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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

In the Good Old Summertime

Prickly Script

12th Century Gospel, Sotheby’s (London) $417,865

I just had to have this Gospel in my September selection, partly because I have a great liking for medieval manuscripts, but especially because it was written and bound just a few miles from where I now sit, not labouring slowly and meticulously with pen in hand, but with words whizzing onto the screen in a manner and at a rate that would have put the fear of God into the manuscript’s makers.

In a contemporary and locally made vellum binding and exhibiting the distinctive “prickly” script associated with the monks from Normandy who came to the Benedictine monasteries of St. Augustine’s Abbey and Christ Church Cathedral Priory, in Canterbury, after William the Conqueror’s arrival in 1066, this vellum Gospel of Saint Luke dates from roughly 1120 to 1140.

When St. Augustine’s closed, in 1540, its fine library was widely dispersed, but over the centuries, most of its important books have found their way into institutional collections, and today, only two volumes from that once great collection remain in private hands. One is now in the library of the Dukes of Bedford at Longleat; the other is this Gospel, last seen at auction some 40 years ago when sold as part of the great Chester Beatty collection. Bid to £253,250 ($417,865) in a $7.3 million July 7 sale of illuminated manuscripts and miniatures, it remains in private hands.

Eric “And” the Word

The Four Gospels, Bloomsbury Auctions (London) $91,000 and Swann Auction Galleries (New York) $67,200

White gloves only please when handling the American binder J. Franklin Mowery’s stunning covers for the 1931 Golden Cockerel edition of The Four Gospels. The alum-tawed goatskin boards are blind-stamped with seven examples of Eric Gill’s designs for the word “And.” The pictured copy sold for £5,520 ($9,100) in London, where it was part of the Jan van der Marck collection of fine modern typography and design. Earlier this year, in New York, one of the dozen copies of this famous Golden Cockerel book printed on vellum was sold for $67,200. The binding on that deluxe version was white pigskin with metal clasps designed by Sangorski and Sutcliffe.

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Derek HayesIan McKay’s weekly column in Antiques Trade Gazette has been running for more than 30 years.