Lot 3
  • 3

Very large initial ‘I’ on the opening leaf of Genesis from a monumental Bible, in Latin, decorated manuscript on vellum [Italy (perhaps Rome), early twelfth century]

8,000 - 12,000 GBP
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  • Vellum
a bifolium, 670mm. by 375mm. in total, with a full-page initial ‘I’ (opening “In principio creavit …”) in bands of red, green and blue leafy sprays and interlocking geometric designs, all within similar intertwining ropework, and surmounted by an ornate knotwork capital in yellow bands enclosing red and blue panels with tiny flowers, left-hand side of page with 6 lines of ornamental capitals in black and red, right-hand side of page with single column of 45 lines of black ink in a fine early gothic hand, other leaf with two columns of a late Carolingian miniscule listing headings of Genesis, above 3 lines of ornamental capitals: “Incipit Liber Bresith id est”, chapter numbers and small initials in red, recovered from the binding of an edition of the works of the poet Horace, and hence with tears to edges, cuts, folds and scuffs, verso badly scuffed and illegible, but another large interlace initial visible (partly preserved in folded over edge at top of leaf), overall fair condition

Catalogue Note

This is the principal opening leaf from an early Atlantic or Giant Bible. Ayres noted that they “as a group, stand in the vanguard of Romanesque Bible production and antedate by many decades the great flowering of Romanesque Bible illustration in the monastic scriptoria” (in The Early Medieval Bible, 2009, p.127). Like other early examples, the artist and scribe of the present bifolium drew on models from now-lost Carolingian Tours Bibles. The geometric column head is a common feature (cf. Avril and Zaluska, Manuscrits enluminés d’origine Italienne, I, 1980, nos.62-5, pls.xxii-xxiv, all late eleventh or first quarter of twelfth century), but the coloured panelling here sets the parent manuscript among the foremost extant examples (cf. the San Stefano del Bosco Bible: ibid. no.72, and see also reproduction in Dix Siècles d’Enluminure Italienne, 1984, p.24), and connects it to the opulent period of Carolingian Bible illumination in the first decades of the ninth century (cf. Cahn, Romanesque Bible Illumination, 1982, figs.33-34, from the Bible of Hincmar and the Second Bible of Charles the Bald).