The Fragment of a very early Gospel Book
2003 SOLD 400 K$ by Sotheby's
Paleography lovers and lovers of Christian antiquity will fascinate for a piece of papyrus that Sotheby's sells in London on December 3, lot 23.
It is a manuscript, of course. It is written in capital Greek letters from a type called "biblical uncial", written with a firm and careful line. The experts found that they are verses from the Gospel of St. John.
The date of this relic, 170 years after the death of Christ, is remarkably early. Only around that date this "Fourth Gospel" was included in the canon of the New Testament. At that time and in this region, there were Christian communities near Alexandria, but they were illegal. Also let us discuss this date in the chronology of the Roman Empire: it is half a century before the persecution of Decius and one century before Diocletian's. It is three and a half centuries before our dating Anno Domini, universally used today.
Found in 1922 in an excavation at 200 km west of Cairo, this is a fragment, far from being a full page. Its format, 250 x 77 mm, assesses that it was part of a book of large size for its time. It is written both sides, and the verso includes a page number. This provides an idea on how books were designed at such an early time.
Despite its well-worn appearance including several holes, it is one of the most outstanding witnesses of the ancient Christian literature.
This fragile and venerable fragment is estimated £ 200 K. Its current owner bought it $ 400 K at Sotheby's in New York in 2003.
Two Examples of Scarce Latin Paleography
2008 SOLD 145 K€ before fees
The great work of Jerome (Hieronymus) was to translate into Latin the sacred texts of Christianity. This version of the Bible was named the Vulgate. This book which was completed in 405 AD is one of the most important in all the history of Western literature, as it provided these texts to people who had never previously got a direct access to it.
Lot 1 from the sale of Zisska and Schauer on November 5 in Munich is composed of a double page of the Vulgate (24x38 cm) and a single page of a liturgical ritual (26x19 cm).
Written in dark brown ink, in a style called "Latin uncial", this text is remarkably clear and careful. The scribe endeavoured that it could be read without effort. It represents an outstanding example of Latin paleography, so rare on the art market. The modern reader recognizes letters, which are similar to the late Roman writing, but he is baffled by the lack of space between words and by the absence of punctuation. The text of the double page is an extract from the Gospel of St. John.
The catalog tells us that this sort of writing was used from the fifth to eighth century, and implies that the document date for the beginning of this period. These sheets have been part of a group linked by the bottom of the page, where some misses are visible.
For these documents, without doubt of Italian origine, dating from pre-Charlemagne (Carolus Magnus) time, the estimate is 12 K €.
POST SALE COMMENT
This very remarkable lot could not remain at a low price. It was sold 145 K € excluding fees. It's better!
650 the Qur'an of Uthman
2008 SOLD for £ 2.5M including premium by Christie's
The risk of spreading dialect variants that will provoke sterile theological debates is too great. Caliph Uthman (Osman) commissioned the same expert to establish a canonical version of the Qur'an in a single Arabic dialect, henceforth prohibiting any modification of the text. The annalists do not mention this work which was carried out around 30 AH (around 650 CE).
On April 8, 2008, Christie's sold a Qur'an leaf 36 x 28 cm, lot 20, for £ 2.5M including premium, over a lower estimate of £ 100K. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
This double-sided manuscript folio is a palimpsest. The original text in Hijazi script was erased before the 9th century CE to reuse the vellum. The oldest text had left a corrosion in the vellum and it has reappeared over time.
It was of course sacrilege to erase a sacred text. One possible reason for this action was that the original manuscript was very early and did not fully meet Uthman's canon.
A leaf palimpsest from the same original codex was sold for £ 163K including premium by Christie's on May 1, 2001.
Late 9th Century - Golden Mouth of the Christians
2018 SOLD for £ 250k including premium
Ordained a priest in 386 CE, John proclaims his homilies at the cathedral of Antioch. He comments the Bible to castigate the rich and arouse charities, and despises the monks who isolate themselves rather than confronting the realities of life. An imaginative and prolific author, a convincing orator and a constant opponent to all corruptions, he is nicknamed Chrysostom which means Mouth of Gold.
