Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts

£12.99

Winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2017

Winner of the Duff Cooper Prize for Non-Fiction

Shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2016

The majority of the greatest medieval manuscripts are now almost never on public display at all, even in darkened display cases, and if they are, you can only see a single opening... The idea of this book, then, is to invite the reader to accompany the author on a private journey to see, handle and interview some of the finest illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages.

This is a book about why medieval manuscripts matter. Coming face to face with an important illuminated manuscript in the original is like meeting a very famous person. We may all pretend that a well-known celebrity is no different from anyone else, and yet there is an undeniable thrill in actually meeting and talking to a person of world stature. The idea for the book, which is entirely new, is to invite the reader into intimate conversations with twelve of the most famous manuscripts in existence and to explore with the author what they tell us about nearly a thousand years of medieval history - and sometimes about the modern world too.

Christopher de Hamel introduces us to kings, queens, saints, scribes, artists, librarians, thieves, dealers, collectors and the international community of manuscript scholars, showing us how he and his fellows piece together evidence to reach unexpected conclusions. He traces the elaborate journeys which these exceptionally precious artefacts have made through time and space, shows us how they have been copied, who has owned them or lusted after them (and how we can tell), how they have been embroiled in politics and scholarly disputes, how they have been regarded as objects of supreme beauty and luxury and as symbols of national identity.

The book touches on religion, art, literature, music, science and the history of taste. Part travel book, part detective story, part conversation with the reader, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts conveys the fascination and excitement of encountering some of the greatest works of art in our culture which, in the originals, are to most people completely inaccessible.

Christopher De Hamel has spent a lifetime in the company of rare manuscripts and in this delight of a book he invites us to meet them with him. A visual feast and a genre-defying mixture of history, memoir, and travelogue held together by the author's inimitable charm, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts is unique slice of publishing and a deeply fascinating read.