Forensic Investigation of a Romanesque Homiliary


Genre: , , ,

Immense monastic homiliary to be read from during meals. Single folio on vellum citing homilies by SS. Augustine and Jerome. Northern Italy (perhaps Veneto) is one possible origin, but southern France cannot be discounted; ca. 1200. Parallels to the script and decoration are found in Gothic manuscripts from Venice and the Veneto (cf. Statuti e Leggi di Venezia, of ca. 1250, Semenzato (25 April 2003), lot 28; Chanson de Roland of late thirteenth-century Venetian origin, now Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, MS fr. V.7). This fragment is huge: 523 mm x 335 mm (justification, 385 mm x 240 mm). Very faintly ruled in light plummet, the lines barely visible. Double column, 49 lines. Decoration: ten multi-line initials in red with geometric “piercings” and green penwork, occasionally trailing in the margins; versal initials touched with red penstrokes; rubricated. Marginal corrections, one underscored in red pen. Later medieval foliation “xliii” in upper righthand corner of the recto. Handsomely bound in white buckram over pasteboard with paper flyleaves (slightly loose). Text: Nine readings based on the Gospel lesson from Matt. 5, “Christ Walking on Water,” all but lesson 5 drawn from the following sources:

  1. Augustine, Sermones ad populos diversi. “Evangelium quod recentissime recitatum … .“ PL XXXVIII.479-83 (excerpt). Sermon on Matt 5, Christ Walking on Water.
  2. Jerome, Commentariorum in Evangelium Matthaei ad Eusebium libri quatuor. PL XXVI.15-218; beginning Lib. 2, cap. xiv, vers. 22 (“Quo sermone ostenditur”).

Condition: The condition of this leaf tells a fascinating story. This folio was re-used on a binding, and the folds reveal that the book itself was large and had a thick wooden binding (as the creases and woodworm holes reveal). An accident then happened that explains a very large circular stain on both sides. The volume, which was very slightly tilted, was used as a dining table. The stain is brown and irregular, but the interior forms a sharp circle. The diameter is too large for a tankard. Furthermore, the base of the vessel must have been hot, since the ceramic edge left a wide impression on the front of the vellum. The impression suggests that heat caused a permanent indentation. Because the liquid did not seep into the interior of the circle and did not flow evenly across the whole page, the substance was probably thick rather than watery but still fluid enough to penetrate the parchment. It seems likely to have been a bowl of soup or stew. The way the bowl was dropped onto the book can be determined by observing the stains: soup spilled over the edge onto large area, and the bowl was then dropped to splash soup onto two areas on the opposite side. Note the triangular splash field as well as the two places where drops landed to form one puddle. There is a void between the edge and these splashes. That’s where the thumb and fingers held the bowl. The evidence suggests that the diner not only spilled his soup but also burned his hand. In addition to the large stains are folds from use as a binding, small scuffs and light soiling, a few woodworm holes, curious erasures, and few modern pencil notes: “Saec. xiii1” and “Francia meridionale” [for meridionalis] (“southern France”). These notes resemble others on fragments from the Bliss-Phillipps-Robinson fragments. Provenance: 1. H. P. Kraus, list 189 (1958), no. 211; 2. Sotheby’s 21 June 1994, lot 4 (part); 3. London and Oslo, Martin Schøyen Collection, MS 1854, acquired at Sotheby’s. A British export license has been issued.

PRICE: $3200

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