Parisian ”Pocket Bible” manuscript leaf, c.1250.

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The Second Book of Maccabees

“Then the king being angry, commanded frying pans and brazen cauldrons to be made hot: which forthwith being heated. ”

Recto: Latin text written in black & brown ink on fine vellum in an extremely precise gothic minuscule script in two columns of 47 lines. The scribe appears to have used two different inks. Ruled in red, versal initials touched in yellow. Heading CHA II (half of the abbreviated running title of MACHABEES II) and chapter number VII in red and blue. One two-line initial ‘C’ in blue with intricate red penwork extending the full length of the page. Two “manicules” (pointing hands) in the left margin.

Verso:   As Recto with the heading MA II and an eight-line red initial ‘I’ with blue penwork beginning chapter 8. The decorative penwork from the initial extends the length of the page, as Recto.

Origin:  Northern France, doubtless Paris.

Date: Mid-13th century, c. 1250.

Content: The text consists of sections of chapters 6 & 8 and all of chapter 7 of the Second Book of Maccabees. The blue initial ‘C’ begins chapter 7:

Contigit autem et septem fratres cum matre adprehensos conpelli a rege contra fas ad carnes porcinas flagris et taureis cruciatos.  unus autem ex illis qui erat primus sic ait quid quaeris et quid vis discere a nobis parati sumus mori magis quam patrias Dei leges praevaricari.  Iratus itaque rex iussit sartagines et ollas aeneas succendi quibus statim succensis.

(It came to pass also, that seven brethren, together with their mother, were apprehended, and compelled by the king to eat swine's flesh against the law, for which end they were tormented with whips and scourges.  But one of them, who was the eldest, said thus: What wouldst thou ask, or learn of us? we are ready to die, rather than to transgress the laws of God, received from our fathers.  Then the king being angry, commanded frying pans and brazen caldrons to be made hot: which forthwith being heated,)

Condition:   Very good/excellent condition.  The script shows no ink loss and the vellum remains clean and unblemished.  Vibrant colours. The top and bottom margins have been trimmed, perhaps for a later re-binding and the heading is consequently partially trimmed.   Archivally mounted. Unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

Size: Leaf: approx. 170x130 mm. Please note that shipping is invoiced separately.

Notes: The production of small format bibles flourished in Paris in the 13th century. They were known as “pocket Bibles” because they could be carried in the folds of the habits of itinerant friars. Written on extremely thin parchment in an extraordinarily tiny script, the codices were highly portable.  In order to reduce the thickness of the parchment, these bibles used calf skin produced north of the Alps which was able to be processed on both sides, whilst retaining its white colouring and quality.     It was impossible to detect the hair side from the flesh side on this vellum, making it an ideal parchment for the exceptionally fine writing required on these "pocket" bibles.

The parent book of this leaf was a high quality bible of the Crusades period, used in the study of theology or preaching of the Gospel around the medieval countryside. It may have been first owned by a Dominican priest from an academic milieu as wealthy Flemish Dominicans studied at the Parisian college of Saint-Jacques.

Item No: MBI049

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