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- Studies from Court and Cloister - 60/61 -


gentleman, mentioned 4000 more original Letters in the possession of his correspondent, which may soon be brought over into England."

On the 2nd October he added:--

"I waited on Signor Zamboni yesterday, who is daily teased by his Dutch correspondent about the chest of MSS. lying here."

There was a further delay of nearly a fortnight, and then Wanley wrote to the rogue Zamboni to the effect that Lord Oxford had at last seen many of his manuscripts, which he was not unwilling to buy at a reasonable price, and that he would willingly forego the two volumes of letters, the Saxon Spieghel and Sultan Solyman's Prayerbook, "if held up too dear." He asked for the Greek MS. of Hesiod which he formerly saw among them, but which had since been withdrawn. Ultimately he sent back some of the books for which "this most greedy Signor" asked "the most horrible price." Wanley's hope that they might subsequently come to the library for less money was fulfilled as far as the letters were concerned; these are now to be found in volumes 4933 4934 4935 and 4936. Among them are a few other letters which were already in the Harleian library when the Dusseldorf manuscripts were purchased. Wanley had them all bound up together.

The manuscripts bought by Wanley from Zamboni number eighty-four, and comprise nearly all the important books mentioned in the Graevius catalogue. The Hesiod is the only valuable Greek MS. missing, and the principal Latin MS. of this collection, which did not pass into the Harleian library, is a Terence. It is also to be regretted that Wanley did not secure the prayers of Solyman and the celebrated Saxon Spieghel. Of the eighty-four other MSS., two have a special historical interest: the Cicero (2682) and the Quintilian (2664), both of which can be traced to the Cathedral library at Cologne.

Graevius borrowed the Cicero in 1663 from the authorities, but never returned it. The elector, Johann Wilhelm, bought it among other books which were sold at his death. It consists of a folio of 192 leaves of coarse vellum written in a German hand of the latter part of the eleventh century, and has been the subject of much learned criticism. It was collated by Mr. A. C. Clark, but until he identified it as one of the books that had formed part of the Graevius collection, very little attention had been paid to it. There is no trace of it before the sixteenth century, beyond the fact that its first collator was Modius of Cologne, who was allowed to use the Cathedral library, to which the Cicero then belonged. The acquisition of these manuscripts was the last important purchase made by Wanley; he died a few months later, aged fifty-three.

Besides the above-mentioned treasures from the Dusseldorf library the Harleian possesses, among other Greek classical manuscripts, some that are unique in character. Sir Edward Thompson, in his "Catalogue of Ancient Greek MSS. in the British Museum," calls attention to three in the Harleian collection which appear to him to be of superior merit. These are: (1) The Greek-Latin glossary of the seventh century. This manuscript is of singular interest both for language and palaeography, and consists of 277 leaves of vellum varying in thickness, some of it being very coarse. At the end, on a fly-leaf is some scribbling in what is described as "a Merovingian hand." (2) The Greek MS. of the ninth or tenth century, imperfect in the beginning, and in several other places, described by Wanley as the Codex Prusensis. The initial letters, some of which are ornamented, are generally red. (3) A volume numbered 5694 in the catalogue, and containing a part of Lucian's works, on 134 leaves of fine vellum of the tenth century. On the second fly-leaf are these words in an Italian fifteenth-century hand: "Libro de Jo. Chalceopylus, Constantinopolitanus," and at the bottom of the page, "Antonii Seripandi ex Henrici Casolle amici optimi munere." Wanley says that this MS. was supposed to have been carried from the old imperial library at Constantinople to the monastery of Bobi near Naples. He considered it "the finest old Greek classical MS. now in England." The library of Seripandus was preserved in the Augustinian monastery of St. John of Carbonara at Naples, but a part of it was sold to Jan de Witt, who took it to Holland, and this manuscript was among the number, and was included in the sale catalogue of De Witt's library in 1701. It was bought by Jan van der Mark of Utrecht, and on this account it is described in the Amsterdam edition of the work as the Codex Marcianus. Later on it came into the possession of John Bridges of Northamptonshire, who sold it to the second Lord Oxford.

The earliest Latin MS. in the Harleian library is a copy of the four Gospels of the sixth or seventh century--No. 1775. It was bought by the founder of the library from Jean Aymon, who stole it, together with eight other manuscripts, from the Bibliothique Royale in Paris, in 1707. It still bears on folio 2 its original press-mark. Another MS. in Lord Oxford's possession having been identified as one of these, was restored to its rightful owners in 1729. This relic of early Christian times consists of 35 leaves of the Epistles of St. Paul, the canonical Epistle, and the Apocalypse, written in gold letters on vellum. The adventure through which it found itself in the Harleian library together with the precious No. 1775, may be thus briefly related:

