Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections


Owl from MS 39

Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts


Introduction to the Collection

It is impossible to work with the medieval and Renaissance manuscripts at Bryn Mawr College without a constant reminder of the generosity of Howard L. Goodhart and his daughter Phyllis Goodhart Gordan (Bryn Mawr Class of 1935). Many of the manuscripts now in the collection were at one time Goodhart's own. He presented them to Bryn Mawr College, along with over nine hundred incunabula, as the foundation of the Library's Marjorie Walter Goodhart Medieval Library. Established in 1951, and named after Goodhart's wife (Class of 1912) this collection of early printed books and manuscripts brings alive his interest in the development of thought and education in the middle ages. The College is fortunate that Mr. Goodhart's concerns transcended the theoretical study of the medieval university, and extended to a practical interest in the education of modern women. He is honored by the Howard Lehman Goodhart Memorial Fund, which has made possible the purchase of our most recently added medieval manuscript, a collection of texts probably written in a women's Franciscan community in Italy.

Over the years other donors, often alumnae (see Provenance ), have added to these volumes, resulting in a collection of almost sixty manuscripts which range from legal and medical texts to philosophical treatises and liturgical books. These manuscripts span several hundred years; the earliest volume, an eleventh-century text of Gregory the Great, the latest an English recipe book of the early seventeenth century. The content varies as greatly as the age, from a fine group of illuminated Books of Hours to an intriguing Renaissance copy of Cicero's letters.

Among our donors, Ethelinda Schaefer Castle included four manuscripts in her generous bequest of rare books and manuscripts to the Library. Lucy and Samuel Chew, the one an alumna, the other a long-time professor of English at Bryn Mawr, donated two manuscripts, including a beautiful fifteenth-century Psalter from Rouen. And the Radnor High School, a neighbor of the College, donated four interesting, if fragmentary, liturgical texts. More recently, the manuscript collection was greatly enhanced by a major gift of ten Renaissance manuscripts from the estate of Phyllis Goodhart Gordan. The most recent addition to the collection, a slim text of Ambrose, is a gift from James and Florence Tanis in honor of Leo Dolenski, for many years Manuscripts Librarian.

These manuscript descriptions are modeled closely on the Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Yale University, by Barbara A. Shailor (Binghamton, N.Y., 1984-1992). The description of each manuscript follows, for the most part, the methodology outlined by Shailor in her introduction (Vol. 1, xix-xxi):

1. The manuscript number, the known or probable place and date of origin, author(s), and short title.

2. The text described in sequential order: A beginning and closing leaf citation is given for each article within the text. Arabic numerals designate the articles, while Roman numerals denote physically discrete sections of a manuscript. If possible texts are identified and a bibliographical reference is cited. Usually both incipits and explicits are supplied. Rubrics and headings written in display script are italicized. We have attempted to retain the original orthography while expanding abbreviations and ligatures "silently." Parallel oblique lines (//) indicate that the text begins or ends imperfectly; square brackets ([ ]) denote editorial intervention or problems of interpretation.

3. The physical description: Material on which the manuscript is written, including quality of parchment or paper and a description of watermarks in parentheses; number of leaves, with flyleaves designated by small Roman numerals; dimensions of the folio, with the written space in parentheses; numbers of columns and lines; description of bounding lines and a record of pricking when possible. Collation, scribes, decoration, imperfections, and binding, in that order conclude the description.

4. Provenance.

5. Secundo folio for most manuscripts.

6. Bibliography.

The original descriptions, which are amended as additional information becomes available, were the work of Leo Dolenski, and Kathleen Whalen, and were first published in 1998. Many scholars have been extremely generous in furthering our understandings of these texts; we have tried to acknowledge this assistance within the descriptions, but anyone who has been omitted may be sure that it was by error rather than intention. Despite our best efforts and this abundant guidance, we feel certain that errors remain. We welcome comments and suggestions as well as corrections and revisions.

Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts
Abbreviations Used in Decriptions of Medieval Manuscripts
Full List of Guides to the Collections

Last update: January 24, 2018