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, filled with either decorative shapes or INHABITED BY A HUMAN HEAD, all on a gold ground, one side of each leaf WITH A FULL BORDER composed of pink and blue tendrils accompanied by spikey gold decoration and gold accents, often terminating in ivy leaves, and incorporating EXTRAORDINARILY CHARMING EXAMPLES OF MARGINALIA, INCLUDING ANIMALS, HUMANS, AND HYBRIDS. Vellum slightly soiled and with a few minor imperfections, one leaf with a little offsetting in one corner, each leaf with a small area excised by a former owner (affecting marginalia and a few words of text), but each leaf with at least two fully intact examples of marginalia, and on the whole the leaves quite clean, the colors very bright, and the gold sparkling.

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 each retain at least two excellent examples of marginalia, including a very alert hare, hybrids with the heads of humans and the bodies of two-legged beasts, humans emerging from the border tendrils to help hold up initials, a human head with a wizened beard and a stylized hat incorporated into the border, and a trumpeter blowing into a long instrument accented with gold. Though fragmentary in appearance, these leaves present an excellent opportunity to acquire fine examples of marginalia at an affordable price. For additional leaves from this same manuscript at different price points, please check our website.
(ST16985G)