Research Session 1: Utilizing the Rare Books and Manuscript Library for the First Time

Source: Columbia RBML

Research Session One took place last Tuesday, October 20 in the Rare Books and Manuscript Library (RBML) at Columbia*. Generally, my research focuses on the study of animal skins in the production of manuscripts during the medieval era in Europe. I had met previously with the Medieval Manuscripts specialist at the RBML, who kindly brought out a collection of Spanish choir leaves entitled "Leaves from an antiphonary." The specialist mentioned that the RBML had recently obtained this collection, and that even though not a lot was known about the collection's origins, according to them the choir leaves were likely from the late 18th century due to a reference on one of the pages to St. Catherine dei Ricci, who was canonized in 1746.

What also stood out to me from viewing these choir leaves was the ways in which colors and font were utilized to complement the hymns and prayers. Although the text and musical arrangements were written in black ink, I noticed that many of the intricate designs were drawn in red and blue ink as well. While I will not be focusing on the use of ink colors as much in this project, it still interested me to learn from the specialist that because blue was a more difficult ink color to produce, it meant that the manuscript most likely was being commissioned for a wealthy client or a well-funded church, since blue ink cost more to produce.

Here is a photo I took of one of the folios:

For my next visit, I hope to be able to study these manuscripts more closely and perhaps search for additional manuscript collections produced in other European countries, so that I could learn about whether the processes for producing these manuscripts varied from country to country and also in what ways the production methods improved over time.

*The background photo is one I took of the exterior of Butler Library at Columbia.

*All images uploaded to this site are taken by me, unless otherwise noted.

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