500th Manuscript Online


Bernard Gui (1260-1331) was a Friar-Preacher perhaps best known as an Inquisitor against the Albigensians (or Cathars). He ended his career as Bishop of Lodève. This manuscript (R.4.23) includes various works by Bernard, but we are highlighting the beautifully illustrated genealogical tree – Arbor genealogie regum – which traced the lineage of the French Kings from their Trojan origins (ff. 49v-52v).

Each page is a sequence of illuminated pictures which narrate the succession and genealogy of the kings of France. Each king is represented standing in a medallion in which their name and the length of their reign is also written. The kings have the royal insignia – the crown and sceptre – and are dressed in gowns covered with the fleur-de-lys. Beside them there are usually some smaller medallions in which their ancestors, offspring and spouses appear.

The tree begins on f.49v with medallions representing the chiefs of the Sicambri and, at the top of the page, a damaged miniature of robed men conversing. The tree continues with larger medallions. The first (on f.50r) is Pharamond, a legendary early King of the Franks; he was not mentioned in any chronicles from the Middle Ages (for example he was omitted by Gregory of Tours in his famous Historia francorum). The legend says that his daughter Argotta, from his second marriage, is the ancestress of the French royal line, as she was Merovech’s mother. Below Pharamond follow Chlodio, Pharamond’s son and Merovech, the founder of the Merovingian dynasty in the 5th century.

R.4.23, f.50r
R.4.23, f.50r

The lineage continues on the subsequent pages. Those depicted on f.52v, for example, represent Dagobert II, king of Autrasia (676-679) who was made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church; his feast is on 23 December. He is pictured with some of his relatives. Ansegisel, a son of Arnulf of Metz, is pictured in the uppermost medallion. Through his marriage to Begga, the daughter of Pepin the Elder, the clans of the Pippinids and the Arnulfings were united, giving rise to a family which would eventually rule the Franks as the Carolingians. Below, other important figures appear, like Charles Martel (king of Franks between 737-741) and Pepin the Short.

R.4.23, f.52v
R.4.23, f.52v

The last page (f. 57r) presents Louis X (who reigned between 1314-1316); he was the eldest son of King Philippe IV ‘the Fair’, most famous for having annihilated the order of the Knights Templar. The name of Louis X is not written in the medallion but it is mentioned in the accompanying text. Some later notes continue the genealogy.

R.4.23, f.57r
R.4.23, f.57r

Conservation of the Trinity College Charter of Dotation

rolled charter

From the beginning of January to the middle of March, the College’s Charter of Dotation, dating from 1546 and listing Trinity’s endowments, underwent extensive conservation treatment at the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Book and Manuscript Conservation Workshop.

distorted charter
The Charter as received, showing distortion due to rolled storage.

The Charter, which is written on seven skins of vellum connected by a green cord that bears a brown wax impression of the Great Seal, had suffered from a certain amount of neglect in past centuries. The parchment was heavily soiled with dark, sooty dirt, and fluctuating relative humidity, combined with rolled storage, had left the document distorted and extremely difficult to read. The seal had become detached in the past and had been tied back on upside-down!

Obverse of seal.
Reverse of seal.

Conservation treatment of this magnificent document involved highly detailed cleaning of the parchment to remove as much dirt as possible before the individual leaves were gently humidified and the distortions eased out. The cleaning charter 1cleaning process in particular demanded great concentration so that later annotations, some of them in pencil, were not removed along with the dirt. Three Mars plastic erasers were used in total, mostly cut up into tiny wedge-shaped pieces so that dirt could be removed from between the lines and the words!

charter text
Careful cleaning transformed the document from dark grey to creamy parchment.
Detail from the cleaned top border
Detail from the cleaned top border.

During cleaning, it was interesting to find a trimming from the end of a quill hidden in the plica (fold) of the document: there is no way of telling quite how long it had been concealed in the fold, but even if it is not from the pen of the original scribe, it must be several centuries old. Evidence such as this is always preserved during conservation treatment and the trimming has been mounted in the box with the conserved Charter.

The humidified and flattened parchment leaves needed to settle under weighted boards for several weeks so that they stabilised properly. During this time, a bespoke fitted box was made in the workshop to house the Charter and allow it to be displayed safely. The new box is made from archival materials and has a completely removable lid so that the base tray can act as an exhibition mount when the Charter is displayed, without further need to handle the original document. The box incorporates a contoured, padded recess to protect the seal and a window in which the quill trimming is displayed.

conserved charter
The conserved charter in its new box.


With thanks to Edward Cheese, ACR