THE VIRGIN AND CHILD, a historiated initial on a bifolium from Peter Lombard, Sentences, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[France, Paris?, c.1300]
330 x 210mm. A bifolium, ONE HISTORIATED INITIAL, eight two-line initials alternately blue with red flourishing or vice versa, one-line initials, running headings and a distinctio number alternately in red and blue.
The first leaf contains part of the end of Peter Lombard's Sentences, Book II, Distinctiones XLII-XLIII, and the second leaf contains most of the list of chapters of Book III, with distinctiones numbered from 13 to 40, followed by the beginning of Book III itself. Judging by the amount of text missing between the two halves, there were two further bifolia in the middle of the gathering.
Peter Lombard's Sentences, written in the mid-12th century, became the standard theological textbook of the University of Paris and this is likely the context of production for this manuscript. It was perhaps the first owner who, in dark brown ink, both corrected the text and added extensive marginalia, the latter often including intra-textual cross-references. A reader using very pale brown ink added marginal references to the Bible, e.g. 'gal[atians] 4' next to the historiated initial. The manuscript was broken-up by the 1650s, apparently in Germany. The first recto has inscriptions in German dated 1656-1658 concerning agricultural supplies.
Book III of the Sentences concerns Christ, 'the incarnation of the Word', hence the subject-matter of the historiated initial. Doubtless the other three books also had historiated initials. This is exceptional: as a university textbook, it seems finely illuminated copies were rarely produced and even more rarely survive.