Medieval English Manuscripts on View

A research visit to the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale last week afforded me the opportunity to see its current, magnificent exhibition, Making the Medieval English Manuscript: The Takamiya Collection. Drawn from the Beinecke’s collection of manuscripts, as well as from the collection of Japanese collector Toshiyuki Takamiya, on deposit at the university since 2013. “With a rare combination of scholarly and antiquarian expertise, Professor Emeritus Takamiya of Keio University in Tokyo assembled an unrivaled collection of medieval manuscripts over four decades,” said curator Raymond Clemens in a press release earlier this year.

IMG_0107.JPGTakamiya’s Chaucer manuscripts have starring roles in this exhibition, including the beautiful deluxe Devonshire Chaucer and the “unprepossessing” Sion College copy of the Canterbury Tales, written as early as 1460 and relatively unadorned. But my personal favorite from the Takamiya collection was the fifteenth-century English prayer roll. According to the exhibition notes, the long, narrow scroll was intended as a “birth girdle,” to be worn by a woman during childbirth. Containing illustrations of the Passion and a series of prayer texts, it was meant to provide “heavenly aid” when worn prayer-side in. Illuminated manuscript as physic; who knew? Another favorite was the Beinecke’s Latin-English illustrated vocabulary manuscript, made in England between 1400-1500 (pictured above).  

The exhibition remains on view through December 10.

Image credit: Rebecca Rego Barry

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