The "Beatitudes" in Arresting Gilt by Violet Wilson


(Wimbledon, Surrey: September 1939). 373 x 255 mm. (14 3/4 x 10"). [12] vellum leaves (seven with text and illuminations). Single column, approximately 30 lines in a fine calligraphic hand.

Attractive contemporary dark blue crushed morocco, covers with gilt and blind rules, raised bands with gilt rules, gilt-ruled turn-ins, vellum pastedowns. Text in blue, black, green, and red, a few lines with larger lettering in gilt, several two-line initials in colored ink, five two-line initials in red or blue with floral decorations, opening pages with eight two-line initials in gold (the lines here of a larger size than rest of text), six three-line initials in gold filled and surrounded by floral decoration, three four- to six-line gilt initials with more intricate floral decorations, one of these with gilt stippling and two surrounded by a gilt frame, and ONE VERY LARGE (80 x 45 mm) GILT "B" decorated with stippling, filled with two-tone green leaves, pink flowers, and large gold bezants. First leaf with ink inscription, "Presented by Dr. W J Pearson / in appreciation of the work of / Ashridge Hospital 1939-1946"; two silk guards. ◆Boards with a hint of soiling, but A BEAUTIFUL MANUSCRIPT IN OUTSTANDING CONDITION, the paint lovely and bright, and the gold sparkling.

This beautifully executed manuscript by a notable female calligrapher and illuminator features the oft-quoted and much-loved biblical text known as the "Sermon on the Mount," in which Matthew relates various moral teachings attributed to Christ. The text is written in an extremely pleasing and regular upright script throughout, but the first opening, listing the nine Beatitudes in capital letters, is especially striking. Opening with the largest and most attractive initial in the manuscript, it begins with "Blessed are the poor in spirit" in prominent gilt lettering; this is followed by the other blessings (each beginning with a smaller gilt "B" initial) written entirely in blue capital letters. The rest of the text, penned primarily in black ink but accented with cheerful gilt initials and occasional colored lettering, exudes a sense of order and simple elegance befitting the contents. Illuminator and calligrapher Violet Wilson was born in Wimbledon in 1902. She studied calligraphy under Claire G. M. Evans, who had been a pupil of Graily Hewitt, known for his work with the Ashendene Press and one of the principal British calligraphers and teachers of lettering in the first half of the 20th century. Wilson became a member of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators in the U.K. in the 1930s. The San Francisco Public Library has examples of her work in its Harrison Collection of Calligraphy, and another illuminated copy of the "Sermon on the Mount" (made in 1957) was included in the Baltimore Art Museum's 1965 exhibition and catalogue titled "Two Thousand Years of Calligraphy." The catalogue entry (no. 213) notes that Wilson preferred to work on books and decorative maps and exhibited her work in many countries. According to the presentation inscription in the present work, this manuscript was given to Ashridge Hospital--formerly a monastery and royal residence--by a doctor who presumably worked there, in appreciation for the institution's efforts during the Second World War.

Price: $9,500.00