More leaves of medieval Beauvais Missal manuscript found

by AryanArtnews
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More leaves of medieval Beauvais Missal manuscript found

Photo courtesy of Will Sideri.

Who knew that a story about an old wall hanging at a Waterville estate sale would garner quite so much attention?

Over the summer, The Maine Monitor published a story about a recent Colby College graduate who discovers a framed page from a book hanging on a wall at the estate sale. It turned out to be an authentic one leaf of what is known as The Beauvais Missal. The manuscript was written in or near Beauvais, France, in the late 13th century.

The September 18 story about the discovery of the 700-year-old page was widely distributed by The Associated Press (unfortunately without attribution to the Monitor), was distributed on social media among medieval manuscript lovers and picked up by other media outlets, including Smithsonian Magazine and Business Insider (thanks to both outlets that acknowledged the Monitor).

The result: the discovery of more leaves from the missal.

“Since your piece was published, and when the AP and other services hit, until now, seven leaves have come to light, in South Carolina, Delaware, Kansas, Connecticut, Tennessee, California and Ohio!” Lisa said. Fagin wrote. Davis, the executive director of the Medieval Academy of America.

“All these owners either cited your story or one of the offshoots to help them identify the leaf and contact me about it. I have never seen so many identifications in such a short time, and I definitely have you to thank for that!” wrote Davis, who is also a professor at Simmons College in Boston.

The Waterville leaf was discovered by Will Sideri, who was taking a course at Colby on manuscripts. When he saw the famous script at an estate sale in September, he quickly called his former professor, Megan Cook. Later Davis confirmed it was indeed a piece from the Beauvais Missal.

Sideri bought the framed leaf for $75. Davis estimates it is worth between $5,000 and $10,000.

The various leaves of the missal were once an intact manuscript, part of a prayer book used centuries ago by priests for a liturgy. The missal was once owned by William Randolph Hearst, the businessman and newspaper publisher who sold it in 1942. Art dealers began removing pages from the manuscript and selling them.

Davis had been piecing together the scattered leaves for several years, and had written comprehensively about the detective work done by herself, other academics, collectors and dealers.

Cook, an associate professor of English at Colby, said she and her colleagues were stunned by the virality of the story. She remembers frequently checking Twitter and Google after the story was published, only to discover it had been picked up around the world.

“I think it’s one of those stories that the algorithm just gets right,” Cook said. “Once AP picked it up, it went everywhere.”

Sideri, who works in the admissions office at Colby, has the page graded and reframed. He will keep the piece at his parent’s house for safe keeping until he is settled.

He is currently applying to PhD programs and also makes some good jokes from friends about his discovery and internet fame.

They tell him, “It’s the wildest thing that could happen.”

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