Takamiya MS 53: Old testament chronicle and genealogy of Christ

Takamiya MS 53. Old Testament genealogy. England, c. 1400-1450.

Takamiya MS 53 is the second half of a fifteenth-century chronicle roll, the first half of which is held separately as Takamiya MS 36. This chronicle is devoted to Old Testament history, and this section discusses the kings of Judah starting with Amon, who is named in the green box at the top of the central column. The roundel further down that column is for Sedechias (Zedekiah), the last king of Judah, whose reign ended when the king of Babylon besieged Jerusalem, burning the city and the Temple to the ground and reducing Judah to a Babylonian province. The orange square just to the right of the roundel begins the chronicle’s record of Babylonian kings.

Chronicles of this sort were very popular in medieval England and circulated in both roll and codex form. This manuscript uses the same text and appears to have been produced in the same workshop as other surviving versions, but it includes less information. Other examples, such as Marston MS 242 (also in the Beinecke Library), include the descent of Christ from David’s son Nathan as described in the Gospel of Luke; the ancestry of Welsh nobility (traced back to Brutus of Troy, the legendary “founder of Britain”); and the ancestry of the kings of Britain (traced back to Noah’s son Japhet). Chronicles of kings could make political points about the merits of competing claims to the throne, but Takamiya MS 53 appears to be concerned purely with explaining biblical history.

This fragmentary and unfinished manuscript provides useful information about how such rolls were made. The illustrations, decorated initials, and central line of descent remain empty, which may suggest that the central line that finishes at Christ would have been made with gold leaf as it is in other manuscripts. The partial letters at the top of the right-hand column in this part of the manuscript make it clear that these two pieces of parchment was glued together before the text was written.

To survey the entire roll in greater detail, simply click on the image on the left and then, once you are taken to a new page, click on the image again.

Takamiya MS 57: Roll of Battle Abbey and the chronicle of the kings of Britain

Takamiya MS 57. “The Roll of Battle Abbey” and “Chronicle of the Kings of Britain.” England (York?), c. 1500-1550.

Takamiya MS 57, copied in the first half of the sixteenth century, demonstrates how material arranged for a roll format could instead be presented in a codex. In a roll, a timeline runs continuously down the length of the manuscript. For a codex, by contrast, each line must be color-coded or labeled at the bottom of each page (as earlier in this volume) to allow the reader to follow it through the book.

The lines displayed here give a complex account of English royal genealogy, recording not only the royal line but also the ancestry of the noble families that married into it and following the descendants of younger royal children for several generations. The names in the roundels are color coded for ease of reference. Men’s names are written in black, while women’s are in red. This opening depicts the fortunes of several noble families as they married into and became intertwined with (in the center column) Kings Edward III (reigned 1327-77), Richard II (1377-99), and Henries IV (1399-1413), V (1413-22) and VI (1422-61, and again from 1470-71). This is almost at the end of the manuscript, which ends with the reign of Edward IV (1461-70 and 1471-83).

Although this section of the manuscript traces genealogy in detail, earlier sections up to the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) give detailed historical information. Starting at the time of Noah, the text describes the kings and their reigns.  It also links British history with ancient and biblical history, and records the founding dates of certain important cities.