Christopher de Hamel has been announced as the winner of this year’s Wolfson History Prize, awarded for excellence in accessible and scholarly history, for his book Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (Allen Lane).
De Hamel, who receives the £40,000 prize, was one of six authors shortlisted for the Prize. Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts topped many of the Book of the Year lists last Christmas, and was awarded the prestigious Duff Cooper Prize in February 2017.
Part travel book, part detective story, part conversation with the reader, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts conveys the fascination and excitement of encountering some of the greatest works of art in our culture which, in the originals, are completely inaccessible to most people. Christopher de Hamel traces the elaborate journeys that these exceptionally precious artefacts have made through time and space; how they have been copied, owned or lusted after; how they have been embroiled in politics and scholarly disputes; and how they have been regarded as objects of supreme luxury and symbols of national identity.
He introduces us to kings, queens, saints, scribes, artists, librarians, thieves, dealers, collectors and the international community of manuscript scholars, showing us how he and his fellows piece together evidence to reach unexpected conclusions.
Stuart Proffitt, Publisher at Allen Lane said: "Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts is not only one of the most original history books – in form, style and ambition - we have published for some time, but also one of the most enjoyable. Christopher de Hamel opens up the medieval world through these remarkable manuscripts as no-one ever has before. But the book is a revelation even if you aren’t interested in medieval matters - it’s about how knowledge comes to us and how what we know about the past itself changes over time."
Sir David Cannadine, Chair of the Prize Judges, said: “Deeply imaginative, beautifully written, and unfailingly humane, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts distils a lifelong love of these astonishing historical treasures, which the author brings so vividly to life. It is a masterpiece.”