Richard Pfaff

title.none: Budny, Corpus Christi Manuscript Art Catalogue (Pfaff)

identifier.other: baj9928.9902.005 99.02.05

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Richard Pfaff, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1999

identifier.citation: Budny, Mildred. Insular, Anglo-Saxon and Early Anglo-Norman Manuscript Art at Corpus Christi College: An Illustrated Catalogue. Kalamazoo: W estern Michigan University, in association with The Research Group on Manuscript Evidence, Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, 1997. Pp. civ, 868. $300.00. ISBN: 1-879-28887-7 and 1-879288-86-9.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 99.02.05

Budny, Mildred. Insular, Anglo-Saxon and Early Anglo-Norman Manuscript Art at Corpus Christi College: An Illustrated Catalogue. Kalamazoo: W estern Michigan University, in association with The Research Group on Manuscript Evidence, Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, 1997. Pp. civ, 868. $300.00. ISBN: 1-879-28887-7 and 1-879288-86-9.

Reviewed by:

Richard Pfaff
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Th is is in its way a magnificent undertaking, in scope and presentation alike. But it is by no means easy to ascertain precisely what that way is, and the user who tries to dip into the work for quick reference may easily come away frustrated. Much has to be understood (and a certain amount, perhaps, forgiven) before it can be used with maximum profit, even by the moderately experienced.

The first thing that has to be made patent is the tension between the title as on the title page (and as given above) and the alternative title before the first entry proper (p. cv): "Catalogue of Manuscripts at Corpus Christi College with Insular, Anglo-Saxon, and Early Anglo-Norman Illustrations, Decoration, and Artists' Sketches." The implications of the two are not identical, that of the first being a study of art as illustrated by certain manuscripts, of the second a catalogue of manuscripts containing a certain sort of art. The way the work is structured makes plain that the second should fairly be seen as the primary mode: after an extensive introduction, the fifty-six manuscripts under consideration are described one by one, with no attempt at the kind of synoptic treatment by themes or genres of, say, Richard Gameson's The Role of Art in the Late Anglo-Saxon Church (1995). So it is primarily as a catalogue that Budny's work deserves to be assessed.

As such, it becomes one of a number of reference works available to students of the manuscripts connected with Britain (mostly England) before A.D. 1100 and now in Cambridge. These include N.R. Ker's Catalogue of MSS containing Anglo-Saxon (1957), the first three volumes of the Survey of MSS Illuminated in the British Isles (J.J.G. Alexander 1978, E. Temple 1976, and C.M. Kauffmann 1975), and P.R. Robinson's Catalogue of Dated and Datable MSS c. 737-1600 in Cambridge Libraries (1988). Each of these resources deals with manuscripts insofar as they possess, respectively, some Old English, some significant illustration, or some capacity to be dated with reasonable accuracy. But as Budny's work is drawn entirely from one collection, that in the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, it must also be viewed in the context of the still standard if quirky catalogue of the (medieval) manuscripts at that foundation, that of M.R. James (1909-12)--a work that deals, if sometimes cursorily,with all 538 MSS possessed by the college at that time. Finally, Budny's catalogue should be seen in the light of other catalogues of medieval manuscripts of the last ten years or so, notably those of R. M. Thomson (Lincoln cathedral, 1989; Hereford cathedral, with R.A. B. Mynors, 1993), Alan Piper, in completing volume IV of Ker's Medieval MSS in British Libraries (1992), C.W. Dutschke on the Huntington Library collection (1989), and Paul Saenger on that at the Newberry (also 1989).

From the entire collection at Corpus--which, as is well-known, is for pre-1100 books of English connection rivalled only by those at the Bodleian and the British Library--Budny has selected for study fifty-six that fall within her set parameters as to date, place of origin or ownership, and the salient characteristic of illustration. In the making of such a selection there will of course be grey areas; indeed, it is only by a piece of parameter-stretching that the enterprise can begin, as it clearly should, with the St Augustine (of Canterbury) Gospels, MS 286, very likely brought from Italy to Kent by that eponymous missionary in 597. But the argument by which the late ninth-century Achadeus Psalter (MS 272) is excluded seems weak, as does the rationale for leaving out three prime early Anglo-Norman books, MSS 130, 187, and 415, the latter being the celebrated "York Tracts" of the so-called Norman Anonymous; while the decision to include two MSS (193 and 192) "although their decoration may have been made only on the Continent or after c. 1100"(p. xxxvii) seems to smack of arbitrariness. That the greatest of the Anglo-Norman books at Corpus, the Bury and Dover Bibles (MSS 2 and 3-4 respectively), are clearly excluded by their dates is fair enough; but it is rather a pity that the c. 1100 terminus was not stated on the title-page.

