The Medieval Review 10.08.02

Sandler, Lucy Freeman. Studies in Manuscript Illumination, 1200-1400. London: The Pindar Press, 2008. Pp. 620. 150.00 GBP ISBN 978-1-904597-39-1. .

Reviewed by:

Judith Oliver
Colgate University
joliver@colgate.edu

Twenty-eight of Lucy Sandler's numerous articles on fourteenth-century English manuscript illumination published between 1959 and 2006 are collected in the present volume, along with several from slightly farther afield. They address four areas central to her research: "Marginalia and Word Imagery," "Devotional, Visionary and Self- Images," "Illustrated Encyclopedias and Scholarly Texts," and "Studies of Individual Manuscripts, Artists and Themes." The first seven essays look at marginal illustration in English psalters from its thirteenth- century origins through its fourteenth-century heyday. Four essays consider the imaging of patrons, while seven address didactic imagery, primarily that found in the 1360-1375 encyclopedia Omne Bonum by James le Palmer. The last ten essays focus on the study of individual manuscripts, particular those by the East Anglian school, with a brief foray into the fifteenth century. Together and separately, these articles provide eloquent and incisive analysis of styles, iconography, and the physical composition of the manuscript page, as well as broad ranging and in-depth inquiry into whatever related fields understanding of a manuscript might require, including heraldry, biblical exegesis, and even astronomical computation.

The first section begins with "I. A Series of Marginal Illustrations in the Rutland Psalter." Sandler argues for the significance of the internal formal structure of marginal figures on a number of consecutive pages, which seem intended as mockery of the noble sport of falconry depicted in May in the calendar. "II. Reflections on the Construction of Hybrids in English Gothic Marginal Illustration" tackles the "non-descripts" of the Luttrell Psalter, and for the first time establishes "principles of order and construction" underlying their invention. "III. A Bawdy Betrothal in the Ormesby Psalter" unearths the sexual double-entendre of the man's sword and the huge ring he offers his fiance, as well as the bawdy meaning of the squirrel she is holding. Sandler's interest in marriage imagery first explored here is revisited later in the volume in her studies of the Omne Bonum and Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait. "IV. The Word in the Text and the Image in the Margin: The Case of the Luttrell Psalter," adds further formal exegesis on the grotesque "non- descripts." Rather than being "meaningless" and "decorative," Sandler argues, marginalia is often direct illustration of adjacent words, phrases, or even single syllables, or was inspired by words collected from various places on a page. She concludes that the function of this visual word play enhanced both the experience of reading and provided visual enjoyment of the richness of language in an era when silent reading was becoming the norm. "V. The Study of Marginal Imagery: Past, Present, and Future" should arguably be the first thing students interested in marginalia read, as it provides an overview of approaches to and past scholarship on the topic. "VI. Pictorial and Verbal Play in the Margins: The Case of British Library Stowe MS. 49" introduces an unusual text in which to find marginal imagery, a copy of Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend, in which the life of St. Cecilia is accompanied by seven marginal figures with English comments. One group of beggars, a man looking for work who has five boys to care for, provides insight into contemporary socioeconomic conditions. The largely ribald homoerotic and misogynistic imagery in the manuscript points to its use by an educated male audience who would have needed this preachers' guide. "VII. The Images of Words in English Gothic Psalters" returns to the imagines verborum explored in earlier articles, this time looking at the long tradition of literal illustration stemming first from the ninth-century Utrecht Psalter. After looking at ways in which words are translated into images, Sandler considers how such images are related to the text compositionally in their arrangement on a page, finds more freedom than tradition in how the psalm text is visualized over time, and finally suggests that word images had an impact on readers that added to the depth of meaning of individual words.

