JACOBUS DE VORAGINE O.P. (c.1225-1298), Legenda aurea, in Latin, DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Italy, c.1400]335 x 220mm. iii paper + 289 + iii paper leaves: 19(of 10 lacking i), 28(of 10, lacking iii and iv), 311(of 12 lacking vii), 49(of 12 lacking x-xii), 510(of 12 lacking i-ii), 6-1912, 209(of 12 lacking vii-ix), 218(of 12 lacking ii-v), 2212, 2311(of 12 lacking xii), 2412, 2510(of 12 lacking viii-ix), 2612, catchwords in lower margins of final versos, 40 lines written in black ink in two rounded gothic bookhands in two columns between four verticals and 42 horizontals ruled in brown, justification: 224 x 65-15-65mm, some additions and corrections in margins, rubrics in red, with many guide texts remaining in margins, text capitals touched red, running headings on rectos of chapter numbers in red, paragraph marks alternately in red and blue, large initials alternately in red flourished with light blue and in dark blue flourished with red, the flourishings extending to fill the adjacent margin, one six-line initial in blue with reserved pattern flourished in red and light blue, one similar initial with descender and red flourishing extending beyond the justification, one flourished puzzle initial in red and blue (lacking two gatherings after f.143 and opening leaf and other leaves, their excision cutting into some adjacent folios, lower margins trimmed ff.151-4, 256, 258, 270-271, side margins trimmed ff.216, 257, rodent damage to side margins ff.1-140 extending into text ff.1-3, margins of final folios wormed, some folios discoloured, cockled causing tear to margins ff.242-243, lower margins cropped into flourishing). 18th-century Italian half sheep and patterned paper covered pasteboards, the spine lettered in gilt 'XII. JAC. DE VORA LEG. SS. MS.' (scuffed).
1. From script and decoration, the manuscript appears to have been produced in Italy in the late 14th century. It was soon afterwards expanded by a second Italian hand with different, Italian, flourishing in a further three gatherings with related texts, including lives of the Dominican St Thomas Aquinas, and of St Venera, whose cult, centred on Aci Reale in Sicily, had spread to the mainland. She was, for instance, the patron of a parish church at Afragola near Naples. The additions, and perhaps the whole volume, may have been made in or for a Dominican house in Sicily or the kingdom of Naples. The life of Thomas Aquinas with its laudatory explicit, ff.273-286, soon afterwards attracted numerous annotations; later marginal notes on ff.60v-61 are in Latin and Italian. With other notes, they show that the volume was carefully studied and compared with other copies; the section marked vacat, for instance, on f.145 is not part of the usual text.
2. Perhaps from the Dominican convent of San Domenico, Gaeta (see lot 16): uniformly bound with the manuscript from Gaeta (lot 22) and eleven others and similarly inscribed: 'E.L.. Jacobus Voragine legende sanctorum (f.1) and 'Foglie * 288 Iniziali * 223 Segnato N. AP'; within the lower cover. Sicily and Naples were reunited under one crown by Alfonso V of Aragon, potentially from 1421 and actually from 1441, perhaps giving some support to a provenance from Gaeta.
3. HSA B2707; Faulhaber, pp. 51-2, 77, 81.
Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda aurea, lacking opening leaf of the table of contents, with missing leaves after f.11 (end of St Nicholas, Lucy, opening of Thomas), after f.23 (end of the Innocents, opening of Thomas Becket), after f.37 (Sebastian, Agnes, Vincent, opening of Basil), after f.221 (end of Brice, Cecilia, opening of Clement), after f.225 (end of Grisogon, Catherine, opening of Perpetua), after f.255 (end of Elisabeth, who had been omitted at her proper place after Brice), and with two gatherings missing after f.143 (from the end of James into Bernard), ff.1-255v.
Early addition, ff. 256-289v: St Lazarus, f.256; homily on Mary Magdalen, weeping at the tomb, f.259; Palm Sunday, f.263v; the Last Supper, f.267; Transfiguration, f.270v; Thomas Aquinas, lacking two leaves after f.274, with colophon Qui scripsit hanc legendam portetur ad vitam eternam. Amen, f.273; St Venera, f.286; alphabetical index to the whole book, f.288.
Added hymns, f.289v: to St John by St Peter Damian, Virginis virgo venerande custos, Chevalier Repertorium hymnologicum, n. 21719; to St Jerome, Ecce qui Christi decoravit aulam, ibid. n. 5176.
The Dominican Jacobus de Voragine wrote the Golden Legend, probably in the 1260s, as a compilation to accompany the major feasts of the church calendar by detailing the lives and miracles of saints and explicating events in the lives of Christ and the Virgin. With about a thousand surviving manuscripts, in Latin and translation, it must have been the most widely consulted authority on such matters so that it gives an invaluable insight into what was generally known by writers, artists and their patrons. The original text was soon extended with updatings and feasts specific to particular localities but the added texts in this volume do not follow the forms of their equivalents, where they exist, in the expanded Golden Legend (for a modern edition, G. Maggioni, Legenda aurea, 1998). The index to the entire volume suggests that they were considered to serve the same purpose and the chapter numberings are continuous. Only one feast on each opening was allocated a number but this is sufficient to direct the reader, who is guided to each section by the red headings. These do not always follow exactly the guide texts remaining in the margins: on f.136, for example, the text and the guide have Praxedis, while the heading reads Praxesdis. Attention is drawn to the opening on the origin of the name and then to the main content by the exuberantly flourished initials.