Tiny French manuscript Bible leaf, c. 1250.

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Astonishingly diminutive script in gothic minuscule

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 consumed 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.  Parisian and other commercial workshops produced "pocket bibles" for the clergy and wealthy academics.

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.

Recto: Ruled in red with Latin text written in black ink on fine vellum in a precise and astonishingly small, (5 lines / cm.) gothic minuscule script in two columns of 50 lines.  Heading ‘III’  (half the running title of REGUM III) and chapter numbers in red and blue.  Corrections in the margins.  This leaf displays an early transitional form of layout in which the chapters run on without a break except for the insertion of a coloured initial, or, in one case here. the addition of chapter numbers ”hanging” in the margins.  A natural hole in the inner margin.

Verso:   As Recto with a quire signature viii in the bottom margin.

Origin:  Northern France, probably Paris.

Date: c. 1250.

Content:  Chapter 17 of 3 Kings begins in the left column:

et dixit Helias Thesbites de habitatoribus Galaad ad Ahab vivit Dominus Deus Israhel in cuius conspectu sto si erit annis his ros et pluvia nisi iuxta oris mei verba.

(And Elias the Thesbite, of the inhabitants of Galaad, said to Achab: As the Lord liveth, the God of Israel, in whose sight I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to the words of my mouth.)

Condition: This 750 year old leaf is in fine condition.  Leaves from these pocket bibles often have the margins cut down - perhaps for later re-binding - but this leaf retains its original full margins. The exacting script shows no ink loss and the vellum remains supple and unblemished apart from the natural hole and a slight tear in the inner margin related to its removal from the codex. The colours of the initials are vibrant. Archivally mounted, unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

Size: Leaf: approx. 160x110 mm.  Please note that shipping is invoiced separately.

Provenance:  This leaf cannot be associated with any manuscript of similar dimensions in the Schoenberg Database.

Notes:  1 and 2 Samuel were originally (and, in most Jewish bibles, still are) a single book, but the first Greek translation, called the Septuagint, produced around the second century BC, divided it into two.

In imitation of the Septuagint what is now commonly known as 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, are called by the Vulgate, 1 Kings and 2 Kings respectively.

Item No: MBI043

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