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Collections in Context

The Organization of Knowledge and Community in Europe

Edited by Karen Fresco and Anne D. Hedeman

Publication Year: 2012

The fourteen essays that comprise Collections in Context: The Organization of Knowledge and Community in Europe interrogate questions posed by French, Flemish, English, and Italian collections of all sorts—libraries as a whole, anthologies and miscellanies assembled within a single manuscript or printed book, and even illustrated ivory boxes. Collecting became an increasingly important activity during the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries, when the decreased cost of producing books made ownership available to more people. But the act of collecting is never neutral: it gathers information, orders material (especially linear texts), and prioritizes everything—in short, collecting both organizes and comments on knowledge. Moreover, the context of a collection must reveal something about identity, but whose? That of the compiler? The reader or viewer? The donor? The patron? With essays by a wide array of international scholars, Collections in Context demonstrates that the very act of collecting inevitably imposes some kind of relationship among what might otherwise be naively thought of as disparate elements and simultaneously exposes something about the community that created and used the collection. Thus, Collections in Context offers unusual insights into how collecting both produced knowledge and built community in early modern Europe.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

Series: Text and Context


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix-11

This volume grows out of a conference held at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in September 2007. We thank the following organizations for their generous support: the Program in Medieval Studies; the School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics; the Illinois Program for...


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pp. xi-xv

Short List of Frequently Cited References

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pp. xvii-19

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Introduction: Collections Rediscovered and Redened

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pp. 1-10

When we speak of collections today, we typically mean items on display—in cabinets, on shelves, or in the museum—or, in the case of literature, works published together in an anthology focusing on a single theme, genre, or author. The act of collecting typically brings to mind a hobby taken up by an individual...

I. Composing, Ordering, and Circulating Collections

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pp. 11-31

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1. Collections: Collections: Editing, Exhibitions, and e-Science Initiatives

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pp. 13-29

Notwithstanding the Herculean labors of the Société de l’Histoire de France and Académie Royale de Belgique, editorial work on Jean Froissart’s formidably prolix Chroniques continues unabated. This essay charts recent progress relating to Book III of the Chroniques before describing eorts to create a collection of...

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2. The Wings of Chivalry and the Order of Bodleian Library, Ms. Douce 308

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pp. 30-63

Why are there wings on the backs of the jousting knights pictured in a miniature illustrating the copy of Jacques Bretel’s Tournoi de Chauvency (1285) in Bodleian Library Ms. Douce 308 (figure 1), made ca. 1312?1 is question will lead to a more general inquiry into collections in context. First, what makes...

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3. Buried Treasure: A Lost Document from the Debate on the Romance of the Rose

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pp. 64-74

Between 1401 and 1404 a group of Parisian intellectuals argued about the worth of the immensely popular Romance of the Rose. This complex allegory of love, lust, and the quest for knowledge, which was begun by Guillaume de Lorris around 1230 and completed by Jean de Meun some forty years later, offered...

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4. Pages Filled with Dreams: Notes on the Reorganization of Epic Cycles in Fifteenth-Century Italy

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pp. 75-85

Since the beginning of printing in the Italian peninsula around 1470, epic-chivalric poems derived from the French chansons de geste became a prominent component of the market. The deeds of Orlando, Rinaldo, the traitor Gano, and other figures started to populate the shops of booksellers and the dreams...

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5. The Turk in the Trésor politique (1598/1608) or the Anthological as Political Mode

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pp. 86-96

In September 1589, only weeks after the assassination of Henry III at the beginning of August of that year and during a decisive period of the French civil wars, a collection of treatises and diplomatic reports in Italian was published anonymously in Paris. Entitled Thesoro politico, it comprised anonymous political...


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pp. 97-117

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6. Collecting Images: The Role of the Visual in the Shrewsbury Book (BL Ms. Royal  E. vi)

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pp. 99-119

This contribution takes the physical book and its material presence as a subject for analysis and asks how a consideration of the visual narrative within the context of the material object that contains it might inflect understanding of the Shrewsbury Book. In order to lay the groundwork for this visual study, I will...

