Bible, late 13th c., Italy
301 leaves (17.5 x 12 cm). Small square Gothic script. 61 lines in 2 columns. Gatherings mostly of 10. Text in Latin: Vulgate edition with St. Jerome's prologue. 5 historiated initials and many decorated in colors with animal grotesques along the borders. Binding: brown morocco over wooden boards with clasps, modern. In a folding case. Inset inside front board: panel from an early brown calf binding with stamped decoration, 15th-16th c.
Italian Gothic approaches to page design are readily distinguishable from the French. Where the Parisian Bible seeks an integration of text and decoration (Cat. 2), the Italian master blocks out his initials. Marginal grotesques and foliage meander along the borders with less regard for balancing the page. Despite their minute size, the initials assert themselves with a sculptural fullness brought forth by modeling in pale tones of color and white highlighting. Hooded and trumpet-like terminations of the vine forms are typical of Italian work from this period. Such features along with the script and figure style indicate a workshop in northern Italy. The historiated initials portray the "authors" of each text they precede: St. Jerome, translator of the Vulgate, before his prologue; Christ as Creator at the opening of Genesis; Solomon; Ecclesiastes; and St. John the Evangelist.
Provenance: Albert Natural (ex libris); Scribner's, N.Y.
Mr. and Mrs. S. Eberly Thompson collection (Ms. 8)