Lot 39
  • 39

Gospels, in Greek, illuminated manuscript on vellum

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Manuscript on vellum
260 leaves (last blank), 265 mm. by 197 mm., lacking 2 leaves at beginning (with kephalaia of Matthew), a leaf after fol. 93 (with Mark 8:38–9:13) and a blank cancelled after fol. 259, else complete, collation: i5+1 [of 8 + 1, lacking i-iii, full-page miniature a single sheet, fol. 1], ii-xi8, xii7 [of 8, lacking viii], xiii8 [ii and vii single sheets, but text is complete, fols. 95 and 100], xiv-xxxii8, xxxiii7 [of 8, blank vii cancelled], double column (except for fols. 246-54 which are single column), 18-23 lines (usually 21 or 22), ruled in blind, written-space c. 186 mm. by 138 mm., written in dark brown ink by more than one scribe in a regular Greek minuscule, fol. 99v left blank (doubtless because of the see-through, the text runs without a break from Mark 10:43 on 99r to 100r), initials and some marginal additions recording liturgical readings in red, kephalaia in red, some initials overpainted in gold (doubtless in the fourteenth century), four illuminated initials and headpieces supplied in the fourteenth century over earlier plain designs, four full-page miniatures supplied in the fourteenth century, many signs of use, the miniatures rather rubbed and sometimes flaked (especially the last), first leaf repaired in upper margin, minor worming at end, generally sound and often in excellent condition, medieval painted edges of interconnected rings and circles with ropework and floral decoration, early twentieth-century dark red-brown blind-stamped morocco, by Leighton, Brewer Street (signed inside upper cover), in a full brown morocco fitted case, title gilt



(1) The manuscript is signed by the scribe, Basil, towards the foot of fol. 258v, "Pónos Basil[eí]ou kaì theou lógou lógoi".  The inscription appears again on fol. 259r.  Basil probably only wrote the section from fol. 246r onwards.

(2) Charles Fairfax-Murray (1849-1919), Pre-Raphaelite.

(3) Charles William Dyson Perrins (1864-1958), bought privately from Fairfax-Murray in 1906; his MS 75, re-numbered 130 by Warner; Dyson Perrins sale in these rooms, 29 November 1960, lot 113, to Quaritch (their cat. 820, 1961, no. 5).

(4) Sold in these rooms, 7 July 2009, lot 17 for £185,000; buyer defaulted.



G. Warner, Descriptive Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts in the Library of C. W. Dyson Perrins, D.C.L., F.S.A., Oxford, 1920, p. 308, no. 130, plate CXVIII.

K. Aland, Kurzgefasste Liste der Greichischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments, Berlin, 1994, p. 97, no. 851, as formerly Quaritch (also as no. 2602, a duplicate number).


Condition is described in the main body of the cataloguing where appropriate.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note


Folio 2r, Matthew's Gospel, with illuminated heading, "Evaggélion ek tou katà Matthaion"; folio 70r, kephalaia (or chapter headings) for Mark; folio 72r, Mark's Gospel, with illuminated heading; folio 117v, kephalaia for Luke; folio 120r, Luke's Gospel; folio 198v, kephalaia for John; fol. 201r, John's Gospel, ending on fol. 258r, with 3 lines of hexameters in honour of Saint John; and fol. 259r, a note on the use of daily lessons.  The colophons to the Gospels of Mark, Luke and John include stichometric notes of the number of verses (and sometimes of chapters and titles).


The manuscript was dated by Sir George Warner as twelfth-century, on the basis of the script.  It was re-attributed by Sotheby's in 1960 to the second half of the fourteenth-century, on the basis of the illumination.  In fact, both are apparently right, for the volume was probably illuminated about 250 years after it was written.  There may originally have been blanks left for the pictures, or perhaps light sketches.  The headpieces, now brightly (even gaudily) illuminated were perhaps originally in restrained colour, like that on fol. 70v.  The full-page miniatures are like late medieval icons, dark, brooding and austere.

The full-page miniatures are:

1, Folio 1v, Saint Matthew, seated on a stool with his feet on a footstool, holding a pen and an open book, gazing at an exemplar on a rotating bookstand in front of him, in a very elaborate architectural setting including marbled columns and towers tied together by swags of red drapery, a blaze of red light descending towards the evangelist and an angel with a book flying down towards him through a doorway, green starry sky, all within a double red frame, 240 mm. by 185 mm.

2, Folio 71v, Saint Mark, seated on a tall chair, writing in a book on his lap, an exemplar before him on a red stand carved to represent a naked man with his arms above his head, set in a semicircular architectural complex, a blaze of red and gold light descending towards the evangelist and little lion emerging from behind a church, green starry sky, all within a double red frame, 236 mm. by 179 mm.

3, Folio 119v, Saint Luke, seated on a low stool with his feet on a footstool, reading a book on his lap, an exemplar before him on a red stand carved to represent a fish, set beneath a very elaborate architectural arch draped with red textile, an ox emerging from behind a marbled column holding a gold book, green starry sky, all within a double red frame, 232 mm. by 178 mm.

4, Folio 200v, Saint John as a grey-bearded saint, seated on a red cushion on a bench on the right, holding a closed book and turning back to look up towards a blaze of blue and gold light descending on him from the heavens, a book before him on a blue stand carved to represent a naked imp, set beneath a very elaborate architectural complex with an arch draped with red textile, an eagle emerging and holding a gold book, green starry sky, all within a double red frame, 225 mm. by 186 mm.