NEW TESTAMENT, with the Interpretations of Hebrew Names, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[England, ?Oxford, 1260s]
135 x 100mm. 90 leaves, 18th(?)-century foliation 1- as far as the end of Revelation, collation uncertain, but apparently lacking two leaves after f. 16 and about a quire at the end, ruled in plummet with 56 horizontals and four verticals, plus extra rulings in the margins including a pair to guide the running-titles, written with 55 lines in two columns in minute gothic script in dark brown ink, rubrics in red, ONE VERY UNUSUAL MINIATURE 15 LINES HIGH, THREE HISTORIATED INITIALS, TWENTY-FIVE PAINTED INITIALS, AND SEVENTEEN PUZZLE INITIALS typically from five to seven lines high, often with much taller ascenders or descenders, puzzle initials in blue and red, with penwork in both colours, at the beginning of the other prologues and biblical books, 2-line initials alternately blue with red penwork, or vice versa, at the beginning of chapters, running titles and chapter numbers in characters alternately red or blue, capitals at the beginnings of verses stroked in red, marginalia of various dates (marginalia and extremities of decoration often cropped, running titles and foliation usually cropped, some stains and signs of wear, especially the first and last three leaves, the white lead pigment oxidised, part of one fore-edge missing on f.74). 19th-century English blue straight-grained morocco with gilt and blind designs, the spine profusely gilt, lettered 'Lyfe. of Saynt. Matthewe' and 'MSS.', final flyleaf watermarked '1808', gilt edges (some wear at corners and joints).
1. Perhaps written and decorated in Oxford, to judge by the style of
illumination, by the fact that Oxford was one of the major centres for the production of Bibles in the thirteenth century (cf. lot 203), and by the 17th-century provenance on the outskirts of Oxford.
2. 16th-century English owner, with his added marginalia in English, including the Lyfe of St Matthewe (f.1) and notes in the upper margin
of most pages on which a new biblical book begins, recording when he read it, e.g. 'Jo[hn] beg[un] ye 14th of Marche, ye 13th of July, & ye 9th of November' (f.25v, above the miniature), showing that he read through the volume three times, taking about four months each time.
3. Simon Jeames, 17th century, inscribed with his full name (f.67) and first name (f.1); perhaps the man of this name who seems to have been a lawyer serving regularly as attorney in the town's courts at Woodstock, near Oxford, in the first half of the 17th century (VCH Oxfordshire, vol. 12).
4. Bernard Quaritch, Catalogue 138 (December 1893), no. 17.
5. William Morris (1834-1896), 'designer, author, and visionary
socialist', 'arguably the most successful industrial designer ever
known' (ODNB), inscriptions in pencil include 'April 1895' by his secretary Sydney Cockerell, '90 ff', 'French c.1290' (second flyleaf); '88': no. 88 in the inventory drawn up after Morris's death by the bookseller F. S. Ellis, co-executor of Morris's will.
6. Richard Bennett, of Riversdale, Manchester, an eccentric collector of manuscripts and incunabula (on whom see de Ricci, English
Collectors, pp. 171-73), who bought Morris's library in April 1897; with his booklabel in Kelmscott 'Golden' type: 'From the Library of
William Morris Kelmscott House Hammersmith' (front pastedown);
re-sold at Sotheby's on 5 December 1898, lot 1023 (bought by Wellcome, bidding as 'Wilton', for £11 10s), with a clipping of this lot from the catalogue stuck to the first flyleaf.
7. Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936), founder of the Wellcome Trust, with his accession number '5558' on the second flyleaf, with his(?) shelfmark '59.B.19'. 'After his death his appalled trustees realized that Wellcome's collection amounted to over 1 million items, and far exceeded, in volume and in the expense incurred in their acquisition, those of the British Museum and the Louvre. Its disposal was to be one of their most severe difficulties.' (ODNB); de-accessioned in 1945 to Dawsons of Pall Mall.
New Testament ff. 1-66v; Interpretations of Hebrew Names ff.67-90v.
The texts generally follow the standard 'Paris' version of the Vulgate (cf. lot 203), with the major difference that Matthew and Mark are each preceded by an uncommon summary-concordance of their contents (Stegmüller, Repertorium biblicum, VI (1948), no. 9565, lists only two examples). They consist of very brief summaries of the content of each chapter, with the chapter number in red in the margin, and each section designated by a letter of the alphabet: thus Matthew's begins "A. Generat. B. Magos vocat, Aegyptum petit, exit..."; and with cross-references written between the lines: thus Mark's summary begins "A. Christum baptizat...", above which are references to Matthew 3, and Luke 1 and 3. Mark ends imperfectly at Mark 14:49 and Luke begins imperfectly in Luke 2:29 due to the loss of two leaves; Laodiceans is omitted; in the Interpretations of Hebrew Names part of G, H, and I (from 'Gelboe' to 'Iesui') is misplaced within E (between 'Effiba' and 'Egbathan'); ending imperfectly towards the end in the letter S at 'Sarsachim'.
On the first page a 16th-century owner has added several lines beginning 'The lyfe of saynt Matthewe by Hierome one of ye auncient doctors of the churche. Translated into E[nglish]. Matthew which was otherwise called Levi beyng of a publicane made and first of all otherwise composed & wrote in Jewrye the gospel of Christe...'
The unusual miniature depicts a deacon(?) with an open book on a lectern, blessing, before a priest at an altar on which is a covered chalice (f. 25v), the historiated initials depict Christ dictating to a winged man, the Evangelist symbol of Matthew (f.1v), the Evangelist symbol of John, the Eagle (f.25v), and a bust of St Paul (f.32).
The style of illumination has its closest affinities with a group of manuscripts, mostly Bibles, which is named after a Bible signed by the scribe William of Devon (BL, Royal MS I D.i), attributable to Oxford in the 1260s (see Morgan, Early Gothic Manuscripts, II, nos. 159-64, with extensive bibliographies).