Possibly Commissioned by the Black Prince


(England, East Anglia [probably Cambridge]: ca. 1350). 450 x 310 mm. (17 3/4 x 12 1/4"). Double column, 22 lines in a tall English gothic script.

Running titles and chapter numbers in red and blue, ONE TWO-LINE INITIAL IN BURNISHED GOLD on pink and blue ground with white tracery, and ONE FIVE-LINE INITIAL IN BURNISHED GOLD on pink ground with white tracery, both with long blue or pink extenders emanating from the top and bottom of the initial, reaching into the margins and terminating in pink or blue ivy leaves. Pricking visible, foliation in red ink in upper corner by a later (18th century?) hand, vellum with natural flaws consisting of a curved fore edge and four small marginal holes, three of the latter close together and lightly decorated in pencil by a later hand. De Hamel, "The Bohun Bible Leaves" in "Script & Print: Bulletin of the Bibliographical Society of Australia & New Zealand," 32 (2008), pp. 49-63; Manion, Vines, and De Hamel, "Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in New Zealand Collections," pp. 93-95; Pacht and Alexander, "Illuminated Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library" III, 714. Fore edge slightly darkened, lower margin a bit thin and thus a little wrinkled (with a very short closed tear), verso with remnants of mounting tape and a small marginal spot, but nonetheless an excellent example--very clean and bright, and with generous margins.

Of impressive size and with a fascinating provenance, this rare example of an English lectern Bible comes from the so-called Bohun Bible, the name derived from its stylistic similarities to a group of manuscripts executed for the Bohun family, considered to be among "the most important patrons of book illumination in England in the fourteenth century." (De Hamel) Measuring almost 18 inches tall, the text generously spaced with only 22 lines per page, and thought to be originally composed of four volumes, this manuscript must have been enormously expensive to produce. All known extant leaves come from the surviving third volume (though it has also been suggested that the first volume could be British Library MS Royal 1.E.IV); our leaf contains text from the very end of Hosea 5 through most of 7, in which the prophet describes at length how a sinful Israel has turned away from God, likening their behavior to adultery and fornication. In his 2008 revised study and census of the now widely scattered leaves of the Bohun Bible, Christopher de Hamel proposed that the first owners may have been the Carmelites of Cheshire (due in part to the presence of a Carmelite figure on leaf 395r), and possibly commissioned by the Black Prince, son of Edward III, known to have endowed the house in 1353-58. From there, De Hamel traced the manuscript to a close-knit group of prominent Cheshire families over several generations, and finally to the firm of Myers & Co. of London, who dismembered the manuscript and sold the individual leaves. Our leaf is folio 371, noted in De Hamel's census as having been sold by Christie's in 1981 to a private collector. The allure of this leaf has not dwindled over time: besides the extraordinary size of the vellum, the large script is unusually tall and very pleasing; the restrained, tasteful decoration has been executed with great care; and the burnished gold still glistens brightly. Leaves from the Bohun Bible are not common in the marketplace, and their selling prices reflect aggressive interest among buyers; the present item represents an uncommon opportunity to acquire a piece of this important and very beautiful manuscript at an affordable price.

Add to Cart Price: $5,000.00

PJP Catalog: 76.011