Upcoming Auctions and Events

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VA… Read more

[northern France, mid-12th century]

278 x 190mm. 130 leaves: 1-168, 172, signed with roman numerals at centre lower edge on the final versos, each signature with simple pen-work ornament, up to 15 lines of text and up to 55 lines of marginal gloss written in dark brown ink in two principal sizes of protogothic script between six verticals and on up to 15 or 55 horizontals ruled in blind (quires 1-3) or in plummet (quires 6-17, quires 4-5 transitional with evidence of both), justification: 213 x 155mm, prickings visible in upper, outer and lower margins of most leaves, each page with a central text column of varying width and a column of gloss on either side, the gloss sometimes extending into long lines at the top and/or bottom of the page, one large decorated initial in red and brown, text capitals and paragraph signs in the hand of the scribe, blind sketch of a horse and a hare in the lower margin of f.84v, a horse on f.98v (rectangular piece approximately 12 x 75mm cut from fore-edge of f.1, natural flaws to around 20 leaves, including one on f.124 which preserves a fringe of the animal's hair, small faint stain to outer mostly blank margins of around 50 leaves). CONTEMPORARY TAWED SKIN OVER OAK BOARDS, preserving the square-cut tab at top of spine, natural linen headbands, evidence of two straps catching on pins on the front cover, mark of chain hasp at top of back cover (first quire resewn, top headband renewed, tab trimmed from tail of spine, original oval hole in back cover neatly mended with a sewn patch, oval hole in skin at lower joint, minor wear, without the clasps), preserving as original pastedowns two leaves from a Bible manuscript of the early 9th century (the back pastedown partially lifted, trimmed and torn with some loss of text).


In a contemporary binding and with a medieval provenance from the Premonstratensian abbey of St Mary in Steinfeld in der Eifel 1. Steinfeld in der Eifel, Premonstratensian abbey of St Mary: excised inscription on f.1v, the remaining ascenders and abbreviation signs corresponding to the intact inscription Liber ecclesie sancte Marie in Steinvelt in BL, Add. Ms 24682; 17th-century shelfmark 'Loc.255 N.2' on f.1, corresponding to the similar shelfmark in BL, Add Ms 24682. The present manuscript is not listed in the fragmentary 12th-century library catalogue from Steinfeld (ed. G. Becker, Catalogi bibliothecarum antiqui, Bonn 1885, no.98).

2. Leander van Ess (1772-1847), German collector and translator of the Bible: his printed number '35' on spine; described in Sammlung und Verzeichnis handschriftlicher Bücher ... welche besitzt Leander van Ess (Darmstadt 1823) as 'Liber Genesis cum glossis ex Ss. Patribus. Auf 128 Pergamentblätter gut geschrieben, viel gebraucht, doch gut erhalten, das Pergament sehr dick, in gutem Holzband gebunden. Folio minor'; sold by Van Ess in 1824 to

3. Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872): his printed number '420' on spine; sale, Sotheby's 21 November 1972, lot 535, to Lionel & Philip Robinson Ltd; listed by S. Krämer, Handschriftenerbe des deutschen Mittelalters (Munich 1989), ii, p. 738, with location unknown.


Genesis, with prefatory, marginal and interlinear glosses ff.1v-129v.
The development of the glossa ordinaria on the Bible was one of the great achievements of 12th-century scholarship. It had long been the practice to write explanations of individual words or copy explanatory extracts from patristic texts into manuscripts of books of the Bible, where they facilitated study, preaching and teaching. At the beginning of the 12th century a group of scholars around Anselm of Laon (d.1117) regularised this process by assembling what became a standard set of excerpts from the exegetical works of the Fathers and copying them between the lines for short notes, or in the margins of the Biblical text for longer extracts. The gloss on the Pentateuch, including Genesis, is attributed to Gilbert the Universal (d.1134), and is thought to have been completed between c.1110, when Gilbert moved from Laon to Autun, and 1128, when he became bishop of London.

The present manuscript of Genesis offers fascinating evidence of the development of the gloss and of the physical articulation of glossed manuscripts. It appears that the glosses found in this manuscript are also found in the glossa ordinaria, but that the latter includes more material than is found here. Thus this manuscript seems to represent an intermediate, or preliminary, stage in the development of the gloss. Although the textual tradition of the gloss has never been fully investigated, Beryl Smalley pointed out that the compilers must have worked from previous collections, and she identified several glossed manuscripts of other Biblical books which seem to have played the same preliminary role that this manuscript is likely to have had: B. Smalley, in Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, iv, 1961, pp. 15-22.

