Collections, Compilations, and Convolutes of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript Fragments in North America before ca. 1900

Collections, Compilations, and Convolutes of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript Fragments in North America before ca. 1900

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Scott Gwara

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Fragmentology 3(2020), 73–139, DOI: 10.24446/dlll

Abstract: Using evidence drawn from S. de Ricci and W. J. Wilson’s Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada, American auction records, private library catalogues, public exhibition catalogues, and manuscript fragments surviving in American institutional libraries, this article documents nineteenth-century collections of medieval and Renaissance manuscript fragments in North America before ca. 1900. Surprisingly few fragments can be identified, and most of the private collections of them have disappeared. The manuscript constituents are found in multiple private libraries, two universities (New York University and Cornell University), and one Learned Society (Massachusetts Historical Society). The fragment collections reflect the collecting genres documented in England in the same period, including albums of discrete fragments, grangerized books, and individual miniatures or “cuttings” (sometimes framed). A distinction is drawn between undecorated text fragments and illuminated ones, explained by aesthetic and scholarly collecting motivations. An interest in text fragments, often from binding waste, can be documented from the 1880s.

Keywords: manuscript fragments, manuscript albums, American auction catalogues

How to Cite: Scott Gwara, “Collections, Compilations, and Convolutes of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript Fragments in North America before ca. 1900”, Fragmentology 3(2020), 73–139, DOI: 10.24446/dlll