BIBLE with Prologues and the Interpretation of Hebrew Names, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Italy, Tuscany?, mid or third quarter 13th century]
170 x 125mm. 415 leaves, collation uncertain but apparently complete except for a quire lacking at end, not foliated, 54 lines in two columns written in a minute gothic bookhand in brown ink between four verticals and 55 horizontals ruled in brown ink, justification: 115 x 80mm, three further verticals between the columns and a further pair of rulings in each of the outer three margins, capitals touched red, rubrics in red, OPENING AND GENESIS WITH ILLUMINATED INITIALS ALMOST THE FULL HEIGHT OF THE PAGE, each biblical book and division of the Psalms opening with large flourished puzzle initial in red and blue, from five lines hight to almost the full height of the page, some with penwork animal- or bird-heads, two- and three-line initials alternately red with blue flourishing or vice versa, marginalia in 13th-century hands (some running-titles and extremities of decoration cropped, water-damage and staining at Ezekiel 12-14 and adjacent leaves). Late-19th century green morocco gilt (extremities worn, some scuffing).
SIGNED BY THE SCRIBE, Giovanni of Cortona: 'Qui scripsit hunc librum fiat collectum in paradisum. Johannes scriptor de Cortona scripsit et complevit. Deo gratias'. Written and illuminated perhaps in Tuscany: the scribe was Tuscan and the text is sufficiently idiosyncratic and old-fashioned to suggest that it was not made in Bologna.
Giovanni Battista de' Medici, Conte da Gavardo: inscribed on the first page of the text.
Alfred T. White (1846-1921), Brooklyn philanthropist; bought at Bangs, New York, 9 April 1901, lot 99; given in 1919 to the Brooklyn Museum of Art (de Ricci, Census, II, 1194, no 2).
Bible, with a non-standard set of prologues, the books in a very unusual order and often with chapter-divisions differing from the Paris Vulgate: Genesis to 2 Chronicles, without the Prayer of Manasses ff.1-141v; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel, the Minor Prophets, 1 & 2 Maccabees ff.141v-231v; Job, Psalms with eight divisions, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus with the Prayer of Solomon ff.231v-87v; 1-3 Ezra, ff.287v-95; Esther ff.295-304; Tobit and Judith ff.304-11; Gospels ff.311-45; Pauline Epistles ff.345-67; Acts ff.367-77v; Canonical Epistles ff.377v-82; Apocalypse ff.382-86v; Interpretations of Hebrew Names, here alphabetized to the second or third letter of each name, in the version beginning 'Aaz apprehendens', here attributed in the rubric to Remigius (of Auxerre), ending in the names beginning 'Tha' ff.387-415v.
A handsome and unusual example of the 'pocket' Bibles produced in large numbers in the 13th century, mainly in Paris, but also in Oxford and Bologna. The present copy, perhaps made in Arezzo (about twenty miles north of Cortona), is thus a considerable rarity: the Bibliothèque nationale de France has only four 13th-century illuminated manuscripts attributed to Tuscany, none of them Bibles (F. Avril et al., Manuscrits enluminés d'origine italienne, 2: XIIIe siècle, 1984, nos. 152-5).
The scribe seems to have been working from an old-fashoned exemplar: the order of books, the choice of prologues, and the chapter divisions (e.g. Deuteronomy 11-13, Joshua 12) are frequently not those that have been standard since the early 13th century; the present text is therefore very possibly a reflection of a lost 12th-century exemplar used in Tuscany, such as the Giant Bibles studied by Garrison and Berg.