The history of a manuscript, from its production to where we find it today, may involve a number of different owners and a range of different locations. In some cases, the manuscript’s possessor might leave us clues on pages of the book. In other cases, we can discern who the manuscript belonged to at a given time from the information recorded in library inventories.
In the Geraardsbergen Manuscript, certain clues suggest that the original owner was also the scribe. Indeed, he notes the birth of his daughter Alyonore in the codex, which would be an odd thing to do if it did not belong to him! Find out more here.
Frequently, those who acquired the manuscript were keen to mark the stamp of their ownership and wrote their name on any available blank space in the codex. The subsequent post-medieval owners of the Geraardsbergen Manuscript left various signs of ownership. Likewise, in Bodley 264, the English aristocrat Richard Woodville brands the codex with his signature.
In the medieval period, manuscripts were important commodities and objects of trade, often travelling great distances. Bodley 264 offers one example of the movement of manuscripts between continental Europe and England. Find out more here.
Some manuscripts were exchanged as gifts, as in the case of the book given by Count Wilhelm Werner von Zimmern to Christoph Mellinger. In this German example, it is still possible to see the reflexes of ownership. We do not know exactly who, but one of the book’s users took great care to mark the texts which he already owned in another manuscript. Read more.
To find out more about the traces left by readers enter the next part of the exhibition room.