A Gigantic Leaf from a Vast Book, Featuring a 12th Century Figure in a Gossamer-like Tunic

TEXT FROM HOMILIES XXXVII-XXXVIII.

(Italy: First half of the 12th century). 565 x 387 mm. (22 1/4 x 15 1/4"). Double column, 52 lines in a fine proto-gothic book hand.

WITH AN EIGHT-LINE "S" ENTWINED WITH A FIGURE WEARING A BLUE TUNIC, colored with a light blue wash on the garment, the body positioned behind the initial but with the crown of the head, one leg, and one elbow reaching in front of it, one hand open and the other pointing toward the text. Several numbers and the date 1564 written in a later hand, indicating that the leaf may have been used as part of a 16th century ledger. Recovered from a binding and thus with some general toning, staining, and creasing, verso more noticeably worn, with an obvious area of staining at the bottom partially obscuring several lines of text (recto with only a few words affected), vertical strip (once covering a book spine) a bit darkened and with abraded lettering affecting legibility, an early, two-inch repair in outer margin, but the initial quite clear despite some small, light stains on and around it; some obvious defects, but, on the whole a very good specimen in quite a pleasing hand, with minimal trimming to the generous margins.

A remarkable survival, this leaf from a vast copy of Pope Gregory I's "Homilies on the Gospels" features an inhabited initial offering an edifying glimpse into the making of Medieval manuscripts. Entwined in the prominent "S" initial opening the text to Homily XXXVIII is a single figure in a blue tunic, the only part of this initial to receive any pigmentation. Whether the remaining elements were intentionally left bare as an aesthetic choice or simply never completed by the artist, the lack of coloring affords a rare opportunity to study the ink underdrawing that might otherwise be obscured by paint in the final stages of manuscript production. In addition to being comparable in size to the giant Atlantic Bibles that proliferated in central Italy during the 11th and 12th centuries, our leaf features decoration and a script that also suggest it may have come from the same area. The text here is an early work of Pope Gregory I, a pastoral collection of homilies notable for their use of accessible language, believed to have been preached directly to the people of Rome. Elected pope in 590, Gregory I (ca. 540-604), also known as Gregory the Great, was one of the most influential pontiffs in the history of the Church. As well as revising liturgical worship, he wrote extensively on theology, offering homespun wisdom rather than esoteric debates. He was declared a saint immediately upon his death. Leaves this early and this large are often found partially or severely cut down when recovered from bindings; our leaf, though not without evidence of its reuse, is notable for being sparingly trimmed--perhaps a little off the top only--and thus exhibiting unusually wide margins.
(ST15992)

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PJP Catalog: 76.001

TEXT FROM HOMILIES XXXVII-XXXVIII. WITH A. PARTIALLY COLORED INHABITED INITIAL A VERY LARGE VELLUM MANUSCRIPT LEAF FROM GREGORY THE GREAT'S "HOMILIA IN EVANGELIA" IN LATIN.
TEXT FROM HOMILIES XXXVII-XXXVIII.
TEXT FROM HOMILIES XXXVII-XXXVIII.