The short second section on "Devotional, Visionary and Self-Images" looks at patrons and worshippers confronting embodied images of the divine. "VIII. Face to Face with God: A Pictorial Image of the Beatific Vision" first introduces readers to the Omne Bonum encyclopedia. Three unique images of the Beatific Vision of God's face in this compendium were inspired by contemporary controversy over whether the dead beheld the Beatific Vision immediately after death or would only see it at the Last Judgment (the former view prevailing). "IX. The Image of the Book Owner in the Fourteenth Century: Three Cases of Self-Definition" looks at three non-devotional texts. The first, a compendium of canon law, was written by one Simon of Wederone of Trig, Canon of Ashridge, for the use of his fellow canons. The book depicts him kneeling to the Virgin and child as Jesus showers him with roses! A miscellany of devotional, philosophical and scientific texts is illustrated some eleven times with images of the owner, Roger of Waltham, Canon of Old St. Paul's. One image of the Beatific Vision links this manuscript with the Omne Bonum previously analyzed, and that encyclopedia is Sandler's third example here. The scribe and compiler James le Palmer had himself depicted kneeling to the risen Christ in the entry on the Name of Jesus. All three manuscripts thus show the owners in perpetual prayer and serve as their memorials. "X. The Wilton Diptych and Images of Devotion in Illuminated Manuscripts" puts this masterpiece of English painting into the historical context of fourteenth-fifteenth century images of worshippers confronting the deity. Here King Richard II does not look up at the Virgin and so the image is a vision. His open hands are placing the realm under her protection. "XI. The Chantry of Roger of Waltham in Old Saint Paul's" returns to consideration of Canon Roger of Waltham (d. 1341), owner of the Miscellany analyzed in her earlier article on "The Image of the Book Owner." A collection of documents allows reconstruction of the location, shape, decoration, and furnishing of Roger's chantry chapel and the saints and Marian and Christological feasts to which he was most devoted.

The subsequent part, "Illustrated Encyclopedias and Scholarly Texts," is largely devoted to the Omne Bonum and there is a fair degree of repetition even as each article explores a different aspect of this enormous two-volume work with 350 historiated initials and nearly two million words! "XII. Notes for the Illuminator: The Case of the Omne Bonum" addresses a group of illustrations inspired by vernacular marginal notes. Sandler shows that the artist was clearly literate and a sophisticated "interpretative reader" who responded to the instructions with some freedom, and at times even went back to the Latin text itself. "XIII. Omne Bonum: Compilatio and Ordinatio in an English Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Fourteenth Century" analyzes reading aids provided in this very first alphabetical encyclopedia: cross references, a prefatory list of topics covered for each letter, running headings and marginal enumeration of entries, rubrics and a very personal marginal commentary with visual sketches to underscore it. Sandler identifies several campaigns and changes in format, and the multiple artists tied to them, highlighting the scribe's practice of ruling and laying out pages individually. "XV. Illustrations of Canon Law in the Omne Bonum, an English Encyclopedia of the Fourteenth Century" explores the ways in which artists created pictures for the numerous entries on canon law when their sources were usually unillustrated. Imagery was derived from reading the first few lines of text, while sometimes the artist read more deeply or even inserted additional visual commentary on the text. "XVII. The Role of Illustrations in James le Palmer's Omne Bonum" surveys the book's artistic sources and ways in which the pictures are related to the text. That the book was illustrated at all also requires comment, its artistic quality being equated with the "riches of knowledge." "XVI. Index Making in the Fourteenth Century: Archbishop Arundel's Copy of the Gospel Commentary of William of Nottingham" turns to a second manuscript produced by James le Palmer, a uniquely illustrated copy of this commentary, which like the Omne Bonum has added rubrics, headings, and marginal commentary embellished with drawings. This visual highlighting in the margins inspired the book's later owner, Thomas of Arundel (d. 1414), to commission an index based on James' notes. The "Encyclopedia" article (Essay XIV) gives a very useful overview of illustrated medieval encyclopedias, summarizing the organization, text sources, and illustrative cycles in major exemplars. It concludes with an extensive bibliography, to which one can now add Brigitte Roux, Mondes en miniatures. L'Iconographie du Livre du Tresor de Brunetto Latini (Geneva: Droz, 2009). "XVIII. John of Metz, The Tower of Wisdom" turns to a didactic diagram independent of a text, which creates its own verbal guide from inscriptions for its 131 parts. Sandler translates these captions to clarify the structure of this complex diagram, which was designed for slow repeated analysis. A very helpful bibliography on such medieval diagrams is appended, but allusions to works in a "general bibliography" are not spelled out. One needs clarification: Michael Evans, "Illustrated Fragments" refers to "An Illustrated Fragment of Peraldus' Summa of Vice," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 45 (1982): 14-68.

