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(Click on image to enlarge.)
click here to enlarge "1209 - 1309"
oil on panel 30 x 24 inches
Private Collection


The manuscript in the foreground of this painting, which represents a scholar’s desk from the period, is a compilation of early scholastic texts written and illustrated in England c.1209 (MS 83, Parker Library, Corpus Christi College). The page shown is part of the Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi by Peter of Poitiers. Peter was Chancellor of the University of Paris at the beginning of the thirteenth century and this manuscript is one example of learning being disseminated from the intellectual centre of Paris to England around the time that the university was being founded. The Compendium is a Latin text based on biblical learning which illustrates the genealogy of Christ. The left-hand page (f. 2v) shows Noah and the right-hand page (f. 3r) has medallions showing Terah, Abraham and Isaac.

The leaning book to the right of the Compendium shows the binding of manuscript B.13 at The Library, St. John’s. The manuscript was written in the late 11th century at Bury St Edmunds and contains the Latin text of Gregory the Great's homilies on Ezechiel. The binding appears to be original ie. late 11th century. It consists of white skin over wooden boards and would originally have had a clasp to keep the volume shut. A note on the first page by the prior of Bury St Edmunds Abbey, Henry Kirkestede, records that this book was used in the refectory i.e. for reading aloud to the monks at meal times.

The books page-end on behind the Compendium are theological works including commentaries on Lombard’s Sentences, works of biblical history and sermons, and are also from the Parker Library at Corpus. The wooden table was inspired by a small low table seen in Emmanuel library, to which was added a carving of the Peterhouse coat-of-arms (the oldest college in Cambridge, founded in 1284).
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