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7. The Time of an Anthology: BL Ms. Royal  E. vi and the Commemoration of Chivalric Culture

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pp. 120-133

In 1445 Henry VI of England, then aged twenty-three, was betrothed to Margaret of Anjou, then fifteen. She was the daughter of René, Duke of Anjou, Bar, and Lorraine, and nominally king of Naples, Sicily, and Jerusalem. He was a king without a kingdom or much revenue, but through him Margaret...

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8. The Treatise Cycle of the Shrewsbury Book, BL Ms. Royal 15 E. vi

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pp. 134-150

The Shrewsbury Book is an extremely unusual and important example of French influence upon English chivalric culture during the late Middle Ages.1 The manuscript is justifiably famous as one of the most remarkable compilations of chansons de geste and romances. Yet the anthology is also important because it demonstrated...

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9Christine de Pizan’s Livre des fais d’armeset de chevalerie and the Coherence of BL Ms. Royal 15 E. vi.

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pp. 151-188

The Shrewsbury Book is a gift that impresses by its massive size (470 mm × 330 mm) as well as by its length. It incorporates sixteen works (counting Herold d’Ardenne, presented as a sequel to Guy de Warrewik) and numbers 442 folios. The very elements of magnificence pose a problem of reception: how is the...

III. Collections Building Community

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pp. 189-209

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10. A Livre d’Eracles within the Library of the Fifteenth-Century Flemish Bibliophile, Louis de Bruges: Paris, BnF Ms. fr.  in Context

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pp. 191-207

The Flemish nobleman Louis de Bruges (born ca. 1427, died 1492) was lord of Gruuthuse, governor of Bruges, Oudenaarde, Holland, Zeeland, and West Frisia, and Earl of Winchester. In 1445 he entered the Burgundian Duke Philip the Good’s household as échanson or cupbearer. A prominent and politically...

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11. Reading Royal Allegories in Gautier de Coinci’s Miracles de Nostre Dame: The Soissons Manuscript (Paris, BnF, Ms. n. a. fr.)

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pp. 208-236

The reading and interpretation of medieval manuscripts is notoriously elastic, welcoming of contradiction, and subject to flux. This makes them difficult to study, but not impossible. The Soissons Manuscript of Gautier de Coinci’s Miracles de Nostre Dame (BnF Ms. n. a. fr. 24541) offers us the chance to...

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12. The Prato fiorito, the Selva di cose diverse, and Other Compilations by Suor Fiammetta Frescobaldi

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pp. 237-245

Fiammetta Frescobaldi (1523–86) was born in Florence on January 17, 1523, one of the six children of Lamberto Frescobaldi and Francesca Morelli.1 She was christened Brigida but took the name Fiammetta when, in November 1535, she entered the Dominican convent of San Jacopo di Ripoli in Florence, where she...

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13. A Curious Collection in Ivory: The Lord Gort Casket

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pp. 246-274

In 1948 the art historian David Ross introduced to the scholarly world a previously unknown fourteenth-century French ivory casket, which three years prior had suddenly appeared in a junk shop in the seaside town of Brighton, England.1 Wishing to turn his family seat at Bunratty Castle into a showcase for...

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14. Repeat Performances: Adam de la Halle, Jehan Bodel, and the Reusable Pasts of Their Plays

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pp. 275-287

In the late 1280s, soon after the death of the performing artist Adam de la Halle, someone brought together exemplars of his extant compositions, entrusted them to skilled scribes working in Adam’s native Arras, and thereby created “the earliest surviving single-author collection” of “complete works” from the Middle...

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Afterword. Of Books and Other Miscellaneous Revolutions: Medieval Miscellanies in Context

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pp. 288-293

In the context of recent French contemporary criticism, medieval miscellanies, not unlike the whimsical kaleidoscope of which they may remind us, have become an arresting domain of curiosity as well as a privileged object of literary investigation.1 Scholars, as expected, well aware of Zumthor’s and Cerquiglini’s...

General Bibliography

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pp. 295-321


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pp. 323-326

Manuscript Index

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pp. 327-328

General Index

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pp. 329-340

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270691
E-ISBN-10: 0814270697
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211717
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211712

Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 50 halftones
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Text and Context