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Adventures in Provenance : the Gough Missals card index

by on September 29, 2011

from Sarah Stewart

As part of my SCONUL graduate library traineeship, I spent a week in Rare Books and Special Collections at the Bodleian Library, gaining a basic experience and understanding of rare and antiquarian book acquisitions, cataloguing and provenance. One of my projects during this week involved investigating provenance and cataloguing of a collection of missals held in the Bodleian Special Collections. These missals (dating between 15th-16th centuries, mostly pre-Reformation) were collected by the antiquarian and topographer Richard Gough (1735-1809). Although Gough is primarily known for his collection of antiquarian maps and topographical manuscripts, in addition to his work on the sepulchral monuments of Great Britain, Gough also contributed 200 early printed service books from the English Churches (primarily York and Sarum), including some illuminated Books of Hours, Missals, breviaries, psalters and hymnals.

The card catalogue of provenance evidence in missals collected by Richard Gough

Former antiquarian books librarian David M. Rogers (1917-1995) had created a card catalogue with notes on the annotations and provenances of these missals. When presented with this card catalogue, housed in a brass tin, the ominous categories “No Clue” in addition to “Not Yet Seen” presented themselves. My task was to order some of the missals in the Gough collection from the stacks, and determine what some of the rather cryptic notes on these cards might indicate. If of use, the information would then be added to the library catalogue record, if not already included. Some of the information contained on the index cards had already been recorded and noted, but others, such as the cryptic “pencil” were rather mysterious.

Along with Antiquarian books librarian Dr Alan Coates, I examined several of Gough’s missals at the Special Collections reading room (currently in the Radcliffe Science Library). One of these missals, Gough Missal 129, presented us with an interesting puzzle. On the index card, “anon. bookplate” had been written. This anonymous bookplate turned out to be a coat of arms, but it did not include a name. The coat of arms depicted a single white rose and chief in ermine on a red shield, surmounted by a rampant Pegasus crest. We are currently in the process of investigating this crest, which will aid in determining who might have owned this missal before it became part of the Gough collection.

http://www.cerl.org/web/en/resources/provenance/main CERL’s page for finding and exchanging provenance information.

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