On Weeding & Writing - an occasional eclectic blog by author C.F. Dunn

Ruling the Waves: Henry V’s Great Ships

England is often portrayed in historic dramas and texts as a seafaring nation. In ‘ruling the waves’, England controlled the seas around its shores and beyond, employing ships built for the purpose and equipped with heavy guns. Master and Commander and Hornblower come to mind. A proud legacy, perhaps, one where the Crown recognised the importance of securing the interests of the realm against foreign invaders, merchants and marauders?
Looking through the maritime accounts from the later medieval period, however, it was not until Henry V’s Great Ships that we see what might be considered the first purpose-built warships, owned by the Crown, since the late Saxon period. The collection of ships included ‘repurposed’ vessels such as the Cog John – possibly repatriated from foreign traders – a common enough practice to populate a fleet. But five new ships were also comissioned by the King, something usually avoided because of the drain on the royal coffers. The Trinity Royal, a fine, large ship at 540 tuns, was used to carry Henry V to war in France. Perhaps one of the most well known of Henry’s Great Ships is the Grace Dieu, hit by lightning in 1439 and sinking where she still lies today in the River Hamble, Hampshire.
This new rash of shipbuilding didn’t last. On his death in 1421, the bulk of Henry’s navy was sold to pay off his debts.
The following decades of civil war ensured minds and monies lay focused elsewhere, although Edward IV began to acquire a few ships in the 1470s, including the Falcon (1475) and the Mary of the Tower (1479). Otherwise, even if born of necessity, the flawed policy of relying on private vessels to serve the Crown when required continued. By the early 1480s, Richard III had at least six ships, but any plans he might have had to continue the expansion of the royal fleet died with him.
All images courtesy of Commons Licenses

2022: The First Day of the Rest of the Year.

How have you spent the first day of the new year? Having prepared the stollen that I somehow missed at Christmas, I have spent the rest of the first day of 2022 ensconced in my study. The files – ordered months ago – have finally arrived. Now labelled, they have taken a wealth of research material, notebooks, specialist articles – all the bits and pieces garnered for the current writing project.

Sorting and filing are apt metaphores for the process of preparing for the new writing year. Even if Book 3 of the series  is well underway, there’s a sense of renewed vigour, a fresh beginning.

I love the weeks of festive preparation in the lead up to Christmas with its delightfully chaotic, diamond-bright cheerfulness as absorbing now as it was to me as a child. Yet there’s something about the turn of the year that calls for a reflective mien. Perhaps it is the lull after the Christmas rush, or the quiet, dark days in the depths of winter. Or is it the hibernation of the self before spring awakens the senses and drives us from our insularity?

Now listening to my writing playlists while making notes, I’m shaking off December’s dust and readying myself for the year ahead. On my list of things I wish to achieve (aside from all those relating to the garden, house and family)  is a pile of books I want to read  (research-related and novels), a research trip for the current project and preparation for the next. I have a conference to go to as well as several literary festivals. Covid notwithstanding, I’d like to meet up with author friends because there is only so much a Zoom get-together can deliver. But much of that is dependent upon the unpredictable outcomes of the present pandemic as well as life’s twists and turns such as had me bed-ridden for fifteen weeks last year with a broken leg. Is it no wonder then, that we look to those things we can control – books and shelves, our little spaces – that make up the safe part of our lives? There is comfort there among the regularity of numbered pages, the neatly labelled files, the array of pens and coloured tags and the pristine notebooks waiting for the first impression of a fresh idea.

So forgive me if I linger here a while longer, temporarily secreted from the volcanic anxiety of a stressed world as I navigate the paths of a known past. Standing at the gate of the year, I’m taking a moment to rest and relfect before taking the first step into 2022 with all the vicissitudes and possibilities it offers. Whatever road you find yourself on, may you find it a bright and smooth way. Happy New Year!

 

 

Happy Christmas.

The hour grows late. The turkey’s stuffed, the mulled wine sozzled, and it is time to wish you all a very kind and content Christmas and a happy New Year. God rest ye merry, everyone!

Victorian Family Recipes From Christmas Past

Do you think that most families have favourite recipes that make an appearance, like Marley’s ghost, at Christmas? Recipes that have been tweaked down the years, but are basically the same as when first concocted way back beyond memory?