Appointed archbishop of Constantinople in 397 he is now out of his skills. For example he does not manage to exploit with diplomacy a real moral victory against the Empress and continues to compare her with Herodias and Jezebel.
His favorite sources for defying sins and abuses and converting the pagans are Genesis, Psalms, the Gospels of Matthew and John, and the Acts of the Apostles. His exemplary texts were collected by his audience and piously transcribed for centuries by the monks of the Middle Ages.
On July 3 in London, Sotheby's sells a manuscript collection in Greek of 44 homilies by St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of St Matthew, lot 8 estimated £ 200K. Paleographic analysis indicates that this copy was made in Constantinople at the end of the 9th century.
This 30 x 21 cm book demonstrates the very specific style of John Chrysostom. The direct quotations of the Gospel are written in majuscule letters to separate these texts from their comments by the orator against the materialism of the wealthy.
An astonishing 9th-c. MS of John Chrysostomus' commentary on Matthew's Gospel leaves the Basel UL after a 38-y loan to go on sale next month @Sothebys. There is no modern critical edition of this text, for which the MS must be the most important witness!https://t.co/HFlAPg032B pic.twitter.com/P7na5dSE5n— Pieter Beullens (@LatinAristotle) June 9, 2018
1253 The Law of Saint King Louis
2009 SOLD 310 K€ including premium
For countless time French schoolchildren learn that St. Louis made his judgments under the oak of Vincennes forest (near a mansion where he liked to reside).
The reign of Louis IX of France is a rich mix of diplomatic skills, intellectual activity (creation of the Sorbonne), proselytism (the Crusades), and fight against the major feudals.
In these now assumed dark times that we name the Middle Ages, the principles of Roman law were not forgotten. The specialist was Pierre de Fontaines, who held the position of grand chamberlain (chambellan) of Louis IX. The king asked him in 1253 to write a book of legal advice, which was intended to adapt the broad principles of law and justice in this new social threat: great feudalism.
A manuscript copy of this book will be on sale in Paris (Hôtel Drouot) on October 16, by the auction house Lafon.
This copy is written in a variant of the Old French, the Picard dialect. Analysing the book in 1846, Marnier noted that the most correct copy of the text, and probably closer to the original, was in dialect of Ile de France (1). While it is easy to indicate the date of original text, it is more difficult to know the date of the submitted copy. If it is in good condition, the estimate of 60 K € seems far too low.
I can not resist the temptation to mention also a document of the Archives of France, dating back to 1259, by which King Louis IX provides an annual pension of fifty Paris pounds (livres parisis) to the jurisconsult Pierre de Fontaines (2).
Augustin Deloye. Le Conseil de Pierre de Fontaines, ou Traité de l'ancienne jurisprudence française..., par A. J. Marnier., Bibliothèque de l'école des chartes, 1846, vol. 7, n° 1, pp. 271-274.
Ministère de la Culture - Archim, AE/II/260
POST SALE COMMENT
This manuscript book from 750 years ago was too rare for a reliable estimate to be made before the sale. The estimate that was announced in July was much too low, as I said. Before the sale, la Gazette Drouot had indicated an estimated range of 150 to 200 K €.
It was still too low. This exceptional lot reached 310 K € including premium.
Here is the video published and shared by Interencheres.tv for introducing this lot.
1262 Made in Bologna for the Use of the Dominicans
The illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages are mostly applied to Christian writings. These books have reached in the mid thirteenth century a great quality that reflects the art of that time as well as its religious concerns.
Christie's sells on July 7 in London one of the most beautiful illuminated Bibles. Estimated £ 2.5 million, it is identified under the name Abbey Bible, from Major John Roland Abbey whose fabulous library was auctioned by Sotheby's in the 1960's and 1970's.
This manuscript on vellum was produced in Bologna, the city of knowledge, whose specialized workshops were already famous. It contains a schedule of Easter dates from 1262, which may be the date of its completion.
