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BIBLE in the Latin translation of St Jerome with the customary prologues and the Interpretation of Hebrew Names, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, 1260s]
BIBLE in the Latin translation of St Jerome with the customary prologues and the Interpretation of Hebrew Names, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, 1260s]
BIBLE in the Latin translation of St Jerome with the customary prologues and the Interpretation of Hebrew Names, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, 1260s]
BIBLE in the Latin translation of St Jerome with the customary prologues and the Interpretation of Hebrew Names, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, 1260s]
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BIBLE in the Latin translation of St Jerome with the customary prologues and the Interpretation of Hebrew Names, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, 1260s]

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BIBLE in the Latin translation of St Jerome with the customary prologues and the Interpretation of Hebrew Names, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, 1260s]

A Paris Bible with expressive illustrations in a contemporary binding retaining valuable evidence for the process of production.


193 x 126mm, i + ii + 553 leaves with modern foliation ff.1-555 running from the first added leaf and omitting f.365bis and skipping 461 to run from f.460 to f.462; f.18 removed after foliation; catchwords, some pricking, ruled space 135 x 88mm two columns of 45 lines, two-line initials alternately in red or blue with extensive flourishing in red and darker and lighter blue, running headings lettered alternately in red or blue, 58 illuminated initials with marginal extensions, 57 historiated initials of similar designs, contemporary corrections throughout (missing leaves with the historiated initials for Jerome’s Prologue, Genesis, Esther, Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus, Daniel, Aggeus, Zacharius, Mark and for the Epistles of James, John II, John III and Jude; the initials for Ruth, Esdras and St John’s Gospel have been excised from f.110v with half of side margin, from f.196v with whole of side margin, and from f.432v; initials smudged ff.140, 167v, 168). Contemporary red-stained sheep over wooden boards flush with the text block, stitched to eight double bands, five metal attachments on each cover, two leather straps secured by metal attachments to lower cover and fastening over two pins in upper cover, later green ribbon bookmark, (at least some restitching, 19th–century waste appears after f.490, front pastedown glued over 19th-century waste, straps replaced, lacking stud over metal attachment of upper strap). Black half calf box (wrongly titled).


Provenance: (1) The text and decoration show that this was one of the numerous Bibles produced in Paris from about 1230 to a newly standardised format, made easy to use by the introduction of chapter numbers and running headings. The itinerant preachers of the new orders of friars help to explain their rapid spread and imitation through Europe, since the highly skilled Parisian book producers were able to make ‘pocket sized’ Bibles written in minute script on extremely fine parchment. This Bible has more generous dimensions, while remaining easily portable, and by at least the 15th century was owned by a Dominican convent or by someone associated with the Dominican Order. The added bifolium at the front, ff.2-3, lists the Biblical readings for the church year according to Dominican use, Incipit ordinarium lectionum de tempore ordinis fratris predicatorum. (2) Heribert Tenschert, Leuchtendes Mittelalter, neue Folge II, 1998, no 4.


Content: List of contents (15th-century addition) f.1; list of readings for the Temporal (15th-century addition) ff.2-3; Bible with the customary prologues ff.4-498, lacking the opening of Jerome’s prefatory letter after f.3, the opening of Genesis after f.5, the end of chap. 22 to mid-24 of Genesis f.18, the Prologue and the beginning of Esther after f.222, end of Job and the Prologue and beginning of Proverbs after f.238, the Prologue and the beginning of Ecclesiaticus after f.258, the Prologue and the beginning of Daniel after f.347, the end of Sophonias (Zephaniah), Aggaus (Haggai) and the beginning of Zacharias after f.369, the beginning of Malachias after f.372, the Prologue and the beginning of Mark after f.410, the Prologue and beginning of the Epistle of James after f.486, lacking the second and third Epistles of John and the beginning of Jude’s Epistle after f.490; Interpretation of Hebrew Names (Aaz to Zuzim) ff.499-555v.

The Psalms were not always included in the smaller Paris Bibles; the current state of the binding does not indicate that a complete gathering with the Psalter was removed.


