The Robert Edward Hart Library

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Since 2015, Ed Potten has been assisting Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery with researching, cataloguing and publicising the Hart collection of medieval manuscripts, incunabula and pre-1801 printed books.

The library of Robert Edward Hart (1878-1946) was bequeathed (with other collections) to Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery in 1946. With Resilience funding from The Arts Council, the Museum is embarking on a project to research, catalogue and make available Hart’s 26 medieval manuscripts, 52 incunabula, 2 block books and some 1000 pre-1801 printed books. 

In November 2017 the preliminary results of the Project were presented at the international conference ‘Something for my native town: Recent discoveries and new directions in the R.E. Hart Collections’, supported by the Institute of English Studies, University of London.

Nigel Morgan spoke on the Blackburn Psalter (who better?), then great papers from Scot McKendrick, with some very convincing suggestions about the original patron of the Master of Edward IV Hours, and from Catherine Yvard, with some equally strong arguments as to why we should reappraise our views of the artists responsible for 31 leaves from a dismembered Book of Hours from the Hart Collection.

Eric White presented on reconstructing the earliest Mainz printing from fragments, Rebecca Darley and Emma Herbert-Davies spoke passionately about Hart as coin collector and the social networks which underpinned this endeavour, and the frankly amazing looking Winchester coin cabinet at the Brotherton. 

Cleo Canone talking us through some of Hart’s Islamic manuscripts, before rounding off with a great finale from Cynthia Johnston on Hart’s Connoisseur’s Library, with some great photos of the man himself, and a keynote from David McKitterick on the motivations behind, and final resting places of, a series of northern collections.

Ed Potten presented on Hart’s remarkable copy of the 1485 Gart der Gesundheit, printed by Peter Schoeffer, Gutenberg’s apprentice and successor, a copy extensively used and annotated by a community of nuns in Passau in the sixteenth century.


For more information on the Project see:


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