Zoomorphic initial of dragon/serpent. Bible leaf, c. 1260.

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St. Jerome’s Prologue to the Books of Kings                                           Distinguished calligraphy


Jerome (340-420) was born near Aquileia, lived in Rome for a time, and spent most of his later life as a monk in Syria and Palestine. He was the most learned churchman of his time, and was commissioned by the bishop of Rome to produce an authoritative Latin version of the Bible, (the Vulgate).

The Prologue to the Books of the Kings (that is 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings) circa A.D. 391, also known as the Prologus Galeatus, "Helmeted Preface," was written by Jerome about the year 391. In it he maintains that, for the Old Testament, only the Hebrew books, (which are 22 in number, just like the Hebrew alphabet), traditionally regarded as Holy Scripture by the Jews are canonical, and the extra books of the Septuagint "are not in the canon.”

Recto: Ruled in red and rubrics in red with text written in black & red ink on high quality vellum in Latin in a precise, elegant gothic script in two columns of 47 lines.  The skill of the calligrapher is apparent in the clarity of the script and the near perfect justification of the two columns. Versal initials touched in red. Heading ‘TH’  (half the running title of RUTH) and chapter number in red and blue.  One two-line initial ‘A’ in red with blue pen flourishes begins Chapter 4 of the Book of Ruth. Beginning the Prologue to Kings is a superb five-line initial ‘V’ which encloses a dragon-headed serpent. The multi coloured initial has touches of burnished gold and an eight-line extension.

Verso:   As Recto with a heading ‘RE’ (half the running title of REGUM).

Origin:  Paris, France.

Date: c. 1260.

Content: The text on Recto is the end of Ruth Chapter 4 before the illuminated initial ‘V’ begins the Prologue to Kings:

Viginti et duas esse litteras apud Hebraeos, Syrorum quoque et Chaldeorum lingua testatur, quae hebraeae magna ex parte confinis est; nam et ipsi viginti duo elementa habent eodem sono, sed diversis caracteribus. Samaritani etiam Pentateuchum Mosi totidem litteris scriptitant, figuris tantum et apicibus discrepantes. Certumque est Ezram scribam legisque doctorem post captam Hierosolymam et instaurationem templi sub Zorobabel alias litteras repperisse, quibus nunc utimur, cum ad illud usque tempus idem Samaritanorum et Hebraeorum caracteres fuerint.

(That the Hebrews have twenty-two letters is testified also by the Syrian and Chaldaaen languages, which for the most part correspond to the Hebrew; for they have twenty-two elementary sounds which are pronounced the same way, but are differently written. The Samaritans also write the Pentateuch of Moses with just the same number of letters, differing only in the shape and points of the letters. And it is certain that Esdras, the scribe and teacher of the law, after the capture of Jerusalem and the restoration of the temple by Zerubbabel, invented other letters which we now use, for up to that time the Samaritan and Hebrew characters were the same.)

Condition: This 750 year old leaf is in fine condition.  The exacting script shows no ink loss and the vellum remains supple and unblemished.  The colours of the historiated initial are vibrant with shining burnished gold highlights. The bottom margin has been trimmed, but the other three appear intact. The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

Size: Leaf: approx. 165x130 mm.  Archivally mounted, ready to frame.

Item No: MBI038

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