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22.08.11 Kidd, The McCarthy Collection Volume III

22.08.11 Kidd, The McCarthy Collection Volume III

This large and beautifully illustrated volume is the third in a series presenting the important private collection of manuscript leaves and cuttings created by Robert McCarthy. Volume I by Gaudenz Freuler with contributions by Georgi Parpulov described the Italian and Byzantine miniatures in 2018; Volume II, also by Peter Kidd, the Spanish, English, Flemish, and Central European leaves in 2019. The third volume thus concludes with addenda and corrigenda for the first two volumes; and nine entirely new catalogue entries for Italian leaves are included.

The French miniatures volume is the largest of the three books and contains ninety-six entries on leaves and cuttings from manuscripts ranging in date from the late eleventh to the fifteenth century, with the vast majority being thirteenth and fourteenth century. Entries give codicological descriptions, identification of texts and iconography, a catalogue of all known “sister” leaves, and detailed provenance history, resulting in meticulous and lengthy reconstructions of many lost volumes, supplemented with copious bibliography. There are full-page color illustrations of almost every leaf, smaller color images of versos, and a generous number of “sister” leaves as well. The author worked under one handicap as the collection is located both in Europe and Hong Kong, and so he saw only digital reproductions of some leaves. So, as a result, dimensions may be approximations. Readers with differing research interests will be aided by multiple comprehensive indices of collections, iconographic themes, types of texts, artists and attributions, people, and provenances (as well as a concordance of current catalogue numbers with the larger McCarthy collection inventory).

The pre-1200 entries (cat. nos. 1-11) include single leaves from a Cluny sacramentary, a Jumièges (?) lectionary, a breviary, two institutional lectern Bibles (and one cutting from another one), a leaf from the life of St. Leodegar, two leaves from Gratian’s Decretum, and three from exegetical works: Hugh of Saint Victor’s De arca Noe morali, Peter Lombard’s Sentences, and Florus of Lyon’s Commentary on the Pauline Epistles followed by Didymus the Blind’s On the Holy Spirit (the latter leaf identified as belonging to Pontigny). Surprisingly, given their ready availability on the art market, fifteenth-century leaves are even rarer here than the harder-to-come-by Romanesque works. Numbering only seven in all (cat. nos. 90-96), including five leaves from books of hours, this section includes a leaf of Raoul de Presles’ Cité de Dieu, probably from the copy presented to Duke Jean de Berry, and a leaf from Jean de Vignay’s Epitres et evangiles, also in French.

Most of the thirteenth-century section consists of Bible leaves. They offer an in-depth look at the various forms this basic book adopted, from personal “pocket” Bibles popularized by the university of Paris to large lectern Bibles for institutional use, the latter continuing the tradition seen in the twelfth-century examples. Kidd defines “pocket” Bibles as those octavos measuring anywhere from 145 to 185 mm. in height (see cat. nos. 21 and 79), by which criteria we need to add cat. no. 23 to the list. The largest group of Bibles, however, are those of intermediate quarto size measuring in the 200 mm. range with two slightly smaller books 190s in height (cat. nos. 20 and 29). They are still portable, though clearly bulkier, and possibly easier to read. We might be best advised to call all these Bibles “portos.” While Bible production in the thirteenth century was centered on Paris, the collection also includes some from southern France (cat. nos. 38, 61, and 86, the latter two from the early fourteenth century), and from northern France or the southern Netherlands (cat. nos. 17, 22, 31, and 47-49).

Two sets of miniatures can also be assigned to the general category of biblical texts. Five miniatures from Henry of Carreto’s Libri visionis Ezechielis explore the complex visions of this biblical book in a stunningly illustrated fourteenth-century Avignonese copy of his commentary (cat. no. 72). Two cuttings from the Burckhardt-Wildt Apocalypse from Lorraine (cat. no. 52) belonged to a lavishly illustrated “picture” book that served as a popular genre of “literature” for its aristocratic owners.

