Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures | 06 December 2017

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Lot no.


Prayerbook , in Latin, decorated Romanesque manuscript on parchment [Belgium

Sold for £26000

Est: £40000–60000

Prayerbook , in Latin, decorated Romanesque manuscript on parchment [Belgium (almost certainly Abbey of Saint-Martin, Tournai), last decades of the twelfth century (probably c. 1180)]

48 leaves (plus a heavy sheepskin bifolium used as endleaves at front, and another with its second leaf lacking between fols 34 and 35), lacking a single leaf before fol. 40, else complete and with continuous text, collation: i-iv8, v2 (to complete text, this apparently also noted by medieval drypoint gloss of ‘4’ symbol in bas-de-page of both last leaf of fourth gathering and next leaf), vi7 (wanting a single leaf before this gathering, else textually complete), vii6, stubs of thin parchment between some leaves most probably attempts to support individual leaves or weakening gutters when the book was bound, ruled in plummet for double column of 32 lines of a small, precise and elegant early gothic bookhand, without biting curves, one- and 2-line initials in simple red or pale blue, some with scalloping and flowing penwork in red and pale pastel green, larger initials in variegated colours, some with penwork and lines of dots within their internal blank parchment bars, one blue and red variegated initial opening volume, with long coloured penstrokes stretching from terminal of ascender up and down border, one complex initial in same on fol. 45r with fine green penwork extending its tail far into margin, ‘XV’ added perhaps in sixteenth century to bas-de-page of fol. 32v, some cockling, small spots, else in outstanding condition, 230 by 155mm.; fifteenth-century binding: sewn on 4 large double thongs, in blind-stamped leather over beveled wooden boards (stamped with fillet and rollstamps of foliage, and squares in double rows enclosing a squirrel and a monkey, all around a vertical line of squares enclosing fleur-de-lys), endbands exposed at foot and head of spine, some cracking to spine but solid in binding, marks from bosses once at each corner and in centre of both boards, and perhaps from nameplate at head of back board, scratches and cuts to leather (mostly affecting front board), two metal clasps, one working and one with hook broken away, pastedown at front from fourteenth-century liturgical manuscript, that at back with small tear exposing the attachment of one thong to board, paper label partially remaining at head of spine with classmark ‘A’, in a felt-lined fitted case

A handsome Romanesque codex, almost certainly from the grand medieval library of the Abbey of Saint-Martin, Tournai, and still in its medieval binding

1. Written and decorated in c. 1180, almost certainly for use in the grand Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Martin, Tournai: medieval ex libris marks “Liber Sancti Martini” on front endleaves (three times) and last endleaf. The fact that the book initially emerged in a private collection some 8 miles to the south of Tournai within months of the date on which the bulk of the abbey's library was dispersed firmly points to that town. The abbey was founded in 1092 by Odo of Cambrai and several of his followers, on the site of a seventh-century foundation, as a monastery of Augustinian canons regular, but it soon adopted Benedictine observance. It grew quickly in prominence and soon became a scribal centre of fundamental importance to the whole of northern Europe. It was suppressed in 1797 during the French Revolution and Secularisation, and while small groups of books were sold by the monks in 1804 and 1805 (see A. Derolez in Bibliophiles et Reliures , 2006, p. 205), the main body of the library was evidently dispersed c . 1823-24 about the time the local town administration took over the abbey buildings (Sir Thomas Phillipps acquired 146 medieval codices from the library in 1824, his MSS. 2011-2156, including the glorious twelfth-century Tournai Pontifical, olim Phillipps MS. 2119 and now Brussels, Bibliothèque royale, II. 1013; the British Library had acquired the splendid early thirteenth-century Bede, De locis terrae sanctae , now, Addit. MS. 15219: reproduction in Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages , 2009, no. 39, by 1845).
The volume, like many Romanesque ones from monastic libraries, has had several forms in its life. It probably began life as two distinct books (the presence of the heavy sheepskin endleaf between fols. 34 and 35 indicating the point of division). The classmark ‘A’ on its spine agrees with the pressmark it would have been part of in the library collection, and we might presume that the ‘xv’ in sixteenth-century script is a shelfmark, added before the unification of the two components now here, when the last two singletons were loose in the volume, making fol. 32 the last in the codex (the traditional place shelfmarks were added to books in Saint-Martin, Tournai). This volume is not identifiable in the twelfth-century catalogue of the library printed by Delisle as this was written c . 1160 or 1170 (Catalogue des Manuscrits , 1874, II, p. 490), and it may have not yet left the scriptorium at that point. However, we might expect it to be recorded in the 1615 book inventory (printed by Sanderus, Bibliotheca Belgica , I, 1641, pp. 91-149), but the matter is not so simple. A number of important codices definitely from the house, including Tournai Pontifical noted above, are also not to be found there, and a brief comparison of the classmarks and corresponding titles of the 1615 list with Phillipps’ own printed catalogue, in which he kept precise notes on the press- and shelfmarks of each volume which came to him, reveals that some books (including several in the vicinity of A.xv) must have been reclassified in one or more reorganisations of the library (the 1615 list records A.xv as a commentary on Isaiah and Jeremiah, while Phillips states that an item with that classmark was in his posession and contained Jerome on the whole of the Pentateuch).

2. By the nineteenth century the book had passed to Louis Mériaux of L’Elnon, to the south of Tournai: his ex libris dated 1823 on front endleaf.

3. Joern Guenther, Brochure 13: Timeless Treasures , 2013, no. 2.

4. Private Swiss collector, included in Parchment and Gold: 25 Years of Dr Jörn Günther Rare Books , Cat. 11, 2015, no. 4.


The prayers in this handsome twelfth-century monastic codex open with a section of the Liber prognosticum of Julian of Toledo (642-90) under the title “Oratio exulis patriam suspirantis”, followed by prayers and devotional material from Lanfranc (from his Sententiam ), Isidore, Boniface (“ex consilio”), Cyprian, Cassiodorus, Augustine, Jerome (from his Super Ezechielem ), Gregory the Great, Ephrem the Syrian and other more general prayers such as “Oratio ad sanctores martires” and “Oratio pro peccatis pro salute animae et corporis”, interspersed with directions of when, where and how to say the readings. The selection of material is probably unique to the house, preserving a part of its devotions recorded nowhere else. The last thirteen leaves contain prayers addressed to God and the Virgin.

Western and Oriental Manuscripts and Miniatures

Wednesday 06 December 2017, 2.00pm

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