Archive for June, 2015

In this post we take a look at the Trinity Hall manuscripts which were described in the second part of Professor Nigel Morgan’s talk to the Supporters of the Old Library on 18 April. These two manuscripts are linked, not through place of production or former ownership, but through their subject: Lollardy. In 1395 a group of Lollards petitioned Parliament by posting the “Twelve conclusions of the Lollards” on the door of Westminster Hall.

MS17, Trinity Hall Cambridge

MS 17, Trinity Hall Cambridge. King Richard II can be seen in the historiated inital “O”

MS 17 Roger Dymmok Against the twelve heresies of the Lollards

This manuscript dates from 1394/95 and is by the Dominican friar, Roger Dymmok. It was a presentation copy to King Richard II and is the most lavish copy in existence of this treatise. The Lollards were unorthodox and had heretical views regarding the priesthood and sacraments. They were proto-Protestants and were persecuted primarily for these views, rather than for translating the Bible into English (although their translation was regarded as very suspect because of their theological errors). Many among the higher echelons of English society supported the views of the Lollards, including John of Gaunt, but the king was expected to be the upholder of orthodoxy.

Detail of MS 17 showing the illuminated foliate border

Detail of MS 17 showing the illuminated foliate border

The manuscript has very distinctive foliate decoration in the borders of the pages which links it to other manuscripts, probably all made in London. It is an irony that the illuminator of this manuscript is very close in style to the illuminator of the luxury Wycliffite Bible belonging to Thomas of Woodstock, the uncle of King Richard II.

MS 3 Trinity Hall Cambridge. Thomas netter kneeling at the feet of the Virgin and child

MS 3 Trinity Hall Cambridge. Illumination of Thomas Netter in adoration of the Virgin and child

MS 3 Thomas Netter Doctrinale ecclesie contra blasfemias Wiclef

The Carmelite friar, Thomas Netter, wrote the Doctrinale in the 1420s and presented it to Pope Martin V. The friars were the main opponents of Lollardy and Netter’s Doctrinale contained a major section against the heresies of Wycliffe. The Trinity Hall manuscript was produced in Flanders and records that it was finished in Ghent in the year 1500. It has one illumination of the Virgin holding the infant Jesus, with Netter kneeling at Mary’s feet.

Detail of MS3 showing the Marian

Detail of MS 3 showing the Marian “M” initial

The lovely border is flower strewn, with the Marian “M” at the foot of the page. This is an important manuscript because there are not many copies of this treatise in existence.

Techniques of Manuscript Illumination

During the talk we learnt the difference between illuminated (using luminous colours with gold or silver) and decorated initials (less intense colours with gold or silver absent);

Inhabited initial, detail from MS 4

Inhabited decorated initial, detail from MS 4

between historiated (containing human figures) and inhabited initials (containing human figures and/or animals in foliate coils;

Zoomorphic initial, detail from MS 2

Zoomorphic illuminated initial, detail from MS 2

and between anthropomorphic (the human figure forms part of the stem of the initial), zoomorphic (animals form part of the stem of the initial), and arabesque initials (fine, linear foliate designs in curvilinear patterns).

Arabesque initial, detail from MS 4

Arabesque decorated initial, detail from MS 4

We also heard about the preparation of pigment by suspension in glair (beaten egg white) and gum Arabic; about the division of labour between the scribe, the person doing the under-drawing, the illuminator and gilder; and about the importance of digitisation as an additional aid to the scholar. Professor Morgan added the caveat that, wherever possible, digitised images should be used in conjunction with (rather than instead of) the examination of the physical copy of the book.

The talk was an intellectual and visual treat and was delivered to a very appreciative audience of over 50 people. It was followed by a visit to the Old Library to see an exhibition of our medieval manuscripts, some of which are rarely displayed.

Exhibition of Medieval Manuscripts in the Chetwode Room

Exhibition of Medieval Manuscripts in the Chetwode Room


Dominicans http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominican_Order

Lollards http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lollardy

Wycliffite Bible http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wycliffe%27s_Bible

Pope Martin V http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Martin_V

Thomas Netter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Netter

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