Many of these manuscripts were made for the princes. It is not the case for this one. The text based on the Vulgate and including various comments is for the use of a Dominican convent. One might be surprised that such luxury is intended to Dominicans, who made a vow of poverty. The primary role assigned to the Dominicans and to their rivals the Franciscans was to rely on texts to eradicate heresy, and it was necessary that these writings are enjoyable to read!
The Abbey Bible is a book of 514 leaves 27 x 19 cm. The text is written in calligraphy on two columns. Illustrations, very fine and very varied, occupy the margins, and also, in accordance with the fashion of that time, the initials. They display everything that could sustain the reader's attention: Christ, saints, monks, devils, beasts, knights, and even dragons ...
POST SALE COMMENT
This exceptional book is too ancient to meet what buyers like in illuminated manuscripts: in particular it does not include paintings in full page. It has not been sold. We can even state that it has not been understood.
1320 Psalms and Drôleries
2013 SOLD 580 K€ including premium
Artois has long been a border region of the Capetian kingdom towards the wealth of Flanders and England. The workshops of illuminators were active, especially at the time of the comtesse Mahaut.
The themes of these manuscript books can be religious or courteous, and their art can mix these two opposites without offending the wealthy clients. We often think of the Middle Ages as austere and preaching, but the big event inParis in the early fourteenth century is the scandal of the Tour de Nesle.
On June 12 in Paris, Beaussant Lefèvre sells a psalter made around 1320 in the style of the Arras area. In very good condition after nearly seven centuries, this book of 186 parchment leaves 19 x 14 cm is too reasonably estimated at €200K.
The religious content consists of psalms of David and various prayers. Twelve pages are illustrated with fine miniatures in a Gothic framing.
The profane themes adorn many lower and lateral margins, with pleasant or comic scenes designated under the generic term of drôleries or fatrasies.
The diversity of these drolleries demonstrates the imagination of the artists: courtly scenes, many games including a rare pair of chess players, monsters, monkeys, monks and many musicians.
Unfortunately for Europe, the disasters of the Hundred Years War shall soon dissociate prayer and fun.
POST SALE COMMENT
Of course this interesting illuminated manuscript was worth more than its estimate. It was sold for € 580K including premium.
1350 The Good Influence of Hywel Dda
2012 SOLD 540 K£ including premium
Hywel made issued a code of laws that were resolutely social, which is surprising under the vision that we have now about his own day. Capital and corporal punishments are reduced to a minimum. Wives have the legal right to defend against the adulterous husbands. "Dda" means good.
This story ended very badly. Admirer of the work of Hywel, Llywelyn tried to resist the English suzerainty in 1282. He was killed and beheaded in a battle, and Edward I had no longer obstacles for removing the autonomy of Wales. The code of Hywel, threatening the authority of the king of England, was then considered a work of the devil.
On July 10 in London, Sotheby's sells a manuscript incomplete copy of the laws of Hywel. Made around 1350, this book is too recent to excite the historians of law. Written in Welsh language 60 years after the disaster of Llywelyn, it may be the result of a burst of resistance against the English.
Welsh medieval manuscripts which survived the English hegemony are extremely rare. Sotheby's, however, remembers selling a book of poetry: it was lot 142 from the sale of February 5, 1923!
The copy of the law of Hywel Dda is estimated £ 500K. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
Scarce pieces are difficult to sell, and this one was not in very good condition. Although it has not exceeded its lower estimate, we consider that the result, £ 540K including premium, is excellent.
1360 A Fille de France
2018 sold for £ 610k including premium
The English King Edward III restarted the war in 1355. The King of France Jean le Bon was taken prisoner in the following year at the Battle of Poitiers. He is liberated in 1360 by the Treaty of Brétigny at the price of a large amputation of his territories and the commitment to pay a gigantic ransom.
Jean has two daughters to be married. Interested in an alliance with France, the Duke of Milan buys the wedding of his son and heir with the younger girl, aged twelve. Marie is sixteen.
