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Macclesfield Alphabet at the British Library

Books, Type / Typography

Posted by Mark Sinclair, 29 July 2009, 14:49    Permalink    Comments (2)

We're happy to report that the British Library has successfully acquired the Macclesfield Alphabet Book that Patrick blogged about, here, in January. Not only did they raise the necessary funds to obtain the manuscript, but the rare medieval book will also be on show to the public from tomorrow...

The book, which dates from around 1500, had been in the library of the Earl of Macclesfield since 1750 but was only discovered very recently.

It contains 14 different types of alphabets, including a zoomorphic alphabet, a Gothic script and a foliate alphabet, where the individual letters are defined through leaves and foliage. There are also many examples of different border patterns, some of which are illuminated in colour.

With support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Art Fund, Friends of the British Library and other individual donors, the British Library acquired the £600,000 to meet the purchase price for the book, which will now go on display in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery's Treasures of the British Library collection from 30 July.

It is thought that the manuscript may have been used as 'pattern book' for an artist's workshop, so that visual ideas could be passed from the artist to their assistants. It may also simply have been a sample book, used to show potential customers.

More images of the Alphabet Book can be seen on Patrick's original post, here, which also contains full details of that old manuscript conundrum – To Wear or Not to Wear Gloves – and some, at times hilarious, image captioning.

More information on viewing the book at the British Library's Sir John Ritblat Gallery is available here. Opening times for all the British Library's galleries are here.

If anyone gets down to view the manuscript, let us know what you think below.



What a beauty. You don't often see visually stunning books like this from British archives. They seem to be largely Persian or Chinese. For those into old books the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin is a little gem.
2009-08-30 16:04:29

This is a masterwork in every sense. I'm in awe of the playfulness, as matched with such a wonderful sense of proportion.
Tom Orzechowski
2009-10-02 22:15:48

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