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, most leaves 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, AT LEAST ONE SIDE OF EACH LEAF WITH A NEAR-FULL BORDER (and a few examples with borders on both sides) 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 small sections excised by a former owner and/or noticeable staining or smudging affecting several lines of text and disrupting some of the decoration, but many leaves with each with at least one piece of marginalia still intact and well preserved, most with paint and gold quite bright, and all retaining much of their original 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 retain much marvelous imagery, including a stork with a very long neck and gold beak, human-beast hybrids, human heads in unusual hats capping off the ends of border tendrils, a beast with a long set of orange antlers, the torso of a trumpeter emerging from a border tendril, blowing on a long instrument, and other examples that, while partially rubbed away, are still identifiable, such as a man with a sword facing off against a beast with a gold horn. Though not without condition issues, these leaves 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.
(ST16985C)