Following three months of email correspondence about its possible acquisition, I was thrilled to finally see an illuminated manuscript that provides an unique record of a key moment in the history of Birmingham School of Art, namely the offer of Messrs Richard and George Tangye to provide £10,000 towards the cost of building the purpose-designed art school in Margaret Street. As the script within the illustrated border records, it was presented to them on 1 January 1884 by Birmingham Corporation as a means of thanking them for 'their devotion to the interests of the inhabitants of Birmingham and to the advancement of art in this Borough'.
I'd already seen digital images of the manuscript, but it was only possible to fully appreciate the craftsmanship and skill that had gone into its production when I saw the object itself. There's something very special about handling an original piece of artwork that was created over a hundred and thirty years ago, and yet still retains its rich colours and traces of its making that simply can't be obtained from a digital image, whatever its quality. I particularly liked the third page, which includes an illustration of a building clearly recognisable as the School of Art. The artist was Edward Morton, who lived at 17 Bennett's Hill in Birmingham in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He specialised in creating illuminated manuscripts like this one for presentation to leading industrialists and civic benefactors.
Our thanks go to the Dean for agreeing to fund its purchase from a private collector. Why not come and see it for yourself?