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About the Author

Christopher De Hamel is the Fellow Librarian of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. For 25 years he was responsible for all sales of medieval and illuminated manuscripts at Sotheby's in London. He has a doctorate from Oxford University and an honorary doctorate from St John's University, show more Collegeville, Minnesota. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries show less

Works by Christopher De Hamel

A History of Illuminated Manuscripts (1985) — Author — 650 copies
Scribes and Illuminators (1992) 389 copies
Making medieval manuscripts (2018) 47 copies

Associated Works

Common Sense (1776) — Postface, some editions — 5,117 copies
The Bible as book : the manuscript tradition (1997) — Contributor — 25 copies
Antiquaries, Book Collectors, and the Circles of Learning (1996) — Contributor — 10 copies
Pioneers in Bibliography (1988) — Contributor — 7 copies


Common Knowledge



OT-Book of potential interest in Folio Society Devotees (October 2022)


Interesting, and written with some practical experience. If you’re thinking of trying it this will give you an idea of just how difficult it will be. Buy your books ready-printed, people. Also very well illustrated. It’s a revised version of his earlier Scribes and Illuminators.
Lukerik | Dec 13, 2023 |
Very much the counterpart of Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts, and just as good. Here the focus is on twelve people who had some sort of connection to manuscripts, whether writing them or collecting them etc. These aren’t just potted biographies. Each essay has that little bit extra. He’s researched properly, gone to where they lived, studied their books. I think the secret here is imagination. He can conjure up a scene from the past from some jotting on a scrap of paper. Particularly nice are his imagined conversations with these people. In the one on St. Anselm he’s taken his side of the conversation of various places in his works and cobbled it together.

This is a particularly nicely made book, as it would have to be for £40 (I borrowed it from the library). Good quality paper and beautifully illustrated. Lots of the illustrations run to the edge of the page so you can see their strata if you look at the edges when the book is closed. So I wouldn’t want you to think I’m unappreciative of a beautiful book. There’s an illumination by Simon Bening on page 134 that at first glance I thought was some sort of 3D embroidery. I’ve seen a few Medieval manuscripts under glass. I’m not the kind of person who would ever be allowed to handle them – and rightly so. I like to go to churches with fragile medieval wall paintings and chat up the vicar until she trusts me. Then, when no-ones looking I like to climb up on the pews and poke the paintings all over. But I’ve handled some modern manuscripts and there’s a real thrill to know that what you hold in your hands is a totally unique object and no-one else can be reading another copy at the same time. However, if you put a Books of Hours in front of me I’d be bored in five minutes. There’s a particularly interesting bit in the essay on Theodor Mommsen where de Hamel is obviously nonplussed by his interest in manuscripts because of the text. Really I’m with Mommsen on this one. De Hamel is interested in manuscripts as art. One thing this book does is give a history of the place of manuscripts over time – from working tools in monasteries to over-priced status symbols for the wealthy.
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1 vote
Lukerik | Dec 8, 2023 |
No stars since I didn't read a lot of it. The text pales in comparison (for style and accuracy) with John Barton's A History of the Bible and some of the claims it makes are not in line with up-to-date scholarship. So, I thought I would just skim through it for the pictures, but again I was disappointed. Pictures of giant bibles aren't very impressive in a book that isn't giant itself. Perhaps if they showed someone holding a giant bible for standing next to it, the reader could get a sense of its immensity. Likewise with small bibles. You really need to see these things in person to get much of an impression. If you haven't recently read a better history of the bible, you may get more out of this than I did.… (more)
datrappert | 2 other reviews | Jun 17, 2022 |



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