Medieval Manuscript Gallery
After more than 18 months, the Abbey Museum’s fabulous Medieval Manuscript Gallery has reopened!
You may recall that in late 2015, termites were discovered in the gallery – almost the worst possible scenario! Fortunately, the little chompers had stuck to the timber and left the priceless manuscripts alone. Our beloved manuscript gallery had to close and all the manuscripts and cases were removed before treatment could commence. It has been a long slow process but with funding assistance from the Federal Government through the Stronger Communities Programme and the Moreton Bay Regional Council we have been able to achieve our goal and reopen the gallery. And now we are so pleased to be able to announce the re-opening!
History never ceases to amaze!
During the closure of the Manuscript Gallery the Museum’s Senior Curator, Michael Strong, took the opportunity to photograph all the manuscripts. The timing was perfect as there has been a sudden increase in interest in the manuscripts from international researchers and we have now been able to send them quality colour photos. One thrilling development was the discovery of an adjoining page to a 15th century page from a choir book in vellum in our collection. Astonishingly, the missing page is in the collection of the Case Western University, Ohio. The importance of this particular piece is that they are rare examples of the first polyphonic works, the beginning of modern music. This book was most likely created for Henry VII. And that is serendipitous as well, as the fantastic Winchester Cathedral stained glass was also made for Henry’s queen and it is just possible that the music in our manuscript was also heard under these great windows. What a coincidence!
New and old manuscripts on display
New to the display is a folio with a scene from Pseudolus, a more than bawdy play by the ancient Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus. The document is either Italian or French and dates to the 16th century. The medieval monasteries copied ancient classical manuscripts, saving them for prosperity.
It is exciting to once again see the Museum’s oldest manuscript back on display. There are a number of pages that date from the 12th century, fragments of antiphons which include musical responses and texts from religious services and prayer cycles.
The large collection of later manuscripts from the small Yorkshire town of Aysgarth have not been put back on display. The Museum is looking to use this area for temporary displays and object themed exhibitions. As only about 5% of the Museums collection is currently on display, this will provide the opportunity to show many other treasures that have not previously been available to our visitors.
Visit the Abbey Museum to see our collection of beautiful medieval manuscripts and illuminations.