During our mammoth unpacking we came across family recipe books dating from the Victorian period and later. These books would be brought out on occassion to be raided for old favourite dishes, the preperation of which would be accompanied by stories of the women who wrote them. Some of the recipes – all hand written – had been passed from one generation to the next. Many originated as a result of trial and error in the kitchens of Georgian wives; a few predate even those.

Here, my husband’s great-grandmother, Ethel Chapman, aged 20, records a few favourite recipes in a little book dated 31st January, 1876.

 

Gingerbread – aunt B’s

Melt 1/2lb butter in 1 lb of treacle

then add one pound flour, 1oz ground

ginger, (1/2oz carroway (sic), 1/2 oz corriander seeds, a little nutmeg) (crossed out)

3 eggs & a teaspoonful of carbonate

of soda. Bake for 2 hours in a

well papered tin in an oven

almost cold at first, heating gradually.

 

In For Christmas

At last – after four years of working on the house surrounded by 500+ packing boxes and dust – we have finally unpacked and are in. OK, so the hall is still a tool shed and if you try to manoeuvre through it you stand a good chance of knocking over the stacks (and I mean stacks to rival B&Q) of paint tins. Yes, it’s true that we could probably supply enough wire wool, sandpaper, filler and varnish to renovate several houses, and perhaps there are a good few months of snagging work to do in dark corners, but that’s nothing compared with what has been achieved. So, all in all (and with two dogs acquired and two books written) four years down the line we consider ourselves MOVED. 

 

Gardening Update: Some You Win, Some You Lose

As harvesting continues and the growing season in the vegetable and fruit garden winds down, it’s time for reflection and a gardening update on the year.
The foliage from the potatoes has been completely cleared now and the tatties are resting in the ground for a couple of weeks until the threat of contamination from the blight has passed. Only then will we know if the potatoes themselves have escaped unscathed.
Meanwhile, the first blight showed on the tomatoes yesterday and this morning I finished removing all the foliage from the plants. This won’t halt the progress of the blight, but might slow it enough to give the fruit a chance to ripen. As it is, this year’s crop has been poor – a combo of indifferent weather and my lack of attention due to The Broken Leg. Still, what there are might make a few jars of green chutney.
The squash have done remarkably well given the conditions, and the courgettes have fruited better this year than last.
Blight has been a theme for the last three years. I can’t do anything about it with the potatoes outdoors, but I am going to try some tomatoes in the greenhouse next year along with garlic, which consistently fails or is rusted outside. I’ve also noticed that the stray tomato plant growing tucked away in another part of the garden has yet to feel the fingers of blight, so that is worth keeping in mind for next year.
In other garden news, the magnificent crop of plums has been discovered by squirrels. Millie and Thegn guard the tree when they can, but it’s a thankless task. Last year wasn’t such a problem, but perhaps that is because the pesky creatures were busy stripping the walnut tree instead. We have a device usually used to deter herons from the pond – a motion-sensor spray attached to a hose – which we are considering giving a go in the orchard. It will need a very long hose, but if it works, is something we can deploy for other fruit trees.
The onions have been curing and are almost ready for stringing. We still have three from last year so are delighted that we can grow enough to keep us in onions from harvest to harvest. Like many gardeners, some you win, some you don’t. That’s the nature of the ever changing game.

A Blight On All Their Houses – Spotting Potato Blight

I spotted the first signs of blight on the potatoes today. Not many leaves, so it was a matter of cutting off affected foliage and burning it. But it will be back. When a third of the leaves show the tell-tale brown splotches followed by the rapid collapse of the plant, I’ll remove all the leaves and stalks because there is nothing to be done to halt the spread once it starts and I won’t use chemical sprays. The dying leaves have done their job of growing the spuds and will serve no purpose other than to harbour the problem. Better to get rid of the foliage sooner rather than later in the hope that the tomatoes on the other side of the garden escape infection.

 

There are two schools of thought about harvesting potatoes from a blighted patch: dig them up immediately or leave them in the ground for at least two weeks to protect them from spores. I’m inclined to the latter – except, you might recall – we have a problem with wireworm, and leaving the tatties in the ground is asking for trouble. Still, the blight was late this year and I’m trusting the crop will have benefitted from the few extra weeks in the ground and the copious amount of rain we’ve had over the last month. Time, as they say, will tell.

Can Do Better: Why ‘Best’ Is Not Good Enough.

