|Pre-1600 European manuscripts in the United States and Canada (detail)|
Today marks the beginning of the 7th annual Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age here in Philadelphia. This year the symposium theme is "Collecting Histories" and features a line up of speakers discussing the ways in which provenance and the history of collecting informs our wider knowledge about manuscript culture. As readers of this blog know, I'm very much interested in the historical movement of books and manuscripts and I'm excited to speak during the conference on the ways in which the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts (SDBM) can be used to track manuscripts over time.
For this post though I want to highlight the fantastic work done by a team of scholars whose work very much informs the SDBM project. Over the past two decades, Lisa Fagin Davis and Melissa Conway have worked to create a new directory for all institutions in the U.S. and Canada which hold European manuscripts dating to before 1600. They have published their own excellent description of the origins and methodology of the project but in short their work began as a way to update the censuses of American manuscripts created by Seymour de Ricci from 1935-40 and supplemented by Faye and Bond in 1962. Their census includes entries for 937 entities: historical owners of manuscripts derived from previous censuses, the former names of institutions now renamed, as well as current holders. Running to 126 pages in a freely available PDF sponsored by the Bibliographical Society of America, the census is an incredibly helpful resource and I wanted to find a way to make the data contained within it browseable in a different way than just on the printed page.
|Example of a listing from the Fagin Davis & Conway Census (p.37)|
Unsurprisingly one can see the concentration of pre-1600 European manuscript holdings along the east coast. In a league table of manuscript holders New York, Washington, and Philadelphia(!) come out on top by volume but in terms of individual institutions the Huntington and Folger with their extensive holdings of pre-1600 documents come out on top.
|Top-15 current owners of pre-1600 manuscripts by "total" count in the Fagin-Davis/Conway census|
|Top 15 current owners of pre-1600 manuscript codices in the Fagin Davis/Conway census|
|Collections of pre-1600 manuscripts now identified as being relocated in the Fagin Davis/Conway census|
|Top 15 now-relocated collections of pre-1600 manuscript codices in the census|
It's edifying to see the late Larry Schoernberg at the top of the list of codices, especially today during the conference celebrating his legacy. His manuscripts are now here at Penn but a decade ago when they were in Longboat Key, Florida they made that small community the largest holder of pre-1600 manuscript codices in the south. Others on that list will be familiar to many, including George Plimpton whose manuscripts are now largely at Columbia University and Thomas Marston whose collection is at the Beinecke, and Ricketts, whose collection is now mostly at the Lilly library.
Fagin Davis and Conway have already written on the implications of their survey for the history of manuscript movement but I was curious to see how manuscript holdings related to holdings of early printed books. Since I had data on incunabula holdings for the U.S. and Canada handy I thought I would overlay the two sets of information together.
Holdings of pre-1600 manuscripts (orange) and pre-1500 printed books (green)
Finally, if you're interested in learning more about medieval manuscript collections in the U.S. ckeck out the program of this weekend's conference as well as Lisa Fagin Davis' blog detailing her virtual travels to manuscript repositories around the country over the past year.