Four Fine Leaves from a Particularly Lavish 13th Century English Psalter


(Northern England: ca. 1260-70). 235 x 165 mm. (9 1/4 x 6 1/2"). Single column, 21 lines in an elegant gothic book hand.

Each leaf with versal initials in blue or gold (one leaf with decorative red and blue penwork), many decorative line-enders in red, blue, or gold, EACH LEAF WITH ONE OR TWO HANDSOME THREE-LINE INITIALS IN ONE OF TWO STYLES: in burnished gold on a blue and pink ground with white tracery or in burnished gold with blue penwork and red dots. ◆Trivial imperfections, but IN VERY FINE CONDITION, the paint and ink very well preserved on smooth, clean vellum.

These beautifully decorated leaves feature a confident hand in a pleasing gothic script, impressive initials in three different styles, and the liberal use of a variety of line fillers, including those with complex patterns of burnished gold. The parent manuscript, which contained four very large initials and 41 smaller initials (including 15 with an animal) was offered by Les Enluminures in conjunction with Bruce Ferrini in their "Important Illuminated Manuscripts" (2000), no. 14, listed for $1,000,000; unfortunately, Ferrini broke up the manuscript around 2002 after it went unsold. Although the manuscript had initially been attributed to northern France, ca. 1200-10, the reappearance of a single leaf with an initial inhabited by a small lion (sold at Sotheby's on 5 July 2016, lot 5) has enabled scholars to reassess its provenance. According to Sotheby's catalogue description for that leaf, "the writing 'below top line' and the ruling in ink rather than plummet indicates the second half of the century, and the closest parallels for the figure style, line-fillers, and penwork flourishing is found in Psalters from northern England such as the Evesham, Oscott, York, and Rutland Psalters (BL, Add. 44874, 50000, 54179, and 62925, respectively), all dating from c.1250 to c.1270." Their description also notes the luxuriousness of the parent manuscript: "It is clear that this was a special commission and an unusually lavishly illuminated manuscript: it is standard for Psalters to have a 1-line initial to each verse and a 2-line initial to each Psalm: here, not only does every psalm initial (and alternate verse initials and line-fillers) employ burnished gold, but the Psalm initials are 3-line." The present leaves contain the text from Psalm 43:11-44:4; Psalm 55:2-56:7; Psalm 93:13-94:10; and Psalm 135:17-137:3. All are in excellent condition and are exquisite examples of 13th century English illumination from what was undoubtedly a splendid manuscript made for a person of means.

Price: $4,500.00