Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Bible of Louis de Harcourt (d.1479), Patriarch of Jerusalem and Bishop of Bayeux

In a few weeks' time a well-known dealer will open an exhibition of manuscripts at his gallery in central London. He tasked me to check and revise the existing descriptions, and I undertook to amplify them with new research where possible. This led to some satisfying discoveries, some of which I may post about in the coming weeks.

One of them arose from my recent investigations for this blog of the manuscripts in the 1926 Brölemann-Mallet auction catalogue, several of which were bought by Messrs William Permain for William Randolph Hearst.

One of the manuscripts in the exhibition is the first half of a French, presumably Parisian, Bible. It is unusually large, at about 310×215mm, with a series of large historiated initials and extensions that partially occupy the margins:

One of the most distinctive things about it is the large number of marginalia written in ink in fairly large cursive script:

The volume is in late 15th-century binding, and seems to have lost its final leaf, containing the end of Proverbs, before the date of this binding, because it has been replaced by a late 15th-century substitute:

So either this was always a two-volume Bible, of which the last last leaf of the first volume got lost and had to be replaced; or else it was originally a one-volume Bible of which the leaf with the end of Proverbs ended up in the second volume when it was re-bound as two volumes.

There is no obvious indication of the provenance volume other than the anonymous marginalia mentioned above, and some anonymous French 18th(?)-century dealer's notes on the pastedowns:

While looking at the Brölemann-Mallet catalogue, however, my eye was caught by this reproduction:

This is the second volume of a Bible (Ecclesiastes–Apocalypse), and the marginalia appeared to be by the same hand as the marginalia in my volume. 

Looking at the description of this Brölemann-Mallet volume, it became clear that they were indeed once part of a single volume: the first leaf of the second volume contains the part of Proverbs that is missing from the first volume, and everything else matches: script, decoration, dimensions, number of lines per page, etc.

The catalogue includes another reproduction of the volume, and this shows interesting added late-15th-century heraldry and decoration:
This is fol.1v: the large miniature of the Judgement of Solomon to the left of the historiated initial was inserted to obscure the very end of Proverbs:

Here is a detail of the heraldry added in the lower margin (I have not been able to identify the family to which it belongs):

Fortunately I had annotated my photocopy of the catalogue with the present location of the book: it is now Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS. Typ 239. There are no images online yet, but there is a bibliography and a brief catalogue description. Between them, these allowed me to reconstruct the late medieval provenance of my volume as follows:
  1. Louis de Harcourt (1424–79), Patriarch of Jerusalem and Bishop of Bayeux (from 1460), formerly Bishop of Béziers and Archbishop of Narbonne (from 1451): the Harvard volume (see below) has an inscription dated 1476 at the end recording his ownership and listing his ecclesiastical appointments: “Hec biblia est Reverendissimi in Christo patris ac domini dom. Ludovici de Haricuria pontificis quondam Biterren [Béziers] mox archipresulis Narbonensis [Narbonne], nunc autem Patriarche Hierosolimitani [Jerusalem], episcoique Baiocensis [Bayeux] necnon et amministratoris perpetui monasterii de Lira [Lyre] Ebroiocensis [Evreux] dyoceseos” (fol.335v). Harcourt bequeathed about forty volumes to Bayeux cathedral, not including the present one, because he left the cathedral a different Bible, which appears in the detailed inventory of his bequest drawn up in 1480 (see E. Deslands, “Le Trésor de l’eglise Notre-Dame de Bayeux, d'après les inventaires manuscrits de 1476, 1480, 1498, conservés à la bibliothèque du chapitre de Bayeux”, Bulletin archeologique du Comité des travaux historique et scientifique (1896), at pp.405–09 nos.16–50, in which the other two-volume Bible is nos.16–17 at p.405).
  2. The Bible was divided into two volumes and bound in its present binding after Harcourt’s death; the volumes must have become separated soon after, because only Vol.II was owned by:
  3. A member of the Boyer(?) family, late 15th century: when the volume was divided the leaf which contained both the end of the Book of Proverbs and the start of Ecclesiastes was kept at the start of Vol.II. This meant that the end of Proverbs was now missing from Vol.I and had to be replaced, hence the replacement leaf (vol.I, fol.319). In addition, the tail-end of Proverbs was redundant at the start of Vol.II, so it was over-painted in the 15th century with a miniature of The Judgement of Solomon (Vol.II, fol.1v), and, in the lower margin was also added a motto “Memorare” on a large scroll behind a heraldic shield: quarterly, 1 and 4 azure, on a chevron argent, between three birds’ heads erased or, a mullet gules, 2 and 3 also azure, on a bend argent three crayfish gules; a note at the end of the volume ascribes these arms to the Boyer family, but it has not been possible to confirm this. The fact that no equivalent marks of ownership or heraldry were added to Vol.I, shows that the two volumes were separated by this date. The second volume was later owned by Arthur Brölemann (1826–1904), and was sold by his great-granddaughter at Sotheby’s, 4 May 1926, lot 4 (from which catalogue we take the preceding transcription and heraldic description), the catalogue with two full-page plates; it was subsequently owned by Philip Hofer, who bequeathed it to Harvard University, where it is today MS. Typ. 239
Laura Light subsequently looked at the Houghton volume, and kindly confirmed for me that the binding of the Harvard volume (which I have not seen) matches the one now in London:

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