The Oxford English Dictionary defines facsimile as: "an exact copy or likeness; an exact counterpart or representation1." The current "Collection in Focus" includes a selection of manuscript facsimiles, including books of hours, from the Ingalls Library Rare Book Collection. The original of each item featured is unique because each was produced before the use of movable type, the invention of the printing press circa 1439 by Johannes Gutenberg (c.1398-1468)2 and the subsequent mass production of printed books.
Although many manuscripts were simply functional and very plain, some were quite beautiful and lavish. Such books were created for sovereigns and popes and others with the wealth necessary to afford the luxury of commissioning a book made by hand. The production of manuscript facsimiles is often very expensive as publishers seek to reproduce the text, images and materials at the highest quality possible.
The Ingalls Library collects facsimiles to aid research and scholarship by enabling scholars to study and examine these volumes without having to travel to remote locations to view the original. While facsimiles can never replace the importance of viewing the original item, they are a convenient way to facilitate comparative study.
Hours of Isabel la Catolica is an illustrated manuscript held in the Biblioteca del Palacio in Madrid. The manuscript has 84 miniatures, and represents a move from the richly stylized forms of the Middle Ages to the naturalism of the Renaissance. It consists of the calendar for local and regional feasts, and many Gospel Sequences, Psalms, prayers, masses and passion readings. Thought to have been illustrated in Bruges in the atelier of Willem Vrelant, the book has Catalan script, hinting that Spanish scribes resided in Bruges.
Travels of Marco Polo/Das Buch der Wunder/Le Livre des Merveilles is a full color manuscript presented to Jean, duc de Berry (1340-1416) by John the Fearless (Jean sans Peur) in 1413. It is illuminated by the Boucicaut Master. The duc de Berry was an avid bibliophile who commissioned the most famous book of hours, the Tres Riches Heures. The original manuscript of Marco Polo is housed in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.
The Morgan Crusader Bible, created for Louis IX between 1244-1254, was designed to glorify the French monarch as the spiritual leader of the world. Originally designed without text, the manuscript is thought to have had multiple creative hands of the highest quality. These same artisans are thought responsible for Sainte-Chapelle's wall decoration and stained glass windows, dedicated in 1248. The Bible acquired text in Latin and Persian before passing into 19th century ownership, and surfaced in Egypt with Judeo-Persian inscriptions.
Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis/Book of Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary is thought to be a book of hours produced in a Paris workshop. Devoted to the liturgical hours of the day, it focuses on the infancy of Jesus and the life of the Virgin. Books of hours were frequently given as wedding gifts or to celebrate the birth of a child, especially the first born. The Officium Beatae…was purchased between 1840 and 1844 by Abbe Marincola, together with other books from the library of Pope Pius VII (1742-1823). In the absence of other documentation, little can be hypothesized about the original patron.
Das Vatikansiche Stundenbuch Jean Bourdichons is a 15th century book of hours owned by the Vatican Library, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, no. 3781. The artist, Jean Bourdichon (1457-1521) was the official painter to French Kings, including Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XII, and Francis I. Bourdichon's masterpiece, the Grandes Heurs of Anne of Brittany, is owned by the Bibliotheque National in Paris.
The Golden Gospels of Echternach was produced around 1030 at the Imperial Abbey at Echternach in Luxembourg, under the direction of Abbot Humbert. This great monument of Romanesque manuscript illumination, written in gold ink, comprises 136 folios that contain the Vulgate version of the Gospels and cannon tables. The sumptuous jeweled cover predates the manuscript by about 50 years, and is set with cloisonné enamel plaques, gems, pearls and a synthetic ivory cross. The cover was a gift of the dowager Empress Theophano and her son, Otto III, to the Imperial Abbey. The original manuscript is owned by the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, Germany.
All of our facsimiles may be viewed by library visitors upon request.
1. The Oxford English Dictionary…. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, v. IV, p. 11.
2. Füssel, Stephan. Gutenberg and the Impact of Printing , translated from the German by Douglas Martin. Aldershot, Hampshire; Burlington, VT: Ashgate Pub., 2004.