As was customary, the text was carefully checked and corrections were entered in the margins ringed in red and keyed into the main text by a symbol; some red frames were flourished in blue. This was done before the leaves were trimmed for binding when some corrections were themselves trimmed e.g f.118v. The trimming was originally expected to be even more severe since many guide notes for the scribes and illuminators remain in the volume, which thus provides intriguing insights into the making of the Paris Bibles, ‘the publishing sensation of the thirteenth century’, The process of manufacture, increasingly standardised and efficiently divided into discrete sections for quasi-mass production, can be traced from the pricking of the leaves to guide the ruling through to the contemporary binding. In between, the text was written in black ink, leaving spaces for headings, chapter numbers and flourished initials, with notes in the margin for what the rubricator, using red and blue, was to insert in the spaces. Despite this guidance, the empty spaces on f.418 were never filled; on ff.488-491v they have all been inserted except for the headings within the text, showing that the different elements could be executed separately.


For the illuminators of the large initials for each prologue and book of the Bible and the index of Hebrew names, guide letters were written in the margins; there must have been another source for the subjects. The appealing initials, their intricate patterns enlivened by birds, beasts and dragons, have been attributed to the Bari Atelier, named from a Gradual now in S. Nicola in Bari (R. Branner, Manuscript Painting in Paris during the Reign of St Louis, 1977, pp.98-107). Masters at conveying events and emotions on a small scale, the Bari illuminators gave their figures expression by exaggerating facial features and hands, all arrestingly detailed in black on a white flesh tone. A particular characteristic here is the combination of emphatically large black dots to animate eyes with touches of red to shape cheeks, also seen in a larger Bible in Le Mans attributed to the Bari atelier (Bibliothèque municipale ms 262; Branner p.106). The same hand, varying the same patterns, seems to have responsible in both Bibles for the initials to Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua and Lamentations. In other instances an almost identical pattern is deployed by different hands: a comparison with the more elaborate, larger, initial in the Le Mans Bible allows the vestigial architecture around St John on Patmos to be identified as four of the churches of Asia.

The subjects of the historiated initials are: Jacob arriving in Egypt f.26, Moses offering a lamb to God f.43v, God speaking to Moses f.55v, Moses expounding the law f.72v, God instructing Joshua to cross the Jordan f.88v, God addressing two Israelites f.99, Hannah praying with Elkanah f.112v, David having the Amalekite beheaded f.127v, an attendant bringing Abishag to David f.140, Ahaziah falling from an upper window f.154, ?Adam, Seth and Enoch f.168, Solomon before an altar f.180v, Nehemiah as cup bearer to Artaxerxes f.200v, asperging an altar f.206v, Tobit and the swallow f.213, Judith beheading Holofernes f.217v, Job on the dung heap visited by his wife f.228v, Solomon enthroned f.248, Ecclesia, enthroned and holding cross and chalice f.251, Solomon enthroned beside a soldier f.253, Isaiah being sawn in two f.276, Jeremiah showing God the boiling cauldron f.297, Jeremiah lamenting over Jerusalem f.321v, Baruch writing f.323v, Ezekiel’s vision f.326v, Hosea and his wife f.357, Joel f.360, God speaking to Amos with his sheep f.361v, Obadiah f.364, Jonah and the whale f.365, Micah before Jerusalem f.365v, Nahum f.366v, the angel carrying Habbakuk by the hair to bring bread to Daniel f.368, Zephaniah f.369, execution of the idolatrous Jew f.373v, a Jew of Jerusalem giving a messenger the letter for the Jews of Egypt f.387, the Tree of Jesse f.397, Zechariah censing an altar f.418, Paul enthroned with either a sword or a scroll ff.443v, 448v, 453v, 457, 459, 460v, 463, 464, 465v, 466, 467v, 468v, 469, Paul and a Hebrew f.469v, Ascension f.473v, Peter blessing a kneeling man f.488, Peter enthroned f.489, John writing f.490, John on Patmos f.491
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