For each of the MSS thus selected Budny's aim is to provide a general description and then an account of every illustration (defined in a particular way), even to as many as 160 in a single codex (MS 199). The books are dealt with in roughly chronological order: an order of which the impact is intensified, whether wittingly or not, by the seriously wrong-headed decision to give consecutive numbers to the fifty-six and nearly always to refer to them in that way (in bold type) alone. This is a major inconvenience; the frequent user may well feel it necessary to construct a little bookmark-table in order to avoid losing hair in trying to remember that MS 12 is (Budny) 13, MS 44 is B46, 173.ii is B4, and so on. The established and familiar one- to three-digit shelfmark numbers, which are the same as those in the James catalogue, would have worked quite easily. The "dated and datable" implication of the consecutive numbers makes sense in the volumes of the international series where that aspect is clearly the rationale; here is it merely a distraction.

The format of the entries is explained in immense detail--indeed, more detail than in any catalogue I can think of--in the introduction, and the user can have little excuse for not understanding how they work. This is particularly true of the description of the illustration, the explanation of which takes some ten pages. The overall goal is summed up in the phrase "integrated and detailed approach to the manuscripts" (p. ciii), an approach which "aims to convey a sense of the character, structure, layout, and appearance of the books and to aid exploration of their many varied aspects" (p. lxxii). This being the case, it is astonishing that the descriptions do not include, as of set purpose, details of collation, arrangement of hair and flesh sides, or pricking and ruling (the disclaimer on p. lxxxii is unconvincing), nor of secundo folio references, by now understood as a standard component in the description of manuscripts. In such respects, then, Budny's work does not entirely supplant the James catalogue descriptions for the relevant MSS, nor is it fully comparable to some of the best of recent catalogues.

And the second volume, devoted entirely to the illustrations, deserves high praise indeed. Here, with no letterpress beyond the merest caption, each of Budny's fifty-six MSS is illustrated with between one and seventy-nine full-page plates, supplemented for a dozen MSS by one or more color plates. The champion is the Corpus Prudentius, MS 23.i (B24), which gets five of the sixteen color as well as seventy-four black and white plates; the runner-up being the Old English Bede, MS 41 (B32), with forty-nine. Budny has taken all the photographs expressly for these volumes, and is, as near as I can tell, a magnificent photographer. The benefit, as she explains on p. ci, of having all the photographs share "the same approach, site, cameras, angle, lighting, and type of film" is amply evident in the plates themselves. Never can the holes in a piece of beautifully written parchment have been better photographed than in pl. 547 (p. 189 of MS 163, which demonstrates the contrast between the elegance of presentation and the inferiority of the parchment at whatever nunnery was its place of origin). The color plates are if anything even more impressive, combining absolute clarity of detail with a welcome absence of distracting glossiness.

Understandably, given its magnitude, this enterprise has been a long time in gestation. D.M. Wilson's Foreword is dated November 1991 and R.I. Page's Introduction April 1994, while Budny's main Preface carries a September 1994 date, with an addendum of nearly three years later. This is worth noting because it underlines that the scholarship utilized is for the most part not later than the beginning of the present decade, even though several later references appear in the list of Works Cited. Furthermore, the use exclusively of author-date references in the Further Bibliography section of each description is often cumbersome and inefficient, especially in that no distinction is made between editions and secondary literature; for example, "Migne (1851)" is not a helpful way to refer to the edition of Smaragdus's "Diadema monachorum" in PL 102. Still, the ambitiousness and complexity of the work can scarcely be overemphasized, and must excuse a good deal. One suspects that in our time other MSS, whether of the same period in other libraries or of later dates at Corpus, are unlikely to receive comparably extensive and, certainly as regards illustration, comparably detailed treatment.