Lot 9
  • 9

Bifolium from a large Lectionary, in Latin, decorated manuscript on vellum [Germany (Rhineland, probably Cologne), first half of the twelfth century]

4,000 - 6,000 GBP
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  • Vellum
a bifolium (one vertical border trimmed away), in total 370mm. by 485mm. with one very large initial ‘R’ (opening the title ‘Requiem’), 125mm. high,  formed of two coiled dragons in green and soft brown with detailed wings, one with a fleshy spade shaped tail, the lower part of the initial with swirling acanthus foliage, all on pale green, sky blue and red grounds (the last with penwork picking out white tendrils), the remainder of the word in elegant capitals in dark brown with red dots mounted on their bodies, another large initial, 65mm. high, in squat white vine foliage perhaps intertwined with a serpent (removal of border cutting away the beast’s head), on green and vivid blue grounds, three other large red initials with delicate foliate tendrils, other initials and rubrics in red, double column, 31 lines in a fine German Romanesque bookhand, musical neumes arranged above smaller script, small original split in margin of vellum, recovered from a bookbinding and hence with some small stains and holes, with damage to left-hand side of largest initial

Catalogue Note

The dragons with their detailed wings are notably close to other examples from the Rhineland (cf. those in a copy of Ambroise, Hexameron, mid-twelfth century, Cologne, now in the cathedral archive there, their MS.31: Glaube und Wissen im Mittelalter, 1998, no.31, p.192 with facing illustration), and the foliage in tight circular scrolls finds parallels in works from the same area in the first half of the century (ibid. no.35, pp.204-07, esp. illustrations on p.205). 

Interestingly, the prayer adjacent to the initial has been marked up by the original scribe in tiny script above the main line with alternative endings for crucial words so that supplicants could correctly identify themselves in the male, female or plural forms, suggesting use of the book in a monastic community of literate men and women.