 

Do you remember being told as a child that ‘you can do better’? Do you recall how that made you feel – encouraged, perhaps? Despondant? The other day I posted an oft quoted phrase on a well-known media platform and asked for comments. What I didn’t say was WHY I was interested in the feedback. This is the reason.

Some years ago a young person experienced severe self-doubt over school-related performance, which compounded already very low self-esteem. In the course of therapy, this person was told, ‘The enemy of the best is the good enough.’ Devastated, the young person interpreted the quote to mean that only the best is good enough. 

Redoubling their efforts, the young person excelled in their chosen subject at university, only to suffer a complete breakdown as a result. Despite attaining academic excellence, they never felt that they had earned the accolades they had been given, because ‘good enough’ wasn’t ‘the best’.

Subsequently, when the young person recently heard the phrase again, their reaction was one of dismay – much to the surprise of the person who quoted it. And this is why.

The person explained that, during the Second World War, Soviet commander General Zhukov had applied the well-known phrase to the availability of Soviet tanks compared with those of the German army.

The Soviet T34 was fast to manufacture, easy to drive, quick to manoeuvre and reasonably well armed. In the face of such opposition, the German army reacted by producing tanks that were far superior and massively over-engineered. As a result they could not produce enough of these gold-plated versions to outgun the Soviet tanks. In this instance, it was the number of tanks that counted, not the quality. As General Zhukov said, ‘The enemy of the best is good enough.’ 

Hearing this, the young person thought about it for a while and then, looking up, said, “I have spent my life thinking that in order to be accepted at school and to be of value to society, I had to be the best, but no matter how hard I tried I could never be perfect.”

To this young person, the phrase meant the opposite of its intended meaning. 

Throughout childhood and into adolescence, young people are exhorted to try harder, do better, never accept ‘good enough’. A quick search online of the word ‘encouragement’  came up with dozens of images of high-achieving children and advice on how to improve their educational outcomes. Few showed alternative concepts of success. Even where parents are given tips on how to raise a child to be kind, helpful, and resilient, the values placed on these virtues rarely filter into systems used to gauge results. Effective parenting – and by default, the competence of the parent – is itself judged by the success of the child. Attainment is measured in scores and grades, goals set and targets met. By the time they reach adulthood, many people are wired and primed to respond to similar phases in the way the young person did – not in terms of being encouraged, but with raised levels of anxiety at the implied criticism. How many of us recognise the anxious child within ourselves, the one who feels they don’t deserve praise, who ‘must do better’? 

As a society, we want our children to strive and to make the best of the opportunities offered to them. Empty praise is just that and does nothing to encourage individual expectations. But there is also an undercurrent of cultural unease in the way children are raised that speaks of a fear of featherbedding young people and which says that praise will undermine effort and therefore performance. Raise the bar, make them work for it. But the bar is also a rod used to beat under-achievers. 

Attainment is a matter of societal and individual viewpoint driven by a history of ambition and fear. We are all the victims of these pernicious attitudes and the perpetrators. Only by recognising the effect of our inherited perspective towards success and the language that surrounds it, can we modify and change the way we approach our children’s future.  Our best is good enough.

Growing for Gold: the Enduring Appeal of Saffron

‘Saffron Walden’ – a name forrmalised by Henry VIII in a charter granted in 1514.

It’s one of those things people seem to know about the past  (like Henry VIII had six wives and that spices were used to disguise rotten meat – more on that later): saffron, they say, was worth its weight in gold. It was so valuable that they even renamed a village – Saffron Walden – after it. However, two of those three statements are incorrect. In growing for gold, what is the enduring appeal of saffron from antiquity to the modern era? But first a recap on the fate of my own modest project.

Saffron corms ready to split and replant.

Having enriched the soil first, I replanted the saffron in the original position. I’ve selected the fattest corms for this bed and will nurture the smaller ones into productivity elsewhere. It’s not a crop for the impatient: I might get a few flowers later this year, but the corms will not produce their best for at least another year after that. 

Trial and error, dearth and glut is precisely what our Medieval forebears would have encountered as they attempted to establish new crops on a commercial scale. Too little rain, too much, low temperatures, mice – all affected productivity as much as they do now. With the initial outlay on corms and limited harvests in the first year, saffron was a risky business. Labour-intensive husbandry – both to keep the fields weed free and in the delicate, time-critical harvesting of the fragile stigma – raised costs even further. But the potential rewards were great.

