This large gift of medieval manuscripts, including more than 140 loose leaves, a 15th-century book of hours, and a 17th-century Italian prayer book, has transformed the previously small holdings of the University of Reading’s special collections in this area.

Among the loose leaves in the gift, to be known as the European Manuscripts Collection, are illuminated pages from missals, books of hours, psalters and a papal bull from Perugia, dated 1265. About half the leaves are French, a quarter are from Italy, with the remainder from Spain, England, Germany and the Netherlands.

The highly decorated book of hours was written in Latin and French. Several details hint at the identity of the original owner, including the prominence of St Humbert, which suggest they may have shared the name. The Italian prayer book is in Latin, written on vellum in Genoa and dated 1606. It is written in dark-brown ink in a fine calligraphic italic hand. There are 13 illuminated initials in gold with leafy and floral surrounds in coloured penwork. The prayer book is signed by the scribe Girolamo Bordoni of Sermoneta.

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