

This elegant volume was copied by the distinguished Renaissance scribe, Bartolomeo Sanvito (1435-1511), whose cursive script inspired the type designed for the Aldine Press and known to this day as Italic. It was made for the Venetian intellectual and diplomat, Bernardo Bembo (1433-1519), one of Sanvito’s closest friends and earliest patrons. The opening page displays Bembo’s arms, motto ‘Virtue and honour’, and emblem, the winged Pegasus, as well as Sanvito’s celebrated epigraphic capitals. This volume is one of the few manuscripts that indisputably show Sanvito working as both scribe and illuminator.

King’s College, MS 34, fol. 1

Herodian, Historiae de imperio in Angelo Poliziano’s Latin translation
Italy, Rome, c.1490

This manuscript demonstrates the blend of Florentine humanistic scholarship and Veneto-Paduan classicism manifest in Rome during the 1490s. It contains the first Latin translation of Herodian’s History of the Roman Empire prepared for Pope Innocent VIII by Angelo Poliziano, the leading Florentine poet, philosopher and classical scholar. The refined Italic hand, the slim and tall format, and the gold-tooled binding modelled on the Paduan Mamluk style of the 1460s exemplify the work of Bartolomeo Sanvito’s Roman followers. The liquid gold faceted initials and the exquisite classicising borders mark the triumph of the Veneto-Paduan style in Rome.

Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 4114, fols. 3v-4

Eusebius of Caesarea, Chronica in Jerome’s Latin translation
Italy, Rome, 1460-1464

Composed in the early fourth century by Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, this comparative chronology of biblical history and contemporary secular events was translated into Latin by St Jerome. Like other patristic texts, it was particularly popular with Renaissance ecclesiastical patrons. This copy was made for Enea Silvio Piccolomini, the first Humanist to occupy St Peter’s throne as Pope Pius II. The white vine scroll inhabited by birds, hares, and putti with wig-style hair, coral beads, and long trumpets are the work of Gioacchino di Giovanni de Gigantibus from Reesen near Rotenburg. He was first documented in 1460 in Siena, hometown of the Piccolomini.

Cambridge University Library, MS Mm.3.1, fol. 1

Bonaventure, Super IV Sententiarum
Italy, Florence and Naples, 1484

This copy of Bonaventure’s commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences was made for Cardinal Giovanni of Aragon, son of King Ferrante I of Naples and a celebrated Renaissance bibliophile. Illuminated by the leading Neapolitan artist Matteo Felice, the manuscript was completed in 1484, but may have been commissioned as early as 1482 when Bonaventure was canonised. The halo signals his saintly status. Originally, Cardinal Giovanni’s red hat was depicted above the Aragonese arms, but was painted over with a crown upon his death when his manuscripts passed to the Royal Library in Naples.

Cambridge University Library, MS Gg.3.22, fol. 1

Case 8

Lactantius, Opera
Italy, Rome, 1460

On Saturday, 7 June 1460 Johannes Gobellini de Lins completed and signed this manuscript. He was a librarius in the household of Niccolò Forteguerri of Pistoia (1419-1473), a close associate and treasurer of Pope Pius II (1458-1464). Documented as papal scribe between 1461 and 1464, Johannes worked mainly for members of the Roman curia. He copied this manuscript for Niccolò Forteguerri in the same year when Pius II made him Cardinal. The illumination blends artistic traditions from both sides of the Alps. Johannes came from the area around Bonn and may have recommended a compatriot for the project. Pius II, who had been Frederick III’s imperial poet and diplomat between 1442 and 1455, attracted an international team of scholars, scribes, and artists to Rome.

Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 115, fol. 4v

Texts on Alexander the Great; Cicero, Tusculanae disputationes
Flanders, Bruges, 1471-1478

Few manuscripts reveal as much about their owners as this miscellany does about Raphael de Mercatellis (c.1437-1508), one of the many illegitimate children of Philip the Good of Burgundy (r. 1419-1467). His lucrative benefices and diplomatic missions allowed him to assemble the first great humanistic library in Flanders. This volume belongs to its formative period. Its composite structure, the texts copied from early printed editions, the Gothic script emulating the clarity of humanistic minuscule, and the elements surviving from the original binding are representative of the abbot’s tastes. But the illumination of the displayed page is unique among Mercatellis’ manuscripts. His monogram was added to an elaborate initial and border with flowers depicted as if scattered over the surface of the page, a new illusionistic style that first appeared in Flemish manuscripts in the mid-1470s.

Peterhouse, MS 269, fol. 22

Aristoxenus, On the Elements of Harmony, and other texts
Italy, Rome, c.1540

This miscellaneous manuscript opens with the three books on harmonics by the fourth-century Aristotelian philosopher Aristoxenus. They were copied by Giovanni Onorio de Maglie in Otranto. His career spanned the rule of five pontiffs, from the Farnese Pope Paul III to the Medici Pope Pius IV. Documented at the Vatican Library between 1535 and 1563, Onorio was paid for the copying, restoration, binding and illumination of manuscripts. This page preserves his artistic work. It also makes a clear statement about the manuscript’s patronage. The device (salamander), motto (Erit Christianorum lumen in igne at auro praestantior), royal arms of France, and dedication panel reveal that it was made for Francis I (1514-1547). An exemplary monarch of the High Renaissance, a discriminating bibliophile and patron of the arts, Francis I assembled at Fontainebleau a collection of Greek manuscripts rivalling that of the Vatican.

