Reuniting the Two Wolsey Lectionaries

In 2003 Christ Church lent one of its most treasured manuscripts, the so called 'Wolsey Epistle Lectionary', to a once in a lifetime exhibition Illuminating the Renaissance : The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

But there was something extra-special about that exhibition. It included objects which had never been exhibited before, and, more importantly, it brought together volumes which, by accidents of history, had been separated and are now kept in different collections.

This is the case of the Christ Church Epistle (MS 101) and Magdalen Gospel (MS lat. 223) Lectionaries commissioned by Thomas Wolsey. These are among the most richly decorated volumes in the collections of both college libraries, still sparkling brightly in all the colours of the rainbow and heavy with gold.

Intriguingly, in spite of all the scholarship devoted to them, they retain much of their mystery regarding the artists in charge of their production, Wolsey's intentions in so far as their destination, as well as most of the manuscripts' subsequent history until they reached their present homes.

In 2017 these manuscripts will be brought together again, first in physical form, for a two-day symposium, then virtually, which will allow them to remain united forever in digital form.

As part of a collaborative project, Christ Church and Magdalen College have joined forces to reunite the volumes virtually. A digitized version of Christ Church MS 101 is already available, and Magdalen MS lat. 223 will soon follow.

As these codices have recently been the subject of intense academic scrutiny, we plan to create a dedicated web presence for the Wolsey manuscripts project and launch it via a two-day symposium on 11 and 12 May. The symposium aims to discuss various aspects regarding their provenance, history and production by means of a workshop bringing together major specialists in the field and public lectures.