“Interpretation of Hebrew Names” from the St. Albans Abbey Bible


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“Interpretation of Hebrew Names” from the St. Albans Abbey Bible. Single folio on vellum. Paris, ca. 1330: 276 mm x 188 mm. Triple column, 46 lines in a Gothic hand in brown ink. Decoration: headings in red, one-line initials alternately of blue and gold, intricate and busy line-fillers in red and blue, some with gold highlights. Christopher de Hamel deduced the provenance in 1981 (see “Leaf of a Bible Manuscript, France, circa 1330,” in Fine Books and Book Collecting, ed. Christopher de Hamel and Richard A. Linenthal [Leamington Spa: James Hall, 1981], pp. 10-12). The St Albans Abbey Bible was illuminated in Paris around 1330 but came to belong to St. Albans Abbey in England. When the manuscript was rebound in the sixteenth century, flyleaves from a register of St Albans Abbey were added. According to an abbey chronicle, Michael de Mentmore, abbot of St. Albans from 1335-1349, purchased “duas bonas biblias,” one for the monks, the other for the abbot’s personal use. The St. Albans Abbey Bible was plausibly one of these. The intact parent manuscript was sold at Sotheby’s (6 July 1964 lot 239) and broken up. However, the “Interpretation of Hebrew Names” had long before that date been separated from the rest of the book. With the exception of folios with historiated initials, leaves from it are, by far, the rarest. It is worth noting that the illuminations are of exceptional quality, among the finest examples of fourteenth-century French illumination. The manuscript must have been expensive and doubtless acquired from profits made at the time from the English wool trade. Condition: slightly cockled and creased, as shown, and soiled overall, especially in the lower margin, but still very appealing because of the fine and elaborate decoration.

Price: $1250

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