Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures | 06 December 2017

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Lot no.


Cutting from a leaf of the Pasionario hispánico

Sold for £4500

Est: £5000–7000

Cutting from a leaf of the Pasionario hispánico, in late and transitional Visigothic minuscule , in Latin, manuscript on parchment [Spain (perhaps central), eleventh century]

Rectangular fragment, ruled in drypoint for parts of two columns of 34 lines of a Romanesque script based on late Carolingian forms, but with aspect and individual letterforms influenced by Visigothic minuscule (see below), numerous textual variants and changes to word order setting this apart from published text, single line omitted from end of ch. 6 (perhaps due to eye-skip rather than textual variant), recovered from a binding and so with small holes, cuts to edges, folds and scuffs (the reverse somewhat damaged, but just legible), trimmed at base with loss of approximately 14 lines there, and to outer right hand edge with loss of half the column there, overall fair and presentable, 279 by 207mm.

Script and Text:
The script here is a strange amalgam of Carolingian and Visigothic letter forms, and a very early example of what has come to be called ‘transitional Visigothic minuscule’. What is most striking is the size of the individual letters within the written space. They have a large and square aspect to their compartments that shares the monumental quality of Visigothic formal hands (compare the leaf sold in our rooms, 6 July 2016, lot 4), and like those forms the capitals here swell far into the whole line given to them (note the large ‘&’ symbol), ending up with wide and open bodies. With individual characters the debt to the Visigothic past becomes even more clear, with an uncial ‘v’ used within words for the ‘u’ symbol (see “sepultvras” in line 6 of initial column, “tv” 2 lines below, and “fvtura” in line 17), the use of the abbreviation ‘q’ with a curling bar through its tail for “quid” (line 12 in first column) as well as that of the ‘q’ with the stroke that forms its bowl sweeping around and down and extending a quarter circle out the back of the letter for “quod”. The use of downward and backward sweep of the pen below the line at the end of ‘r’ to form ‘ri’ is another Dark Age feature (see “cordis nostri” in line 22). Carolingian influences crept in at the end of the eleventh century, and the majority of such late and transitional forms of Visigothic (such as those found in twelfth- or thirteenth-century Spanish charters) fall within a neatly defined group, that can be relatively easily recognised. Not so here, and this script appears to stand out as an early and perhaps experimental attempt at forging a unified transitional hand.

The text is that of the Pasionario hispánico , the Passional containing saints’ lives arranged for liturgical reading throughout the ecclesiastical year, that was used throughout the Christian Iberian peninsula from the sixth to the late eleventh century. At the end of that period, in the decades immediately after the copying of the present manuscript, the text was forcibly replaced by the Roman rite in the form of the Acta Sanctorum (see next lot for same text in that version). The Pasionario hispánico was edited in 1955 by A.F. Grau, and there he lists only four codices: (1) London, British Library, Addit. MS. 25,600 (tenth century and from Cardeña); (2 & 3) Paris, BnF., latin nouv. acq. 2180 & 2179 (tenth and eleventh century respectively, from Silos), and (4) Escorial, MS. b-I-4 (eleventh century, from Cardeña); and two fragments in Madrid, Bib. Nacional, MSS. 494 and 822 (tenth century). He records no manuscript copy outside of institutional hands, and none outside of Europe. The present fragment would appear to be the only chance to acquire this breathtakingly rare text in manuscript.

The text here is from the passions of SS. Valerian, Tibertius and Maximus, and includes parts of chs. 26-34 in Grau’s edition.

Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures

Wednesday 06 December 2017, 2.00pm

Bloomsbury London
Bloomsbury House
24 Maddox Street


Saturday 2 December
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