The Grosvenor Rare Book Room collection has several examples of hand-illuminated, medieval manuscripts. Among the illuminated manuscripts in the collection is a two-volume Book of Hours from the 15th century presented to the Buffalo Library in 1886 by James Fraser Gluck, a local attorney and library curator. It is written in Latin and contains nine illuminations within decorative borders and four illuminated initials.
A book of hours is a type of prayer book. Each one starts with a liturgical calendar, followed by brief extracts from the Gospels. Over the course of the 15th century, and certainly by the end of the 16th century, the rosary became more popular than the Book of Hours as a form of prayer. One reason for this shift in popularity was that the Book of Hours calls for varying what prayers are said each hour, day or season, rather than the much simpler devotions called for when using the rosary. Ideally, a Book of Hours was intended to be used every day, 8 times per day.
The Rare Book collection also includes Otto Ege’s Fifty Original Leaves From Medieval Manuscripts from Western Europe dating from the 12th through the 16th century. Set number 11 of 40 was presented to the library by Mr. and Mrs. Franz Theodore Stone in 1964 on the occasion of the dedication of the new Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.
Otto Ege was Dean of the Cleveland Institute of Art and lectured on the history of the book at Western Reserve University. Ege selected fifty manuscript leaves, primarily from religious works, to illustrate the art of the manuscript during the period of its greatest development and influence. He prepared the text which accompanies the set over a period of forty years.
Take a closer look at the German Psalter at right. This scribe used a fish with a grinning expression as an illustration at the end of a line. As a result, these books of psalms are often called “laughing carp” psalters.