Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wardington Hours to Stay in England

The fifteenth-century illuminated manuscript known as the Wardington Hours will remain in Britain after the British Library successfully raised £635,000 to purchase it. The 45-page manuscript was sold to a German dealer at auction in December, but Culture Minister David Lammy "placed an export ban on the book to give the library a chance to match the price," the BBC reports.

Created by an anonymous artist of miniatures known as the Bedford Master, who worked in Paris during the early 1400s, the Wardington Hours "may once have formed part of a complete Book of Hours now held in the Huntington Library in California." Until recently the work was in the possession of the late Lord Wardington.

The BL's purchase of the Wardington Hours was made possible with a "£250,000 grant from The Art Fund, together with donations from the Friends of the National Library, Friends of the British Library, and Breslauer Bequest."

[Update: Jim Watts has some more on this subject. He writes "This example illustrates how rare, museum-quality books usually function socially more like relics than like icons. That is, unlike iconic books like the Bible or Qur'an which are readily reproduced and whose distribution and export tend to be heartily encouraged, relic books are regarded as one-of-a-kind and often carry significant associations with particular places or countries. The textual and performative dimensions of relic books have ceased to be important; they are valued for their iconic dimension alone."]