EPISTOLARY, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[southwestern France, c.1120]
205 x 145mm. 205 leaves: 13(of ?4, i detached and ii lacking), 2-268, 272(of ?8, lacking all but first two leaves), apparently lacking a gathering at front, certainly lacking gatherings between 25 and 26 and at end, 18 lines written in black ink in a protogothic bookhand between two pairs of verticals and on 18 horizontals ruled in blind, justification: 145 x 80mm, rubrics in red, large decorated initials of red and blue, FOUR LARGE PAINTED INITIALS, one with a fabulous beast, one foliate and two of interlace and beakheads, all against fields of blue, green and beige (opening folio detached and very slightly trimmed, inner upper corner of ff.2 and 3 lacking, ink flaked from a few folios). German 16th-century panelled calf, tooled in blind with two heads-in-medallions rolls, one with a cardinal's coat of arms, brass clasps and catches (minor rubbing of extremities, lower pastedown lifted, upper pastedown detached, worn at spine with some loss of leather, replacement velvet straps).
1. The initials show the manuscript to have been made in southern or southwestern France, and most probably within the area around Moissac, Toulouse and Albi. The inclusion of the Feast of the Translation of the Relics of St Benedict and the Feast of St Scholastica, Benedict's sister, indicate that the manuscript was made for Benedictine use.
2. By the 16th century when it received its present binding the manuscript must have been in Germany.
Epistle readings for Masses throughout the church year arranged according to the Temporal, from the first Sunday in Advent to the 25th week after Pentecost (lacking the readings for Feria VI in the week after Advent and the second Sunday in Advent), ff.1-187v; arranged according to the Sanctoral, from the Feast of St Stephen on 26 December to the Feast of St Lawrence on 11 August (lacking gatherings between folios 195 and 196, with feasts from 11 February to 24 June, and at end, with feasts from 12 August to 21 December etc), ff.188-205.
There are extra strings and six vellum stubs preceding the opening of the Epistles; it may be that this lacking gathering carried a Calendar.
Each section of readings opens with a large penwork initial in red against a divided ground of bright blue, pale green and an imitation gold. For the opening of the Temporal (f.1) and the Sanctoral (f.188) these are made up of interlace and beakheads. The reading for Easter (f.99v) opens with a rampant and fire-eating beast and the initial of the reading for Pentecost (f.110v) has an acanthus stave.
The forms of the pen-drawn initials, with their interlace tendrils, beast-headed terminals and palmette foliage, are of Franco-Saxon derivation, and are of a style current in the region around Moissac, Toulouse and Albi from the late 11th century. The combined use of interlace and palmette-foliage initials with more fantastic creations -- the beakhead terminals and fabulous fire- or foliage-breathing beast -- is found in several of the manuscripts attributed to the scriptorium of Moissac during the first quarter of the 12th century: W. Cahn, Romanesque Manuscripts, A Survey of Manuscripts illuminated in France, 1996, nos 28-32. The ornate majuscule letters of the incipits are also typical for this region but the general aspect and several features of the elegant script -- for example, the insular abbreviation for enim and the anglo-norman form of ampersand -- suggest that the scribe was English-trained. The meridional parchment establishes that it was the scribe who had travelled, and the manuscript is a fascinating testament of the international transmission of influence within the monastic community.