Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts

by Christopher de Hamel

Biography / Autobiography History The Real World

LoveReading View on Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts

Winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2017.

Christopher de Hamel is a man happy in his work – his enthusiasm and love for his subject lights up this account of medieval manuscripts and their history. With first-rate illustrations, we too can feel that we are examining these early books, sharing their beauty, learning of their importance and their long and complex histories. Above all I loved this book as a celebration of scholarship refuting the ridiculous comments regarding experts we have heard recently. Experts this painstaking, knowledgeable and inquisitive are to be welcomed – especially when they communicate with such wit and enjoyment. ~ Sue Baker

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Wolfson History Prize Judges: “Imaginatively conceived, beautifully written and illustrated… de Hamel offers serious new insights in every chapter.”

Sue Baker

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts Synopsis

This is a book about why medieval manuscripts matter. Coming face to face with an important illuminated manuscript in the original is like meeting a very famous person. We may all pretend that a well-known celebrity is no different from anyone else, and yet there is an undeniable thrill in actually meeting and talking to a person of world stature. The idea for the book, which is entirely new, is to invite the reader into intimate conversations with twelve of the most famous manuscripts in existence and to explore with the author what they tell us about nearly a thousand years of medieval history - and sometimes about the modern world too. Christopher de Hamel introduces us to kings, queens, saints, scribes, artists, librarians, thieves, dealers, collectors and the international community of manuscript scholars, showing us how he and his fellows piece together evidence to reach unexpected conclusions. He traces the elaborate journeys which these exceptionally precious artefacts have made through time and space, shows us how they have been copied, who has owned them or lusted after them (and how we can tell), how they have been embroiled in politics and scholarly disputes, how they have been regarded as objects of supreme beauty and luxury and as symbols of national identity. The book touches on religion, art, literature, music, science and the history of taste. Part travel book, part detective story, part conversation with the reader, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts conveys the fascination and excitement of encountering some of the greatest works of art in our culture which, in the originals, are to most people completely inaccessible. At the end, we have a slightly different perspective on history and how we come by knowledge. It is a most unusual book.

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts Press Reviews

'Christopher de Hamel's exploration of medieval manuscripts - a dozen peaks from St Augustine to Chaucer and beyond, gorgeously and copiously illustrated - is itself an extraordinary book, a work of scholarship and history salted with the author's excitement as he conducts us among the great libraries of Western civilization. It is full of delights' -- Tom Stoppard

'A book of marvels' -- John Banville, Financial Times

'Great manuscripts are the reclusive stars of European cultural history; to be close to one is to enter a secret garden to which few have ever been granted access. With scholarly elegance, Christopher de Hamel opens the door and invites us to join him for the intellectual expedition of a lifetime. As he introduces us to twelve star manuscripts in their sanctuary homes, these complex creations emerge as major players in the great game of ideas and power. They are agents as well as creatures, with histories that embrace and explain our own. This is an endlessly fascinating and enjoyable book.' -- Neil MacGregor, Spectacular

'... If I could walk you to your nearest bookshop, take GBP30 from your wallet, and place this wonderful book in your hands, I would' -- Peter Thonemann, Sunday Times

'Truth, as this entrancing book proves, is wonderfully stranger than fiction. Christopher de Hamel's learned adventures amid some of the West's greatest manuscript treasures effortlessly outclass Eco's The Name of the Rose in elegance and excitement. They are also much funnier.' -- Diarmaid MacCulloch

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780241003046
Publication date: 22/09/2016
Publisher: Allen Lane an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780241003046
Publication date: 22nd September 2016
Author: Christopher de Hamel
Publisher: Allen Lane an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 640 pages
Genres: Biography / Autobiography, Father's Day, History, The Real World,
Categories: Social & cultural history, Early history: c 500 to c 1450/1500,

About Christopher de Hamel

In the course of a long career at Sotheby's Christopher de Hamel has probably handled and catalogued more illuminated manuscripts and over a wider range than any person alive. Since 2000, he has been Fellow and Librarian of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. The Parker Library, in his care, includes many of the earliest manuscripts in English language and history. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Historical Society.

More About Christopher de Hamel

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