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Isabelle Boursier's Book of Hours, a Dismembered Manuscript from Mary Benson's Collection

This book provides a detailed exploration of profit-driven biblioclasm, centring on the case of a Book of Hours, part of the Brooklyn Museum’s holdings until 2021. Facing financial difficulties exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum chose to deaccession and sell various pieces, among which was a manuscript from the Mary Benson bequest of 1919, later dismembered by an American dealer who had purchased it at auction. Whilst examining the moral complexities surrounding these sales and the destruction of irreplaceable European cultural artifacts, the book uncovers the identity of the original owner of the manuscript, and provides a digital reconstruction of the original text.

This book not only brings to light a critical occurrence but also discusses wider issues of cultural conservation and ethical responsibility in the art world. Its global significance and focus on a notable event in art history render it an indispensable read for those dedicated to safeguarding our collective cultural heritage.

This book is part of a series. View the full series, "Dismembered Medieval Manuscripts: Biblioclasm and Digital Reconstructions", here.


Carla Rossi, a philologist and art historian, has been a prolific figure in academia since the 1990s, focusing on Italian, Old-French, and Latin literature. Her works – 50 books and over 200 articles – cover critical editions of Renaissance Italian texts, as well as research into Anglo-Norman texts, Marie de France, the intellectual milieu around Archbishop Thomas Becket, and the life and works of Alain de Lille. Rossi began at Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, studying romance philology and art history. She achieved higher qualifications in Italian language and literature, French literature, and Art history at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. After earning her PhD in Romance Philology at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, Rossi was awarded two university teaching habilitations in medieval and renaissance Italian literature and in Old French literature, and she was later recognised by the University of Zurich with the six-year title of Titularprofessorin. In 2006, she initiated the “Biblioclasm & Digital Reconstruction” project, which has to date restored approximately 500 dismembered manuscripts. Currently she is a visiting expert in the History of Illumination at the University of Salento, Italy, teaching courses on the digital reconstruction of dismembered medieval manuscripts.

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Buy This Book

ISBN: 1-0364-0043-3

ISBN13: 978-1-0364-0043-9

Release Date: 11th March 2024

Pages: 376

Price: £72.99

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