Dr Angéline Rais

This strand examines the various uses of medieval manuscripts and attitudes towards these books in German-speaking areas during the first half of the twentieth century.

Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.53, fol. 1v
Book of Hours (Italy, 1497), bought by Godefrey Brauer from German bookseller Jacques Rosenthal in June 1905 for J. P. Morgan. Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.53, fol. 1v.

One of its objectives is to determine the role played by dealers in the development of the study of medieval manuscripts by analysing sale and auction catalogues. Exploring ways in which dealers collaborated with experts in palaeography, art history, incunable studies and medieval literature to gather their stock of manuscripts and compile their catalogue entries, it also addresses their participation in the international market through their methods of obtaining manuscripts from abroad and their strategies for selling them to clients in Europe and North America.

A second part of Angéline’s research explores how Germany’s successive governments used medieval manuscripts to promote political ideas. She examines why authorities financed the purchase of these books, especially for institutional libraries, and how they supported research on them. She also looks at the consequences of Nazi regulations on the seizure of Jewish booksellers’ and collectors’ manuscripts, and the subsequent effects of these on the German and international book-trade.

This project provides insights into the changing values assigned to medieval manuscripts in the first half of the twentieth century. It indicates that bookdealers, scholars, librarians and collectors in the German-speaking area took part in the international trade and collaborated closely with partners established elsewhere. Finally, besides showing that some buyers purchased medieval manuscripts for their contents, decoration, script, rarity and ownership history, Angéline’s research suggests that others used them for political ends, valuing them as evidence of a country’s past and cultural heritage.