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Across the curator's desk: A manuscript on vellum

A manuscript of vellum What is this item?

This item is a Benedictionale, a religious text, in latin from the first half of the sixteenth century.

Why is it important?

It is an example of a manuscript from the 16th century in almost original condition.

Although printing had become the standard method of reproduction by the sixteenth century you can still find examples of handwritten and finely decorated texts, particularly for religious ceremonies. 

The text is handwritten on vellum in black ink with some simple but beautiful illuminated initials. Vellum is a fine parchment prepared from animal skin, usually calfskin. You can see the fine lines on the page where the lines have been ruled in brown ink to guide the letters. It was probably produced by a copyist following the text from another manuscript.
It has been rebound in blue morocco in the early 19th century by Charles Lewis, an English bookbinder. The binding is gilt tooled on front and back with a shield and motto "Carpe diem" on the front cover. Sir William Dixson’s bookplate is pasted onto the endpaper.

Why is it on my desk?

It is on my desk as I wanted to look at the binding. We are considering the purchase of a rare book which is bound by Charles Lewis. Charles Lewis (1786–1836) was a prominent English bookbinder. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Biography Lewis became unquestionably London's leading binder, patronized by all the great collectors of the day. Thomas Grenville, the duke of Devonshire, Sir Mark Masterman Sykes, Lord Grenville, and Mr Hibbert became his clients in addition to Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Lord Spencer, and Richard Heber, for whom he had been binding already. He built up a flourishing business and in 1823 employed twenty-one journeymen. 

How did it get here?

This manuscript came to the Library in 1952 as part of the Sir William Dixson bequest. We are not sure when Dixson purchased the volume but there is a pencil note in the front cover with the price £6-6-0.

Maggie Patton, Manager, Research and Discovery

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Pages of a manuscript on vellum,
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