Jean Aymon was a renegade French priest who had retired to the Hague, married, and become a Lutheran pastor. He enjoyed a considerable reputation for learning and piety among the Dutch; but wearying of his monotonous, uneventful life, he resolved on returning to France under pretext of offering to Monsieur Clement, the king's sub-librarian, a certain book which he had discovered. He accordingly wrote to Clement asking him to procure him a passport, in order that he might present the book in question, and reveal some important matters to the king. Clement obtained the passport, and Aymon returned to France, where, in order to ingratiate himself with the librarian, he declared that he wished to be restored in religion. He was advised to retire for a time to the seminary of Foreign Missions, in order to study his position and to prepare for his rehabilitation as a priest. But he complained bitterly of the treatment which he received at the seminary, and paid frequent visits to Clement, who, with astounding simplicity, allowed him to remain for hours, often quite alone, in the Royal library. Here he employed himself in making selections from priceless manuscripts, sometimes cutting out pages from the middle of a volume where the theft would be less easily detected. When he had gathered in a considerable harvest, he cleverly obtained another passport, and escaped back to the Hague with his ill-gotten gains. He accounted for his absence by saying that he had been to seek documents, important for the defence of religion, and made no secret of having brought back rich trophies. It was thus through public rumour that Clement first became aware that the king's library had been robbed. But Aymon's method of pilfering had so far succeeded that it was some time before it could be ascertained what number of manuscripts he had carried off. By degrees, however, the list was completed and sent to Holland. The Abbe Bignon was the king's librarian at the time when it was discovered that one at least of the stolen treasures was in the Harleian library. As soon as Edward, Lord Oxford became aware of the fact, he hastened to restore it, and received in exchange a very polite acknowledgement of his courtesy from Cardinal Fleury on behalf of the king.*

* L. V. Delisle, Le Cabinet des Manuscrits de la Bibliotheque Imperiale.

In 1725 Wanley enumerated the Greek MSS. in the Harleian collection as 173. Among the illuminated ones, that which bears the number 1810 demands special attention. It is an Evangelia executed in Greece in the twelfth century, and written in black and red characters on the finest vellum. Some of the miniatures have suffered woefully, the paint having cracked in parts, but the faces are still full of beauty and life. One of the least damaged represents the death of the Blessed Virgin. The apostles surround the bed on which she lies extended; the aged St. Peter lifts up his hands in an attitude of grief; St. John is leaning over her left side; another bends forward and embraces her feet. In a lozenge-shaped medallion on a gold background our Lord holds her soul in His arms, in the form of a little child. A crowd of people form the background, and a figure at the head of the bed swings a censer. Three women contemplate the scene from a small window.

Another remarkable miniature, the last in the volume, is a good deal cracked, but still extremely interesting for the force and delicacy of touch which it displays. Our Lord appears to the apostles after His Resurrection. St. Thomas is in the act of placing his finger in the wounded side. The print of the nails is seen in the hands and feet. Sir Edward Thompson distinguishes this manuscript with his by no means frequent encomium, "very good."

The Greek Evangelium of the ninth or tenth century (5787), with its ornamental initials and borders, and St. Jerome's Latin version of the Psalter (2793), with a preface addressed to Sophronius, and written in a tenth-century hand, should not be passed over.

Another Psalter (2904), executed in England at the end of the tenth or beginning of the eleventh century, has a fine drawing of the Crucifixion, and grand initial letters. Westwood, in his Facsimiles and Miniatures, considers this drawing to be the finest of the kind, and the initial B (Beatus vir qui non abiit in consilio impiorum), the noblest with which he is acquainted. This manuscript has most of the characteristics of the later Anglo-Saxon school-the hunched-up shoulders to express grief, the attenuated lower limbs, and the manner in which prominence is given to the central figure by drawing the others much smaller. On a scroll which St. John holds are the words, "Hic est discipulis qui testimonii perhibet." The arrangement of Pilate's superscription--"Hic est Nazaren IHC rex judaeor"--is unusual but not without precedent.

The Harleian library contains no fewer than 300 MSS. of the Bible or parts of the Bible, written and illuminated between the seventh and the fourteenth centuries. Of the later copies we may note one of the whole Bible, written in the thirteenth century, and described in the "Catalogue of Ancient MSS. in the British Museum," as remarkable; and a Psalter, written before 1339, splendidly illuminated, and further interesting as having belonged to Philippa of Hainault, and as bearing the arms of England without those of France.

There is also a fine series of Talmudical and Rabbinical books; nearly 200 volumes of Fathers of the Church, as well as liturgical books of the different Latin and Greek rites.

The polite literature of the Middle Ages is admirably represented, among other examples by the famous Roman de la Rose, with its brilliant fourteenth-century miniatures, its wonderful figures gorgeously dressed, its broad borders richly decorated with fruit, birds, insects, and flowers, of which the rose is the most salient feature. One fascinating miniature shows--

Comment Narcissus se mira A la fontaine et souspira";

and after a long but delightful pilgrimage by flowery meads and limpid streams, amid curious mediaeval gardens

"La conclusion du rommant Est que vous voiez ez lemant Qui prent la rose a son plaisir En qui estait tout son desir."

This glimpse of the treasures of the Harleian library will at least


Studies from Court and Cloister - 60/61

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