Manuscripts and Documents for Cambridge University
At the University Library
|Tree of consanguinity (relationship by blood); from a gloss
on Book IV of the decretals of Pope Gregory IX. North Eastern
France, late thirteenth century. CUL MS Add 4019, f. 1v.
The emergence of the universities in the late twelfth century created
a growing demand for academic books which transformed Bologna, Paris,
Oxford, and Cambridge into important centres of manuscript production.
Few scholars and students needed lavishly decorated books for their
studies and even fewer could afford them. Those who could, would
have commissioned illustrated copies of legal and theological texts,
of Aristotle and the most popular medieval encyclopaedias. The Reformation
rendered most of these texts obsolete. The University books of medieval
Cambridge have left only faint traces.
Unlike textbooks, the foundation charters and official documents
of the University and its Colleges survive and provide vital evidence
for the practice of illumination in Cambridge. They also preserve
some of the earliest representations of academics whose status,
obligations, and privileges were endorsed by successive monarchs.
The rich and hieratic illustration of these documents reflects the
authority of University institutions and the pride of the individuals
associated with them.