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Bibliotheca Parchensis

Park Abbey, near Leuven

Dr Christian Coppens is investigating the collection of incunables which belonged to the Premonstratensian Abbey of Park (Abdij van't Park, Bibliotheca Parchensis) before its sale in 1829. Bibliothecae Parchensis: the incunables of Park Abbey (Leuven)

Under a too tight deadline I am trying to make a reconstruction of the collection of incunables of the Pr(a)emonstratensian abbey of Park close to Leuven (Louvain, Belgium). After the French looted the library in 1795, the rest of the library had to be sold in 1829, after the silver, furniture &c., because of the critical financial situation of the site. The auction was anonymous but the bookseller had informed the book world about the sale (with many manuscripts and some fifty incunables). There was a lot of interest by British collectors; Heber was there of course, and Payne, with commissions for Phillipps and others. There are a few copies to trace in Cambridge UL (Oates), but there must be more around, probably also in the US. The last copy registered in an auction was that of Beriah Botfield’s library (Christie’s 2002, 31) who had bought it from Payne (for this information my thanks to Dr. Paul Needham).
The point is that a lot of cataloguers might not have recognised the provenance, as before the sale the provenance marks were obliterated, although precisely for this reason they are sometimes quite well recognisable or the ‘job’ is badly done and there are still parts good to read/recognise, which can make the identification quite clear.
There are mainly three/four well recognisable traces of the provenance:
  1. a binding stamp (not always present) on both covers which has been rubbed away.
    Abdij Park binding with erased armorial stamps
    There are two different kinds:
    1. a small oval armorial stamp with ‘Bibliothecae Parchensis’ in the frame,
      small oval armorial stamp with ‘Bibliothecae Parchensis’
    2. a large armorial stamp in a baroque cartouche, with a mitre and a crosier on top, and ‘Bibliothecae Parchensis’ in a scroll in the lower part
      large armorial stamp in a baroque cartouche, with a mitre and a crosier on top, and ‘Bibliothecae Parchensis’
      They both have in the centre the arms of the abbey, three sprays of a lily of the valley. The large format books which were rebound at the end of the seventeenth c. (now mainly in Paris) normally do not have this.
  2. A shelfmark on the first end leaf, a majuscule letter, (‘theca’ sometimes), a (mainly) minuscule roman number.
  3. An inscription in rather large characters on the top of the first page (where often the beginning and/or the end is/are still there): “Bibliothecae Parch[ensis] Ord. Praemonst. juxta Lovanium 1698”. Sometimes, certainly in smaller formats, there is at the top right of the first page, in small characters, only “Bibliothecae Parchensis” (mostly cropped by later binding).
  4. An earlier provenance inscription is, also in small characters (16th c.), sometimes on the last printed page, “Bibliothecae Parchensis”, and is sometimes overlooked by the man who had to eliminate the traces.
This can only be a first attempt to reconstruct the collection of incunabula of the old library of Park abbey. I would be very grateful for any information and will continue to collect information after this ‘first attempt’ is published (in an accompanying volume with the catalogue of the actual library, built up after the refoundation of the abbey in the 1830s).
Christian Coppens
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 resources/provenance/bibliotheca_parchensis.txt · Last modified: 2012/08/31 09:57 by



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