Lot 67
  • 67

St Jerome, Epistolae, in Latin [Ferrara, 28 February 1467]

80,000 - 140,000 GBP
100,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • manuscript on vellum
280x200mm, vellum, iii+I+288+iii, complete, 29 quires of 10 leaves, final two blanks cancelled, vertical catchwords, 36-37 lines, 197x124mm, OPENING WITH A FULL WHITE VINE-STEM BORDER against a multi-coloured ground, incorporating a duck in the right margin and heraldic arms in the lower: argent (oxidized to black), a lion rampant azure, langued gules, 1 LARGE WHITE VINE-STEM INITIAL, smaller initials in plain blue; a few small worm-holes in the first leaves, minor flaking of the gold framing-lines; blind-tooled brown leather, c.1900, signed by ‘Leighton, Brewer St.’ (binders of Kelmscott Press books), fitted case

Catalogue Note



(1) With the colophon of the scribe GIOVANNI GRASSO OF CARPI (also called Johannes Carpensis), who states that he completed the volume in Ferrara on 28 February 1467, apparently for his own use as he still owned it two years later (see below); his family had a lion rampant for its arms (see A. Maresti, Teatro genealogico et istorico, 1681, II, p.209; cf. the arms on f.1r). He is known to have written at least six other manuscripts with dates from 1460 to 1470, five of which, including the present volume, are described by J.W. Bradley, A Dictionary of Miniaturists, I, 1887, p.194. The colophon is reproduced in the 1959 and 1982 catalogues; it is also printed in the 1920 and 1982 catalogues and in Colophons de manuscrits occidentaux, III, 1973, no.9894.

(2) GIOVANNI BATTISTA PANETTI (1439-97) of Ferrara, theologian, humanist, bibliophile, and vicar-general of the Carmelites (1485-87 and 1493-94) (on whom see A. Bargellesi-Severi, Due carmelitani a Ferrara nel Rinascimento, Battista Panetti et Giovanni M. Verrati, 1961), bought from Grasso, 14 February 1469, as recorded in a remarkably detailed flyleaf note (f.Iv), below which is added a note of his death on 27 March 1497, stating that he was buried in the tomb of the brothers ‘of this house’ (both inscriptions are printed in the 1920 and 1982 catalogues). Giovanni owned at least ten other manuscripts, now in the British Library and elsewhere (see Kristeller, Iter italicum, I, pp.58, 60, 61, etc.), of which this and at least one other were bequeathed to:

(3) THE CARMELITE MONASTERY OF ST PAUL, FERRARA; still there until at least August 1757 (see F. A. Zaccaria, Iter Litterarium per Italiam ab anno 1753 ad annum 1757, 1762, p.159 no.VII.2; an Ovid copied by Grasso in 1460 is described at p.158 no.VI.7).

(4) Francesco Mainardi of Ferrara, 1810 (inscribed, f.Iv).

(5) GIOVANNI BATTISTA COSTABILI CONTAINI (1756-1841), who devoted his later life to the formation of his library and art collections at the Palazzo Bevilacqua-Costabili, Ferrara; his sale in Paris, Catalogue de la première partie de la bibliothèque de M. le marquis Costabili de Ferrare, 18 February 1858, lot 15.

(6) Bernard Quaritch, General Catalogue, 1868, no.36 (as recorded in an ink note by SYDNEY COCKERELL on the front pastedown).

(7) Sold in our rooms, 5 June 1877, lot 125, bought by Quaritch for £3 3s.

(8) GUSTAV VON EMICH (1843-1911) of Budapest, sold in our rooms as 'The property of an Austro-Hungarian nobleman',  20 June 1900, lot 50 (ill.), described as bound in vellum, bought by Leighton for £17 10s; rebound by them and sold to:

(9) CHARLES FAIRFAX MURRAY (1849-1919), Pre-Raphaelite artist, connoisseur, and book collector, 'forming one of the finest European book collections' (ODNB), with his book label, printed at the Kelmscott Press c.1898 in Golden Type; sold privately in 1906 to:

(10) CHARLES WILLIAM DYSON PERRINS (1864-1958), DCL, FSA, bibliophile, philanthropist, and owner of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, with his bookplate, labels on spine and front pastedown (no.73) corresponding to the Warner catalogue number, and his earlier small label (no.122) on back pastedown (G. Warner, Descriptive Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts in the Library of C. W. Dyson Perrins, 1920, no.73, pl.LXXIII); his sale in our rooms, 1 December 1959, lot 74, bought by Arthur Rau for £1,700.

(11) H.P. Kraus, with their collation notes dated January 1974 (back pastedown).

(12) DR PETER AND IRENE LUDWIG (d.1996 and d.2010, respectively), of Aachen, chocolatiers, art-collectors and philanthropists on a massive scale, their MS XI 3 (bookplates); described in A. von Euw and J. Plotzek, Die Handschriften der Sammlung Ludwig, 1982; their collection of medieval manuscripts acquired en bloc in 1983 by:

(13) THE J. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM, Malibu; deaccessioned in 1997.

(14) Private collection of James E. and Elizabeth J. Ferrell, the present owners (bookplate with initials).


Jerome’s letter to Pope Damasus, ‘Dormientem te et longo iam tempore …’, and 129 further letters (a full list, with references, is given in the 1982 Ludwig catalogue) (f.1r); scribal colophon (f.287v); unfinished list of contents (f.288r).

One could make a case that Jerome is the most important writer who has ever lived, because even if none of his many original compositions survived, his translation of the Bible, the Latin Vulgate, was the single most important text for shaping life and art in the West from the 5th century onwards. The collection of his letters consists of about 120 written by Jerome himself, plus several more written to him by others. In addition to their literary interest they have considerable historical value, as they span a half-century and cover a great variety of subject-matter, including theology, personal conduct, and biography. Even when writing to individuals on personal matters, Jerome had an eye towards subsequent publication, and thus took great care over his literary style; it is perhaps therefore unsurprising that the collection was so popular with the Italian Humanists, and survives in handsome copies like the present volume.