(Paris: after or in 1398, and before ca. 1405). 195 x 135 mm. (7 3/4 x 5 1/4"). 587 leaves, COMPLETE, double column, 32 lines in a lovely gothic script (by more than one hand). A full list of contents available upon request. Two volumes.
HANDSOME DARK RED MOROCCO BY W. H. SMITH AND SON (stamp signed "WHS" in gilt on rear turn-ins), covers semé with gilt fleurs-de-lys tools, gilt Celtic-inspired knot centerpieces, raised bands, spine compartments with rows of fleurs-de-lys, gilt titling, plain morocco turn-ins, vellum doublures and endleaves, all edges gilt. In fleece-lined slipcases. Rubrics in red, line-enders in blue, gold, and red, numerous one- or two-line initials in gold with dark blue penwork or bright blue with red penwork, a total of 19 three-line initials painted blue and pink on gold ground with ivy leaf extenders, three six- or seven-line initials similarly decorated, and NINE SIX- OR SEVEN-LINE HISTORIATED INITIALS AND ONE 10-LINE MINIATURE, THREE OF THESE WITH FULL RINCEAUX BORDERS WITH DECORATIVE U-SHAPED BARS, each image with the figures portrayed against a tessellated background, the letter painted blue or pink on contrasting ground within a thin gold border. With a few contemporary and later notations and pen-trials; old bookseller's description tipped onto front free endpaper of volume I. Bernard Quaritch, "Illuminated and other Manuscripts," 1931, no. 21. Bindings with very trivial imperfections, but especially lustrous and very fine. The full borders just slightly trimmed, the six Calendar leaves with small modern marginal repairs (text not affected), trivial rubbing to paint in a few places, the silver tarnished (as usual), burnished gold worn away in a few places, occasional small smudges to ink and other minor, mostly marginal blemishes, but generally showing few signs of use, and, in all, A LOVELY MANUSCRIPT, VERY CLEAN AND ATTRACTIVE, AND THE HISTORIATED INITIALS ESPECIALLY WELL PRESERVED.
This beautifully bound Breviary is both impressively voluminous and handsomely decorated, with an explosion of small gilt and painted initials, and ten figural scenes painted with remarkable skill. Although the historiated initials stand less than 30 mm. tall (or, in the case of the single miniature, 42 mm.) the level of detail--from the finely molded faces to the tessellated backgrounds that glisten like snakeskin—indicate they were executed by a highly competent atelier. All nine initials occur in volume I, with subjects that include five depictions of David in prayer or playing music (ff. 7r, 16v, 24r, 35r, and 42r); a fool with a staff (f. 29v); a scene with four tonsured clerics at a lectern (f. 49r); the Father and Son in matching robes and haloes, seated and facing each other (f. 56v); and a holy man censing an altar, as God looks down from a cloudburst (f. 77r). Volume I also contains a miniature of the Trinity, depicting God the Father, seated and supporting a crucified Christ, while a dove (the Holy Spirit) gracefully descends from the Father’s mouth to the Son. The scene is adored by a kneeling cleric dressed in red-tinged robes, a white surplice, and a long amice. Dr. Patricia Stirnemann initially proposed the intriguing possibility that the cleric might be (pseudo) cardinal Pierre de Fétigny (d. 1392), apostolic protonotary and canon of Paris, who was named cardinal by the anti-pope Clement VII in 1383; however, his dress does not seem to indicate the rank of cardinal, and thus this identification remains uncertain. The excellence of the historiation and the fine quality of the hand alone make it likely to have originated in Paris, and the contents further connect it to the Benedictine abbey of St. Germain des Prés, particularly because of the presence in the Sanctorale of a major initial for the feast of St. Germain (or Germanus), the only initial of its type in the entire Sanctorale. The earliest proposed date for this manuscript is 1398, the year of the donation by Jean de Karoulay, canon of Notre-Dame, to the diocese of Paris for the celebration of the feast of St. Ivo (or Yves). The proposed date for the completion of work on this Breviary, ca. 1405, is suggested by the style of the decoration, which includes tessellation in the backgrounds of the historiated initials, and floral sprays in the borders of a particular type. (We are grateful to Dr. Stirnemann for this dating, and to Dr. Consuelo Dutschke for her thorough work on the manuscript’s contents and localization.) We could not find a record of our Breviary at auction, but it appeared (as item no. 21, priced at £110) in Quaritch’s important 1931 catalogue of "Illuminated and other manuscripts," where it is described as "beautifully written" and featuring "very delicate miniatures with elegant ivy-leaf borders." The extremely well-preserved state of the manuscript makes it clear that this book was lovingly cared for by its previous owners for generations. (ST15198a)
Add to Cart Price: $95,000.00
PJP Catalog: 75.024