BIBLE, in Latin Manuscript on vellum, [England or Northern France, mid-thirteenth century]

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Lot 42
BIBLE, in Latin
Manuscript on vellum, [England or Northern France, mid-thirteenth century]

Sold for £ 75,250 (US$ 93,476) inc. premium
BIBLE, in Latin
Manuscript on vellum, 308 (of 310) leaves, plus one paper flyleaf, text in 2 columns, each of 60 lines, numerous decorative initials, modern pencil foliation (followed here), early eighteenth-century panelled vellum gilt, title in later manuscript to spine, recent endpapers, folio (301 x 202mm.), [England or Northern France, mid-thirteenth century]


  • An impressive large format thirteenth-century Bible, substantially complete, with an early English provenance (probably London) and extensive medieval annotation. The folio size and the multiple annotations suggests that this was a study bible associated with a religious house rather than a book for personal reading and devotion, while the ownership inscription of Thomas Graunt (d. 1474) may place it successively at St. Paul's (London) and (possibly) Syon Abbey in the fifteenth century.

    Text: The Old and New Testaments in the Latin Vulgate version, with the Psalms and the Prologues of Saint Jerome. Following the first of these prologues the book of Genesis begins on f. 2v; the Psalms on 231 and the Gospels on 249. It is textually almost complete, except for the loss of two leaves towards the end: one after the current f. 275 with part of John 20 from chapter 17 (immediately after 'noli me tangere') to chapter 21 and most of Acts chapter I; and another after f. 277 with Acts chapter 8. 32 to chapter 12.

    Decoration: 71 decorative initials of four to six lines, in red, blue and green with additional penwork, often with 'puzzle' ornament, many with extended bar borders; numerous two-line initials with penwork decoration; initials, running title and chapter numbering in red and blue; regular red and blue capitals. The first two leaves of the text bear additional (perhaps slightly later) ascending 'standard' ornaments in brown ink in the lower margins.

    Glosses and annotation: A few leaves have early glosses in small, neat hand, but these have in some case been cropped with some loss of words and sense. Elsewhere is a range of different Latin annotations in ink and leadpoint in numerous medieval hands, some of which are recognisably English, probably ranging in date from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries. Some are neat and formal, others hasty and untidy. Some are now faint, especially those in leadpoint, but most are decipherable. There is also a range of textual markers in the form of neumes and extended brackets, some of which may be very early. The final two leaves bear more extensive notes in fourteenth or fifteenth century hands, including a diagrammatic list of contents and other biblical explanations. There are attractive thumbnail drawings of ships to two borders and various other doodles. Overall, the annotations give the impression of a book well-used over a long period of time in specialist theological environments.

    Condition: The book has been cropped, perhaps more than once, for rebinding. The upper margins have suffered most, with some running headlines cropped or, in some cases lost. The outer and lower margins bearing most of the annotation have survived better, though here again the earlier annotations are partially affected and a few decorative bar borders are truncated at their foot. There are signs of some further annotations to the inner margins, though these are occasionally obscured and perhaps cropped closest to the gutter. There are numerous parchment repairs, usually marginal, probably dating from the modern era or perhaps the time of binding in the early eighteenth century, and only occasionally affect the text itself. In approximately 40 cases there has been significant repair to corners or entire margins by replacing or adding strips of parchment.

    Provenance: Whether the book's origins were in France or England, it was in England by the fifteenth century. The thirteenth-century colophon includes the text: 'Hec est bibliotheca thome [...]' with a surname scraped away and the name 'Graunt' added in a fifteenth-century hand. This is almost certainly Thomas Graunt (?1425-1474), theologian, fellow of Oriel College, Oxford and later treasurer of St. Paul's, London. It is possible that this bible was therefore among the books he bequeathed to Syon Abbey on his death, though it has remained unrecognised as such. The later paper flyleaf, contemporary with the binding, bears an elaborate inscription recording the later gift of the book by John Grove to the grammar school at Southton (Southampton) in 1708, and the school's engraved bookplate is on the reverse. Grove was a prominent merchant and burgess of the city and was its mayor in 1726. The binding is probably contemporary with Grove's ownership or donation.
BIBLE, in Latin Manuscript on vellum, [England or Northern France, mid-thirteenth century]
BIBLE, in Latin Manuscript on vellum, [England or Northern France, mid-thirteenth century]
BIBLE, in Latin Manuscript on vellum, [England or Northern France, mid-thirteenth century]
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