Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Music from Christmas service in Corpus Iuris

I recently did a presentation in our Rare Book Room for students, and one of the items on display was a beautifully bound Corpus Iuris Civilis, 3 vols, Paris, 1559. The set was bound for one "RB", whose initials are gold-stamped into the lovely leather bindings, and the printing is magnificent. Another notable feature is that all three volumes have scrap sheet music as endpapers.

One of the students, 2L Stephen Kelly, was fascinated by these endpapers and took a photo. Stephen, a regular in the Rare Book Room, forwarded the photo to his former professor, Dr. Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak, a medieval studies professor in the NYU history department. Dr. Bedos-Rezak in turn made an inquiry to Dr. Consuelo Dutschke, Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at Columbia. Dr. Dutschke identified the endpapers as English and from the first half of the 15th century. The leaf was formerly part of a breviary with musical notation and part of the service for Christmas. She noted that this type of evidence of the Catholic liturgy didn't survive well due to the actions of Henry VIII. This makes it even more exciting that these beautiful leaves made their way into our collection!

These little discoveries make my job so thrilling! I'm so grateful to Stephen, Dr. Bedos-Rezak, and Dr. Dutschke for shedding some more light onto this treasure from our collection. Happy Holidays!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

New acquisition: Brownlow's Entries

We recently acquired a 1693 edition--the first in Latin--of A Book of Entries, from Richard Brownlow (1553-1638), chief protonotary of the court of common pleas. This was a lucrative and important clerical office during a booming time for that court. This work is a compilation of precedents or forms for plea roll entries, derived from Brownlow's meticulously maintained records. Originally published in English in 1653 (presumably in line with Cromwell's dictate that law books be published in English instead of Latin or Law French), the work is arranged alphabetically by subject and provides specific references to the court records, most of which date from c.1600–1615.

The book was published in English several times during the 17th century before being published for the first time in the original Latin in 1693. The publisher's note to the Reader states "You have here, Reader, Return'd to their Original Language, after a long and unhappy Transmigration, the Presidents of the Great Brownlow, whose Name stamps them Current, and renders Impertinent all other Recommendations."

Much of the information in this post comes from Christopher W. Brooks, ‘Brownlow, Richard (1553–1638)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3715, accessed 10 Dec 2012].