GREGORY I (ca. 540-604, Pope 590-604, Saint). Moralia in Job, in Latin. ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM AND PAPER. [Bohemia], 1397.
Chancery 2o (296 x 205 mm). i+554 leaves: 1-610(-6/9, blanks cancelled); 7-2512, 26-3512 36-3714 38-4612, COMPLETE. Modern pencilled foliation. Ff. 59-554 with horizontal catchwords in lower right margin and traces of two series of signatures in center lower margin on last versos. Ff. 1-58 with 56-57 lines written in black and red ink in a gothic cursive bookhand on 56-57 horizontal lines ruled in brown ink, ff. 1-36 in double columns between four vertical lines, justification: 240 x 165 mm, ff. 36-58 ruled as tables with 12 columns between 13 vertical lines, justification: 236 x 140 mm; ff. 59-554 in double columns of ca. 46 lines written in brown or black ink in gothic cursive bookhand between two horizontal and four vertical lines ruled in brown ink, justification: 215 x 135 mm. TWO ILLUMINATED HISTORIATED INITIALS, THIRTY-FOUR ILLUMINATED INITIALS in colors, liquid gold and silver, and burnished gold, with foliate arabesque extensions, the burnished gold sometimes patterned with circular and floral punches, 12 pen-flourished Lombard initials in index, simple red or blue two-line Lombards marking some chapter divisions in Moralia, running titles in red, chapter headings and index letters in red in margins, text initials slashed red, red paragraph marks and underlines. Citations and other notes in the hand of the scribe in the margins throughout, occasional marginalia in a 15th-century cursive hand, occasional early corrections to text. Ff. 1-58 written on vellum; ff. 59-554 with vellum bifolia as the outermost and innermost sheets of each quire, the other bifolia of paper. (Small natural flaws to vellum, lower blank margins trimmed from vellum ff. 543 and 549, small loss to blank margin of f. 280, light stain to f. 200r, some abrasion to burnished gold of first initial, the silver oxydized.)
Binding: contemporary Bohemian tawed deerskin over wooden boards, with chemise of chamois-like leather, turned under the pastedown at the fore-edge of the front cover, attached under the back pastedown by a pocket sewn on, extending up to 200 mm. beyond the other edges of the book in an irregular shape which retains the silhouette of the animal's hide, ten center- and cornerpiece bosses, two clasps consisting of tawed leather straps with simple brass fittings catching on pins on the front cover (several tears to chemise, some with old repairs, one strap repaired, the other partially defective); contemporary vellum label on front cover, vellum index tabs, vellum pastedowns with passages in textura script on versos; modern drop-back box.
Provenance: written by Leonhard of Schärding and completed in 1397: colophon on f. 551r (Explicit secunda pars Moralium beati Gregorii pape super librum beati Iob. Sub anno domini Millesimo trecentesimo nonagesimo septimo feria secunda ante octavas vigiligie [sic] nativitatis Christi, per manus Leonhardi de Scherding) -- illuminated in Prague, ca. 1398 -- binder's/rubricator's note on back pastedown: "sexterni 46 versualia 36" -- unidentified library label on spine -- [Sotheby Parke Bernet, 15 October 1974, lot 242, to Lathrop Harper]
Contents: contemporary note on Gregory the Great (front pastedown); fragment of a notarized copy of a document from the consistorial court of the diocese of Meissen (f. ir, iv blank); alphabetical index to the Moralia (ff. 1r-36v); scriptural index to Gregory's Moralia, Homilies on the Gospels and on Ezechiel, and Pastoral Care (ff. 37r-58v); Moralia in Job: Books 1-17 (ff. 59r-286v), Books 18-35 (ff. 287r-551r, 551v-553r blank but ruled); Protestationes Magistri Johannis Wiclef et primo in tractatu suo de potestate pape capitulo ultimo ita scribit (ff. 553v-554r, 554v blank but ruled); contemporary note giving the mystical interpretation of the text 'Ve(Vere?) terre cimbalo alarum' (back pastedown).
AN UNRECORDED EXAMPLE OF PRAGUE ILLUMINATION IN AN UNRECORDED CHEMISE BINDING
This remarkable manuscript from the end of the 14th century offers a highly unusual combination of form and content: a popular and influential patristic text, in an originally modest copy, illuminated in Prague by artists closely associated with the court atelier of Wenceslaus IV, and preserved in a contemporary chemise binding, probably also Bohemian.
Leonhard of Schärding, who copied the Moralia of Pope Gregory the Great in this codex, is not recorded by the Benedictines of Bouveret, or in the Austrian or German volumes of the Datierte Handschriften, or among the writers of the chancery of Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia. He was presumably from Schärding am Inn, on the Austrian side of the River Inn south of Passau, but nothing is known about his career. He says in the colophon that he finished copying the manuscript on "Monday before the octave of the vigil of the Nativity of Christ, in the year 1397". There is a discrepancy in this information. Dec. 31, the octave of Christmas eve, fell on Monday in 1397, but on Tuesday in 1398. In any case, both the script and the illumination of the manuscript are consistent with these dates.
The text of the Moralia is written in a German cursive bookhand typical of the late 14th century. That the manuscript was copied on a combination of vellum and paper indicates that it was originally intended as a modest, if neatly accomplished, book for practical use. Such a combination of writing surfaces, with vellum sheets on the outside and inside of the quires to reinforce and protect the paper leaves, is common in Austrian theological manuscripts of this period. The paper of the manuscript consists primarily of a single bulls-head/flower stock. The bull's head has an unusually narrow face with a long smooth snout, small round high-set eyes, and in-curving horns. It is not closely similar to any watermarks in Briquet or Piccard, but the class of watermarks to which it belongs was widely used in southern and eastern Germany and Austria from the late 14th century. Near the end of the manuscript there are small admixtures of two other paper stocks, an ass's head/wheel and a half-ox. The ass's head closely resembles Piccard XV/3: Vierfüssler 513, and the half-ox is perhaps another state of Piccard XV/3: Vierfüssler 729. The first of these watermarks is recorded as in use in Frankfurt am Main and Munich in 1398, the second in and near Frankfurt and Munich in 1397 and 1398. Although paper from these areas may have been exported to Prague, it is likely that the manuscript was written in an Austrian or Bavarian center and then taken to Bohemia. Such an odyssey would parallel that of another, contemporary manuscript of the Moralia. That codex, now Herzogenburg, Stiftsbibliothek, MS. 94, was copied, also in 1397, in the Austrian Charterhouse of Mauerbach by the monk Johannes de Briga and then taken to the Charterhouse in Olmouc, Moravia. It too was illuminated in Prague ca. 1397-1400. At an undetermined date, probably in the 18th century, it was returned to Austria and acquired by the Augustinian monastery at Herzogenburg (see H. Mayo, in Gutenberg Jahrbuch 1994, pp. 267-268).
The extensive indexes to the works of Gregory the Great which open the present codex were probably added to the Moralia at a slightly later date, but before the manuscript was bound. Since the tables are written entirely on vellum, they may have been intended to help upgrade the level of luxury, as well as the usefulness, of the codex. The short text at the end was entered on blank leaves of the last quire of the Moralia, and so could have been written after the volume was bound. It consists of 27 short extracts from works of John Wyclif, including De potestate pape, De veritate sacre scripture, and De eucharistia. These works greatly influenced Jan Hus and the Hussite movement, and the presence of these extracts in this manuscript suggests that it remained in Bohemia into the 15th century.
Illumination: The 36 illuminated initials of the present manuscript are closely related to initials found in manuscripts illuminated for Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia. The acanthus initials on burnished gold grounds are very similar to those of the Golden Bull (Vienna, ÖNB, Cod. 338), although the acanthus of the present manuscript is more varied and delicate in its execution, and the marginal extensions are more exuberant than those of the small miniatures in the Golden Bull. The infilling of the present initials is more varied than in the Golden Bull, and the camieu d'or or camieu d'argent designs in many of them - foliage, diaper patterns, and fantastic beasts -- are very like the backgrounds to miniatures or border vignettes in the Bible of Wenceslaus (Vienna, ÖNB, Codd. 2759-2764).
Two principal hands were responsible for the initials. Most of them were executed by an artist who created finely articulated, freely scrolling marginal extensions, in which the angles of the foliage are marked with drops of burnished gold. A few initials near the end of the manuscript (f. 493v, 507r, 526v, 539v) are by a hand which drew much simpler acanthus, without the gold accents, and preferred geometric patterns in liquid gold or silver as infillings to the initials. Most of the initials of the primary group correspond to one of four color patterns, green initials with pink infilling and gray frames, rose pink initials with black infilling and blue frames, blue initials with orange infilling and rose frames, and lilac gray initials with orange infilling and green frames. Many of these initials are accompanied by single letter of instruction for the illuminator, written in the margin beside the initial space. The letters are "z" with green initials, "v" with rose or pink, "m" with blue, and "f" with lilac or gray. Possibly these are short-hand references to a pattern book which prescribed initial patterns and color combinations; the Göttingen model book of the mid-15th century discusses which colors should be used together and provides illustrations. No such example is known from late 14th-century Prague. However, the letters, which correspond to the Czech names of the colors (green = zeleny, rose = vinovy, blue = modry, lilac = fialovy), indicate that the artists were Czech-speaking.
