Reconstructing the Beauvais Missal


The Beauvais Missal is one of the best-known victims of mid-twentieth-century American biblioclasm, serving as a perfect example of just how great a loss is incurred when a codex is dismembered and its leaves scattered. It also serves as a hopeful case study of the possibilities offered by recent developments in imaging and metadata standards, platforms, and interoperability. This website presents an ongoing project to digitally reconstruct the Beauvais Missal. As a test-case for the Broken Books project, a Mirador manifest of the reconstruction can be accessed from the Exhibit page.

The manuscript was written in or near Beauvais, France, in the last quarter of the thirteenth century and was used early on at the cathedral there, as evidenced by an inscription on a lost leaf, transcribed in a 1926 Sotheby’s auction catalogue. It was recently discovered that the manuscript was purchased from Sotheby’s by none other than American industrialist William Randolph Hearst, who owned it until 1942 when he sold it through Gimbel Brothers to New York dealer Philip Duschnes, who cut it up and began selling leaves less than one month later. He passed the remnants on to Otto Ege, who scattered it through his usual means. Leaves of the Beauvais Missal are no. 15 in Ege’s “Fifty Original Leaves of Medieval Manuscripts” portfolio.

Many scholars, librarians, curators, collectors, and bookdealers have contributed to this project, and I thank them all for their generosity in sharing information and images with me. In particular, I want to thank Debra Cashion and Bryan Haberberger of the Broken Books Project, Dot Porter of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies,  Jeffrey Hamburger, Christopher de Hamel, Tony Edwards, Scott Gwara, Claire Jenson, Peter Kidd, James Marrow, Barbara Shailor, William Stoneman, and Roger Wieck.

This project is very much a work in progress, and metadata input is ongoing. If you have comments or suggestions, or know of any Beauvais Missal leaves I have overlooked, please feel free to contact me at

– Lisa Fagin Davis

See also Manuscript Road Trip – Lisa Fagin Davis’ blog