AN ILLUMINATED VELLUM MANUSCRIPT LEAF WITH A CHARMING LONG-HORNED BEAST, FROM A BREVIARY IN LATIN.(France, ca. early, 14th century). 133 x 86 mm (5 1/4 x 3 3/8"). Single column, 20 lines of text in a very fine gothic book hand.
Verso with seven one-line initials in red or blue, with trailing penwork in the other color, recto with three two-line initials in burnished gold on a blue and pink ground embellished with white tracery, verso with a two-line and a three-line initial of similar design, a total of eight decorative line fillers in blue and red, and, at the end of one of these ON THE VERSO, A VERY CHARMING LITTLE LONG-HORNED BEAST deftly rendered in blue and gray. Recto with small, black letters in the inner margin ("U," "G," and "D"), no doubt providing the illuminator with directions for which initials are to be painted in each case (as they, in fact, were painted). A hint of soiling and darkening, tiny tip of lower corner torn away (not near the text), otherwise a really excellent leaf with no significant defects.
The verso of this charming little leaf contains the text of Psalm 119 with the opening phrase, "In my trouble I cried to the Lord and he heard me." Following this is the start of Psalm 120, "I lift up my eyes unto the hills." The recto has three complete prayers, one for cleansing, one for grace, and one for the protection of angels, this last from the suffrage to Saint Michael the Archangel. Our long-horned beast represents gratuitous whimsy, as the line filler abutting it serves adequately to occupy the space left between the lines above and below. This caprine drollery has the appearance of an alpine ibex with its long curved horns, shaggy stomach, and beard. The legs are a bit stunted, which enables the insertion of the beast at the end of the line. He lifts one front hoof in a friendly gesture. The creature appears next to a reference to the tents of Kedar. Marginalia are often capriciously irrelevant to the text they embellish, but in this case it is tempting to think the artist intended his ibex to be taken for the exotic, less familiar, desert gazelle. The tiny black letters adjacent to the matching burnished gold capitals on the recto here seem explicable only as guide letters, provided for the use of the illuminator (though the latter is left to his own devices on the verso, where they do not appear, and there is no trace of them on the sister leaf discussed in the next entry). (CBM1007)