On July 3 in London, Sotheby's sells the breviary of Marie de France, lot 12 estimated £ 500K. The illustrations are from the hand of a collaborator of Jean le Noir.
This manuscript book is composed of 602 leaves 19 x 13 cm on vellum including three full size illuminated double pages. It is also illustrated by miniatures and historiated initials and by Marie's coat of arms. For the use of a pious girl, the drôleries are not truculent. A portrait of Marie protected by St. Catherine indicates that she is not yet married.
The wedding of Marie with the duc de Bar in 1364 provides the terminus ante quem of the manuscript. Eleven children of this couple will reach adulthood. The duchesse is also known as a bibliophile and protector of letters. The duc de Berry who will commission the Très Riches Heures is one of her brothers.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.
1430 The Wycliffite Bible
2016 SOLD for $ 1.7M including premium
At that time when most people were illiterate, all the elites understood Latin as well as their vernacular language. His project of translating the Vulgate into Middle English is essentially a social challenge.
A first team to which Wycliffe brings his direct participation translates the Vulgate in word order. Another team works in parallel in his presence to a more comprehensible version. The former (Earlier version) was completed just before the death of Wycliffe that occurred in 1384 and the second (Later version) was completed in 1388.
Wycliffe's teams have not altered the Scriptures and his Bibles cannot be condemned. The upper clergy is furious. The peasants in revolt take as models the anti-establishment positions of Wycliffe and his posthumous condemnation for heresy becomes inevitable. When it is pronounced formally in 1415 by the Council of Constance, it is too late : the Later version is already much appreciated by theologians and its prohibition will be ineffective.
On December 5 in New York, Sotheby's sells a complete manuscript of the New Testament on 21 x 15 cm vellum in the Later Version, lot 9 estimated $ 500K. It is dated from the first half of the 15th century in the catalog and more specifically ca 1430 by the press release. Another manuscript of similar description and date was sold by Christie's on April 30, 2008 for £ 334K including premium worth $ 660K at that time.
1443 The Book of the Emperor Sigismund
2009 SOLD 1.15 M£ including premium
Thus, Eberhard Windeck wrote the chronicle of Emperor Sigismund, powerful monarch and master of the Germanic territories, whose reign was troubled by the Hussite crisis. He devotes an extract to Joan of Arc, in remembrance of the return of a messenger between the Emperor and the Maid of Orleans.
It is a heavily illustrated manuscript, whose original edition is known in two copies. One is dated 1443. The other is on sale at Sotheby's in London on July 7 and estimated 1 million pounds. Its condition has some significant flaws.
It is a large book of over 300 sheets, 40 x 26 cm. The image is as important as the text: 174 illustrations, many in full page, show big and small events of the reign.
The publisher is known: Diebold Lauber, head at Hagenau (Haguenau) in Alsace of an important workshop of copyists and illustrators and thus a pioneer in profane publishing.
The Middle Ages will soon be finished. A few dozen miles away, Gutenberg is inventing the printing press.
POST SALE COMMENT
Scarcity has prevailed, and the defects identified in the catalog did not contradict the estimate. This manuscript that can nearly be described as a historic document was sold £ 1.15 million including premium.
1460 the belles dames of alain chartier
Chartier begins his career at the worst time of the Capétiens-Valois dynasty. In 1415 the Battle of Azincourt (Agincourt) destroys the French nobility. Civil war is raging with the Burgundians. In 1420 the Treaty of Troyes disinherits the offspring of Charles VI for the profit of the king of England.
Alain Chartier passes in 1417 from the service of Yolande of Aragon to that of the new dauphin Charles. He promotes the vernacular in French literature and will be compared to Dante. Charles VII becomes titular king in 1422. Chartier is his staunch ally. The king is finally consecrated in 1429. The poet dies circa the following year, leaving unfinished a Livre d'Espérance.
The Livre des Quatres Dames (with an s to quatres) is a staging worthy of Boccaccio written in 1416. Four women lost their friends at Agincourt, respectively killed in battle, imprisoned, disappeared and fled. They compare their misfortunes and their shames.
