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One of our precious manuscripts has been featured in two recent publications. The first is a book in the Penguin Monarchs series: “Richard II: a brittle glory” by Laura Ashe. The second is an online exhibition “Pipeline from Heaven: 800 years of Dominican books” hosted by Cambridge University Library.

Richard II Camb Illum close up

King Richard II enthroned wiht the symbols of kingship (Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.17)

The manuscript in question is Roger Dymmok’s refutation of the twelve heresies of the Lollards (Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.17). According to Professor Nigel Morgan in his recent talk to the Supporters of the Old Library it is “the most lavish copy in existence of this treatise” and is linked stylistically to other manuscripts most likely produced in London. The manuscript is illuminated in glowing colours and gold leaf, further embellished with incised patterns.

As a presentation copy to King Richard II, the manuscript is resplendent with the symbols of kingship. The first folio bears an image of King Richard II who is enthroned, robed in blue and ermine, wearing his crown and holding the royal sceptre. At the foot of the page are two white hart, Richard’s badge (which also features prominently on the Wilton diptych). In the border on the right of the folio are Richard’s arms of the lion of England crossed with the fleur de lys of France. To reinforce the message, these arms are also painted on the fore edge of the manuscript.

TRH_17_top edgeB

Arms of France and England on the fore edge of Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.17

It is obvious that only the best would do for Richard II! The young king’s formative experience was his dazzling coronation at the age of 10 in 1377. It took place with spectacular pageantry – the fountains flowing with wine and gold coins cast at the king’s feet – and set the tone for his reign. According to Ashe “Richard invested in majesty, in the display of wealth and intricate ceremony”. Indeed the king’s conspicuous expenditure and the financial (and political) problems it brought are elucidated in Laura Ashe’s work.

As king, Richard was guided by two main principles: his unshakable belief in the divinity of kingship and his demand for the complete obedience of every subject to his will. His choice of badge is telling: the white hart is depicted as seated on a bed of rosemary, collared with a gold crown and a long chain. Laura Ashe tells us that the hart is a symbol of Christ in suffering. Richard thus identifies his royal duties with both divinity and suffering, bearing majesty as “a noble burden, the deer’s white coat a sign of purity, the rosemary for remembrance of sorrow”.

White Hart

The white hart badge of King Richard II (Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.17)

The text of the manuscript is by the Dominican, Roger Dymmok, and contests the views of John Wycliffe which had become popular in all echelons of society. Amongst other views, Wycliffe criticised the Church for its wealth and property, saying that it was contrary to Christ’s teaching of poverty. His heretical views were condemned by the Pope. Richard II had no sympathy with the Lollards (as the followers of Wycliffe were called) and in 1395 he demanded that his Lollard knights abjure the heresy on pain of death.

Pipeline

John the Baptist preaching (detail) in the online exhibition “Pipeline from heaven”

Among the images featured in the online exhibition “A pipeline from heaven” is one from MS.17 folio 8r showing John Baptist holding a lamb and preaching to four people. John the Baptist had special significance for Richard II and can also be seen in the Wilton diptych as one of the king’s patrons. The exhibition, curated by Professor Nigel Morgan and Father Richard Finn, is based on books and manuscripts held by Cambridge University Library, the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the Cambridge colleges.

Afterword

The forthcoming monograph on “Charles II” in the Penguin Monarchs series is by Clare Jackson, Senior Tutor, Trinity Hall.

References

Richard II: a brittle glory” by Laura Ash. (Penguin Monarchs series. London: Allen Lane, 2016. ISBN 978014197989)

“A pipeline from heaven: 800 years of Dominican books” online exhibition https://exhibitions.lib.cam.ac.uk/dominicans/

Wilton Diptych can be seen at the National Gallery London

Cambridge University Library

 

 

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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

References

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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