Cambridge University Library, MS Kk.5.26, fol. 1

Libanius and others, Declamationes
The Northern Netherlands, Louvain, 1503

This manuscript was written out by Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469-1536) at Louvain in 1503 and was probably illuminated in Brabant. It consists of three declamations, the first by the fourth-century rhetorician Libanius (AD 314-c.393). Erasmus set out his own translations of the three orations first, and followed them with the original Greek texts. He dedicated the work to Nicolas Ruistre, or Ruterius (c.1442-1509), Bishop of Arras, Chancellor of the University of Louvain, and a learned bibliophile. As an important figure at the Burgundian court, Ruterius had already commissioned from Erasmus a panegyric to welcome Philip the Handsome back from Spain in the autumn of 1503. This manuscript was another product of his patronage. Erasmus received ten gold pieces for it.

Trinity College, MS R.9.26, fols. 3v-4

THEME 3: The Painted Printed Book

Case 9

William Caxton, Moralised Ovid
England, c. 1483

William Caxton completed his translation of Ovid from a French prose version, rather than from the standard French Ovide moralisée, on 22nd April 1480. This copy is probably from Caxton’s printing shop at Westminster. Three of its illustrations have been attributed to the Caxton Master (active c.1470-c.1490). The image of Pyramus and Thisbe exhibited here is by a different artist. It first shows Pyramus and Thisbe divided by the famous wall in the city and then unfolds the tragic story of their love.

Magdalene College, Old Library, F.4.34, fol. 98v

Pliny the Elder, Natural History
Italy, Venice, 1476

Prized by Renaissance scholars as the most comprehensive anthology of ancient knowledge about the natural world, Pliny’s Natural History was first printed by Nicolas Jenson (c.1435-1480) in Latin in 1472. Jenson’s 1476 edition of Cristoforo Landino’s Italian translation was one of the most ambitious and best documented printing campaigns in fifteenth-century Italy. Sponsored by the Florentine banking firm of Filippo and Lorenzo Strozzi, Landino’s translation was to be printed in 1000 paper copies. In addition, Jenson printed some twenty copies on parchment to be illuminated by leading artists for the project’s sponsors, their associates, and distinguished bibliophiles. This is one of them, although the erased arms prevent an identification of the patron. The magnificent frontispiece showcases the work of the Master of the London Pliny (active c.1470-c.1490), one of the most inventive painters of classical imagery in Venice during the 1470s.

Cambridge University Library, Inc. I.B.3.2, fol. 22

Macrobius, Expositio in somnium Scipionis, Convivia Saturnalia
Italy, Venice, 1472

Printed by Nicholas Jenson (c.1435-1480), this sumptuous book, contains the works of the fifth-century neo-Platonist Macrobius who was particularly popular with Renaissance scholars. It was illuminated for Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494), the celebrated Florentine neo-Platonist. Since his arms are surmounted by a black clerical hat, the illumination must have been completed after 1473 when he was apostolic protonotary. Pico was barely ten and this must have been one of the first books in his future great library. The Macrobius is the earliest of three volumes illuminated for him by the Master of the Pico Pliny (active c.1469-c.1494). This prolific artist was responsible for some of the most innovative and diverse book illustration produced in Venice in the 1470s and 1480s.

Trinity College, VI.18.52, book II

Dio Chrysostomus, De regno
Italy, Venice, 1471

This volume, one of the first printed by Christoph Valdarfer, exemplifies the popularity of Classical texts among the early printers and their aristocratic patrons. At the request of Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455), Dio Chrysostomus’ Greek treatise on government was translated into Latin by Francesco Piccolomini (1439-1503). Piccolomini praised the Pope’s choice of this work as ‘the most appropriate and necessary for the rule of a good prince’ and dedicated his translation to Emperor Maximilian I (r.1493-1519). The original owner of the Cambridge volume remains unknown. It was illuminated by Benedetto Bordone (1450/1455-1530), one of the most versatile artists of the Veneto. The display page shows Dio Chrysostomus and Trajan conversing beneath an architectural frontispiece. Suspended on a parchment scroll, the treatise on government is framed and introduced by the Roman arch, a powerful symbol of imperial rule.

Cambridge University Library, SSS 15.5, fol. 1

THEME 4: Manuscripts and Documents for Cambridge University

Case 10

Aristotle, Phisica, De Anima, Metaphysica, and other texts
England, probably Oxford, c.1260

This is a book essential in a thirteenth-century university, for it contains the key works by Aristotle required for two parts of the philosophy course, natural philosophy and metaphysics. The page layout is designed to facilitate study. Aristotle’s text occupies a relatively small central area, allowing for the addition of marginal commentary and interlinear notes. This is one of the few university books with numerous historiated or ornamental initials at the beginning of texts. The initial to De Anima shows a dying man and his soul being taken up by an angel. The style points to a group of artists probably based in Oxford and specialising in university textbooks.

