Illuminated Manuscripts

Moralia in Job.

Gregory the Great. 

Moralia in Job [manuscript in Latin from France], 11th or 12th century.

The Moralia was a medieval best-seller, with some 550 manuscript copies surviving, and nine editions printed up to 1500. The dimensions of this folio manuscript are impressive, but originally it was probably half again as thick as it is now: unfortunately, it lacks nearly one hundred leaves, and the location of the gaps tells us that the missing pages probably had elegant initials similar to the one we see here. 

Gift of Archer M. Huntington, 1912.

Books of Hours

Paris calendar

Paris calendar [manuscript in Latin from France], ca. 1440. 

This manuscript is an elegant example of Parisian commercial book production from the middle of the fifteenth century. As usual, the opening miniature of the book, an Annunciation, is the work of a finer artist than the person who produced the remaining twelve miniatures.  Nevertheless, the hand of this second artist has been recognized in six other manuscripts by Grolier Club member James Marrow, and by François Avril. Professor Marrow has provisionally named the artist the “Master of the Brotherhood of Ste. Catherine,” after a liturgical manuscript now in the Hague executed for a lay confraternity established in the Hôpital de Ste. Catherine in Paris.   

Gift of Daniel B. Fearing, 1908.

Roman use

Roman use [manuscript in Latin from France], ca. 1545.

Produced about a century later than the other example in this exhibition, this book of hours was probably made to celebrate a marriage, as the cameos suggest. Three women and three men gaze at each other across the miniature: Ninus, the Assyrian king, and his alluring queen, Semiramis; Ulysses and the faithful Penelope; and Procne and her sister Philomela, regarding Tereus opposite, the geminus coniunx (“double spouse”) who married the one sister and raped the other. These rather odd and enigmatic images derive from a woodcut of the same scene in a book of hours published by Geoffroy Tory in Paris in 1529–1530. 

Gift of the children of W.S. Davis, 1941.

Koran

Koran

Koran [manuscript in Arabic], ca. 18th century.

This illuminated Koran is an attractive example of Islamic manuscript illumination. Probably produced sometime in the eighteenth century, the manuscript is written in an elegant cursive script on highly polished paper, bordered with purely geometrical figures radiating symmetrically around a central motif resembling a carpet. The Library owns a number of other Arabic and Persian bindings and manuscripts, many acquired in connection with the 1917 Grolier Club exhibition, “Books and Miniatures from Persia and the Levant.”   

Gift of David Wolfe Bruce, 1894.