【New York Timesより、以下転載】
IT is difficult for a museum to know what to do about the Books of Hours, some of the greatest achievements of medieval art. These books - most of them quite small, and some of them very small indeed - brought both a rare intensity and a command of microscopic detail to the task of marking the hours of the day and night at which the devout went to their devotions. Matins, lauds, prime, tierce, sext, nones, vespers and compline formed an unvarying sequence, and it was to the illuminator to match the gravity of the moment.

To get hold of a Book of Hours that is in decent condition is already a triumph. We are speaking, after all, of something that is likely to be 500 or more years old and is delicate by its very nature. But how to make it available to the public? That is almost more of a problem. If the Book of Hours is locked away in a safe and no one sees it, that in a way negates the whole purpose of a museum.

But if it is handled freely, exposed to a harmful level of light and in general is treated as, for instance, J.M.W. Turner's sketchbooks were treated until lately in the British Museum, the book will fade, get soiled and eventually disintegrate. And when it disintegrates, there are very few more where it came from.

At the Pierpont Morgan Library this problem comes up all the time, and rarely more so than in the current exhibition of ''15th-Century Art From the Netherlands.'' There are some fine drawings in the show, and the early printed books make a characteristically sturdy impression. Black ink and white paper have not often been more strongly mated than in the herbal treatise that was published in Louvain in the 1480's by Johann Veldener. But for most visitors the Books of Hours will be the point of maximum interest, and spectacular they are.

There would even be a case for saying that the Books of Hours - or at any rate the illuminated manuscripts in general - are the heart of the Morgan Library. Pierpont Morgan himself clearly thought so. And one of the first and most conspicuous coups of the present director, Charles Ryskamp, came about in 1970, when he went all out for the ''Book of Hours of Catherine of Cleves,'' which was made in about 1440 for Catherine of Cleves, Duchess of Guelders.

The Cleves Book of Hours may well rank with the ''Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry'' as the most famous thing of its kind ever made. It is our good luck that the Morgan Library is in the process of rebinding it, with the result that we can see more than two pages of it at a time.

We can also see color transparencies of several more of its pages. These are lighted from behind in specially made boxes, and it is fair to say that the result is almost as impressive as if we were seeing the originals -and in some cases more so, in that the transparencies can stand an intensity of light that the originals cannot. (I should add that, in obedience with the latest scientific assessments in such matters, the level of light in this exhibition is distinctly penumbral).

With the help of the light boxes, we can see exactly how luxuriant was the fancy that went into the decorated margins in the Cleves Book of Hours. Sometimes those decorations bear a specific meaning, open or covert. The margins of the page devoted to St. Ambrose are lined with mussels in their shells, for example. The shells are all open, the meat of the mussel looks perfectly fresh, and the craftsmanship is as fine as can be.

What the mussel has to do with St. Ambrose is at first sight mysterious. But then we see a gigantic crab, with its pincers at the ready. We remember that the crab is the traditional enemy of the mussel and likes nothing better than to pry open the shell and gobble up the living meat. If we also remember that St. Ambrose was a champion peacemaker who could persuade even the most recalcitrant of enemies to live in harmony, the page makes perfect sense.

There are many such pages in the show, and many remarkable books, even if none of them has quite the cachet of the Cleves Book of Hours. Not all of them are devotional, either. One of the grandest books on view was published in Bruges about 1470 and is in effect an illustrated treatise on just about everything that has to do with country life. The subjects include hunting, wine making, botany, gardening and horse breeding, and they have rarely been looked over in a more stately way.

Those who felt the need to find out what was going on in the world they lived in could reach out in the late 1470's for the ''World Chronicle'' -the work, as it happened, of a Carthusian monk who lived in Cologne - that was brought out by Johann Valdener, the pioneer printer in Louvain. On the level of a fabulation there was a large public for another early printed book, the ''Dialogues of the Creatures,'' which came out in Gouda in 1480 and offered a great deal of information in fable form.

Given that more than 25 million people are believed to have died of the plague in 14th-century Europe, it should not be a surprise that death and how to deal with it were omnipresent in people's minds. ''The Art of Dying'' was an ever-popular title, and even in the early 16th century there was, as we see at the Morgan Library, a hideous actuality about the image of death and a man struggling over a bone.

In these and other contexts, the show is remarkably comprehensive in a field in which acquisitions are harder and harder to come by. More than one of the items in the exhibition has come to the Morgan Library quite recently as a result of an intelligent exchange program with the Royal Library at The Hague. The exchanges in question were of duplicate copies. The Hague got some early English printed material that it could not otherwise acquire, and the Morgan got some remarkable Dutch material. Not every institution favors exchanges of this kind, but in this case the benefits are surely plain for all to see.

Among the drawings in the show, a cryptic sheet called ''10 Spectators'' stands out. Whether or not it is one of the dozen or so drawings that can be attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, and whatever it may be that the spectators in it are looking at, it has an undeniably sinister power. These are people who would carve us up and not think twice about it.

The show can be seen through Nov. 7, and will be joined on Sept. 16 by an exhibition called ''Icelandic Sagas, Eddas and Art.''



そういうことを考えると、大金持ちになって写本の所有者になるか、研究者になるかしないと、一般人では見れない訳で悲しいかも・・・? と言っても、保存もしっかりして欲しいが、見れないのは嫌だなあ~。




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