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, each leaf with one two-line initial painted blue or pink, filled with either decorative shapes or INHABITED BY A HUMAN HEAD, all on a gold or colored ground, ONE SIDE OF EACH LEAF WITH A NEAR-FULL BORDER (though some partially cut away--see below) composed of pink and blue tendrils accompanied by spikey gold decoration and gold accents, often terminating in ivy leaves, and incorporating CHARMING EXAMPLES OF MARGINALIA, INCLUDING ANIMALS, HUMANS, AND HYBRIDS. Leaves with sections of various sizes excised by a former owner and with noticeable staining or smudging affecting several lines of text and disrupting some of the decoration, one leaf somewhat browned, but each leaf with at least one piece of marginalia still intact, well preserved, and quite charming.

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, this group still retains some marvelous imagery, including an inhabited initial with the head of a tonsured monk, his mouth open as if to sing; a particularly wonderful hybrid beast with the head of a human in a pointy gold hood and the body of a beast with two hind legs and a long tail; and the head of a large bird with a massive beak reaching down to pick up something from the arms of a person below--though now partially smudged and not easily identified, it could have possibly been a baby. These leaves are not without condition issues, but they present an excellent opportunity to acquire some appealing examples of marginalia at an affordable price. For additional leaves from this same manuscript at different price points, please check our website.
(ST16985B)