Cambridge University Library, MS Ee.2.31, fol. 164v

Aristotle, Praedicamenta; Boethius, Liber de divisione, and other texts
England, probably Oxford, c.1260

This manuscript contains the texts required for the study of logic within the arts course in thirteenth-century universities. Aristotle’s works were the core of the syllabus, but commentaries by other writers were also included. Boethius’s Liber de divisione begins with an initial of a man chopping wood, a subject probably inspired by the title. This is one of the only two historiated initials to survive in the manuscript. The figure style and ornament place it among volumes produced by a group of artists probably based in Oxford around 1250-1270.

Pembroke College, MS 193, fol. 39

Raymond of Peñafort, Summa de casibus and other texts
England, c.1250

This volume contains texts relevant to the pastoral work of parish priests and confessors. One the texts is the Summa by Master Richard of Leicester, rector of Wetheringsett in Suffolk, the first recorded chancellor of Cambridge University, an office he held c. 1222- c. 1232. The book is open at the beginning of Richard’s treatise and depicts the author seated and lecturing or presiding at a university degree ceremony. It is likely that the manuscript was produced in East Anglia.

Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 3471, fol. 125

Charter of Edward I confirming privileges of Cambridge University
England, London and Cambridge, issued 6 February 1292

The preparation, writing and sealing of a royal charter was the business of the royal chancery in London. But the addition of the illumination could be left to the grantee to supply later on. This document contains one of the earliest examples of illumination produced in Cambridge. The initial E depicts King Edward I (1272-1307) presenting the charter to a doctor of canon law in cappa clausa, a doctor of civil law in cappa manicata, and two kneeling doctors of theology in cappe clause.

Cambridge University Archives, Luard 7*

Royal writ under Great Seal conferring jurisdictions on the Chancellor
England, London and Cambridge, issued 19 September 1343

Issued under the Great Seal of England, this document illustrates the continuous work of Cambridge illuminators for the University and other organizations. On the right hand side King Edward III (1327-1377) is shown with an orb, a cross, and a scroll, together with a soldier in a basinet holding a mace. The King addresses the Chancellor of Cambridge, Thomas de Northwood (confirmed 1340), who kneels on the left in the company of a civilian. Above, a winged creature with hooves and an angel support two shields.

Cambridge University Archives, Luard 33a*

Case 11

The Old Proctor’s Book
England, Cambridge, c.1390

The Old Proctor’s Book contains University statutes and documents for the use of the proctors, the Chancellor’s executive officers. It includes two full-page tinted drawings, St Christopher with the Christ Child (shown here) and the Virgin and Child enthroned under a canopy with niches inhabited by members of the University and laity. These images are intended to underline the solemnity of oaths sworn by civic officials. St Christopher was sometimes invoked against lies and false witness. This is a unique example of Cambridge figural illumination at the end of the century and of the diverse influences upon contemporary English art: from Lombardy to Bohemia and from Paris to the lands of the Teutonic Order. The University of Cambridge, with its international academic contacts, was as likely a place as the court of Richard II for a manifestation of this eclecticism.

Cambridge University Archives, Collect. Admin. 3, fol. 6

Robert Hare, Registrum novum monumentorum universitatis Cantebrigie
England, probably London, 1587-1589

Robert Hare, a former fellow commoner of Gonville Hall, was entrusted by John Copcot, Vice-Chancellor of Cambride University, with preparing a collection of charters and privileges in favour of the University. Hare presented the resulting two-volume work to the University in 1590. The first volume is displayed, open at an illustration which depicts the mayor of Cambridge taking an oath before the Chancellor to preserve peace between the town and the University.

Cambridge University Archives, Hare A, vol. I, fol. 152

Letter addressed to King Henry VI
England, probably Cambridge, May 1448

Probably one of a pair, commissioned by Pembroke College from the continental artist known as the Caesar Master, of which the other was presented to King Henry VI (1422-1471). In return for benefactions, Pembroke promised masses for the King, his consort and ancestors, in perpetuity. The seal, now fragmentary, shows Christ displaying his wounds, seated on the roof of a building, probably the College chapel, supported by the outstretched hands of the Foundress, Marie de St Pol and her husband Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke.

Pembroke College Archives College Box A 19.

Charter upon Act of Parliament of Elizabeth I
England, London, probably Westminster, 1559

Issued at Westminster on 13 May 1559, this document confirmed the earlier charters of Trinity Hall. In the reign of Edward VI Trinity Hall had nearly been amalgamated with Clare to form a new college for the study of civil law. To avoid a similar risk at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, when royal commissioners were visiting the University and depriving Catholic masters and fellows, Henry Harvey, the conservative conformist who was Master of Trinity Hall from 1558 to 1585, obtained parliamentary approval of Bishop Bateman’s foundation of 1350. Illuminated royal charters usually have an enthroned image of the sovereign in the initial, a reprise of the subject-matter on the obverse of the Great Seal. This charter is the earliest of three Elizabethan documents in Cambridge with portraits of the queen. It preserves her First Great Seal engraved by Dericke Anthony.

Trinity Hall Muniments 79