A FINELY PRODUCED, PARTIAL FACSIMILE OF A LATE-FIFTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLISH MANUSCRIPT,
ILLUSTRATED WITH PEN-AND-INK DRAWINGS BY ‘THE CAXTON MASTER’
SCOTT, Kathleen L. The Mirroure of the Worlde. MS Bodley 283 (England, c. 1470-1480): The Physical Composition[,] Decoration and Illustration. [London]: Eric Buckley at the Oxford University Press for The Roxburghe Club, 1980.
Folio (378 x 254mm), pp. [4 (preliminary blank ll.)], xiii, [1 (blank)], 68, [2 (blank l.)]. Title and list of members printed in red and black. 21 colour-printed facsimile plates, printed additionally with gilt, numbered I-XXI, and 4 black-and-white plates with illustrations printed recto-and-verso. Original ‘Roxburghe-style’ binding of maroon crushed-morocco-backed boards, spine lettered in gilt, top edges gilt. (Minimal light rubbing, extremities very slightly bumped.) A very good copy. Provenance: Stephen John Keynes OBE, FLS (1927-2017, member of the Roxburghe Club, his name printed in red and marked with an asterisk in the list of members on p. v).
First edition, the issue for members of the Roxburghe Club. This is a beautifully produced ‘partial reproduction’ of ‘a little-known late Middle English manuscript [MS Bodley 283] that, notably, contains the illustrations of an outstanding pen artist associated with William Caxton’ (p. 1) – the ‘Caxton Master’. Its text is associated with the Old French tradition of ‘moral treatises for the use of laity before penance and more generally […] practical guide[s] to Christian life by knowledge of the virtues and by recognition of vices and their invidious branches’ (p. 11). Moreover, MS Bodley 283 represents ‘one of the most important examples of English production surviving from the second half of the fifteenth century’, and provides ‘the fullest Middle English version of […] [the] French text which had been extremely popular for over two hundred years’ (p. 1).
The manuscript is introduced by the famous codicologist Kathleen L. Scott, who had published her seminal work on The Caxton Master and his Patrons with the Cambridge Bibliographical Society four years previously, and would be the Lyell Lecturer at Oxford in 2004. Particularly interesting is her discussion of ‘The Manuscript and its Production’, which follows the history of the manuscript – with its original owner, a London draper named Thomas Kippyng, at its centre – from its conception, via its financing and physical construction, layout and choices in scribe and decorators, to its completion by binding. Scott also places the Mirroure into the complex history of its French manuscript ancestors, explores the style of the pen drawings (a mixture of ‘two types of traditional scene with’ the Caxton Master’s own approach of introducing ‘contemporary renderings of people and landscapes’, p. 19), analyses the borders and initials (including a chapter on the ‘Introduction of the Owl Border Style into England’, pp. 41-44), and concludes with observations on the manuscript’s international character which makes it ‘indeed a mirror of its world, a representative and an epitome of its age’ (p. 59). A summary description of MS Bodley 283 and listing of manuscripts identified by Scott as related to it conclude her introduction.
The facsimile illustrations include two plates of illuminated pages, with ‘gold […] applied by blocking, a novel method’ (N. Barker, The Roxburghe Club, p. 258), and Scott describes the reproductions (including the carefully selected colour plates showing the manuscript’s ‘impressive programme of illustration’) as ‘both exceptionally beautiful and faithful to the original’ (pp. 2 and 1). The selected colour plates show, among others, the seven sins in personified form (e.g. ‘Anger on a lion, stabbing himself’), the saints writing in books, the last judgement, and the garden of virtues. The noted manuscript scholar Linda E. Voigts wrote in her review of this ‘important book’ (Speculum 59 (1984), p. 416) that, ‘this volume should be lauded, both for the magnificent quality of the reproduction and for the opportunity it provided Scott to bring together and update her important studies of two late-fifteenth-century artists whose work can be seen in the codex’ (op. cit., p. 413).
Reviewing The Mirroure of the Worlde in The Book Collector, Jeremy Griffiths judged that, ‘[t]his Roxburghe Club volume has been produced to a characteristically high standard, with excellent reproductions from the Mirroure of the Worlde itself and from manuscripts referred to by Dr Scott in her valuable introduction. If one agrees that certain aspects of MS Bodley 283 can be better understood from the perspective of book design, there is some appropriateness in the reproduction of the manuscript by the Roxburghe Club, whose own books have always been conceived as something more than their contents’ (vol. 32 (1983), p. 238). This was the first book issued by the Roxburghe Club after Stephen Keynes was elected a member in 1978, and hence the first to include his name in the list of members.
Barker, ‘Catalogue of Books’, no. 241 (erroneously dated ‘1981’).
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