When last intact, bound in Russian leather with brass catches and clasps, metal studs along the board edges, the edges of the leaves gilt-tooled, with “Missel de Bauvais” au pointillé on the lower edge of the bookblock.
Book Decoration and Musical Notation
1- to 7-line initials throughout in gold and colors, with tendril-like marginal extensions ending in leafy finials, many incorporating serpents, dragons, or birds, with small dogs or other animals. Originally with four historiated initials in the Canon, three of which have been identified (one on Oberlin University, Allen Art Gallery 1993.16 and two on Cleveland Museum of Art 1982.141).
The style of the script and illumination suggest that the manuscript was produced towards the end of the thirteenth century. Liturgical and archival evidence places the manuscript at the Cathedral of Beauvais, where it was used for several centuries.
According to an inscription on the lost first leaf, recorded by Sotheby's in 1926, the manuscript was given to the Beauvais Cathedral by the Canon Robert of Hangest, in exchange for a promise that the priest would say a memorial mass for him every year on November 3. Archival documents record that the manuscript was given in 1356, the year Hangest died. The book remained in the library for four hundred and fifty years, clearly identified in several library inventories. The Cathedral library was dispersed, as were most ecclesiastical collections, during the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century. The missal disappeared at that time, but surfaced again several decades later as part of the collection of Didier Petit de Meurville. In 1843, the Beauvais Missal –newly bound and gilt by Lyon binder Bruyère – was purchased by Henri Auguste Brölemann, a commercial broker in Lyon, from whom it passed through several generations to his great-granddaughter and heiress, Madame Etienne Mallet. She sold the manuscript at Sotheby's on May 4th, 1926 (lot 161) for £970 to dealer William Permain. Peter Kidd recently discovered that Permain was acting as an agent for none other than William Randolph Hearst, who brought the manuscript to the U.S. Hearst owned the codex for sixteen years before selling it for $1,000 in October 1942 through Gimbel Brothers, to New York dealer Philip Duschnes. Less than a month after the Hearst sale, he began offering single pages of the manuscript for $25 - $40 apiece, depending on the amount of gold decoration found on the particular leaf. Duschnes counted among his friends and business associates fellow biblioclast Otto Ege. After removing the leaves he intended to offer for sale, Duschnes passed the remnants on to Ege, who distributed leaves through his usual means, by gift or sale. Ege’s widow Louise distributed several dozen as No. 15 in the Fifty Original Leaves portfolio, around forty of which were assembled and marketed after Ege’s death in 1951.
Davis, Lisa Fagin. Reconstructing the Beauvais Missal [website with detailed bibliography and additional information]http://BrokenBooks2.omeka.net
Davis, Lisa Fagin. "The Beauvais Missal: Otto Ege’s Scattered Leaves and Digital Surrogacy" in Florilegium 33 (2016), 143-166.https://www.academia.edu/40254782/_The_Beauvais_Missal_Otto_Ege_s_Scattered_Leaves_and_Digital_Surrogacy_