The fourth and final part of this collection is devoted to "Studies of Individual Manuscripts, Artists, and Themes." "XIX. The Historical Miniatures of the Fourteenth-Century Ramsey Psalter" addresses a unique series of miniatures on the history of this abbey and the lives of its patron saints of the sort otherwise seen in chronicles or saints' vitae. "XX. Peterborough Abbey and the Peterborough Psalter in Brussels" investigates the apparent link between the lost painted choir stalls of 1233-45 and the typological miniatures of the psalter, and concludes that they used a common treatise. "XXI. A Follower of Jean Pucelle in England" considers the work of the "Majesty Master" in the Psalter of Robert DeLisle of c. 1330-39 in relation to Pucelle's works and those of his followers. "XXII. Christian Hebraism and the Ramsey Abbey Psalter" looks at the highly idiosyncratic psalm division initials of this psalter in relation to traditional iconographic themes. These novel images relate the psalms to Jewish history, reflecting direct Hebraic influence, probably stemming from Prior Gregory of Huntingdon's purchase of Hebrew books at the time of the expulsion of the Jews in 1290. "XXIII. An Early Fourteenth-Century English Breviary at Longleat" describes a textually complex manuscript unusually richly illustrated for its era. Its imagery (historiated initials or full or small marginal miniatures) is perplexingly varied in format, suggesting the artists were experimenting with how to illustrate this type of book. "XXIV. An Early Fourteenth-Century English Psalter in the Escorial" was made for use in a secular chapel served by Austin Hermits. It contains the earliest known illustrations for the short office of the cross, and a unique Latin and French devotion to the Joys of the Virgin. "XXV. A Fragment of the Chertsey Breviary in San Francisco" is a short note linking this cutting with other pieces all in the Bodleian Library. "XXVI. Jean Pucelle and the Lost Miniatures of the Belleville Breviary" sets out to solve the puzzle of a text in the breviary describing several miniatures no longer in the manuscript. Looking at closely related books where parts of the breviary's iconographic cycle were copied unearths no evidence that the lost miniatures ever existed. Turning to the text, Sandler then sets out to decode its descriptions by looking at any and all iconographically related images that might have provided models. "XXVII. The Handclasp in the Arnolfini Wedding. A Manuscript Precedent" focuses on the left-right handclasp that signified clandestine marriage in canon law, as seen in an illustration in the Omne Bonum. "XXVIII. Bedford in Brooklyn" introduces a little known Parisian book of hours of c. 1400 in the style of the Bedford Master.

The book is beautifully produced with high-quality reproductions and a helpful index. While the articles have not been revised, nor the bibliography updated, since their initial publication, Pindar Press has reset the text and pictures in a uniform format. However, several photographs and captions are mismatched and so do not agree with figure references in the text. In Essay XXI, figures 1 and 3 are reversed on p. 565. In Essay XXIV, the captions for figures 19 and 20 are reversed on p. 670. A list at the end of the book gives the place of original publication for each article reprinted, two of which are in error. Essay XIX was published in Burlington Magazine 111 (not 103) in 1969; and XXII was published in the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 35 (not 34) in 1972.

Rich as this present collection of essays may be, it represents only a fraction of Sandler's scholarly output. Her recent studies on the Bohun Psalters are slated for separate publication. A complete listing of her many books, book reviews and 41 articles (as of 2007) can be found in Tributes to Lucy Freeman Sandler. Studies in Illuminated Manuscripts, Kathryn Smith and Carol Krinsky, eds. (London: Harvey Millar Publishers, 2007), pp. 15-19. One can now add: "The Weingarten Lectionarium matutinale in St. Petersburg and New York," in Romanesque Art and Thought in the Twelfth Century. Essays in honor of Walter Cahn (Princeton, 2008) to this list. One hopes for many more articles yet to come.