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 ground, one side of each leaf WITH A FULL OR NEAR-FULL BORDER 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, HUMAN HEADS, AND HYBRIDS. Leaves with either small sections excised by a former owner or noticeable staining or smudging affecting several lines of text and disrupting the decoration, (one leaf with a combination of the two), but many leaves with one or more examples of marginalia still intact and well preserved, most with very bright colors and sparkling gold, and 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, these leaves retain some nice imagery, including birds, a dog on its hind legs, human heads attached to the ends of border tendrils, hybrid creatures with the heads of humans and the bodies of two-legged beasts, and a trumpeter with a particularly long instrument. Though not without some 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.
(ST16985E)