Wild Saffron fields in Gran Sasso National Park

Recorded in antiquity in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Crete, as well as in Persia and Alexander’s Greece, saffron had a global appeal. It was used variably as a dye for cloth, a pigment in art works, and for a wide range of medical conditions including a cure for headaches and heart problems and a salve for wounds. It was thought to have mood-altering qualities and indeed can produce a sense of euphoria due to its compounds (safranal and crocin might have an anti-depressant effect by maintaining the balance of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin (Hosseinzadeh et al., 2004)). Studies in humans show there can be a benefit to patients with anxiety and depression, so perhaps it is then not surprising that it was also an ingredient in some forms of incense and used in both civic and religious ceremony. 

In cuisine, we think of saffron as a flavouring and colourant in dishes requiring an exotic touch. English cookery books from the late fourteenth and early fifteenth-century show an extensive use of saffron despite its exorbitant cost, appearing in almost a half of the recipes in the compilation from Harleian MSS. 279 & 4016, Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books (Thomas Austin) (1430 – 1450) and over a third in Forme of Cury (c1390). Demand remained high with production in England peaking in the Sixteenth-century, before a slow decline and the eventual cessation of production in England altogether.

Crocus sativus – the saffron crocus

It takes upwards of 150 flowers (roughly 450 stigma) to produce one gram of saffron. I won’t be growing enough saffron to sell, but the few delicate strands added flavour to the Medieval dishes I’ve tried (see below).  

Saffron is now grown in other regions, including in Iran and Afghanistan, Greece and France and remains as valuable today as it was in the later Medieval and Early Modern periods. Its high value perhaps accounting more for its  intoxicating appeal than its slightly bitter flavour and hay-like aroma, saffron nonetheless offers a link to the past and a tantalising glimpse of its potential for the future.

 

And the odd ones out of the three statements I mentioned at the beginning of this blog?

  1. Henry VIII did indeed have six wives.
  2. Saffron was worth far more than its weight in gold.
  3. Spices were not – I repeat not – used to disguise rotten meat. But more on that in a future blog

This is basically rice pudding. I tried it because it uses almond milk and is therefore suitable for those with a dairy or lactose intolerance. I added saffron, which turned the  pudding a glorious golden yellow and imparted a subtle flavour.

Rys. Take a porcyoun of rys, & pyke hem clene, & sethe hem welle, & late hem kele; þen take gode mylke of almaundys & do þer-to, & seþe & stere hem wyl; & do þer-to sugre and hony, & serue forth.

Take a portion of rice, and pick it clean, and boil it well, and let it cool; then take good milk of almonds and thereto, and boil and stir it well; and do thereto sugar and honey, and serve forth. 

 

Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books  (Thomas Austin, comp.)

 

Up For Auction: A Once-Lost Medieval Manuscript Witnesses History

St. Catherine of Siena, as Christ and a host of saints appears to her, and offers her a bejewelle
St. Catherine of Siena. Illuminated manuscript on parchment c.1475 Image: Bloomsbury Auctions

Sometimes you come across an item that represents more than the sum of its parts – such as this single exquisite leaf of medieval manuscript from the third quarter of the fifteenth century. Once lost, this extremely rare piece is due to be auctioned on 6th July, 2021 by Bloomsbury Auctions, London. It is certain to attract attention from those interested in the work of one of the finest illustrators from a country  renowned for its illuminated manuscripts. It also resonates with the history of those with whom it is associated.

Attributed to the Master of Margaret of York, the miniture shows St. Catherine of Siena in an illustration typical of the period and region from which the book originated. And therein lies the significance for me, for the manuscript had been commissioned by Louis de Gruuthuse (Lodewijk van Brugge) in about 1475.

Born into a wealthy family c1422 in Bruges (now Belgium), Louis became a notable patron of the arts and collector of books. His collection was second to that of the Dukes of Burgundy at whose Court he served. It is this connection that, for me, makes Louis de Gruuthuse a person of interest, for he played an important role in the political and personal lives of the members of the House of York.

Louis de Gruuthuse (Lodewijk van Brugge) 1427 – 24 November 1492 Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 1468, Louis helped oversee the marriage celebrations of Charles de Charolais, son of Philip, Duke of Burgundy (the Good) to Margaret of York, sister of Edward IV and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III. The significance of such an alliance between the two countries went beyond cementing a political connection that was instrumental to Edward’s continued survival, but also helped establish commercial links and cultural exchanges that influenced the English Court in following years.