Leaves from nine different psalters created for private devotional use are noteworthy for their striking foliate initials (cat. nos. 14, 33), unusual iconography (cat. nos. 50, 66), hybrid texts (cat. no. 76 is a psalter-hymnal), or complex illustrative cycles. Six full-page miniatures from a mid-thirteenth-century Parisian psalter give unusual extended focus to the Magi (cat. no. 25); five leaves from the mid-fourteenth century divided into four compartments each have pages devoted to Saints Stephen and Denis (cat. no. 80). Two leaves from the Scheide Psalter in Princeton join six more Kidd has identified since the initial 1994 study of the manuscript (cat. no. 77). [1]

Also for private use are two early fourteenth-century books of hours originating in Metz (cat. no. 67) or French-Flanders (cat. no. 68). A collection of leaves from service books includes examples from missals, graduals, breviaries, an antiphonal, and several pontificals. There are three canon pages, two canon texts (Te igitur and Per omnia/Vere Dignum) and an Epiphany initial from missals (cat. nos. 12, 13, 27, 53, 53, and 78); and three gradual cuttings for the introit, Epiphany, and possibly Ash Wednesday (cat nos. 26, 32 43). Three or four come from breviaries (as cat. no. 42 may be from a psalter). A south French example depicts St. Sabina of Agen (cat. no. 69), while a Parisian Dominican leaf comes from a book of which over a hundred other leaves can be identified (cat no. 81). A long skinny dragon initial comes from a well-published Artois Cistercian antiphonal (cat. no. 46). There are also leaves from two or three pontificals (cat. nos. 58(?), 59, and 82).

The collection contains over a dozen Gothic legal manuscripts.A Parisian copy of Gratian’s Decretum (cat. no. 51) is attributed to “Master Honoré.” A south French copy (cat. no. 70) contains Bartholomew of Brescia’s gloss. Two works by Goffredo di Trani and Henry of Segusio share the title Summa super titulis Decretalium (cat. nos. 34 and 62), the former from Paris, the latter from southern France. Another set of affinity and consanguinity tables is seen in a copy of Raymond de Penyafort’s Quia tractare intendimus (cat. no. 45).Finally, an isolated cutting may belong to Pope Innocent IV’s Decretals Commentary (cat. no. 87). Another category of religious legal documents are the collective indulgences issued in Avignon in the 1330s (cat. nos. 73-75). Only one of these is intact (cat. no. 74), the other two sadly reduced to cuttings of illuminated initials and/or marginal figures. Roman law is represented by the works of Justinian. Cat. no. 18 from the Digest was written in Italy and reworked in France with the Accursius gloss and French initials, and so Kidd surmises it was probably owned by a French student who acquired it in Bologna and had it remodelled. Other Justinian leaves (cat. nos. 63, 65) are south French in origin, reflecting the dominance of Toulouse and other south French universities as major centers for secular legal study. Whether cat. no. 64 is south French or not is not discussed; and whether the cutting (cat. no. 56) belongs to a work of Justinian remains to be determined.

There are a few notable works of history: a bifolium of William of Tyre’s Histoire d’Outremer (cat no. 44) reused as a book cover, a cutting from a Saint Bertin copy of Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum historiale (cat. no. 57), three leaves from a south French copy of Bernard Gui’s Arbor genealogiae regum Francorum (cat. no. 71) with thirty-eight images, a lengthy fourteenth-century roll in eight membranes of Peter of Poitiers’ Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi (possibly German rather than French in origin) (cat. no. 84), and a leaf from Pierre Bersuire’s Livre de Tytus Livius de hystoire roumaine (cat. no. 88) from the late fourteenth century attributed to Perin Remiet. Literature is represented by a bifolium from a fourteenth-century copy of Guillaume de Lorris’ Roman de la Rose (cat no. 83), science by a late fourteenth-century leaf from the French translation by Jean Corbechon of the Livre des proprietés des choses writtenby Bartholomaeus Anglicus (cat. no. 89).

