TEXT FROM THE THIRD BOOK OF KINGS [i.e. 1 KINGS] 8:31-9:25.

(France: 14th century). 402 x 268 mm. (15 7/8 x 10 1/2"). Double column, 50 lines in an attractive gothic hand.

Running titles and chapter numbers in red and blue, one three-line initial in blue with white tracery, filled with curling pink vines on burnished gold ground, the initial with a long descender and extensions running the entire length of the column, painted pink and blue with gold bezants and gold ivy leaves sprouting into the margins, both ends terminating in sprays of painted and gold ivy and bezants. Remnants of mounting tape on recto fore edge. Vellum with a little wrinkling around the edges, top edge with a couple of very small stains, but AN EXTREMELY FINE LEAF, clean and bright with wide margins and finely preserved decoration.

Given the impressive size and beauty of this leaf, we can confidently assume that the Bible from which it came was commissioned by a person or ecclesiastical institution of considerable wealth and importance. And everything about the script, decoration, and design confirms that it was executed by appropriately gifted hands. The "III Reg[n]u[m]" observed in the running titles on this leaf is today known as 1 Kings, and the text here deals with Solomon's prayers to God following the dedication of his temple, followed by the Lord's second appearance to Solomon in Gabaon. The four inner and outer margins here all have neatly penned contemporaneous letters (from "a" through "h") to be used as markers that would facilitate the study of the text; likewise, we find the three letters "p," "s," and "t," presumably for "primus," "secundus," and "tertius" employed in the same way. According to Clemens and Graham, "what is most striking about both [marking] systems is that they conflict with the Bible's chapter divisions . . . [as] the letter sequences run across chapter breaks. Both systems must have been intended to assist a reader to locate passages of text, and presumably they relate to a reference work that was known to users . . . [but] that reference work has not yet been identified." (p. 190) It is also possible that the "p," "s," and "t" stand for the canonical hours prime, sext, and terce, indicating, instead, that this item had been marked up for liturgical readings.
(ST18250g)