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