frank davis memorial lecture series

Royal Manuscripts at the British Library

England and France: Royal Libraries in the Later Middle Ages

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

17.30 - 18.30, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

Detail of a miniature of Aristotle instructing Alexander and three other children in the schoolroom
Aristotle and Alexander from Le Livre et le vraye hystoire du bon roy Alixandre; Paris, c. 1420, f.10v; © The British Library Board, Royal 20 B XX

Speaker(s): Dr Jenny Stratford (Royal Holloway College/ Institute of Historical Research)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Professor John Lowden (for further information, please contact Dr Jim Harris

The great Louvre library of the French kings, Charles V (1364-1380) and Charles VI (1380-1422), is very well documented. About a hundred books are known to survive today, many of them superbly illuminated. There are no inventories of the English royal library until the Tudor period, but long before Edward IV commissioned his huge illuminated books from Bruges, we can pinpoint royal books and suggest the library’s existence.

Two thousand manuscripts from the Old Royal library were presented to the British Museum by George II in 1757. About one hundred and fifty of the most richly illuminated will be displayed in a joint British Library/Courtauld Institute of Art exhibition, Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination, at the British Library from 11 November 2011 to 13 March 2012. Taking this extraordinary collection as their starting point, the Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series for 2011 will explore aspects of the patronage, manufacture, function and collection of books in medieval England and France, and will provide a broad context for these precious survivors of the library of the kings and queens of England.

Jenny Stratford began her career in the Department of Manuscripts, the British Library. She is now a Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. Her interest in princely collections led to the groundbreaking publication of The Bedford Inventories: the Worldly Goods of John, Duke of Bedford, Regent of France, 1389–1435 (1993) and she continues to explore the political, economic and cultural implications of royal and princely inventories and to use visual evidence in interpreting them.  She is the author of many articles and has contributed chapters to The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain (1999) and The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland (2006). Her new study, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure is to be published in 2012.

Sponsored by the FM Kirby Foundation

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