BIBLE, in Latin, with the Prologues ascribed to St Jerome, MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[France, probably Paris, 13th century]
230 x 152 mm. 443 leaves: 1-810, 99(of 10, x a cancelled blank), 10-1910, 205(of 6, vi a cancelled blank), 2112, 22-2810, 2912, 30-3710, 3812, 39-4310, 4412, 451, COMPLETE, horizontal catchwords in pen-drawn cartouches centred in the lower margin at the end of each quire, 50 lines (Old Testament) or 55 lines (New Testament), double column, ruled in lead, prickings visible in most outer margins, justification: 135 x 88 mm, written in a very small gothic bookhand in brown ink, rubrics in red, guide-letters and numbers for the rubricator visible in margins (slightly cropped), liturgical readings noted in the extreme lower margins, some contemporary chapter initials and numbers in red or blue letters, a few with contemporary pen-flourishing in the opposite colour, other chapter, versal or book initials supplied in 15th-century red Lombards (first and last folios somewhat darkened, faint dampstain to lower blank margins throughout with occasional small losses to vellum, last leaf rehinged, 6/2 lacking part of outer blank margin with no loss to text, last 5 leaves with several small wormholes obscuring a few letters on final folio). Early 19th-century sheep over pasteboard, probably for Leander van Ess (some wear).
1. Leander van Ess (1772-1847), German collector and translator of the Bible: printed number '61' mounted on pastedown (Sammlung und Verzeichniss handschriftlicher Bcher ... welche besitzt Leander van Ess, Darmstadt 1823, no 61)
2. Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), English bibliophile: 'Phillipps MS 446', manuscript note on first leaf (The Phillipps Manuscripts, ed. A.N.L. Munby, London 1968, p.5; Sotheby's, 6 June 1910, lot 105)
3. Unidentified bookseller's catalogue, no 5 (cutting mounted on pastedown)
4. Alan G. Thomas, cat. 13, London 1963, no 41
An excellent wide-margined example of a 13th-century Paris Vulgate Bible written in the extremely fine gothic script sometimes referred to as 'pearl script'. Though without illumination, this codex offers a particularly interesting example of how such Bible manuscripts were made and used. Soon after the text was written, probably by a single scribe, the rubrics that identify the openings of prologues and books were executed in red ink. In addition a few bifolia, scattered throughout the volume, passed to the next stage of decoration and received two-line chapter initials, usually in blue, and also chapter numbers in roman numerals consisting of alternating red and blue letters; a few of the blue chapter initials were also supplied with red pen-flourishing. At this point, the decoration of the manuscript was left incomplete. The majority of chapter initials and numbers, all the versal initials in the Psalms, and all the book initials were left blank. At a subsequent date, running titles were provided for all books except the Psalter. The same comparatively amateurish hand that wrote the running titles inserted a few in-text rubrics that had been overlooked previously (14/5v, 15/5v) and probably also added the majority of the chapter numbers, usually in the margins. Finally, in the 15th century, the missing initials, including the large initials marking the openings of books, were supplied in red Lombards of the style commonly found in late manuscripts and German incunabula.
The text was carefully, and in places extensively, corrected by several contemporary and later medieval hands. The corrections include neat erasures, emendations in the text or margins, and some new passages written in the margins or over erasures. The manuscript also contains several sets of medieval marginalia relating to its use. These include: (1) cross-references to related passages of scripture; (2) other notes regarding content; (3) liturgical readings noted mostly in the lower margins, and sometimes marked with beginning and ending signs in the side margins, especially in the New Testament. The liturgical designations, written near the edges of the pages in small, careless notula, perhaps of the 14th century, have the appearance of notes for the rubricator. They were not, however, utilized as such, except once in Matthew when the writer of the headlines mistakenly also transcribed the note 'Vigilia pasche' (13/10v). A few notes reflect the careful study of Biblical history or theology, e.g., a list of the kings of Judah, with the number of years each reigned and references to the Biblical passages concerning each (16/9r), or references from the book of Job to the Moralia of Gregory the Great.
The standard Vulgate Bible that developed in the schools of Paris during the 13th century embodied a fixed order of books, a standardised version of the Biblical text, a customary set of prologues (employed with some variation), and the introduction of the chapter divisions that were attributed to Stephen Langton and are still used. The present manuscript appears to date from a relatively early stage in this process. Although the order of the books and the choice of prologues conform to the accepted pattern, and the chapter numbers indicate Langton's divisions, not all the chapter divisions are reflected in the layout of the text. It is possible that the extensive corrections, not yet studied, represent efforts to bring the text into conformity with the standard Paris text, or to correct it in agreement with the correctoria compiled by critics of the Paris Vulgate (cf. B. Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, Oxford 1952, pp.333-336). Another feature commonly found in Paris Vulgate Bibles, the appendix known as the 'Interpretation of Hebrew Names', may once have been present in this codex following the Apocalypse.
Leander van Ess, who owned the manuscript in the early 19th century, spent his career in the study and translation of the Bible, which he wished to make available in German to Catholics and Protestants alike. In the course of this work, he examined the history of the Vulgate text and published an edition of it (Tbingen 1822-24). The extensive collection of manuscripts and printed books he formed to support his study consisted largely of volumes from the libraries of German monasteries secularized in 1802-3. Van Ess sold a portion of his collection to Sir Thomas Phillipps in 1824 (A.N.L. Munby, The Formation of the Phillipps Library, Cambridge 1954, pp.29-33), and in 1838 much of the remainder was acquired by Union Theological Seminary in New York City ('so precious a foundation': The Library of Leander van Ess at the Burke Library of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, New York 1996). In his 1823 catalogue of the books he sold to Phillipps a year later, Van Ess described this manuscript as follows: 'Aus 443 sehr feine dnne weisse Pergamentblätter sehr klein und niedlich geschrieben mit farbigen Initialen, sehr gut erhalten in neuem Lederband gebunden ... Weicht im Text sehr von der gewohnlichen Vulgata ab.'