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, ONE INHABITED BY HUMAN FACE, others filled with painted floral motifs, 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. Vellum with a little soiling and a few small stains (slightly more noticeable on one leaf where it is touching the text, though not obscuring meaning), a few instances of rubbing to gold and decoration (including one bird with its detailing rubbed away), other minor imperfections, but none of these flaws egregious, and the most desirable imagery here still 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 an owl and two other birds (one apparently holding a worm in its mouth), human heads and torsos capping off the ends of border tendrils (including a trumpeter blowing into a particularly long instrument, and a man reaching both arms straight into the air as if trying to grab the head attached to the tendril above him), and a hybrid with the head of a human in a gold hood and the body of a hare, perched gingerly on an ivy branch. For additional leaves from this same manuscript at different price points, please check our website.
(ST16985Q)