Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Richard III's Books: Ideals and Reality in the Life and Library of a Medieval Prince

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Richard III's Books: Ideals and Reality in the Life and Library of a Medieval Prince

Article excerpt

Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs, Richard HI's Books: Ideals and Reality in the Life and Library of a Medieval Prince (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1997). xviii + 333 pp.; 82 figures, 11 colour plates. ISBN 0-7509-1406-8. $30.00.

There are twelve manuscripts, now scattered across the world from New York to St Petersburg, that Richard of Gloucester held in his hands. The most famous is probably his Book of Hours, supplemented with additional personal prayers. The others contain seventeen texts, in Latin (a language he could apparently read), French, and English. They include works of piety, among them Mechthild of Hackeborn's Booke of Gost/ye Grace and a Wycliffite New Testament; works of history, prophecy, and of military, chivalric, and regiminal instruction; Guido delle Colonne's Historia de.destructionis Troiae; and a collection comprising Lydgate's Siege of Thebes, Chaucer's Knight's and Clerk's Tales, and the unique copy of the prose Ipomedon. In addition, it is known that he owned two rolls of arms; the Life of St Katherine of Pietro Carmeliano, a humanist more usually associated with the court of Henry VII; and presumably also a printed copy of Caxton's translation of Ramon Lull's Order of Chivalry, which was dedicated to him.

Even allowing for his association with five further works, this may not seem a large haul to produce so substantial a work of commentary, but the collection is intriguing for several reasons. First, Richard signed his books taken by Sutton and Visser-Fuchs as proof of ownership, and at least indicating an active interest such as cannot be proved for the owners of larger libraries (Humphrey of Gloucester, for instance). …

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