Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts

Cover.jpg.rendition.460.707David Ekserdjian at Literary Review:

When, in 1963, G I Gurdjieff called the middle volume of his All and Everything trilogy Meetings with Remarkable Men, he must have thought he had come up with a pretty nifty title. He could hardly have imagined that it would one day be followed by the likes of Thomas Pakenham’s Meetings with Remarkable Trees (1996) and the present volume. However, even if this is only the beginning and hundreds ofMeetings with… are just around the corner, it seems reasonable to assume that Christopher de Hamel’s remarkable – to fail to coin an alternative adjective – book will effortlessly make it into the top ten.

De Hamel singles out a dozen manuscripts for scrutiny, while at the same time alluding to a host of near misses that might have made the grade. It should be explained at the outset that here ‘manuscripts’ means medieval illuminated manuscripts, which combine art and calligraphy. It is perhaps telling that the final chapter is devoted to the Spinola Hours from the early 16th century (now in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles), a near last gasp of the great tradition, and not to an even later work such as Giulio Clovio’s Michelangelo-inspired Farnese Hours of 1546 (Clovio received a glowing write-up in Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, and his portrait holding the Hours was painted around 1571–2 by El Greco, no less). De Hamel confesses that he regards the third quarter of the 12th century as ‘the greatest period in Western European book production’.

more here.