Group of people from BL Royal 10 E IV, f. 25v
Detail of a bas-de-page scene of a group of people, one holding a dish and a pot. Image taken from f. 25v of Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria (the 'Smithfield Decretals'). Written in Latin.
The BL Royal Manuscript Collection, also known as the Royal Collection, consists of over 2,000 manuscripts that were once owned by the British monarchs, including English and later British kings and queens from the late 12th to the 19th centuries. These manuscripts are notable for their historical and artistic value.
The collection was initially stored in various royal libraries and palaces, such as the Tower of London and Westminster Palace. During the English Civil War in the 17th century and the subsequent Interregnum, many royal treasures, including manuscripts, were dispersed and sold. Some manuscripts were lost, destroyed, or ended up in private hands.
In 1757, King George II donated the Old Royal Library to the British Museum (which later became the British Library), where the manuscripts were integrated into the museum's collections. This marked the formal establishment of the Royal Manuscript Collection within the British Museum.
The Decretals of Gregory IX (Latin, Decretales Gregorii IX), also collectively called the Liber extra, are an important source of medieval Canon Law. In 1230, Pope Gregory IX ordered his chaplain and confessor, St. Raymond of Penyafort, a Dominican, to form a new canonical collection destined to replace all former collections. Raymond of Penyafort, O.P., (ca. 1175 – 6 January 1275) was a Spanish Dominican friar in the 13th century. He is honored as a saint in the Catholic Church and is the patron saint of lawyers, especially canon lawyers.
In medieval illuminated manuscripts, bas-de-page scenes are unframed, sometimes whimsical images that appear below the written text and may or may not refer to it.