The Manuscripts Club: The People Behind a Thousand Years of Medieval Manuscripts

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* A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice *

The acclaimed author of Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts introduces us to the extraordinary keepers and companions of medieval manuscripts over a thousand years of history

The illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages are among the greatest works of European art and literature. We are dazzled by them and recognize their crucial role in the transmission of knowledge. However, we generally think much less about the countless men and women who made, collected and preserved them through the centuries, and to whom they owe their existence.

This entrancing book describes some of the extraordinary people who have spent their lives among illuminated manuscripts over the last thousand years: a monk in Normandy, a prince of France, a Florentine bookseller, an English antiquary, a rabbi from central Europe, a French priest, a Keeper at the British Museum, a Greek forger, a German polymath, a British connoisseur and the woman who created the most spectacular library in America--all of them members of what Christopher de Hamel calls the Manuscripts Club.

This exhilarating fraternity, and the fellow enthusiasts who come with it, throw new light on how manuscripts have survived and been used by very different kinds of people in many different circumstances. Christopher de Hamel's unexpected connections and discoveries reveal a passion that crosses the boundaries of time. We understand the manuscripts themselves better by knowing who their keepers and companions have been.

In 1850 (or thereabouts) John Ruskin bought his first manuscript "at a bookseller's in a back alley." This was his reaction: "The new worlds which every leaf of this book opened to me, and the joy I had in counting their letters and unravelling their arabesques as if they had all been of beaten gold--as many of them were--cannot be told." The members of de Hamel's club share many such wonders, which he brings to us with scholarship, style and a lifetime's experience.

Author: Christopher de Hamel
Binding Type: Hardcover
Publisher: Penguin Press
Published: 11/14/2023
Pages: 624
Weight: 2.85lbs
Size: 9.30h x 6.30w x 1.90d
ISBN: 9780525559412

Review Citation(s):
Library Journal Prepub Alert 06/01/2023 pg. 14
Publishers Weekly 09/25/2023
Kirkus Reviews 10/01/2023
Library Journal 10/01/2023 pg. 132
Booklist 10/15/2023 pg. 11

About the Author
Christopher de Hamel is the author of Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts, winner of both the Wolfson History Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize. Over the course of a long career at Sotheby's, he may have catalogued more illuminated manuscripts than any other person alive, and possibly more than any one individual has ever done. He is a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and was the former librarian of Parker Library there, which includes many, even most, of the earliest manuscripts in the English language and in history. De Hamel lives in London.

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