Manuscript Case

Museum Furniture

Ruskin wanted museum furniture that would make objects readily accessible, at the same time as affording protection. This manuscript case performs the function of preservation by keeping its contents behind glass, whilst ensuring that the open pages remain visible.

Ruskin wrote to the curator, Henry Swan, asking him to ensure that catalogues were available for perusal and that drawers were kept open so that students could study the contents (2 July 1875).

Ruskin also indicated that students might need to earn the right to certain kinds of access. In his 1876 report on the purchase of the mineral cabinet, he explains of the minerals that 'Permission to handle and examine them at ease will be eventually given, as a moral and mineralogical prize, to the men who attain a certain proficiency in the two sciences of Mineralogy and Behaviour' (Works, 28, p. 702). Presumably, this instruction also applied to the Museum's collection of precious manuscripts.

Manuscripts Holdings

William White's Descriptive Catalogue of the Library and Print Room of the Ruskin Museum (1890) gives a detailed account of the manuscripts in the Museum Library. The following information is based on the descriptions and categories of that catalogue:

A. Manuscripts, Black Letter and Mediæval Books

I. Ancient Egyptian Manuscripts

  • The Papyrus of Ani; or Book of the Dead: A facsimile reproduction (1890) of the original Funereal Hieroglyphs in the British Museum.

II. Illuminated Missals and Other Manuscripts

  • Lectionary of the thirteenth Century, c. 1160: Lectionarium Secundum usum diÅ“ceseos Augustanæ continens epistolas et Evangelias; 136 folio leaves, on vellum; the initial letters richly ornamented in pure gold and other colours, and having the first line of the Epistle or the Gospel of the day written in letters of silver; purchased by Ruskin in 1880

  • Sermones et homiliÅ“; Codex in Membranis; A Visi-Gothic manuscript of the 10th or 11th century; 280 leaves (18 1/2 x 13 1/4 inches); stout parchment; formerly torn pages now repaired.

  • A large manuscript Bible: Biblia Sacra Codex MS. in Mebronis; 400 folio leaves; thirteenth century; on vellum

  • Small manuscript Bible of thirteenth century; on vellum; the words 'Aux Capucin de Mante' written on the margin of several pages

  • Missal of the thirteenth or fourteenth century; on vellum

  • Homilies of Popes Gregory the Ninth, and Sextus the Fourth: Decretales P. P. Gregorii IXth. et Sexti IVth. Codex Membranaceus; 291 leaves; with marginal commentary

  • Missal Album of Lady Diana de Croy; illuminated; sixteenth century; French; made for Lady Diana de Croy, of the house of Lorrain, who was the French cousin of Mary Queen of Scots (whose autograph appears on a page margin); many autographs are those of French dignitaries, ranging in date from 1572-1590)

III. Early Printed Bibles

  • Black Letter German Bible of the Sixteenth Century: Die Gantze Bibel. Christoffel Forschouer, Zurich, 1540; large folio (14 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches); with woodcut illustrations after Hans Holbein and others

  • Baskerville Bible: Cambridge, 1763; double elephant folio (20 x 13 inches); beautifully printed, with each book commencing on a fresh page; includes the Apocryphal Books

IV. Works Appertaining to Mediæval Art and History
[These were not manuscripts or rare books, but were intended to support the study of such material.]

  • J. O. Westward, Palægraphia Sacra Pictoria; a series of illustrations of the ancient versions of the Bible, copied from illuminated manuscripts executed between fourth and sixteenth centuries; with 50 colour plates; royal quarto; 1843-5

  • S. R. Maitland, The Dark Ages: A Series of Essays to Illustrate the State of Religion and Literature in the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Centuries, 2nd edn, 1845

  • Henry Shaw, The Handbook of Mediæval Alphabets and Devices, 1853

  • The Legend of Saint Ursula and the Virgin Martyres of Cologne, 1869

  • Catalogue of Additions to the Manuscripts in the British Museum, in the years 1882-1887; compiled by the Keepers and Assistants of the Department; 1889; presented by the Trustees of the British Museum

  • W. G. Collingwood, The Philosophy of Ornament: Eight Lectures on the History of Decorative Art, 1883

V. Choice Bindings

  • J. T. Cobden Sanderson, 'A fine English specimen of the art of bookbinding', in red morocco, richly tooled; covering a copy of Ruskin's Unto this Last; presented by Mr Sanderson in 1886
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