The Oldest Leaf We Have Ever Offered for Sale

TEXT FROM HOMILY 24, FOR THE FEAST OF THE PURIFICATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY.

(Germany, almost certainly Fulda: mid-ninth century, possibly second quarter). 305 x 216 mm. (12 x 8 1/2"). Single column, 28 lines of text, written in brown ink in a fine Carolingian minuscule, but with features of an Insular hand.

With large uncial letters at the beginning of each sentence and with a two-line Incipit written in uncials of the highest order, once red but now faded to a ghostly--but still legible--trace. For a leaf from the same manuscript, see Durham University Library Add.MS 1757, http://reed.dur.ac.uk/xtf/view?docId=ark/32150_s2d504rk36p.xml. Removed from a binding and so a bit soiled and darkened from binder's glue, one-inch hole (present before text added, so no loss), minor worming, but IN EXCELLENT CONDITION for this kind of recovered specimen, with virtually every word of the text clearly legible, with surprisingly ample margins, and with the better side unusually attractive, this side being without significant defects of any kind, even minor blurring.

Most likely copied at the imperial abbey of Fulda from an eighth century Northumbrian manuscript once owned by St. Boniface, this leaf from the Homilies of the Venerable Bede, is, except for some small patches affixed to leaves in a 15th century choir book, the oldest manuscript item we have ever offered for sale. Unusual in that it is an original work from the author's time (as opposed to a compilation), the text comprised 50 homilies, written for the monastic community at Jarrow in the years just prior to Bede's death in 735. The collection was disseminated before the end of the eighth century by Anglo-Saxon monks active as missionaries and scholars on the European continent. Few early manuscripts of Bede's Homiliary have survived. The text here is from the Gospel reading and Homily on the Purification of the Virgin Mary, with Luke 2: 25-40 and the incipit for the homily on the recto, and the first section of the homily, beginning "Solennitatem nobis hodiernae celebratatis," on the verso. The present item, which is a sister leaf to Durham University Library Add. MS 1757, is of great importance, since surviving copies from England of the text do not exist before the 12th century. Our leaf can be dated and localized by intriguing paleographical and codicological features. Of special interest here paleographically is the use of the ampersand as a general abbreviation for the letters "et" occurring anywhere in a word, as for example: "&iam" for "etiam," "vocar&" for "vocaret," and "p&rum" for "petrum." Termed the "integrated ampersand" by German writers, this usage is characteristic of Carolingian minuscule manuscripts of the late eighth and ninth centuries. What serves to localize this leaf as a product of the famous scriptorium of Fulda is the lively snake-like tail with which the scribe ends the ampersand. Bernhard Bischoff calls this "schwungvolle &-Ligatur" the "unmistakable" earmark of early manuscripts from Fulda, a major center of Carolingian book production and scholarship in the ninth century (the monastery there was founded in 743 by Anglo-Saxon missionary bishop Boniface). At Fulda, manuscripts continued to be written in Insular hands, alongside concurrent use of the Carolingian minuscule, until about 850, and the commingling of these traditions is evident in our leaf. For example, the scribe here uses the Insular "q," characterized by a tail turned toward the left, rather than the normative Carolingian form of the letter with a straight descender. And among distinctive features of the Fulda Carolingian minuscule seen here is the wedge-shaped form of the top of the ascenders of letters like "l" and "b." Finally, in codicological terms, the present leaf seems to have been prepared in a way that corroborates our hypothetical localization. The flesh and hair sides of the skin are indistinguishable because Fulda continued to prepare parchment in the Insular way by roughing both sides of the skin with pumice. (See B. Bischoff, "Latin Paleography," 1989, pp. 9-10 and 117-18 as well as the 1994 exhibition catalogue of Fulda manuscripts by H. Broszinski and S. Heyne, "Fuldische Handschriften aus Hessen," plates 23, 32, 33, 38, and passim for other examples.).
(CRS1901)

Add to Cart Price: $48,000.00

PJP Catalog: 75.002

TEXT FROM HOMILY 24, FOR THE FEAST OF THE PURIFICATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY. FROM THE VENERABLE BEDE'S HOMILIES ON THE GOSPELS A NINTH CENTURY VELLUM MANUSCRIPT LEAF, IN LATIN.
TEXT FROM HOMILY 24, FOR THE FEAST OF THE PURIFICATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY.