BIBLE with the Prologues attributed to St Jerome, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[northern France, possibly Amiens, mid-13th century)
138 x 91mm. iii + 411 + i leaves: 1-1116, 124, 13-2616, 277(of 10, viii-x cancelled blanks), COMPLETE, two sets of modern pencil foliation, upper set correct and followed here, two columns of 53 (ff.1-19) or 54 lines written in black ink in a small gothic bookhand between four verticals and 54 or 55 horizontals ruled in plummet, justification: 100 x 70mm, additional pairs of horizontals in upper and lower margins, rubrics in red, versal initials touched red, versal initials in the Psalter, 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 running the height of the margin, six-line initials of similar type but with divided staves of both colours opening some prologues, SEVENTY-ONE ILLUMINATED INITIALS with staves of pink or blue against grounds of the other colour with infills and terminals of pink, grey-blue and orange-red foliage and dragons, thirty-one of them with extensive terminals forming partial borders in the margins, TWO HISTORIATED INITIALS, one with a two-sided border, MINIATURE OF THE CRUCIFIXION (very slight cropping of flourishing at head and foot of some folios, lead white darkened on some initials, repairs to margins of ff.313 and 326). Panelled green morocco gilt by Hering (extremities slightly rubbed).
POCKET BIBLE OWNED AND ANNOTATED BY RUSKIN
1. An erased and cropped inscription in a 14th-century hand records the use of the Bible by a Franciscan; it begins 'ad usum fratris Johannis varleti de ordinatione vicarii generalis et tandem...' (f.1)
2. Nicolas family: 15th-century ownership note apparently reading 'cette presente livre apartien a pierre nicolas estudiant en teologie' (f.411v) and a note in a 16th-century hand 'a Marc Nicolas' (f.1)
3. John Ruskin (1819-1900), Brantwood: his bookplate inside upper cover and notes in his hand on the final endleaf commenting on the quality of illumination, e.g. 'Ruth beautiful'
4. Dyson Perrins 8: circular label on spine and another inside lower cover reading Perrins 138, bought Robson & Co, 1902, sold Sotheby's 29 November 1960, lot 105
List and description of the books of the Bible in a 15th-century hand endleaf ii; Vulgate Bible with the customary Prologues ff.1-411
The unusual illuminated initials of this Pocket Bible point to its illustration outside Paris. Most of them are made up of patterned bars, beast-headed tendrils and leaf-tailed dragons in blue, pink and orange-red, and many include small, brown dog-like creatures clambering through them. It was one of these initials, where a dog stands completely entwined in the coils of tendril, that elicited the highest praise from Ruskin: 'Regum II Wonderful'. The choice of subject for the Genesis initial is equally uncommon: an elongated figure of Christ blessing stands beneath a roofed baldachin, his feet resting on the back of the dragon that makes up the lower half of the initial. The miniature of the Crucifixion, which is painted in the space below the end of the text of Job -- and may have been a separate addition -- is painted in an altogether more mainstream and sophisticated style. It appears to be the work of one of the masters of Branner's 'Vie de Saint Denis' atelier: R. Branner Manuscript Painting in Paris during the Reign of Saint Louis (1977), pp.87-93.
The historiated initials and miniature are as follows:
f.1 St Jerome seated at a desk, a cusped spray forming a border in the lower margin with a bird perched on the leaves (Prologue); f.3v Cross-nimbed Christ holding a book, his other hand raised in benediction, three dogs in the tendrils below (Genesis); f.180v Crucifixion with the Cross flanked by the Virgin and John the Evangelist (end of Book of Job, facing the opening of the Book of Psalms)