La Belle Dame sans Mercy, written in 1424, opens a literary controversy. The Lady refuses to consider her suitor who is dying of languor. The novelty of this poem is the claim by a woman for her freedom of choice in love, in contrast to all traditions of courtly poetry. Critics of that time denounce the inexcusable cruelty of the merciless beauty.
The manuscript was prepared before 1460 and includes eleven small and eight large miniatures painted by the Maître du Livre d'Heures de Jean de Dunois, an artist with unknown personal name who led the most important Parisian workshop of illumination between 1435 and 1466.
The epitaph of Charles VII by Simon Gréban was added to the book circa 1475, suggesting that the work was done for someone from the king's entourage. The coat of arms of the first owner is visible but has not been identified.
1460-1465 Art and Usage of Tours at the Time of Fouquet
2011 SOLD 467 K€ including premium
A remarkable book of hours is for sale by Millon in Paris on June 25. Composed of over 200 pages of parchment in-octavo, it includes twelve major miniatures: they are nice narrative images, about 9 x 6 cm each, arranged on a full page 16 x 11 cm background where some monsters wander within vegetal motifs.
This manuscript book is à l'usage de Tours. Such localization is demonstrated by the list of saints in the calendarwhich includes some local hagiographic celebrities.
Between 1460 and 1465, Tours could become entitled not really as the capital, but at least as one of the major cities of France. The kings were suspicious of Paris, and liked the atmosphere of the Loire Valley.
Painter, illuminator, decorator, Jean Fouquet was born in Tours and had his studio there. As those German image-makers who were developing the printing press at the same time, he certainly helped to promote and propagate the book, although each illuminated livre d'heures remained unique.
Several features combine to try to allocate our book of hours to the workshop of Fouquet : layout of text and miniatures, perfect clarity of imaging, balanced geometric compositions.
Wisely, the catalog does not go further : the book is not from the master's hand. It lacks the psychological dimension of Fouquet who was one of the most innovative artists of his time. Despite this limitation, the appearance of this book on the market is an event.
POST SALE COMMENT
This lot was sold € 467K including premium. The lower estimate announced by La Gazette Drouot was € 250K. So it is a good result.
Video shared before sale on YouTube by Bibliorare :
1468 A Mystery at the Burgundian Court
The mystère (mystery) is a primitive form of theater performed during festivals in the medieval world. It takes a literary form in the fifteenth century when it reaches the court. From that time, texts of the plays and stage directions begin to be recorded. The Passion of Christ is the most frequent theme.
The Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, had certainly enjoyed La Vengeance de Notre Seigneur Jesus Christ, a mystery timed after the Passion and featuring some villains (in the wording of today) like Pilatus and Nero.
The duke commissioned an illuminated manuscript including the text of the play. Preserved until now in perfect condition (although split into two volumes at an unidentified date), this work is altogether the most beautiful book related to a Renaissance play and one of the best documented.
In 1888, the comte Durrieu had analyzed the details of accounts concerning this book in the archives of the dukes of Burgundy in the year 1468. His communication in 1910 at the Ecole des Chartes (retrieved on Persée site) creates a clear identification linking this archive and a manuscript bought at auction in 1812 by the 6th Duke of Devonshire.
Both craftsmen are identified.
The painter of the illuminations is one of the most renowned of his time: Loyset Liédet (or Lyedet), from Hesdin in Artois, who was working in Bruges in 1468. Both towns were part of the Burgundian Netherlands. He was paid 18 sols for each of the 20 "ystoires of many colors", 1 sol of 12 deniers for each of the 24 decorated initials, 30 sols for the binding and 14 sols for its assembly with brass nails.
By the same accounting record, the clerk who wrote the text, Yvonnet le Jeune, received a slightly higher payment, indicating that calligraphy was then considered as high as imaging in European art. He got 30 livres and 8 sols for this work.
This book is estimated £ 4M, for sale by Sotheby's in London on December 5. The article shared by Bloomberg includes an image starring Galba enthroned.
