BIBLE with the Prologues attributed to St Jerome, DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
186 x 118mm, 472 leaves plus eight later vellum endleaves at front and eight at end, modern foliation in pencil in the lower margin, pen in the upper, two columns of 52 lines written in black ink in a small gothic bookhand with ascenders into the upper margin, between five verticals and 53 horizontals ruled in plummet, justification: 140 x 79mm, an additional pair of horizontals in upper and lower margin, the Interpretation of Hebrew names in three columns of 60 lines between eight verticals and 61 horizontals, versal initials touched red, letters of running headings and chapter numbers alternately of red or blue, two-line chapter initials alternately of red or blue with flourishing of the contrasting colour, SEVENTY-THREE 'PUZZLE' INITIALS WITH INTRICATE FILIGREE PEN-WORK, six lines high, the divided staves of red and blue and flourishing of the same colours (lacking eight leaves, some headings and flourishing slightly cropped, occasional blurring of red ink, leaves at beginning and end darkened, ff.461-472 repaired and stained, a further dozen leaves with repairs to margin, dampstaining at edges of lower corners of first 32 and final 30 leaves). Panelled brown morocco gilt by Bedford (lower third dampstained, slight rubbing to head of spine).
1. The manuscript has several features characteristic of Bibles produced in England, and various documentary features of the script, including the use of papal knots in the ascenders into the upper margin, indicate a date not later than c.1230. The Bible clearly remained in this country; translations into English of the running headings are written in a 16th-century hand and an inscription recording Elizabethan ownership and the gift of the book, once on the final leaf, is transcribed in the 19th-century auction catalogue entry that is pasted on to the verso of the first modern endleaf. It reads 'Guido librar ex dono Rici Broughton vni Justic dne Regine Elizabeth Com Angles Caernaruon & Merioneth 1594'.
2. Alexander Peckover, Baron of Wisbech: two armorial bookplates inside upper cover -- one before and one after he was raised to the peerage in 1907 -- his name, address and the date September 1874 on the first of the modern vellum endleaves. This is followed by his description of the manuscript (ff.i-v verso) and a transcription of Bedford's bill of 5 August 1875 for binding (£5) and restoration '...the whole of the volume damped, pressed & smoothed, & every leaf mended or spliced in the back as required for new back margin. Very long and careful process. Mending and splicing back occupied 128 hrs £9.12s'. Peckover also records that Bedford mislaid the leaf with the Elizabethan ownership inscription.
Vulgate Bible with the customary Prologues ff.1-444: lacking eight leaves with the end of Chapter xxii and Chapters xxiii-xxv of Exodus, Chapters vii-x of Numbers, Chapters xliii-xlvi of Ecclesiasticus, Chapters xliii-xlvi of Isaiah, Chapters xli-xlii of Ezechiel, Chapters ii-iii of Zephania and the opening of Haggai and Chapters xxi-xxii of Luke; Interpretation of Hebrew names: lacking from Thraties to end
As is commonly the case with English 13th-century Bibles no Psalter was ever part of this manuscript. Another variation from the standard Vulgate text is the provision of Ezra I-V, of which only I and II are part of Jerome's Vulgate and are the only ones divided into chapters.
Each book opens with a large 'puzzle' initial with divided staves of red and blue and extensive and intricate flourishing of the same colours. The blue is the bright pale shade that is so distinctive and typical of English 13th-century decoration.
This Vulgate Bible is a handsome and early copy of a text that had only been standardised in Paris a few years before. Whereas Bibles of this type and portable format were produced in large numbers in northern France, their production in England was much more restricted and their appearance on the market is correspondingly rarer.