British Library acquires exquisite Liédet manuscript

A rare 15th-century manuscript featuring beautiful illuminations by Loyset Liédet has been bought by the British Library with help from the Art Fund.

A page from the Mystère de la Vengeance manuscript, illuminated by Loyset Liédet, c. 1465 The British Library

A page from the Mystère de la Vengeance manuscript, illuminated by Loyset Liédet, c. 1465

In 1463 Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, attended a performance of Mystère de la Vengeance​, a 'mystery' play by Artois-born playwright Eustache Marcadé. Duke Philip was one of the greatest book collectors and art patrons of his time, and around 1465 he commissioned this luxurious manuscript, perhaps as an extravagant record of the event. Today, it contains the only surviving complete text for the play.

The manuscript features 20 superb miniatures by the artist Loyset Liédet showing key scenes in the play's narrative. It is the finest surviving illuminated manuscript of any medieval drama, and is of particular importance for the study of 15th-century theatre, for which few documents survive. Despite having passed through the libraries of some of the greatest book creators for over half a millennium, the manuscript remains in exceptionally fine condition, and the illuminations remain as vivid as they day they were created.

The manuscript was allocated to the British Library through the government's Acceptance in Lieu scheme, and the acquisition was completed thanks to grants from the Art Fund and the Friends of the British Library.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: 'This important manuscript, with its exceptional iconography, is a striking addition to the British Library’s rich collection. We are thrilled to be supporting its acquisition.'

Mystère de la Vengeance​ is on display at the British Library from Saturday 8 March in the library's reopened Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery, and will also be available to view online at the British Library website.

Venue details

British Library 96 Euston Road London NW1 2DB 020 7412 7332 www.bl.uk

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