The connection proved beneficial when, in 1479, Edward IV found himself in exile after the rebellion of Richard, Earl of Warwick who, in the Readeption, restored Henry VI to the English throne. Louis de Gruuthaus ensured safe passage for the beleaguered Edward and it was as his host during the winter of 1472 that Louis reaffirmed his partiality for the House of York, for which Edward subsequently rewarded him with the earldom of Winchester.

As a councillor to both Duke Philip and his son, Charles (who succeeded his father as Duke of Burgundy in 1467), Gruuthaus found himself in a position of influence. This continued after the death of Charles at the Battle of Nancy in 1477, serving the Duke’s heiress, Mary of Burgundy and her step-mother, Margaret of York.

Margaret of York - Wikipedia
Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy

Now widowed, Margaret continued to influence Anglo-Burgundian relationships, something she had endeavoured to do throughout her husband’s rule despite his wavering commitment to his brother-in law’s campaigns.

Like Gruuthaus, Margaret also acquired  books, those associated with her numbering about twenty-nine – a significant collection for a woman at the time.(1) It is likely that Gruuthaus’s own extensive collection inspired Edward IV’s acquisition of works for his Royal library, including a copy of Josephus, commissioned by Louis.(2)

While I won’t be bidding on the 6th June, I will await the outcome of the auction with interest as this remarkable witness to history begins the next stage of its long journey .

 

 

 

(1) Kurtis A. Bartow, “Appendix: the Library of Margaret of York and Some Related books,” in Thomas Kren, ed., Margaret of York, Simon Marmion and the Visions of Tondal (Malibu, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1992), 257–262. For the complete list of books associated with the duchess.

(2) T Kren & S McKendrick (eds), Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, p.224, Getty Museum/Royal Academy of Arts.

 

 

Details of the manuscript and its provenance (below) have been taken from the Bloomsbury Auction website.

‘St. Catherine of Siena, as Christ and a host of saints appears to her, and offers her a bejewelled wedding ring, miniature on a leaf from a copy of the French translation of the Legenda Maior of Raymond of Capua, this leaf from a illuminated manuscript on parchment made for the grand Burgundian patron, Louis de Gruuthuse [French Flanders (doubtless Bruges), c. 1475]

Single leaf, with half page gold framed miniature attributed to the Master of Margaret of York or his workshop (see below), above a single pale pink initial containing coloured foliage, and 6 lines of elegant Burgundian lettre bâtarde by a professional scribe as yet unidentified but close to that of Colard Mansion, all within gold text frame and full border of acanthus leaves and other foliage, reverse with single word from previous chapter (‘personnes’: see below) at head, followed by line-filler in gold, blue and pink, above 5 lines of rubric opening with large and fine calligraphic initial (with human face poking out it’s tongue picked out in brown ink at its edge), some flaking and scuffing to gold, brown stains to upper margin, else fine condition, 276 by 197mm.

This leaf has a sublime provenance from Louis de Gruuthuse, the greatest art patron of the Burgundian Netherlands aside from the ducal family, to two kings of France, including François I, the father of the French Renaissance

Provenance:

1. This is a long-lost leaf from BnF MS. fr. 1048 (olim Regius 7336; on the manuscript see I. Hans-Collas & P. Schandel, Manuscrits enluminés des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux. I. Manuscrits de Louis de Bruges, Paris, 2009, no. 36, pp. 144-45), a copy of the anonymous Légende de la Vie de Sainte Catherine de Sienne, made for Louis de Gruuthuse (1422-92; also known as Louis de Bruges), courtier to Philip the Good and the wealthiest and most important art patron in the Burgundian Low Countries outside the reigning ducal family. The loss of leaves from the parent volume removed the frontispiece with his armorial devices, but an offset of them can be seen on fol. 4v there. The present leaf contains the last word of book I, ch. 7, and the opening of book II, ch. 1, and once sat before fol. 35 in the parent manuscript (see the gallica.bnf.fr website for a black-and-white facsimile).

2. Louis XII (1462-1515, king of France from 1498), who was given the entire Gruuthuse library c. 1500, most probably by Jean V de Gruuthuse, the son and heir of Louis de Gruuthuse, as well as Louis XII’s chamberlain.

