(Germany: ca. 1150). With edges unfolded: 224 x 185 mm. (8 3/4 x 7 3/8"). 27 lines in a clear, proto-gothic hand.

Matted and framed. Rubrics in red, one three-line initial in red with blue decoration (the verso with two similar two-line initials), MOST OF AN IMPRESSIVE "P" with vine-stem work, painted red and green on a blue ground and with the face of a beast prominently displayed on the descender. Recovered from a binding and thus the vellum a little darkened, the paint in the initial just slightly faded, the word "Bassus" boldly penned by a later hand above the first line of the main text (touching two lines, though not obscuring the meaning); even with these imperfections, an excellent specimen overall, the initial still very dramatic and with no major damage, and, except for one line at the top, the text entirely legible.

With a zoomorphic initial that is both dramatic and charming, this is an attractively decorated fragment from a so-called "Atlantic Bible," named for its immense size (like an Atlas, with both the ocean and the cartographical book deriving their names from Atlas, the Titan). These vast Bibles were very costly and time consuming to produce, making them among the most prized possessions of the church or monastery in which they resided. According to Christopher de Hamel, "Twelfth-century giant Bibles are not just particularly grand books, or the most beautiful Bibles of their time, but are among the most ambitious artistic enterprises surviving from the twelfth century in any medium." ("The Book: A History of the Bible," p. 80) Because of their size, these volumes were often targets for reuse as binding scrap. This fragment is one such case, but it happily retains most of the "P" as well as the opening lines of text from this section, which begins the First Epistle of St. Peter ("Petrus apostolus Iesu Christi electis").

Keywords: Bibles