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 two two-line initials painted blue or pink and one filled an armorial shield, decorative shapes, or INHABITED BY A HUMAN HEAD, all on a gold ground, BOTH SIDES OF EACH LEAF WITH A FULL BORDER composed of pink and blue tendrils and 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 a little soiled and with a couple small stains, one leaf with an area of smudging to the border and a few letters, both leaves with an area excised by a former owner (affecting marginalia and in one case the text), but these faults countered by the presence three intact and very well-preserved examples of marginalia on each leaf.

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 specimens each retain three excellent examples of marginalia: one leaf includes two imaginary beasts, with long necks or tails, biting into ivy leaf decoration, and the head of a bearded man in a mitre emerging from a border tendril; the other leaf includes a particularly wonderful flamingo with a U-shaped neck and long gold beak, a human head in a long cowl emerging from a border tendril, and a human-beast hybrid incorporated into the border. 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.
(ST16985H)