BENEDICTIONAL OF JOHANNES VON VENNINGEN with other pontifical texts, for the use of the bishop of Basel, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
333 x 259mm. 81 leaves: 1-98, 109(ix a singleton), red leather tabs on three leaves, COMPLETE, formal catchwords to right of lower margin of most final versos, signatures, two columns of 17 lines written in black ink in a gothic bookhand between four verticals and 18 horizontals, lines 1, 3, 16 and 18 extending across the page, ruled in brown, justification: 235 x 67-21-77mm, prickings for verticals and horizontals, rubrics in red, text capitals touched red, one- and two-line initials alternately of red extensively flourished with pink and of blue extensively flourished with red, TEN LARGE ILLLUMINATED INITIALS three lines high with staves of pink or blue with white decoration with grounds of burnished gold and infills of pink, blue, orange and green acanthus, extending into margins with burnished gold and penwork motifs, TWO LARGE HISTORIATED INITIALS of bust-length praying figures, of three-lines height with staves of pink and white on grounds of burnished gold with green, orange, pink and blue acanthus also in the margins with burnished gold and penwork (slight water staining to edges of some folios). Modern vellum gilt.
AN UNRECORDED VOLUME FROM THE SERIES OF PONTIFICAL BOOKS MADE FOR JOHANNES VON VENNINGEN, BISHOP OF BASEL (1458-78)
1. Johannes von Venningen, bishop of Basel (1458-1479): the volume is for the use of the bishop of Basel and complements in text, while matching in size, script and illumination, three volumes of pontifical offices preserved in the library of the College of Porrentruy, two of which bear the arms of Johannes von Venningen (see below). The von Venningen were a noble family in the diocese of Worms; a contemporary recorded that Johannes greatly loved and read books; in 1459 he founded the university of Basel.
2. Probably the library of the bishops of Basel, preserved in the episcopal château of Porrentruy, the centre of the diocese after Basel became Protestant, a process marked by iconoclasm of particular violence and thoroughness.
3. Probably the library of the College de Porrentruy: the companion volumes were among the manuscripts from the château given to the College Library by Bishop Joseph de Roggenbach in 1787. There were many losses from the library under the French Revolutionary régime, when this volume is likely to have been separated from its companions: J. Trouillat, Rapport sur la bibliothèque du College de Porrentruy (1849).
4. Cutting from bookseller's catalogue: no 157, described as a Missal for the use of the bishop of Basel
5. Cutting from bookseller's catalogue: nos 422 and 423 on the reverse, described as a Pontifical
Temporal Benedictions from Advent ff.1-37; Sanctoral Benedictions ff.37-45; Communal Benedictions, ff.45-48v; ordo qualiter ab episcopo synodus agatur ff.48v-56v; Capitula and Prayers for feasts from Christmas, including the canonised Emperor and Empress, Henry and Kunigunde, builders of the cathedral of Basel, St Corbinian, St Gorgonius, St Pantalus, primi pontificis basiliensis ecclesie, the mythical companion of St Ursula, St Caesarius, St Eucharius ff.57-79v; Regule observande in officio pontificale ff.79v-81v
These texts supplement those found in the three companion volumes in the library of the College of Porrentruy, apparently still with their original bindings. Volume I, a Missal, with 404 leaves measuring 332 x 257mm, and volume II, a series of pontifical offices and some benedictions of specific objects or people, with 146 leaves measuring 360 x 274mm, both include the arms of Johannes von Venningen in their decoration and have an original foliation. Volume III, with texts for the consecration for churches and cemeteries and their furnishings, with 138 leaves and measuring 358 x 270mm, has no arms and no original foliation but is written by the same scribe and illuminated by the same hand: K. Escher, 'Die illuminierten Handschriften der Kantonsschulbibliothek in Pruntrut', Anzeiger für schweizerische Altertumskunde, n.F.XVIII (1916), pp.301-318. This fourth volume, also with no arms and no foliation, is the work of the same scribe and illuminator. It cannot have been an independent afterthought since it contains the benedictions to be said by the bishop throughout the year, an important part of the specifically pontifical texts.
Johannes von Venningen was very proud of his status as bishop and conscious of his obligations. A series of large illuminated books from which to recite the pontifical offices would have satisfied both concerns; the large script would have been easily legible when held before him by an acolyte.
The illumination is from the same hand as the comparable illuminated and historiated initials in a Commentary on the Epistles of Paul, which the Basel notary and scribe Jodocus Seyler completed on 1 July 1460 (Basel, Universitätbib., Ms A.VI.19). The same rather flat colouring and reliance on line to detail is evident in both, and they are probably close in date. A payment made by von Venningen in 1462 for the illumination of a pontifical could refer to one of the Porrentruy volumes. The illuminator forms part of the Vullenhoe group, named from the third volume of a Bible, dated 1445, written in the Kleinbasel Charterhouse by the north Netherlandish scribe who signed in Latin as Henricus de Vullenhoe (Basel, Universitätsbib., Mss B.I.3, B.I.2, B.I.3). Through the presence either of its initiator or illuminators trained by him, the Vullenhoe style dominated Basel illumination into the last decades of the century: K. Escher, Die Miniaturen in den baseler Bibliotheken, Museen und Archiven, (1917), pp.144-161. The fleshy acanthus leaves and assertive motifs in burnished gold contrast with the more sinuous decoration, typical of German manuscripts, otherwise practised in Basel. By 1445, the Council of Basel (1435-1449) had intensified Basel's international contacts and the Vullenhoe style has been credited to French and Italian influence. However, it shares its boldness and some of its forms with north Netherlandish conventions, so that its development in Basel may be associated with Hendrik van Vullenhoe himself.
In von Venningen's pontifical volumes, only the Missal contains miniatures, one full-page for the canon and smaller miniatures at important offices. It also has a more extensive series of historiated initials. The presence in the other volumes of animals in the initials, alongside the human figures, suggests that their decorative appeal was more important than their subject matter. Here, the large initials mark the major divisions, with the historiated initials for the benediction and capitulum for Christmas Eve, opening the Benedictional and Capitulary respectively. With its wide, untrimmed margins and generous script and flourishings, this book is a striking addition to the Vullenhoe group and the limited corpus of Basel illumination. No books for the use of Basel have been sold at auction since 1975.
The subjects of the historiated initials are: a prophet f.2v, St Paul f.57.
The ten illuminated initials are on ff.1, 4, 6v, 15, 20v, 22, 37, 42, 49v and 79v.