Medieval Manuscripts Collection

About this collection

The medieval manuscripts are part of the Richard C. Jenkinson Collection in the Special Collections Division of The Newark Public Library.

50 Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscripts:

Beginning in the late 1940’s, Otto Frederick Ege (pronounced EGG-ee), a professor of art history and later Dean of the Cleveland Institute of Art, created portfolios of individual leaves from fifty different medieval European illuminated manuscripts dating from the 12th to the 16th century. Ege boxed each portfolio, numbered the boxes from 1 to 40, and included brief descriptions of each manuscript. The Newark Public Library acquired set 34 from trustee Richard C. Jenkinson.
To create these portfolios, Ege took apart manuscripts in his personal collection. He claimed that his purpose was to educate and inspire future generations about the transformative beauty of medieval book decorations and the extraordinary dedication it took for individuals to create such masterpieces. 

This was an astounding thing to do. The act of “biblioclasty” (breaking apart books) has been seen as nearly a crime for centuries, but Ege’s intention was actually a benevolent one. Apparently, most of the manuscripts he took apart were already damaged or incomplete in some way, with lost covers or missing leaves. One leaf in Newark’s portfolio has dried candle wax drippings on it (leaf 27), while another has been chewed on by medieval mice or bugs (leaf 25).  Ege had devoted his career to teaching book arts such as typography, decoration, and layout design. He believed that by dismantling these manuscripts, it would allow a common person to “have and to hold” an original manuscript leaf, to be able to experience the “thrill and understanding that comes only from actual and frequent contact with these art heritages” (Ege, “I am a Bibliocast”). 

The individual leaves are from books used for Church services and private devotion in the Middle Ages. The collection includes leaves from Bibles, psalters (collections of the Psalms), missals (books containing the text of the mass), hymnals, Books of Hours (personal prayer books), and breviaries (prayer books used by priests). The collection also contains leaves from rare 15th century manuscripts  of Livy’s History of Rome, Thomas Aquinas’s Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, and the Dialogues of Gregory the Great. 
Today, thirty of Ege’s forty sets of medieval manuscript leaves have been located. The majority belong to university libraries. Only five copies are held by public libraries (Newark, Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Lima, Ohio).  More information on Ege Portfolios is available at http://ege.denison.edu

10. Psalter (Psalterium)
Hand Lettered and Painted in Medieval Latin Text; Single Page Psalter; From the Collection of Otto F. Ege.
16. Breviary (Breviarium)
Hand Lettered and Painted in Medieval Latin Text; Single Page Brebiary; From the Collection of Otto F. Ege.
17. Psalter (Psalterium)
Hand Lettered and Painted in Medieval Latin Text; Single Page Psalter; From the Collection of Otto F. Ege.
2. Missal (Missale Plenarium)
Hand Lettered in Medieval Latin Text; Single Page Missal; From the Collection of Otto F. Ege.
20. Psalter (Psalterium)
Hand Lettered and Painted in Medieval Latin Text; Single Page Psalter; From the Collection of Otto F. Ege.
21. Hymnal (Hymnarium)
Hand Lettered and Painted in Medieval Latin Text; Single Page Hymnal; From the Collection of Otto F. Ege.
24. Book of Hours (Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis)
Hand Lettered and Painted in Medieval Latin Text; Single Page from a Book of Hours; From the Collection of Otto F. Ege.