BIBLE, in French: La bible historiée. Edited by Jean de Rély (c.1430-1499). Paris: Antoine Vérard, [between 8 May 1498 and 25 October 1499].
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BIBLE, in French: La bible historiée. Edited by Jean de Rély (c.1430-1499). Paris: Antoine Vérard, [between 8 May 1498 and 25 October 1499].

BIBLE, in French: La bible historiée. Edited by Jean de Rély (c.1430-1499). Paris: Antoine Vérard, [between 8 May 1498 and 25 October 1499].

2 volumes bound in 4, royal 2° (400 x 269mm). PRINTED ON VELLUM. Collation and contents:

Volume I: A-B6 a-z8 \\i8 aa-tt8 uu10 xx-zz8 \\i\\i8 \\j\\j6 (A1r title to first volume with woodcut grotesque initial L, verso blank, A2r dedication to Charles VIII by Jean de Rély, prologue by Guyart des Moulins, A2v table of contents, A3r address by Petrus Comestor, A3v table of contents for volume I, B5v register for vol. I, B6v blank, a1r-uu9v Genesis-Esther, uu9v first colophon, Vérard device [Macfarlane illus. LXXVII], uu10 blank, xx1-\\j\\j5v Psalms, second colophon, \\j\\j6 blank). The division into two volumes occurs after Judges (ending x1). 402 leaves (of 404, without blanks uu10 and \\j\\j6).

Volume II: \kp\K6 AA-PP8 QQ6 RR-TT8 XX10 AAA-BBB8 CCC-DDD6 EEE-XXX8 YYY6 (\kp\K1 blank, \kp\K2-6 table to volume II, AA1r-XX10r Proverbs-Malachi, XX10v blank, AAA1r-DDD6v Maccabees I and II, EEE1r-VVV5r New Testament, VVV5v Apocalypse, YYY6v third colophon, Vérard device [Macfarlane illus. LXXII]). The division into two volumes occurs after Malachi (ending XX10). 343 leaves (of 344, lacking title to volume II, \kp\K6 (last leaf of table to volume II) supplied from MacCarthy's second copy (his sale Paris, 1815, lot 136) and extended at 3 sides).

Decoration: 409 MINIATURES, including 31 large scenes opening major books, 378 column-width scenes, one (uncoloured) diagram, and 2 Vérard devices, all painted by contemporary Parisian artists, the large miniatures opening the first four Biblical books within full painted floral border, the miniatures in volume I painted over, but not wholly dependent on, a printed base, the printed base either not present or printed and erased from volume II (see woodcut on LLL4r, printed and erased, which remains uncoloured, presumably through oversight), printed lombard initials and paragraph marks painted over in liquid gold on alternating magenta or pink ground, the grounds in the Psalter and in supplied leaf II:\kp\K6 alternating magenta and blue, yellow capital strokes, pages ruled in red. Calligraphic titles in imitation of Vérard's originals within illuminated historiated border added to vols. II-IV for MacCarthy-Reagh, and by Thomas Willement for Botfield. The woodcuts illustrating this edition derive from Vérard's books of chivalry, his Horae, a new set, and 'an extensive set of small German cuts, evidently made for an edition of the Bible, and closely adapted to the text' (Macfarlane).

46-47 lines and headline containing book name and foliation, double column. Type: 8:430G (titles), 119B = Bocard 6:118B (vol. I), 7:114B (Psalter), 3*:115B (vol. II). (Miniatures on e4v, nn2r and XX8v partly worn, some discreet vellum repairs, very occasional light stain, a few sheets lightly browned, uu4.7 and xx4.5 extended at lower margin.) Bound for Botfield by Charles Lewis c.1830, red morocco over thick pasteboard, wide dentelle border on sides, spine decorated in compartments with same tools, two brown leather labels, gilt turn-ins, watered pale blue silk liners, pair of vellum flyleaves, edges gauffered and gilt (very lightly spotted, spines sunned, a few minor scratches).

Provenance: Comte Justin MacCarthy-Reagh, who divided the two vols. in 4, supplied the last leaf of the table in vol. II from his second copy (lot 136 in his sale) and added 2 MS frontispieces, which remained unfinished in 1815 (sale Paris, 1815, lot 135, 1300 francs) -- George Hibbert (sale 16 March 1829, lot 1228, £54.12 to Payne and Foss) -- Beriah Botfield, bought from Payne & Foss for £75 (P.& F. Acquisitions, p. 8, recording £25 to Lewis for rebinding and £6.6 for one new [II:II] and one 'completed' title [II:I] illuminated by Willement).

FIRST EDITION OF A COMPLETE FRENCH VERSION OF THE BIBLE. The Bible historiée began as an adaptation and translation into French by Guyart des Moulins in the 13th century of Petrus Comestor's 12th-century Historia scholastica. Moulins started the process of replacing parts of Comestor's text with scriptural passages; this was continued through the 14th and 15th centuries until the Bible historiée became a full French version of the Bible. It is here edited by Jean de Rély, confessor to Charles VIII, to whom this first edition is dedicated. All early printed editions of the Bible in French are recensions of this text.

In his dedication to Charles VIII, Rély states that he prepared the text at the king's command. Charles VIII was one of Vérard's greatest patrons, and Vérard regularly presented the monarch with de luxe copies of his publications, printed on vellum and specially illuminated. Charles died in April 1498, however, before printing of the Bible historiée was completed. In addition to the French monarch, Vérard often supplied de luxe vellum copies of his books to a few select patrons and clients, including Henry VII of England, Anne de Bretagne, Jean d'Albret, Louise de Savoie, and George d'Amboise. Curiously, none of the vellum copies of the Bible historiée has any evidence of contemporary ownership, although clearly intended for a special recipient.

The Botfield copy is the most complete of four known copies on vellum, and it is the only one remaining in private ownership. The three institutional copies are: New York, Pierpont Morgan Library (imperfect and with miniatures in varying states of completion, the La Vallière-second MacCarthy copy); Lyons, Bibliothèque municipale (imperfect, extensively decorated); and Paris, Bibliothèque nationale (2 sheets replaced in contemporary manuscript, 384 miniatures). Cf. S. de Ricci, 'La "Bible Historiée" d'Antoine Verard', Byblis 2 (1923), pp.15-16: 'd'une extrême rareté'; and Mary Beth Winn, Anthoine Vérard, Parisian Publisher, 1485-1512 (Geneva: 1997), pp.120-122. HC 3145=5539; CIBN B-448; GW 4310; Goff B-623; Pell 2365=3884; Polain(B) 3095; Macfarlane 105; Van Praet, Bib. du Roi I, 44-46 and V, p.362; Chambers, Bib. French Bibles, 13; D & M 3703.

Christie's is grateful to Dr. Mary Beth Winn for generously sharing her expertise on Vérard's publications. (4)
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