Samuel Sandars as collector of illuminated manuscripts

A late fifteenth-century Italian Book of Hours bequeathed to the University Library by Samuel Sandars

A late fifteenth-century Italian Book of Hours bequeathed to the University Library by Samuel Sandars

The subject of Cambridge’s Sandars Lectures for 2013-2014 is the man whose bequest in 1895 instituted the Sandars Readership in Bibliography. Samuel Sandars (1837-1894) made many notable donations to the University Library during his lifetime, and complemented these with noteworthy collections of early English printing, books on vellum, fine bindings and over a hundred incunabula in his 1894 bequest, as well as the manuscripts which form the subject of this year’s lecture series, Samuel Sandars as collector of illuminated manuscripts.  Professor Nigel Morgan, Emeritus Honorary Professor of the History of Art in the University of Cambridge, gave his first lecture on Wednesday February 26th. Two more lectures are planned for March 5th and March 12th.

Whilst Professor Morgan emphasised that Sandars was not a rich man when compared with some of the notable American collectors in the final decades of the nineteenth century, he estimates that Sandars gave a total of 150 manuscripts and cuttings to Cambridge.  The majority are held in the University Library, with smaller collections in the Fitzwilliam Museum and Trinity College. In his first lecture Professor Morgan spoke about Sandars the collector of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, and his relations with University Librarians Henry Bradshaw and Francis Jenkinson, and with M.R. James in his capacity as cataloguer of manuscripts and director of the Fitzwilliam Museum. The lecture made extensive reference to the manuscripts which Sandars presented to the University during his own lifetime.

Samuel Sandars

Samuel Sandars

Further consideration will be given to some of these in the remaining two lectures, which will also consider the substantial body of material which entered the University’s collections after the death of Sandars in 1894. Professor Morgan will organise his concluding lectures according to the place of origin of the manuscripts. The second lecture will cover the illuminated manuscripts of England, France, Holland and Flanders, and the third lecture those of Germany, Spain and Italy.  Each lecture will end with the collection which Professor Morgan considers to be the best, the Flemish in the second lecture and the Italian in the third.

David Lowe

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