POST SALE COMMENT
On a strictly literary point of view, this lot was the most outstanding of the two manuscripts extracted from Chatsworth for this auction. It was also the most expensive, and has not been sold.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's, introducing both this Mystère and the Deeds of Gillion already discussed in this group :
1475-1480 The Very Minute Hours of Europe
In the fifteenth century, Europe existed. The most magnificent court was the one of the Duke of Burgundy, who was residing in Dijon. Duke Charles the Bold, or one of his relatives, was the sponsor of the outstanding book thatSotheby's is selling in London on July 7.
The ducal domain included the Flanders. We believe that this book was made in Ghent and Valenciennes circa 1475 - 1480. It seems interesting to note that this book of hours is for the use of Rome, ie it does not follow the local liturgy but the one of the capital of Christendom. That was Europe.
Its first feature is its small size: 75 x 55 mm. It consists of nearly 250 manuscript pages, including 14 full-page miniatures and 25 large initials. The line is extremely thin, no thicker than a human hair.
The other remarkable fact is that its authors are listed in the history of art. Half of the miniatures is the work of Simon Marmion, one of the best known illuminators. The other half is attributed to the Master of Mary of Burgundy, whose biographical details have not been found.
For this masterpiece that comes from the same century as the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, the estimate is 600 K £.
POST SALE COMMENT
Small objects rarely get high prices. I had thought that this one could make an exception because of its quality and of the identification of its prestigious artists. This was not the case. Unsold.
1500 hours for the house of tudor
It contains about 50 large illustrations of a very high quality that have no equivalent in English books. Because of this lack of comparison, specialists must seek information in the details of its content.
Dating it in the first twenty years of the sixteenth century seems incontestable. At that time the illuminations reached an unprecedented quality in Flanders, in a leap forward facing the progress of the printed books.
The book was made for a member of the Tudor court. It shows as a saint the late King Henry VI for whom Henry VII Tudor was unsuccessfully trying to obtain a canonization. The dedicatee and his family are shown on many images. The hypothesis that he could be the future King Henry VIII was considered in the nineteenth century.
Above all, the pre-eminent place among the saints is granted to St. Roch, invoked against the plague. In 1499 and 1500 this disease infects London and King Henry VII finds a temporary shelter in Calais. The plague then spared London until 1537, which was much too late for the pictorial techniques used in this manuscript.
Another saint listed in this book of hours is the Welsh Armel who entered the calendar in 1498. The Tudor family was partly of Welsh origin.
In the absence of other significant elements the date of 1500 may be accepted. If the reference to St Roch is a thank and not a call, the work may however be slightly later. As far as I know the identification of the workshop has not been discussed. I think that a Flemish origin should not be dismissed, to be correlated with the temporary exile of the king.
>1539 Carnival in Nuremberg
2009 SOLD 160 K$ including premium
Since 1449, on Shrove Tuesday, it was Carnival at Nuremberg, as Schembartlauf (the run of beautiful beards, Schön Bart Lauf). But in 1539, no more joking with impunity. The event was banned after a chariot in the procession has ridiculed the local Lutheran theologian, Osiander.
Probably the following year, appeared the Schembartbuch. It provides a strict chronology of these celebrations, including that of 1507 which turned to a riot. Masks and costumes are designed in full color page (31 x 21 cm), while the floats are represented in ink on the pages of text.
An important detail is exciting : despite its already late date, the book is manuscript. I guess that the supporters of the event wanted this book for preserving and resuming their traditions, but no printer took the risk of displeasing the powerful Osiander. They sent us a rare and valuable witness to the atmosphere of folk festivals in the late Renaissance.
Among several copies to be sold by Christie's in New York on June 12, the most complete is estimated $ 80K.
POST SALE COMMENT
Good result at 160 K $ including expenses, for this valuable testimony of the celebrations of the Renaissance.
The next lot, also a Schembartbuch, was sold 130 K $ costs included on a low estimate of 25 K $.
Very good. Understanding the past is not limited to the actions of kings.