Cover Image: The Manuscripts Club

The Manuscripts Club

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Member Reviews

A readable history of English manuscripts told a series of narratives of manuscript owners and producers starting with St. Anselm. While the topic seems very academic and out of my area, the author is a good storyteller and weaves in his own history as a scholar, traveller and very rarely a collector. The book drew me in and I learned a lot. Wonderful and helpful illustrations

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The Manuscripts Club by Christopher de Hamel has everything that would make it a go to pick.

Medieval History? Check!
A book about Manuscripts? Check!
Beautiful illustrations? Check!
Interesting format? Check!

Having read his previous book about Manuscripts reading this one was an automatic. I loved the look and different creators/collectors of manuscripts. It was chunky but enjoyable.

Thank you Netgalley for an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have already purchased the hardcopy!

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Everything by de Hamel is beautiful and informative. He is the authority on manuscripts and I learn something new in each of his books. This is a hefty undertaking in one go, but his writing is accessible and I think you can pick up a chapter at a time at leisure. Gorgeous visuals, well researched and well written. I look forward to getting a hold of the hardcover.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced digital copy. All opinions are my own.

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Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for a digital e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This was a chunk of a novel, and a thoroughly enjoyable one. I love medieval history, and this was a fun, fascinating exploration into the history of medieval manuscripts and the people who interacted with them. de Hamel does a fabulous job of bringing these people to life and exploring their stories. The passion that each of these 12 individuals have for medieval manuscripts is evident and I loved the entire thing.

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There was a time when I considered myself more than just an avid reader, but a collector of books. Had I the resources, I have no doubt that I would have collected manuscripts if I'd had the resources (ie money) and so this title really grabbed my attention. I have to admit, though, that I had no idea where this book might go.

This book is really a series of twelve mini-biographies of people who, through the course of history, have been collectors of manuscripts and who very well may have saved (or at least preserved) many rare manuscripts from destruction. Something that comes across as relatively common is the desire to own a rare item more than owning a specific item due to its significance. What is also common among the people included here is a real joy among the collectors for manuscripts.

Author Christopher de Hamel does a really wonderful job of researching these manuscript collectors (and he gives a lot of credit to others for some of this work) and presenting their lives and collecting rigor in an easy-to-read, conversational tone. Each of these lives was fascinating in unique ways and I'd be interested in learning more about all of them.

Regular readers of my review blog might recognize that the last person in the book, Belle de Costa Greene, was the subject of the historical fiction novel I reviewed in 2021, The Personal Librarian, by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray.

My one complaint about the book is a technical one, and I don't know if it's only on my ARC, or if the published version (printed or digital) would be this way as well. The "Bibliographies and Notes" at the end of the book take up nearly 20% of the book, but the font is roughly half the size of the rest of the book and there are no paragraph indentations. This makes for a very long, tedious notes section and I truly wish that more of this information had been included in the narrative or at the very least used as individual footnotes.

This book contains the following:

The Monk: Saint Anselm
The Prince: The Duc de Berry
The Bookseller: Vespasiano da Bisticci
The Illuminator: Simon Bening
The Antiquary: Sir Robert Cotton
The Rabbi: David Oppenheim
The Savant: Jean-Joseph Rive
The Librarian: Sir Frederic Madden
The Forger: Constantine Simonides
The Editor: Theodor Mommsen
The Collector: Sir Sydney Cockerell
The Curator: Belle da Costa Greene
Epilogue: An Evening at the Morgan
Looking for a good book? The Manuscripts Club, by Christopher de Hamel, biographizes twelve important figures through history who have collected and preserved rare manuscripts.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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Books about books are popular these days, and with this book you are in the hands of a master! I love that even though it's a book about objects, it's exceedingly intimate. The author imagines himself getting invited into the libraries of these long-dead collectors and speaking to them. What a wonderful way to reimagine the Western canon. I hope similar books are issued about Arabic and East Asian libraries.

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A must read for people who loved Basbanes's <i>A Gentle Madness</i> (and his other works).

de Hamel introduces us to twelve collectors of manuscripts, from monks sharing them to copy (and illuminate) so their monastery collections can be "complete" to modern day collectors scouring catalogs and rare book sales to also create a "complete" collection. The competition between them and their rivals, their dedication and focus on their collections was fun to read (and, perhaps, envy). I also enjoyed the "meet the collector" parts, even the imagined conversations (based on research, but the author did not speak with anyone long dead!).

eARC provided by publisher via Netgalley.

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Well, a book about the origins of manuscripts is suitably boring for the subject matter, if not enjoyable for the niche group of readers who will seek this book out! It's interesting to consider the lives of the people who worked with, sought out, and initially owned the world's most famous manuscript collections. If you enjoyed Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts, you'll easily take enjoyment in the Manuscripts Club. It's like sitting down in the reading room of a closed collection.

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Christopher De Hamel does a wonderful job at creating an enjoyable nonfiction reading experience through his own voice and wit. I left with a sense of enlightenment about this history of manuscripts and the passions those have (and still do) have about them. They are a beautiful part of our history and this book does a wonderful job at presenting it.

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Medieval manuscripts have dazzled people for centuries, albeit for different reasons as time has marched on. The Manuscripts Club pulls back the curtain on twelve major players in the lives of these works of art and history. I greatly enjoyed getting to know these book lovers and how they affected the trajectory of the use and preservation of their beloved manuscripts. All in all, a lovely but slightly dense work. A definite read for people who are interested in the history of books.

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This is a book for serious readers and history enthusiasts. The Manuscripts Club does an excellent job of creating a wide cast, showing the breadth of careers and personalities that have been involved in bibliophila across the centuries.

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Historians, book collectors and hardcore bibliophiles will enjoy this somewhat dense history of people just like them - the collectors, writers, transcribers, illustrators, librarians, and ancient book lovers who created some of the most amazing collections of books known throughout history. This is textbook-like reading and despite my interest in the topic, I had to consume this in small spurts.

This will be a niche buy for libraries and bibliophiles.

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