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THE PROPHET JEREMIAH, in a historiated initial on a leaf from a Bible, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Bohemia (or perhaps Germany/Austria), mid 15th century]
THE PROPHET JEREMIAH, in a historiated initial on a leaf from a Bible, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Bohemia (or perhaps Germany/Austria), mid 15th century]
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THE PROPHET JEREMIAH, in a historiated initial on a leaf from a Bible, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Bohemia (or perhaps Germany/Austria), mid 15th century]

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THE PROPHET JEREMIAH, in a historiated initial on a leaf from a Bible, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Bohemia (or perhaps Germany/Austria), mid 15th century]

A large, fine, illuminated leaf from a grand Lectern Bible, of about the same date and representing the same aesthetic as the Gutenberg Bible.

A single leaf, c.440×310mm, ruled in pale brown ink for 2 columns of 46 lines written in a regular, angular, gothic bookhand, ruled space 305×190mm, running headers, enlarged calligraphic capitals at the beginnings of sentences, prickings survive in all four margins, the text comprising the end of Isaiah (66:11–24), two prologues and an ‘argument’ to Jeremiah (Stegmüller nos. 487, 490, and 486 respectively) and the start of Jeremiah (1:1–14), illuminated with a large historiated initial ‘V’ depicting a half-length figure of the prophet, the recto with 15th/16th-century ink foliation ‘60’ (slight staining along the lower edge, somewhat cockled, but generally in very good condition especially the illumination). Bound with the recto as the verso in grey buckram at the Quaritch bindery.


Provenance:
(1) From a volume containing the books of Proverbs to Malachi (doubtless the second of a three-volume Bible: the first volume would contain Genesis to Psalms, and the third Maccabees and the New Testament). The intact volume owned by William B. Gourley (d.1935), of Paterson, NJ: his sale in New York, 4 November 1936, lot 73; bought by:

(2) Otto Ege (d.1952), of Cleveland (S. de Ricci, Census, II, 1937, p.1946 no 62, and S. Gwara, Otto Eges Manuscripts, 2013, Handlist no 150). Ege seems to have extracted leaves by 1943.

(3) Apparently owned by Bernard Rosenthal.

(4) Bernard Quaritch, Bookhands V, cat. 1147 (1991), no 23.

(5) Schøyen Collection, MS 683.


Sister leaves:
The parent volume was described in 1936 and 1937 as having 163 leaves (with 18 historiated initials, most of which doubtless represent the Major and Minor Prophets), of which a few have been identified in the Art Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design (Joel initial, f.14); Oberlin College, Ohio (Haggai initial, f.156); Berea College, Kentucky; and Randolph College, Lynchburg, Virginia (text leaf with part of Ezekiel 16–18).


Script:
The script of this leaf is comparable to that of lot 453, but it is much more laterally compressed, with the individual minims that make up letters ‘n’, ‘m’, ‘u’, etc., less distinct, such that a word like ‘cuius’ (column 1, line 4) looks like ‘c–s’ separated by five minims; it is also more vertically compressed, so that ascenders and descenders of ‘b’, ‘h’, ‘t’, etc. are less pronounced, and thus less easy to distinguish from other letters. Capitals are not given a colour stroke or wash, as we might expect in such a sumptuous volume, but they are are sufficiently visually emphasised by the much greater horizontal space they occupy.


Illumination:
The illumination is strongly reminiscent of the output of the workshop of the Prague Hexameron, artists who fled Prague for Wroclaw in the wake of the Hussite Wars. Alongside a traditional Bohemian palette of chalky greens and pinks, the style is identifiable by the sharp-featured figure, clad in strongly-contoured drapery. The illuminators that fled Prague alongside members of the St Vitus Chapter, for Zittau and then Wroclaw, developed their own sub-style within the Hexameron group, defined by bulkier figures and further exaggeration of drapery folds.
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Eugenio Donadoni
Eugenio Donadoni

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