3. François I (1494-1547, king of France from 1515), the father of the Renaissance in France and one of that nation’s most important bibliophiles. He had the Gruuthuse arms overpainted in many of the volumes from that library and moved them along with the rest of the royal library into the treasury of the château of Blois (note the parent manuscript has the sixteenth-century note ‘Bloys’ at the head of its first original flyleaf above a description of its contents, doubtless from this move). There the royal chaplain, Guillaume Petit, recorded them in an inventory of 1518, and again in 1544, with the present leaf part of no. 1510, described as ‘Ung autre livre, en parchemyn, intitule: Vye de saincte Catherine de Sennes; couvert de veloux incarnat’ (see H. Omont, Anciens inventaires et catalogues de la Bibliothèque nationale, I, 1908, p. 235). These then passed to the royal library in Fontainebleau, and after the Revolution and foundation of the First Republic in 1792 to the Bibliothèque nationale. Depredations were made early into the Gruuthuse sections of the royal library, and in fact only 155 volumes of the 180 extant from this library now remain in the Bibliothèque nationale. All bar one of the leaves with miniatures were abstracted from the volume in question here before 1831, when the first comprehensive inventories of the Bibliothèque nationale were made (where the parent manuscript is no. 1683: see Omont, Anciens inventaires, p. 344). Where such miniatures were on a recto, a French hand of the eighteenth century added the preceding rubric in the parent volume (this is the case with the leaf in Dartmouth College and the leaf now in a European private collection), indicating that these leaves were removed while the collection was in Blois, and probably before the French Revolution.

4. Three leaves from the parent manuscript (most probably including this one) appeared for sale in a Philip C. Duschnes catalogue of May 1970, with one of these reappearing in Sotheby’s, 21 June 1994, lot 33 (but with the parent manuscript misidentified, and thus Gruuthuse provenance obscured), and another now in an important European private collection. Two further leaves with miniatures are now in Dartmouth College Library, Hanover, North Hampshire, USA (Rauner Library, 470940, gift of Madelyn C. Hickmott [1897-1988], both reproduced online).

5. The present leaf owned by a private North American collector, their sale in Cowen’s Auctions of Cincinnati, in March 2013, lot 51; acquired there by Roger Martin.

Text:

Raymond of Capua (c. 1330-99) served as spiritual director and confessor to St. Catherine of Siena, and thus his account is of paramount importance as an eye-witness record of her life. After her death, he undertook the restoration of the Dominican Order, and was named its second founder. This translation was made by an anonymous Dominican friar, sometime immediately after the canonisation of St. Catherine of Sienna in 1461. It had a short and closely focussed distribution as a text, and may well have been produced under the patronage of the Burgundian court as all five extant witnesses are associated with members of that court or their highest followers. See J.F. Hamburger & G. Signori, ‘The Making of a Saint: Catherine of Siena, Thomas Caffarini, and the Others’, in Catherine of Siena: The Creation of a Cult, 2013, pp. 8-10.

Artist and patron:

The identification of the artist as the Master of Margaret of York or a member of his workshop was made by the authors of the Manuscrits de Louis de Bruges volume published in 2009 (working from the single miniature remaining in BnF. fr. 1048 and those in Dartmouth College). The artist was active in Bruges from about 1470 to 1480, and takes his name from a book produced for Margaret of York, wife of Charles the Bold (now Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, nos. 9305-06). However, his surviving works indicate that his principal patron was Louis de Gruuthuse, with some fifteen extant works produced for Louis’ apparent personal reading (mostly French translations of Latin works, as here). See S. McKendrick & T. Kren, Illuminating the Renaissance, 2003, p. 217-18.

Items from this illustrious library, quintessentially of the late Middle Ages and made to inspire secular piety and demonstrate bourgeois opulence in equal measure, are of enormous rarity on the market. The last significant codex was that of a manuscript from Chatsworth, containing the Deeds of Sir Gillion de Trazegnies, and dated 1464, sold at Sotheby’s, 5 December 2012, to the Getty Museum, for £3,849,250. Otherwise a somewhat battered copy of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, with three miniatures, from the final remnant of the Thomas Phillipps collection, appeared at Christie’s, 7 June 2006, lot 19, and realised £45,600. Perhaps the closest comparables to that here are a series of three grisaille miniatures produced by the Burgundian artist Lievan van Lathem for a grand manuscript made for Duke Philip the Good, Louis de Gruuthuse’s …(for full text, see catalogue PDF)’

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