With a Fine Historiated Initial Featuring Isaiah, On a Leaf that Resembles the Gutenberg Bible

TEXT FROM END OF ECCLESIASTICUS AND THE PROLOGUE AND BEGINNING OF ISAIAH.

(Bohemia: ca. 1450). 446 x 313 mm. (17 5/8 x 12 3/8"). Double column, 48 lines on recto (and 47 on verso) in an attractive gothic book hand.

Mounted in a cream-colored card window folder ruled in red ink. Rubrics in red, running titles in red or blue, one two-line initial and two three-line initials in red or blue with contrasting penwork, A LARGE (70 x 65 mm.) INITIAL ENCLOSING THE PROPHET ISAIAH wearing pink and green robes and holding a scroll, the figure set against a black ground with delicate silver tracery, the initial painted green with white and yellow tracery, and gold highlights at the corners, the initial in a gray beveled frame with gray, green, and pink extenders with gold dots at the tips. Recto foliated with "38" in ink on recto; a couple of naturally occurring holes in lower margin, small darkened spot where the leather tab used to mark the beginning of the book of the Bible (here as elsewhere in the manuscript) has been removed. Gwara Handlist no. 150. Green paint on the initial a bit rubbed on one side and lightly chipped in a few places, fore edge margin with a little wrinkling, but IN FINE CONDITION overall, the vellum clean and bright, the ink dark and legible, and the figure of Isaiah very well preserved.

This handsome leaf comes from an impressive Lectern Bible probably produced by the workshop of the Prague Hexameron, and shows intriguing aesthetic affinities with the Gutenberg Bible. Produced in the same decade that witnessed the "birth of print," our manuscript leaf, with its thickly penned minims, angular letter forms, and compressed text, is an excellent example of the gothic textura script that Gutenberg sought to imitate with his typeface; furthermore, the overall dimensions of our leaf, as well as its two-column layout, its spacing, and its text justification, are all closely paralleled in the 42-line Bible. While it would be impossible to prove that this particular manuscript had any influence on Gutenberg, it does epitomize the type of work the printer was trying to emulate: a Bible produced on a grand scale, characterized by beautiful proportions, and meant to be seen and appreciated. Above all, this leaf stands out for its prominent historiated initial featuring the prophet Isaiah dressed in pastel pink and green robes, the colors complemented by the green initial infilled with black. Though Isaac wears a white beard and looks rather stooped in posture, there is a sharpness expressed in the prophet's visage, and his eyes seem shrewdly to assess the text that appears to the right of the initial. The preference for pastel colors, heavy draping, and crisply defined features, as seen here, are characteristic of the workshop of the Prague Hexameron, a group of Czech illuminators whose name derives from an illuminated copy of Ambrose's Hexameron now at cathedral library of St. Vitus in Prague. The parent manuscript would have almost certainly consisted of three volumes, of which we know the second volume (containing Proverbs to Malachi) was formerly owned by William B. Gourley (d. 1935), and purchased by biblioclast Otto Ege at Christie's on 4 November 1936. Ege then dismembered the manuscript and sold the individual leaves. A sister leaf from this same volume, with an initial depicting the Prophet Jeremiah, was formerly in the Schøyen Collection and sold at Christie's in July 2019 (lot 453), and other leaves with historiated initials appear in the collections of the Art Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design, Oberlin College, Berea College, and Randolph College.
(ST17582)

Add to Cart Price: $12,500.00

PJP Catalog: 81.021

(ST17582) TEXT FROM END OF ECCLESIASTICUS AND THE PROLOGUE AND BEGINNING OF ISAIAH. WITH AN HISTORIATED INITIAL OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH AN ILLUMINATED VELLUM MANUSCRIPT LEAF FROM LARGE LECTERN BIBLE.
TEXT FROM END OF ECCLESIASTICUS AND THE PROLOGUE AND BEGINNING OF ISAIAH.