In layout and presentation this manuscript also preserves a number of features which Christopher de Hamel has identified as early and transitional features (Glossed Books of the Bible and the Origins of the Paris Booktrade, 1984). Although the width of the central column of Biblical text varies somewhat according to the amount of space needed for the gloss, there are pages where the margins are largely blank because there is very little gloss to be copied, and others which are very crowded. Since the scribe, or scribes, never continued a gloss from page to page, but always started at the top of a page with a new section, the text often begins high in the upper margin with long lines of gloss and sometimes continues with other long lines in the lower margins (de Hamel's 'L-shaped' glosses, which were abandoned around the middle of the century). In the present manuscript, the lines for the text and those for the gloss were ruled independently, as was the case during the period before the formula of two lines of gloss to one line of text became standard. In the first six quires of this manuscript a double system of pricking for the two sets of lines can be seen in the margins of many leaves; according to de Hamel (p.18, n.17) double pricking is rare, and at least two of the manuscripts in which it is found are associated with Flanders or the Low Countries. The remainder of the codex appears to have prickings for the lines of the main text only. Throughout the manuscript, lines for the marginal gloss and the interlinear gloss were drawn independently of the text lines and of one another. Rather than being written two lines to one, in the form which later became standard, the marginal gloss here averages 3 to 4 lines per line of text, and there can be as many as five lines of interlinear gloss (more usually one or two), in very small script, between lines of the Biblical text. Both text and gloss were written above the top line of ruling, another sign that a glossed manuscript is early.

De Hamel has suggested that early glossed manuscripts of Biblical books were copied by scribes sent to Paris or to some other location where exemplars were available. The present codex was at Steinfeld from an early date, to judge from its 12th-century ex libris. This monastery, founded as a Benedictine community in the 10th century, became Augustinian in 1097 and Premonstratensian in 1121. Handschriftenerbe des deutschen Mittelalters identifies nearly 50 manuscripts known to survive from the medieval library of Steinfeld. Of these, one of the most important is the 12th-century Steinfeld Missal, now in the Getty Museum, Ms Ludwig V 4. At least one other glossed book of the Bible belonged to Steinfeld in the Middle Ages, the slightly later illuminated glossed Epistles of Paul, now British Library, Add. Ms 24682.


Two substantially complete leaves from a Bible, France, perhaps Tours, early 9th century. 26 lines, written in early Caroline minuscule with good separation of words, distinct clubbing of the very tall ascenders, knob-like approach strokes to the letters 'n', 'p' and 'r', open 'g', consistent use of uncial 'a', frequent use of round 'd', and ligatures for 'et' (also mid-word), 'ex', 'rt', 'st' and 'or', ruled in blind, justification: 250 x 165mm. The front pastedown with margins cropped but showing the full written area of one page of text, Haggai 2:11-19; the back pastedown partially lifted, cropped at outer edge and without the upper right-hand corner, the inner margin (35mm) apparently intact, showing most of two pages of text, Zachariah 6:4-7:11. Contemporary interlinear corrections, the back pastedown with a three-line 15th-century inscription in the margin playing on the words hospes, sospes and hospita.

The text is that of the recension by Alcuin of York, completed around 800 while Alcuin was abbot of St Martin at Tours (a detailed analysis of the variants is given in a 1983 letter by Jean Gribomont, included with the lot). Graphic and orthographical features -- the slight breaking of ascenders, the spelling 'ci' for soft 'ti' -- point to a French origin for the manuscript. Although the knob-like approach strokes to some letters recall the Maurdramnus type of minuscule, asssociated with Corbie, the general resemblance of the script is closer to Tours, Bibliothèque municipale, Ms 10 (CLA VI.837), an Octateuch probably written at Tours and dated by E.A. Lowe 'saec.VIII-IX', or the leaf in minuscule added to the Ashburnham Pentateuch in the early 9th century (Paris, BnF n.a.lat. 2334, f.33; E.K. Rand, A Survey of the Manuscripts of Tours, Cambridge, Mass. 1929, pl.III.2). The format of these fragments, in long lines, is very different from that of the two-column Alcuin Bibles for which Tours became famous later in the 9th century.
Special Notice

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


View All
View All