"Pocket Bible" manuscript leaf. c.1250, Paris. Book of Jeremiah.

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Complete chapters 43,44,45, with sections of 42 & 46.

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 ‘RE’ (half of the abbreviated running title of ‘IERE’ (IEREMIAS) and chapter numbers in red and blue. One four-line initial ‘F’ in blue with intricate red and blue penwork embellishments extending the full length of the page.  One two-line initial ‘V’ in red with similar embellishments.

Verso:   As Recto with the heading ‘IE’ and two two-line coloured initials ‘V’ and ‘Q’. 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 at the blue four-line ‘F’ reads:

Factum est autem, cum complesset Jeremias loquens ad populum universos sermones Domini Dei eorum, pro quibus miserat eum Dominus Deus eorum ad illos, omnia verba hæc,

Dixit Azarias filius Osaiæ, et Johanan filius Caree, et omnes viri superbi, dicentes ad Jeremiam: Mendacium tu loqueris: non misit te Dominus Deus noster, dicens: Ne ingrediamini Ægyptum ut habitetis illuc.

Sed Baruch filius Neriæ incitat te adversum nos, ut tradat nos in manus Chaldæorum, ut interficiat nos, et traduci faciat in Babylonem.

(And it came to pass, that when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking unto all the people all the words of the Lord their God, for which the Lord their God had sent him to them, even all these words. Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the Lord our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there:

But Baruch the son of Neriah setteth thee on against us, for to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they might put us to death, and carry us away captives into Babylon.)

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 used a lot of manuscript 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: MBI051

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