THE SPANISH FORGER. 4 full-page miniatures, 27 historiated initials, and 3 borders, all added to a 16th-century Spanish manuscript Gradual, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
THE SPANISH FORGER. 4 full-page miniatures, 27 historiated initials, and 3 borders, all added to a 16th-century Spanish manuscript Gradual, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM

THE SPANISH FORGER. 4 full-page miniatures, 27 historiated initials, and 3 borders, all added to a 16th-century Spanish manuscript Gradual, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM

[France, 1st quarter 20th century]
433 x 363 mm. 144 leaves (of 145, without the original f.67), original foliation in red roman numerals visible in centre top margin of most rectos, modern pencilled foliation (used here) in lower right corner of rectos, six lines of rotunda script and six five-line staves with square neumes, justification: 388 x 270 mm, text and neumes in black ink, musical staves and liturgical instructions in red, original initials in the form of large cadels or red or blue Lombards with contrasting pen-flourishing, capitals filled with yellow wash, TWENTY-SEVEN HISTORIATED INITIALS (approx. 70 x 70 mm), THREE TWO-SIDED BORDERS, and FOUR FULL-PAGE MINIATURES (385 x 273 mm) in arched compartments with surrounding borders ADDED BY THE SPANISH FORGER, most over previous text or initials (textblock trimmed to, or occasionally within, text area at outer margin and close to music at top and text at bottom, about 20 leaves with vellum or paper reinforcements to inner margins, some early repairs or corrections to text, various erasures of text and music, very slight rubbing to one miniature and two borders, about 8 of the Forger's initials with tiny losses, mostly to gold background). Brown leather over heavy wooden boards, probably cut down from a larger binding, 10 large and elaborately pierced centre and corner-piece bosses, 2 similar catchplates on back cover, all backed with green paper, 4 brass knobs as feet to lower edges of boards (without leather straps to catches, scar from previous centre-piece boss on lower front cover, some cracking and small losses to spine, discreet repairs to headcaps and joints).


The so-called Spanish Forger, active in Paris at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, produced more single leaves or cuttings than manuscripts. The present codex was one of only 6 books attributed to the Forger by William Voelkle (The Spanish Forger, New York 1978, where this manuscript is listed as M1, pp.32-35, figs 56-91). It is the Forger's only substantial production still in private hands (two comparable volumes are at the Beinecke Library, Yale University, and at the Pierpont Morgan Library).


1. Larousse family, Paris

2. Menno Hertzburger, Amsterdam

3. Paul Kapp, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York


To produce this book, the Forger used a 16th-century Spanish Gradual containing the Sanctoral for parts of June to November and the Common of Saints. Although the order of the text is confused, and the collation of the codex cannot be readily ascertained, the original foliation shows that the book is complete except for the loss of one folio. It was probably written for use in Seville, as it includes a number of saints who were honoured there. As Voelkle points out, the Forger painted the miniatures over text and without regard for the liturgical context: representations of the Crucifixion and Resurrection do not belong in this section of the Gradual. In the historiated initials depicting saints the Forger made an effort to match the saints to the rubics but sometimes misinterpreted the text. That the manuscript was cut down before the insertion of the miniatures is shown by the fact that the borders with the full-page miniatures and the three independent borders (ff.1, 54, 107) fill only the inner and lower margins.


The style and composition of the miniatures are characteristic of the Spanish Forger's work. Voelkle identifies several sources for, or parallels to, the illumination in this manuscript.

The subjects of the full-page miniatures are:

f.53v Two donors kneeling in a landscape with two saints, God the Father enthroned above with a choir of angels (Voelkle, fig.56)

f.75v Crucifixion (fig.57, in colour)

f.76 Resurrection (fig.58)

f.106v The Virgin and Child in a landscape with four female saints (fig.59)

The subjects of the historiated initials are:

f.1 A bishop kneeling with the Virgin and Child above (Voelkle, fig.64); f.4 A monk writing (fig.65); f.6 St James (fig.66); f.13 St Martha and the tarasque (fig.67); f.16 A bishop-saint kneeling, and an angel holding a palm (fig.68); f.19 A bishop-saint blessing (fig.69); f.26 Six men praying, God the Father above (fig.70); f.29v A male saint holding a palm (fig.71); f.32v St Lawrence holding the gridiron (fig.72); f.35v Martyrdom of St Lawrence (fig.73); f.39 Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin (fig.74); f.40 Assumption of the Virgin (fig.75); f.44 Angel holding a crown, St Louis (fig.76); f.47v St George slaying the dragon (fig.77); f.52v A monk-saint praying, the Virgin and Child above (fig.78); f.54 Coat of arms (fig.79); f.57 Exaltation of the Cross (fig.80); f.61 A female saint holding a palm and a book (fig.81); f.73 St Jerome and the lion (fig.82); f.76v Two monks chanting before an altar (fig.83); f.77v Five saints praying to God the Father (fig.85); f.89 A bishop-saint and a monk-saint (fig.86); f.94 St Cecilia (fig.87); f.98 A bishop-saint holding a palm (fig.88); f.100v A male saint holding a palm, a man with a sword (fig.89); f.104v St Andrew (fig.90); f. 107 St Peter and St Paul (fig.91)

More from BOOKS

View All
View All