Parisian "Pocket Bible" leaf, c.1250. Book of Ecclesiasticus.

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“The rich man hath done wrong, and yet he will fume:

but the poor is wronged and must hold his peace.”

Further images:  Feel free to request images of recto, verso, details, etc.


Recto: Latin text written in black ink on fine vellum in an extremely precise gothic minuscule script in two columns of 47 lines. Ruled in red, versal initials touched in red. Heading ‘ASTI’ (half of the running title of ECCASTI (ECCLESIASTICUS), and chapter numbers in red and blue. Two two-line initials ‘Q’ and ‘B’ in blue and red with intricate red and blue penwork embellishments extending the full length of the page.  A scholar’s note in the right margin.

Verso:   As Recto with the heading ‘ECC’ and two two-line coloured initials ‘Q’ and ‘N’. The decorative penwork from the initials extends the length of the page, as Recto.

Origin:  Northern France, doubtless Paris.

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

Content:  The text on Recto beginning Chapter 13 at the blue initial ‘Q’ reads:

Qui tetigerit picem inquinabitur ab illa et qui communicaverit superbo inducet superbiam.  Pondus super se tollit qui honestiori communicat et ditiori te ne socius fueris.

(He that toucheth pitch, shall be defiled with it: and he that hath fellowship with the proud, shall put on pride.

He shall take a burden upon him that hath fellowship with one more honourable than himself. And have no fellowship with one that is richer than thyself.)

What agreement shall the earthen pot have with the kettle? for if they knock one against the other, it shall be broken.

The rich man hath done wrong, and yet he will fume: but the poor is wronged and must hold his peace.

If thou give, he will make use of thee: and if thou have nothing, he will forsake thee.

Condition:   This 770 year old leaf is excellent condition.  The script shows no ink loss and the vellum remains clean and unblemished.  Vibrant colours. The bottom margin has been slightly trimmed, perhaps for a later re-binding, but unusually and pleasingly, the top margin with the running title is untrimmed.   Archivally mounted. Unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

Size: Leaf: approx. 165x130 mm.

Notes: St. Jerome’s many biblical, ascetical, monastic, and theological works profoundly influenced the early Middle Ages.

The production of Jerome’s Latin Vulgate Bible (405 A.D.) changed the Roman Empire, helped unify medieval Europe, and imbued a biblical knowledge and Christian world view by making the Bible accessible in what was the common (Vulgate) Latin language for the late classical era.

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 codices.

The parent book of this leaf was a high quality bible of the Crusades period, used for preaching of the Gospel around the medieval countryside or in the study of theology. 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.

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries a number of factors influenced the development of writing styles. Gothic minuscule script, as on this leaf, came about from the need to quickly produce books for the rapidly increasing level of literacy of the early 13th century.  New universities were founded, each producing books for business, law, grammar, history and other pursuits, not exclusively religious works for which earlier scripts typically had been used.  Its predecessor, Carolingian minuscule, while supremely legible, was time-consuming to write and took up a lot of space.

Parchment and fine vellum were very costly, so scribes compressed the letters to make the most of the space available.  The resultant compacted, angular script, given the name gothic minuscule, was popular with the scribes who had taken over much of the copying task from the churches.


Item No: MBI053

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