Dividing the manuscripts to include in volumes 2 and 3 required some decisions which are not always persuasive. A psalter leaf (cat. no. 30) is identified here as French or German. The zackigstil drapery of the Annunciation angel would support a Germanic origin even if the text added subsequently points to France. A lectern Bible fragment (cat no. 49) once in Roermond (province of Guelders) is here called north French, but comparison with the figure style of Cambrai manuscripts isn’t convincing. Much closer are late-thirteenth-century manuscripts from Liège, such as London, British Library Add. 28784, which have identical initial extensions. [2] (A slightly later lectern Bible by this school owned by the Teutonic Knights of Maestricht has a more advanced version of this style. [3]) A group of leaves included here as “French” were exhibited in the 2015 McCarthy collection exhibition in Hong Kong where they are all identified as “German” (cat. nos. 26, 27, 42, and 43 along with Vol. II no. 49). [4] All came from the same nineteenth- or early-twentieth-century album. Cat. no. 42, a notated breviary or perhaps notated psalter in two columns, could have been made in the Cologne region, as the figure style and ornament is similar to the work of Johannes von Valkenburg. [5] Cat. no. 26 is possibly related to the later 1330s Cologne “Missals” atelier. [6]

Any modern collection of leaves and cuttings is apt to raise disturbing questions about their sources. Kidd’s detailed lists of the provenances and “sister” leaves makes it clear that in many instances parent manuscripts survived intact (or largely so) for seven hundred years, right up to the second half of the twentieth century. The listings make for dispiriting reading: “broken up by 1975,” “in 1982 or later,” “by 1985,” “intact in 1992,” “intact before 1995,” “intact in 1996,” and even as late as 2000 (cat. no. 33). In buying leaves of a single book at different times and from different dealers, McCarthy appears to be trying to at least give some of these books more of their original physical and textual identity, particularly when he has managed to gather together five to seven Bible leaves (cat. nos. 15, 16, 20, 24, and 61) or even in one case twelve (cat. no. 19), a re-assemblage enterprise which numerous scholars are also engaged in if only digitally, or like Kidd in lists of “sister’ leaves. The collection itself appears to be in flux, with some leaves from various catalogue entries discarded at some point. (See for example cat. no. 32 n. 7 and fig. 32.1-2; and 76 n. 4.) Further addenda may well be forthcoming in the future if the collection continues to evolve.



1. Adelaide Bennett, “The Scheide Psalter-Hours,” Princeton University Library Chronicle 55 no. 2 (1994), 177-223.

2. Judith Oliver, Gothic Manuscript Illumination in the Diocese of Liège (c. 1250 - c. 1330) (Leuven: Peeters, 1988) II, pls. 30, 48, 69, 76, 90.

3. London, Victoria and Albert Museum Print Room MSS. 9036A-Z, Z.A, F.1 and D.544-99 (1906); London, British Library Add. MS. 32058, fols. 9-22; and Oxford, Keble College MS. 69. Ibid., II, pls. 191-194.

4. Illustrious Illuminations. Christian Manuscripts from the High Gothic to the High Renaissance (1250-1540) from the McCarthy Collection (Hong Kong: Christopher Mattison, University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, 2015), 44-47, cat. 7a-h.

5. Cologne, Diözesanbibliothek MS. 1b. Glaube und Wissen im Mittelalter. Die Kölner Dombibliothek, exh. cat. Diözesanbibliothek Köln (Munich: Hirmer, 1998), 423-33 cat. no. 88 by Marcus Müller.

6. One might compare Darmstadt, Hessische Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek MSS. 837 and 874, both of finer quality. Glanz und Grösse des Mittelalters, Kölner Meisterwerke aus den Grossen Sammlungen der Welt, eds. Dagmar Taube and Miriam Fleck (Munich: Hirmer, 2011), 55 fig. 5, 312-14 no. 62.