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.

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 pink or blue--filled with painted floral motifs or a gold cross, and ONE INHABITED BY HUMAN FACE--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, HUMAN HEADS, AND HUMAN-BEAST HYBRIDS. Occasional minor smudging, vellum a little soiled and with a few small stains, (one leaf with noticeable staining affecting some of the text and decoration, but with extremely appealing imagery making up for it), another leaf with some marginal offsetting and the inhabited initial slightly rubbed, but all other examples of marginalia VERY WELL PRESERVED.

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. Fortunately, this group of leaves is intact and retains much marvelous imagery, including two very alert hares, an owl, and a wonderful stork with a long beak, grabbing the equally long beard emanating from a human-beast hybrid in the upper margin, and the heads of humans (some in the guise of a fool) and storks with long beaks (each holding a gold bezant) incorporated into the border tendrils. One leaf shows more damage than the others here, but contains some very desirable marginalia: a human-beast hybrid, with an orange, speckled body and a long tail, in a stand-off with a snail in the upper margin, and the torso of a trumpeter emerging from one of the border tendrils, blowing into an extremely long, gold instrument held vertically in the fore margin. For additional leaves from this same manuscript at different price points, please check our website.
(ST16985P)