- A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts of the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College by David T. Gura
In the current climate of digitization and the ongoing establishment of metadata standards for medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, it seems almost quaint to publish a print catalog. After all, a printed catalog is out of date almost as soon as it is published, once the library in question makes a new acquisition or any of its manuscripts become the subject of new research or more specific attributions. In addition, it is impossible to capture in print the visual detail and discoverability of a digital surrogate. This is true for any printed catalog, even one as thorough and detailed as David Gura's Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts of the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College. On the other hand, print catalogs allow for flexibility and detail that may be challenging to implement in a database format. Gura's work exemplifies both the advantages and disadvantages of a printed manuscript catalog.
The catalog provides descriptions of 288 items (69 codices and 219 fragments) from several collections in Notre Dame, Indiana: the University of Notre Dame Library, the Snite Museum of Art, and St. Mary's College. This not the first work to tackle the University of Notre Dame collections: the University Library and the Snite Museum of Art were included in the 1935 de Ricci Census and the 1962 Faye and Bond Supplement, and James A. [End Page 256] Corbett published his own catalog in 1978. This is, however, the first catalog to describe the manuscripts belonging to St. Mary's University in Notre Dame as well as the manuscripts acquired by the university since the publication of Corbett's catalog. Gura's work corrects, amends, and expands the previous works, and as such is a welcome addition to the corpus.
The catalog begins with a handlist and browsable lists of manuscripts organized by century, country/region of origin, and language. These are followed by eight color plates, the only images in the catalog (more on this below). After the list of abbreviations used in the catalog, a lengthy introduction details the criteria for inclusion (the catalog intentionally excludes documents and correspondence as well as in situ binding fragments) and summarizes the history of the collection. The introduction also includes an overview of the collection by genre, demonstrating Gura's breadth of knowledge and the depth of the collection.
As part of his curatorial work at the University of Notre Dame Library, Gura has assigned consistent and permanent shelfmarks to the manuscripts that indicate format, language, height, and shelf number (e.g., Cod. Lat. b. 1). The third element, a lowercase letter, indicates a range of height presumably dictated by the library's shelving constraints, although Gura does not explicitly explain the justification for the four height ranges chosen. It is also unclear how multilingual manuscripts will be/are handled. For the fragment collection, "each new shelfmark is assigned on the basis of a unique parent manuscript." In other words, the ninety-two leaves from the Book of Hours that was formerly Bergendal MS 8 but whose dismembered folia Gura is systematically acquiring for the university are all contained in the shelfmark Frag. III. 1.
The descriptions themselves represent an impressive accomplishment by a scholar who is clearly a skilled paleographer, codicologist, and textual researcher. Gura's detailed and consistent descriptions, with their emphasis on scribal distinctions, miseen-page, codicology, and textual identification, reflect those skills. Watermarks are described and identified with reference to Briquet and Piccard, with page-by-page details provided in appendices. Liturgical use is identified when possible, also with reference to the standard resources (Erik Drigsdahl's Use Tests, Knud Ottosen's Responsories and Versicles of the Office of the Dead, Friedrich Stegmüller's Repertorium biblicum medii...