Episode 1: How did you get into the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections?

Iowa City, IA: The University of Iowa, Special Collections, xMMs.Misc4, fol. 1v
Iowa City, IA: The University of Iowa, Special Collections, xMMs.Misc4, fol. 1v

The University of Iowa has recently identified one of its medieval manuscripts and we want to ask it a question:

How on earth did you end up at The University of Iowa Libraries, Special Collections?

Read more Episode 1: How did you get into the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections?

Episode 2: Why do you have parts missing?

Intro 1.JPG
Book of Hours, xMMs.Bo5

One of the medieval manuscripts held in The University of Iowa Libraries is a gorgeous example of a late 15th-century Book of Hours, likely produced in Paris, France.   There are a large number of medieval Books of Hours that survive today because in the late Middle Ages, Books of Hours were the equivalent of today’s best sellers!

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Book of Hours pages

For the Books of Hours that have survived, their current state and condition can vary widely.  These books are well-known for their colorful marginal decorations, ornate capital letters and delicately-painted imagery that often introduce and accompany sections of text.  Unfortunately, over the course of centuries many of these books have been damaged, destroyed or simply broken apart and sold as single leaves.

The manuscript in the The University of Iowa Libraries (xMMs.Bo5, henceforth referred to as Ms Bo5) is no exception.  But the peculiar nature of our book of hours makes us ask the question…

Why do you have SO MANY PARTS missing? 

Read more Episode 2: Why do you have parts missing?

Episode 3: Can we learn anything from a single manuscript leaf?

In this episode of “If Books Could Talk…” we explore the reverse of the question we asked in Episode 2.   Episode 3 presents a case in which we are not examining a medieval manuscript that provides clues of missing leaves, but rather a single leaf that is missing its manuscript!

single leaf from a medieval gradual
Single leaf from a medieval gradual

Deep in the vault of The University of Iowa Special Collections Library lie several leaves from a variety of medieval manuscripts.  Are they valuable?  Do they hold important information?  If they could talk, I would ask them:

“What, if anything, can we learn from you, a single leaf?”

Read more Episode 3: Can we learn anything from a single manuscript leaf?

Episode 4: Does size matter?

One of the smallest folios held in The University of Iowa Special Collections has been known as Devotional 2 (xMMs.Dev2).  But what exactly is a Devotional you might ask?  In Episode 4, we find ourselves asking the same question.

Devotional 2 (xMMs.De2)
Devotional 2 (xMMs.De2)

We are also wondering if the manuscript leaf’s ‘devotional’ content has anything to do with its small size.  Indeed, this episode forces us to ask the question…

Does size really matter?

Read more Episode 4: Does size matter?

Episode 5: Where is the rest of you?

Wilton Processional, xMMs.Gr3
Wilton Processional, xMMs.Gr3

Perhaps you are looking at this leaf and wondering… what makes you so different?  Why kind of story can you possibly tell that has not already been told?

Well, this leaf is clearly not a stand alone leaf.  The recto begins mid-sentence, indicating that some kind of music and text preceded it.  And the verso ends with a bit of a cliff-hanger, with the answer lying on the following folio…. which of course we don’t have!

Fasten your seatbelts because the clues from this single manuscript leaf led us down the rabbit hole of all manuscript leaves and out the other side! And all we did was ask the question:

What can you tell us about where your other leaves are? [1]

Read more Episode 5: Where is the rest of you?

Episode 6: How are you similar or different to a modern Bible today?

Bible leaf, xMMs.Bi3
Bible leaf, xMMs.Bi3

In our final Episode of “If Books Could Talk…,” we examine leaves from two medieval Bibles.  Many Bibles and Bible leaves survive from the Middle Ages and it is not unusual that the University of Iowa Special Collections holds several of them.  As you can imagine, the Bible was a book that was copied regularly and often for a variety of audiences.

Looking at medieval Bible leaves raises a simple, yet interesting question:

“How similar or different are you from a modern Bible today?”

Read more Episode 6: How are you similar or different to a modern Bible today?