September 2014 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Exceptional Manuscripts on Exhibit

Art and Ownership: An Exhibit of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts opens today at Sam Fogg's London gallery. Fogg, one of the world's leading dealers in medieval art, chronicles the development of readership and book ownership in the Middle Ages and beyond. Until the 12th century, manuscripts were primarily owned by monks and royals, but the dawn of the 13th century brought increased literacy, making book ownership more widespread. Commoners and laymen had greater opportunities to buy a personal prayerbook, or book of hours.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 8.29.20 PM.pngFogg showcases examples from the 12th-16th centuries, a number of them with fantastic provenance, e.g., this 13th-century illuminated Bible looted from the library of King Charles IV of Spain by Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte, and then seized from him by the Duke of Wellington (above). Another highlight is a c. 1495 manuscript compendium of astrological texts, still in its original binding, produced under the supervision of its author, Lewis of Caerleon, who wrote part of it while imprisoned in the Tower of London in the 1480s.

The exhibit is on view through October 24 at 15D Clifford St., London.

Image: The Bonaparte - Duke of Wellington Bible France, Paris and Lyon, c. 1250 and c. 1300. Courtesy of Sam Fogg.