Christie’s, OMG!

It is surely redundant to say that the identification of a liturgical manuscript is somehow difficult and that misunderstanding and mistakes are more frequent than expected. However, what we do really not expect is that an auction catalogue displays a great number of wrong information: first, because auction catalogues are expected to be written by experts, and second, because the price of the items depends on the given information: so, each mistake is not only scientifically but also ethically reprehensible. That is what we can observe specifically in one catalogue, Christie’s London auction of Wednesday 20 November 2013 (Valuable Manuscripts and Printed Books).  Let’s see some examples.

nr. 6: Given as a Sacramentary, it is actually a Missal (as we can infer from the picture), because it contains not only the prayers for the mass, but also the chants (without notation) and the readings. 

nr. 8: Again, it is given as a Sacramentary, but it is a Missal indeed.

nr. 10: Given as a Carolingian Breviary of the 10th century, it is actually a Missal of the 11th century.

nr. 23: It’s quite hard to identify this fragment: the description says ‘a Missal with Beneventan neumes’, but the picture displays the chants of the ordinary of the mass, so it could be a Kyrial or a Gradual-Kyrial; however, the description mentions the presence of the responsory for Terce from the Common of the Confessors.

nr. 25: Given as a noted Missal, it is a Gradual since it has only the chants of the mass.

nr. 36: The Ms. is described as an Antiphonal, but the displayed initial Terribilis points to the introit of the mass for the Dedication of the Church.