FROM A SMALL PSALTER-HOURS IN LATIN, WITH IMMENSELY CHARMING MARGINALIA.

(France: first half of 14th century). 110 x 82 mm. (4 3/8 x 3 1/4"). Single column, 12 lines in a gothic book hand.

Rubrics in red, line enders in pink and blue with gold accents, each leaf with one or more one-line initials in blue with red penwork or gold with blue penwork, some leaves with one two-line initial painted blue or pink, filled with either decorative vines and shapes, all on a gold or colored ground, ONE SIDE OF EACH LEAF WITH A NEAR-FULL BORDER (though some now partially cut away--see below) composed of pink and blue tendrils accompanied by spiky gold decoration and gold accents, often terminating in ivy leaves, and incorporating CHARMING EXAMPLES OF MARGINALIA, INCLUDING ANIMALS, HUMANS, AND HYBRIDS. Leaves with small sections excised by a former owner and with noticeable staining or smudging affecting several lines of text and disrupting some of the decoration, but with marginalia still observable (though in one case difficult to identify the subject matter), and not without charm.

Though diminutive in size, these leaves contain enormously appealing marginal decoration in the form of humans, animals, and hybrid creatures inventively incorporated into the lively borders in manners that range from adorable to bizarre. Especially popular in Flanders, Northern France, and England during the 13th and 14th centuries, marginalia such as these comprise some of the most memorable and entertaining images to be found in any Medieval manuscripts. Despite being found largely in religious books such as Psalters and Books of Hours, the images are often strange, humorous, or even outrageous, and they provide us with consistent delight. Being by definition outside of the central text or miniature, the margins seem to have been a place where illuminators felt more at ease to experiment, resulting in highly imaginative and unique artistic expressions. The present specimens come from a fragmentary manuscript, with many leaves either missing or rendered defective where portions of the vellum were cut away, as here. Fortunately, the leaves in this group still retain some nice examples of marginalia, including a small owl; a hybrid creature with a dramatic gold headpiece in the shape of wings; and, though hard to identify due to some damage, a large head with beard connected to some sort of being with a red hat and a sword (whatever it once was, it clearly took up the better part of the fore margin and must have been quite a sight). These leaves are not without condition issues, but they present an excellent opportunity to acquire some interesting examples of marginalia at an affordable price. For additional leaves from this same manuscript at different price points, please check our website.
(ST16985A)