The highlight of the forthcoming Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts sale is an English manuscript from the Berger Collection, one of the most important private collections of British art formed in the 20th Century: The Bute Book of Hours, named for a previous owner, the Marquess of Bute, is one of the most extraordinary English Books of Hours to have survived the Reformation. It is exceptionally large and remarkably decorated, with 53 large miniatures and many rich initials and borders in fine and fresh condition. The patron appears throughout the manuscript, sometimes accompanied by his wife and children but more often by his dogs. Thousands of medieval Books of Hours survive, and although the majority have found permanent homes in institutional libraries and museums, there are still hundreds in private hands, and some of these appear on the market each year. Most of those that appear for sale are French, Flemish, or Italian, however: English Books of Hours have always been much rarer, with perhaps only a single example (often undecorated, or incomplete) appearing for sale each year. No manuscript even remotely comparable to the Bute Hours has appeared for public sale since it was last auctioned in our rooms in 1983.
Other important works include a leaf from a Decretum Gratiani made in Toulouse around c.1320, a Missal leaf from the Breslauer collection that was probably made in Perugia around 1280, and a Gradual leaf from the Lehman collection made in Umbria or southern Italy dating from the 1270s. Miniatures and cuttings include works by Francesco and Girolamo dai Libri, Coldiradi of Cremona, and the husband and wife illuminator-team Richard and Jeanne de Montbaston. Other manuscripts of particular interest are a Magna Carta from the early 14th century, several Books of Hours, a manuscript written in Italian ‘I fatti di Cesare’ from the 14th century, and a Horologian and Menologion written in Greek and dated 1528 from the ex-Burdett-Coutts collection. Among the many leaves and fragments stand out a decorated fragment from Bede’s Homiliae in Evangelium made in Italy from c.1150, an early music bifolium in diastematic neumes from the early 12th century, a single sheet of Peter of Poitiers Compendium in roll form written in Italy in c.1350, and decorated leaves from Lectionaries from Salzburg dating from the second half of the 12th century.