Fine Illumination from the Superlative Chester Beatty Bible


(Southern France, perhaps Bordeaux: ca. 1300). 332 x 227 mm. (13 x 9"). Double column, 40 lines of text in an extraordinarily fine gothic book hand.

Attractively matted. Rubrics in red, capitals struck with red, headlines and chapter number in red and blue, one two-line chapter initial in blue with elaborate red and blue penwork extending the full length of the leaf in the inner margin, and the verso WITH A CHARMING AND BEAUTIFULLY EXECUTED HISTORIATED "N" SHOWING A TONSURED CLERIC in a flowing beige robe with an orange cowl, the letter done in blue with white tracery, the figure shown against a darker blue background and as if through a window formed by burnished gold elements, the initial framed in pink with white tracery and with long bar extenders running the full length of the text and terminating at the top in an orange dragon's head. Tiny guide words along the top edge of the verso, telling the scribe to write "ac" and "tus" at the head of facing pages to serve as the running title. ◆Perhaps a hint of browning right at leaf edges, but IN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE CONDITION, REMARKABLY BRIGHT, CLEAN, AND FRESH.

This leaf comes from one of the most beautiful Bibles ever illuminated, and, not surprisingly, also comes with distinguished provenance. The level of preservation here is extraordinarily fine, and the artistic accomplishment is difficult to overpraise. Though apparently meant to be apostolically generic, the figure within the initial is nevertheless done with great care and confidence--the work of an illuminator at the top of his craft. This leaf is of textual interest in that it jumps directly from the Acts of the Apostles to the Canonical Epistles. That is, it skips over the letters of Paul and introduces the letters of the other apostles in what constitutes a sequence that shows up only infrequently. Our leaf was once part of a spectacular Bible in the collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps (his MS 2506) and later owned by Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (his MS W. 173). The Bordeaux origin is suggested by the presence in the original volume of two 16th century inscriptions by monks from that city. Phillipps' heirs sold the Bible privately to Beatty in 1921, and it was auctioned in his sale at Sotheby's on 24 June 1969 to Alan Thomas, then bought by Duschnes of New York and broken up. The heir to a large estate, Phillipps (1792-1872) made collecting the chief business of his life, eventually becoming simply the greatest collector of manuscripts in history. The American (later British and then Irish) engineer Beatty (1875-1968) started at the bottom and, by the time he was 35, had made a fortune in copper mining. He began a serious career in collecting manuscripts, at first Islamic and then Western, accumulating in the end enough material to fill a catalogue of some 38 volumes. According to George Edwards' article in "Grolier 2000," Beatty "had the highest standards of quality and condition" as a collector, a claim that is clearly validated by the present leaf.

Price: $11,000.00