The two historiated initials of the present manuscript are a large "R" at the beginning of the preface (f. 59r), and the "I" introducing Book I (f. 61r). The opening miniature of Pope Gregory presenting his work to Bishop Leander of Seville shares most features of its composition with a similar initial "R" which depicts Pope Gregory the Great and Bishop Secundinus at the beginning of a manuscript of the homilies of Gregory and Remigius (Prague, Narodni a Universitni Knihovna, MS. VI FB 26, f. 1r; reproduced in Die Wenzelsbibel, Kommentarband, Graz 1998, Tafel 51, fig. 105). The poses of the figures, the arrangement of their garments and the details of their faces are virtually the same in the two manuscripts. Similarly, the tesselated background to the miniature of Gregory and Secundinus occurs in other initials of the Moralia. It is possible that the opening initial of the present manuscript is by the same hand as the initial to the Homilies of Gregory and Remigius, which has been tentatively attributed to the Sampson Master of the Bible of Wenceslaus. It is noteworthy that both the present manuscript of the Moralia and the Homilies of Gregory and Remigius are written in cursive bookhands, rather than in the textura script used for more formal and elaborate manuscripts, including the codices which survive from the library of Wencelaus IV. The seated figure of Job in the initial to Book I of the Moralia in the present manuscript resembles the deity in an initial of the Golden Bull (f. 2r) and similar figures in other Prague manuscripts of this period, but it is particularly close to the corresponding initial in the Herzogenburg manuscript of the Moralia, where Job has a similar contorted pose.
Binding: The study of chemise bindings has been complicated by the typological confusion between chemise bindings, or Hülleneinbände, and girdle books (cf. J. Storm van Leeuwen, "The Well-Shirted Bookbinding: On Chemise Bindings and Hülleneinbände," in Theatrum orbis librorum, Utrecht 1989, pp. 277-305; J. A. Szirmai, The Archeology of Medieval Bookbinding, Aldershot 1999, pp. 234-236). Both involve books on which the covering material of the binding extends beyond the edges of the boards, but chemise bindings are often found on volumes, like the present one, which are far too large and heavy ever to have been carried suspended by the covering. Chemise bindings are known both in cloth, sometimes quite luxurious, and in leather. The purpose of the overlapping flaps of the binding may have been to protect the edges of the book as it lay on a shelf, or since many chemise bindings, in actuality and in art, are associated with devotional books, it has been suggested that the protection of sacred objects was one motive for creating the bindings (F. A. Bearman, "The Origins and Significance of Two Late Medieval Textile Chemise Bookbindings in the Walters Art Gallery," Journal of the Walters Art Gallery, vol. 54, 1996, pp. 163-187). FEW MEDIEVAL CHEMISE BINDINGS SURVIVE INTACT, as they were usually replaced or cut down to enable books to be stored upright with others on shelves.
Some 75 chemise bindings with leather covers have been recorded, 16 of them from Bohemia on books dating from the early 15th century. Although irregularly shaped chemises are known from other areas, the practice of retaining the silhouette of the animal hide seems to have been especially common in Bohemia. These features strongly suggest that the present binding is also Bohemian.
If this is the case, the leaf of manuscript waste at the beginning of the codex, which is sewn in with the first quire, must be explained as something other than direct evidence for the provenance of the volume. This large fragment of a notarized document reporting proceedings of the consistorial court of the diocese of Meissen unfortunately retains neither its dating clause, nor the name of the bishop under whom the case was decided. The script is consistent with other German documents of the late 14th or early 15th century. It is perhaps less likely that it was reused in Meissen than elsewhere, and one may suppose that it could have found its way to Prague at an early date. Jan von Jenstein was bishop of Meissen 1375-1379, before he was transferred to Prague, where he was archbishop from 1380 until his resignation in 1396, and chancellor to Wenceslaus IV until 1393. Other connections existed between Meissen and Prague at this time: Wilhelm, margrave of Meissen, is mentioned in royal documents from 1395 to 1400 as one of Wenceslaus's councillors, and there were surely other contacts between the two cities.