A Rare Text and a Good Example of 11th Century Caroline Hand


(Probably France: early 11th century). 290 x 180 mm. (11 3/8 x 7 1/4"). Single column, 28 lines, in a fine, very clear Caroline minuscule hand.

Tipped onto a paper tab and housed in a modern stiff brown paper portfolio. Two-line rubric in red, one two-line initial in red. Margin with an ink notation in a later (13th century?) hand, directing the reader to f. 12 in the original manuscript for information about St. Christopher. From the collection of Marvin L. Colker (Colker MS 316). ◆Inner margin quite small (and wavy on one side), but without any loss of letters, vellum a bit wrinkled and soiled, a couple of words slightly smeared or rubbed, other minor imperfections, but in excellent condition, with three of the margins quite wide and, with the text entirely legible, and with no major condition issues.

Written in a very legible Caroline minuscule hand, this early leaf contains a rare excerpt from the Passion of St. James, part of a collection of Apocrypha describing the lives and deaths of the Apostles. Specifically, the St. James excerpt comes from the 10 books of the "Historia Certaminis Apostolici" ("History of the Apostolic Contest"), purportedly written by the shadowy Abdias of Babylon, said to have been one of Christ's 72 Disciples of Christ and the first Bishop of Babylon. But scholars believe the text was compiled a good deal after the biblical period, perhaps as late as the 10th century, and thus ascribe the work to Pseudo-Abdias. The present leaf contains readings from the life of St. James (25 July), including a condensed passage of Pseudo-Abdias' "Passio Sancti Iacobi," followed by readings for John the Baptist (23 June). This leaf is of interest not only for the rare text it contains, but also because it is a clear and legible example of the Caroline minuscule hand that dominated western Europe during the early Middle Ages. It is also interesting to see the later marginalia present on this leaf, demonstrating the longevity of the parent manuscript in whatever monastic community may have owned it. Recent owner Marvin L. Colker (1927-2020) was Emeritus Professor of Classics at the University of Virginia. His most enduring contribution to manuscript studies was his catalogue of the manuscripts at Trinity College, Dublin--a comprehensive work that took 30 years to complete. Colker was also a collector of manuscript leaves, and his acquisitions included an impressive range of material comprising, in the words of the Christie's catalogue "more than 1,500 years of written history and subject matters ranging from astrology to music, literature, medicine, Church history, humanism, liturgy, Hebraica, law and theology."

Price: $4,500.00