Two historiated initials depicting St Mark and Two Men on a leaf from the Mailhac-Faber Bible, illuminated manuscript in Latin on vellum. [Southern France, late 13th or early 14th century]



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Illuminated with two large historiated initials, each with extensions, one of which contains a human-headed hybrid creature.

Single leaf, c.335×230mm, foliated in modern pencil ‘317’ in the lower margin, written in two columns of 40 lines in a fine formal gothic script (c.230×145mm), the text comprising Matthew 27:42-(end), the usual prologue to Mark, and Mark 1:1–7, omitted words added in the margins within red boxes, guides to the rubricator in cursive script at the lower edge. 

A fine leaf with two superb initials, one of St. Mark, from a large Bible produced in southern France, once owned by Sir Thomas Phillipps and Sir Alfred Chester Beatty.

Illumination: The style and palette of the initials are unusual, and unlike those of standard 13th-century Bibles from Paris: figures have pink and orange garments edged in white, the folds delineated with black lines; gold is used for backgrounds; the letters themselves use a dark blue and a light burgundy with white ornament; flesh is grey modelled with white; facial features and hair are boldly drawn in black; foliate and hybrid-creature extensions rise and fall in the margin and inter-columnar space. The initial at the beginning of Mark shows the Evangelist full-length holding a book, doubtless his gospel, while the prologue shows two unidentified half-length youths. For further discussion, including a list of sister leaves, etc., see Peter Kidd, The McCarthy Collection, III: French Miniatures (London, 2021), no. 61 pp. 203–11, citing the present leaf at p. 203.   

Provenance: 1. From the second volume (starting at Isaiah) of a two-volume Bible written in southern France, as suggested by the ink, script, parchment, unusual style, and later provenance.

2. Apparently still in southern France in a religious house in the 16th century when two monks scribbled their names in the margins near the beginning and end of the volume: “Frere Jehan Mailhac” (Mailhac is north-west of Narbonne) (f.2r) and “Frater Renatus Faber Bourdelois” (i.e. of Bordeaux) (f.280v).

3. Probably owned in Spain by one of three collectors: according to Munby, the section of the Phillipps catalogue (see below) for nos. 2298–2798, bought from Thomas Thorpe (1791–1851), is annotated in the master copy “Plures ex Bibl. Iriarte, de la Serna Santander, & Marchionis de Astorgia ex Hispania”, and Thorpe sold manuscripts from all three sources (i.e. Juan de Iriate (1702–71), Spanish palaeographer and lexicographer, who published a catalogue of Greek manuscripts at the Biblioteca Real in 1769; Carlos Antonio de Laserna de Santander (1752–1813), Spanish bibliographer; or the Marques de Astorga) at an auction held by Evans, 2 March 1826; apparently bought from Thorpe in the 1820s by:

4. SIR THOMAS PHILLIPPS (1792–1872), vellomaniac and curmudgeon: his no. 2506 (“Biblion ab Ysaiah ad Apocalypsin. [Folio.] vel. sæc. xiv.”), with his stencilled crest on the first leaf; bound for him in half calf by his binder Bretherton in 1849; by descent to Phillipps’s grandson:

5. Thomas Fitzroy Fenwick (1856–1938), from whom it was bought in December 1920 / January 1921 for £490 by:

6. SIR ALFRED CHESTER BEATTY (1875–1968), mining magnate and bibliophile: exhibited at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1955, as his “W. MS IX”; later re-numbered ms W.173 (but not re-foliated by Eric Millar); among almost 100 manuscripts given by him to his second wife, Edith née Stone (c.1886–1952), who predeceased him intestate, and described as no. 49, valued at £385 in an undated typescript list of Western manuscripts “In the estate of Edith Beatty, deceased” (still referred to as “W.MS.IX”); thus returned to Sir Alfred’s ownership; sold in his posthumous sale at Sotheby’s, 24 June 1969, lot 57; bought for £2,000 by:

7. Alan G. Thomas (1911–1992), Bournemouth and London bookdealer: his Catalogue 23 (1969), no. 5, at £3,500; bought by:

8. Philip C. Duschnes (1897–1970), New York bookdealer, who broke it up and offered single leaves for sale at least as early as 1975.

Slightly cockled in the margins, but in generally very fine condition.

Stock Code: 246236

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