Auctions | November 22, 2015

Western Manuscripts Return to Ely House

LONDON, Dover Street—Following the success of their inaugural medieval manuscripts and miniatures sale at Bloomsbury Auctions, Dr Timothy Bolton and Camilla Previté return to Ely House with their second auction spanning some four millennia of human history. Western Manuscripts, will be held at Ely House, 37 Dover Street on Wednesday 9th December 2015 and will include 125 lots.

A section on medieval line drawing features nine lots illustrating the history of this art-form, at the head of which is an eleventh-century full-page drawing of Christ supported by angels, which is probably Norman and from the decades immediately following the Norman Conquest of England [Lot 47, est. £25,000-35,000.]

A fragment of a medieval 13th or 14th century Sephardic Torah Scroll is a breathtakingly rare survival from an important Jewish community of the European Middle Ages, and from a crucial time for the history of the Hebrew Bible. Despite being a fragment of Genesis only, this scroll stands among the earliest witnesses to the original form of the Old Testament [Lot 105, estimate £30,000-50,000].

The rare and fascinating subject of demonology is represented by a leaf from a collection of sermon notes dealing with demon-lore, listing demon names alongside discussions of aspects of demonic infestation and exorcism [Lot 19, £3,000-5,000.]

A scribe's practise sheet is an exceptionally rare testament to the production of fine books in the Middle Ages. The writing master wrote two lines and these were repeatedly copied by the pupil. In an effort to save space, both have left no spaces between the words and this and the formal script renders the page nearly unreadable. We challenge any potential buyer or viewer to decipher it [Lot 37, estimate £300-500].

Two fine twelfth-century animal initials from an impressive illuminated Bible, contain a griffon and a bear and two small dogs. The twelfth century saw the golden age of the development of the early gothic book, with the production of vast illuminated Biblical codices with numerous initials and miniatures, which form much of our impression of quintessentially medieval books. Any witness to this evolution in the book arts, such as these, is of significant rarity now [Lot 56, estimate £8,000-12,000 and Lot 57, estimate £7,000-9,000]. 

A previously unrecorded miniature by the early 14th-century Parisian manuscript-producing man and wife team, Richard and Jeanne de Montbaston, shows the grisly subject of the stabbing of a young man to death [Lot 61, estimate £6,000-8,000].

A copy of Bernard of Botone’s legal commentary, most probably from a monastic or cathedral library, is a rare survival of medieval bindings with a horn nameplate. [Lot 115, estimate £30,000-50,000]

The Astronomical Compendium of San Christoforo, Turin, contains the important earliest Italian manuscript witness to Regiomontanus’ Calendarium - one of only two such copies to appear on the market within living memory [Lot 118, estimate £40,000-60,000]

The sale ends with a finely illuminated fifteenth-century Book of Hours, once in the library of Gabrielle d’Estrées, the long-term mistress and intended second wife of King Henry IV of France. It has a remarkable miniature of death as a skeletal corpse standing in a graveyard with grinning skulls stacked in a charnel house at its rear, striking down a young woman with a spear. The woman is perhaps the original owner of the book, and this image intended to keep her mortality fresh in mind should she be tempted to sin [Lot 125, estimate £8,000-12,000].