Cologne MS 106: The Book of Hildebald

I have written a few times about The Book of Hildebald, also known as Cologne MS 106 (here and here). As many of you know by now, the archive in Cologne Germany collapsed this week to a level equal to intentional destruction (see here for more information). Hopefully archivists around the world are taking a second look at their archive buildings and getting a little of these economic stimulus packages to ensure that this never happens again.

Given that the manuscript is labeled Cologne MS 106, I have to assume that it was in the archive unless it was on-loan elsewhere. Keep an eye out for its mention as they begin shifting through the rubble.  I quick online search hasn’t turned up any information on where it was stored.

And then there were two…

So why is the Book of Hildebald important? The book, written during the tenure of Bishop Hildebald of Cologne (794-819), contains most of the works that Alcuin collected for Bishop Arno of Salzburg before 805, including several of Bede’s works. It includes one of only three early copies of Bede’s Abbreviated Psalter. If Cologne MS 106 has indeed been lost, it will severely hurt future studies of Bede’s psalter. It also included an early copy of Bede’s hymn on St Æthelthryth and 12 of his other metrical hymns. I have hypothesized before that this manuscript contained a portion of Bede’s lost Book of Hymns. If that it true, it may have been one of a kind.

The best source I know of on the manuscript is: Leslie Webber Jones. (1929) “Cologne MS.106: A Book of Hildebald” Speculum 4(1): 27-61.

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6 comments on “Cologne MS 106: The Book of Hildebald

  1. gordon says:

    A layman’s question: If such manuscripts are so valuable, why haven’t they been digitised before now? Cost?

    • Michelle says:

      There are thousands of valuable manuscripts and digitization is a fairly new process. There are problems with digitization as well. More digitized manuscripts have been lost or become unusable than the real thing lost. Besides, digitized images don’t contain all the information of the original object.

      There is also the issue of money; it costs in staff and computer equipment and space to digitize manuscripts. Then you get to prioritize which manuscripts are the most important to digitize first. You’ll notice in the newspaper article I linked they mentioned all modern (19th-20th century) manuscripts as being so valuable. Its harder to convince the general public/politicians who fund digitization projects that this medieval mss. is more important than any other.

  2. LM says:

    On the digitization question, there is a (somewhat feisty!) discussion here, with contributions from several factions:

    http://www.metafilter.com/79710/Cologne-City-Archive-Disaster

  3. Clemens Radl says:

    Don’t worry about this particular ms.: it was not kept in the collapsed archive but is being kept in the Erzbischöfliche Diözesan- und Dombibliothek (cathedral library). And what is more important Ms. 106 has already been digitized (together with all cathedral library mss.). See http://www.ceec.uni-koeln.de/ for the whole project. Ms. 106 can be found here: http://www.ceec.uni-koeln.de/ceec-cgi/kleioc/0010/exec/pagemed/%22kn28%2d0106%5f001.jpg%22/segment/%22body%22.

    • Michelle says:

      That is wonderful news. I wonder what percentage of the medieval manuscripts were kept in the cathedral rather than this archive? Perhaps early medievalists can let out a sigh of relief?

      I looked at the project and Bede’s pages look like nice clean scans. For any going to the project homepage, under options you can switch to English instructions.

  4. Alcuinslibrary says:

    The manuscript is more likely made in Werden than Köln–this according to the recent German Zensus and the description accompanying the digitization.

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