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Research

Cut up missal in evening – hard work,” – Ruskin in his diary, 1854

I’ve been doing a lot of research, both for work and fun, on the destruction of manuscripts, mostly during the Victorian era, for collages. Most of the articles and books I’m finding on the subject are interesting and well-written, and I thought I’d share some of them with you:

  • Medieval Alphabet Soup: Reconstruction of a Mosan Psalter-Hours in Philadelphia and Oxford and the Cult of St. Catherine, by Judith Oliver, from Gesta, Vol. 24, No. 2, (1985), pp. 129-140. This article is particularly interesting, since it tackles the problem of how to reconstruct a manuscript that’s been so destroyed.
  • Disbound and Dispersed: The Leaf Book Considered, by Christopher de Hamel and Joel Silver, particularly the essay “A Legal and Ethical Look at the Making of Leaf Books” by Michael Thompson.
  • Connoisseurs and Medieval Miniatures 1750-1850, by A.N.L Munby. A good source about the people who collect these things.
  • Books, Collectors and Libraries: Studies in the Medieval Heritage, by N.R. Ker. Not necessarily about this particular issue, but good background to the field. Talks about how unwanted manuscripts were turned into wrappers for other books.
  • Cutting Up Manuscripts for Pleasure and Profit, by Christopher de Hamel. At one time a lecture, now a fairly short (25 pages) book that reads very well and gives a good, modern account of this dastardly practice.
  • John Ruskin the Collector, by James Dearden, from The Library, 5th Ser., XXI (1966), 125.
  • Enemies of Books, by William Blades. Really, really fantastic book about those who destroy books from 1881- one of the enemies is “ignorance.” In the “other vermin” section, the list of vermin includes “the black-beetle, the Croton bug, lepisma, codfish, rats, mice, and the Westminster Abbey Library.” Even better, it’s available for free online!


If you know of any other good books on the subject, feel free to post them in the comments!

(Note: I added one more title, which just arrived for me via ILL. De Hamel is quickly becoming a favorite of mine)

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