Ownership and Stewardship

Beinecke MS 3.34

Beinecke MS 3.34. Grammar handbook. c. 1325-1350
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In addition to their valuable texts, medieval books also carry marks made by some of their owners. The most frequently found mark is the straightforward ownership inscription, such as the one on the flyleaf of Beinecke MS 3.34: “Johannes carter est verus possessor huius lbri” (John Carter is the true owner of this book).

Takamiya MS 5: Chronicon de regibus angliae

Takamiya MS 5. Peter of Ickham, Chronicon de regibus Angliae. England, between 1305 and 1330
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Some medieval books, however, came to serve as elaborately bound testimonies to their owners’ wealth and taste. Takamiya MS 5 was rebound in the seventeenth century in full calf with the coat of arms of the family of Brudenell of Deen stamped on the covers. The armorial binding at once protects the volume and proclaims the social status and rank of its owner. Early manuscripts often were trimmed, as this one was, with their formerly wide margins (and much of the marginalia the texts had accumulated) cut off to fit “modern” tastes.

Beinecke MS 494: Brut chronicle, etc.

Beinecke MS 494. The Brut, or The Chronicles of England. England, c. 1400-1425.

Most of us, if we owned a medieval manuscript, would not rebind it today. And surely few of us would emulate Moreton Frewen, the owner of Beinecke MS 494. Frewen, an eccentric Englishman who settled in Wyoming, used this fifteenth-century manuscript as a sort of autograph album: signatures include those of Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, and W. Bourke Cochran.

Ownership and Stewardship