October 18, 2012

German Old Testament

This two-volume manuscript of a Southern German translation of the Old Testament was written by the professional scribe Georg Rorer from Ratisbon (Regensburg) around 1463, perhaps for the monastery of Rottenbuch in Bavaria. The first volume contains all the books of the Old Testament from the Book of Genesis (with the first part of the Book of Genesis up to 24:19 missing) to the Second Book of Kings, as well as the psalter. The first chapters of the Gospel of Matthew (1:1–5:44) were accidentally bound into this volume between the Book of Numbers and the Book of Deuteronomy. The volume is illustrated by 60 miniatures and additional floral motifs; these were executed in Ratisbon as well, in a style resembling (though slightly predating) the illuminations of Berthold Furtmeyr (active 1460–1501), who is considered one of the finest German illuminators of his time. The second volume, also by Rorer, contains the books of the Old Testament from the Book of Paralipomenon (also known as I and II Chronicles) to the Book of Malachi, as well as single prologues to the books of the Bible, comprising, among others, those to the major and minor prophets, as well as to the four gospels. It is noteworthy that the codex also contains two prologues by the Frankish Benedictine monk Rabanus Magnentius Maurus (circa 784–856, also known as Hrabanus Maurus) to the two books of the Maccabees. The second volume is illustrated by 52 miniatures and additional floral motifs, also in a style resembling that of Furtmeyr.

Description of the Christening of Lady Elisabeth of Hesse

In 1596 Landgrave Moritz of Hesse (1572–1632) celebrated the christening of his daughter, Elisabeth von Hessen-Kassel (1596–1625), with four days of lavish games, tournaments and fireworks. Two years later, the artist, engraver, and publisher Wilhelm Dillich (1571–1650) created and published a richly decorated description of these festivities in two volumes. The lavish illustrations mostly detail the costumes and decorations of the various pageants, with many of the attendees dressed as historical, allegorical, or mythological characters. The copy preserved in the Bavarian State Library was hand-colored by Dillich himself and presented to Landgrave Moritz. At some point before 1606 an unknown artist decorated all the free space left in the manuscript (i.e., on empty pages as well as along the margins) with remarkable watercolor paintings of common and exotic flowers such as the tulip, viola, and peony. Among the historical and mythological characters represented in the manuscript are Jason, Perseus, Hannibal, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar.

Atlas with Portolan Charts of the Old World and New World, 1580

This atlas of portolan charts of the old and the new worlds consists of 16 double leaves made from fine white parchment, bound in costly red morocco leather (made from fine goatskin) with gold ornaments in oriental style. The important Portuguese mariner, cartographer, and painter Fernão Vaz Dourado is thought to have made the atlas in 1580, near the end of his life. It belongs to a class of late-16th-century cartographic masterpieces, which reflect the period’s rising demand for cartographic works that were both visually impressive and useful for practical navigation. The atlas was commissioned by the Portuguese crown and produced in Goa, western India, where Dourado spent his last years. The geographical scope of the atlas extends from South America to the Persian Empire, to China (where Canton is named), to Java and New Guinea, and to North America. The charts are remarkable for their narrative wealth. In the regions displayed, natives are portrayed wearing no clothes, with attributes thought to be typical, while busy hunting, gathering food, or carrying out other activities representative of their respective countries as portrayed in Western literary works. The conquerors, in contrast, appear on horseback, wearing hats and suits. The map of Africa contains what most likely is a pictorial allusion to the battle between the Portuguese and Moors near Ksar el-Kebir (Alcazarquivir, Morocco) in 1578. The two riders clad in characteristic costumes and carrying banners may represent the main protagonists in the battle, King Sebastião I of Portugal and Sultan Abd Al-Malik of Morocco (shown wearing a turban). The atlas was transferred from Polling Abbey (Upper Bavaria), when it was dissolved in 1803, to the Munich Court Library, which became the Bavarian State Library, where it has remained ever since.

Conrad Grünenberg’s Armorial

Conrad Grünenberg was an important burgher and knight and a descendant of a patrician dynasty from Konstanz, located on Lake Constance in southwestern Germany. There is no evidence for the exact date of his birth or death. His name first appears when he is mentioned as a builder commissioned by the town of Konstanz in 1442. Grünenberg occupied himself with heraldry and composed an armorial that came to bear his name. Several copies later were produced from Grünenberg’s original autograph copy, one of which is this splendid manuscript from the Bavarian State Library. Grünenberg was a member of the town council of Konstanz in 1454–62 and several times was elected mayor. In 1465 he and his brother John were appointed to serve Emperor Frederick III. From 1468 onwards he bore the title of a knight. On April 22, 1486, Grünenberg reportedly left on a pilgrimage to Palestine. The Habsburg medal of Saint George is said to have decorated his coat of arms. Grünenberg’s armorial includes illustrations, with explanatory text, of the coats of arms of heroes, Roman kings and emperors, electors, dukes, free cities, European princes, non-European princes and colonies, other high nobility, and tournaments and tournament societies, as well as various legendary coats of arms.

Cruel Tyrant Love

This previously unknown version of the solo cantata, Crudel tiranno Amor (Cruel tyrant Love) by George Friedrich Handel (1685–1759), resurfaced in a newly discovered, complete autograph score among the many posthumous estates housed in the Music Department of the Bavarian State Library. It was found in a miscellany of 18 manuscripts formerly owned by the well-known cultural historian, musicographer, and novelist Wilhelm Heinrich von Riehl (1823–97). The sensational discovery was made in 2004 by the musicologist Dr. Berthold Over, who succeeded in identifying the manuscript’s anonymous Italian cantata as a work by Handel in his own hand. The Munich autograph hands down the complete cantata on 11 pages. However, rather than being scored for solo soprano, two oboes, strings, and basso continuo, as described in the Handel thematic catalogue (HWV 97), the solo voice is accompanied by a single keyboard instrument. Many musical details in this chamber version deviate from the work’s previously known source tradition. The original version probably received its first public hearing at King’s Theatre in Haymarket, London, on July 5, 1721, whereas this version was written much later, presumably in or around 1738.

Book of Attire of the Court of Duke William IV and Albert V of Bavaria, 1508 - 1551

The first part of this manuscript, which originally was compiled and used as a heraldic reference by the chancellery of the estates of Bavaria, contains a partial copy of the so-called Hofkleiderbuch (Book of attire). It features finely executed illustrations of military and civil costumes, liveries, and war ensigns in use between 1508 and 1551 at the court of the Bavarian dukes, William IV (born 1493, reigned 1508–50) and his son, Albert V (born 1528, reigned 1550–79). The second part of the manuscript primarily shows a variety of heraldic devices, such as crests of noblemen and towns, but also fantastic designs for various historical and fictional persons and countries. Also included in the manuscript is a drawing based on a mural showing the ancestral line of the dukes of Bavaria. The manuscript is preserved in the Bavarian State Library.