Saturday 13 June 2015

A Lavishly Illuminated 13th-Century Psalter-Hours Made for a Nun [II]

In a previous post I discussed a fascinating Psalter-Hours whose origin in uncertain. A leaf with five historiated initials is among the offerings in Sotheby's July medieval manuscripts sale:

Although limited in how many images can be reproduced in the hardcopy catalogue, Mara Hofmann at Sotheby's now has a policy of putting both sides of all single leaves and fragments online, as well as a more generous selection of images of codices. [At the time of posting this blog, they are not all yet uploaded]

The amount of descriptive text that can be printed in the hardcopy catalogue is also severely constrained, so (as at Christie's) there is usually a longer description available online. In the case of the leaf above, the online text includes a listing of about 40 other leaves from the parent manuscript (which I reproduce below).

The text on the Sotheby's leaf is the very end of the Litany, and the first five of the Collects which follow. Coincidentally, the first leaf of the Litany will be sold on the following day, at Dreweatts-Bloomsbury:

This leaf is recorded in the Sotheby's list as having been sold in Germany just two months ago, for €1,300:

In the Dreweatts-Bloomsbury description, the cataloguer states that:
"All of the leaves which have come to light have a number of penwork drollery-creatures, but few have historiated initials ... and to find one with burnished gold is rare" [my emphasis]
In fact, one of the extraordinary things about this manuscript is that almost EVERY leaf has an historiated initial, and ALL of them have a burnished gold background!

The description notes that the leaf has "modern pencil notes '203' an '643' on verso": "203" is the folio number (which is clearly on the recto, not the verso), and "643" was the lot number in the German sale (visible in the image above).


Here is the Sotheby's list, with the Dreweatt-Bloomsbury details added:


  • Psalms 12 & 13 (f.54). Private collection, Germany (Andachtsbücher no.8a).
  • Psalm 21:16-32 (text). Sotheby’s, 5 Dec. 2006, lot 52(a).
  • Psalms 23 & 24 (f.65). Private collection, Germany (Andachtsbücher no.8b).
  • Psalm 25. Maggs Catalogue 1340, no.4; private collection, Japan.
  • Psalm 26. Folio Fine Art, Cat.67 no.254.
  • Psalm 31 (f.72). Private collection, Germany (Andachtsbücher no.8c).
  • Psalm 35. Sotheby’s, 4 Dec. 2007, lot 19
  • Psalm 51 (f.97). Paris art market 2014.
  • Psalm 52. Formerly Sam Fogg, c.1992.
  • Psalm 58. Sotheby’s, 25 April 1983, lot 69a.
  • Psalm 77:11–28 (text) (f.124). Paris art market 2014.
  • Psalm 79. Sotheby's, 2 Dec. 1986, lot 8, to Brisigotti.
  • Psalm 80. The Rendells, Cat.146, no.86.
  • Psalm 93. Sotheby’s, 5 Dec. 2012, lot 5 (£2,800)
  • Psalms 94 & 95. Sotheby's, 5 Dec. 1989, lot 18b; Sotheby's, 7 Dec. 1992, lot 6a, to Fogg.
  • Psalm 96. (f.14[2?]). John Windle, 2015.
  • Psalm 101. Cleveland Museum of Art, Jean Miles Blackburn collection.
  • Psalm 102:3–22 (text). Private collection, Japan.
  • Psalm 107. Maggs Bulletin 5 (1967), no.4.
  • Psalms 123, 124 & 125. Sotheby's, 5 Dec. 1989, lot 18b; 7 Dec. 1992, lot 6b, to Fogg.
  • Psalm 136. Ackland Museum of Art, Chapel Hill [thanks are due to Scott Gwara for reminding me of this leaf]
  • Psalm 142 (f.183) Sotheby’s, 25 April 1983, lot 69b; Lubin Catalogue, no.14; Ferrini Cat.1, no.36.
  • Psalm 143 (f.184) Sotheby’s, 25 April 1983, lot 69c; Lubin Catalogue, no.15.
  • Canticles 1 & 2 (f.190) Sotheby’s, 25 April 1983, lot 69d; 6 Dec. 1983, lot 16; Ferrini Cat.1, no.37; Cleveland Museum of Art, Jean Miles Blackburn collection.
  • Canticle 4. Charles Puckett (stock no. IM-11023) [Added 9 July 2015]
  • Canticle 4: Exodus 15:5-19 (text) (f.193). Sotheby's, 2 Dec. 2003, lot 13.
  • Canticle 5 (f.194). Paris art market 2014.
  • Litany. Beginning (fol.203; preceded by the end of the Athanasian Creed). Reiss & Sohn, 28 April 2015, lot 643; Dreweatts-Bloomsbury, 8 July 2015, as above.
  • Collects 1–5 (preceded by end of Litany). The present leaf.
  • Collects 6–9 (continuing from the present leaf). Formerly Sam Fogg, c.1992.
Hours of the Virgin
  • Matins. Hymn "Quem terra pontus" and Ps.8 (Les Enluminures, summer 2015)
  • Lauds. Beginning and Psalm 92. Sotheby's, 17 Dec. 1991, lot 14a.
  • Lauds. Psalm 148 (following the ‘Benedicite’). Sotheby's, 17 Dec. 1991, lot 14b; private collection, London.
  • Lauds (/Prime?). Prayers following the ‘Benedictus’ and antiphon ‘O admirabile’. Private collection, London.
  • Terce or Sext. Psalm 124 (between Ps.123 and prayers). AGT Cat.19, no.17a.
  • Vespers. Psalms 112 and 121 (preceded by end of Ps.109). AGT Cat.19, no.17b.
  • Vespers. Psalms 126 and 147 (preceded by end of 121). AGT Catalogues 19, no.17c; 21, no.22, and 22 no.19.
  • Compline. Beginning (preceded by end of Vespers).  Sotheby's, 17 Dec. 1991, lot 14c.
  • Compline? (includes Nunc dimittis). Maggs Bulletin 6, no.19 (ill.); Sotheby’s, 21 June 1988, lot 8.
  • Compline. End. Sotheby's, 17 Dec. 1991, lot 14d.
Office of the Dead
  • ‘Prayers to be said over the newly dead’. AGT Catalogues 19, no.17d; 21, no.22a; and 22 no.19a; Sotheby's, 6 Dec. 1983, lot 16, to Quaritch.
  • First nocturn(?). Psalm 145 and prayers. The Rendells, Cat.146, no.86 [same as Maggs, Bulletin 6, no.19??]
  • Second nocturn(?). Psalm 22 (‘preceded by various prayers’). AGT Cat.19, no.17e.

AGT = Catalogues of Alan Thomas
Andachtsbücher = Andachtsbücher des Mittelalters aus Privatbesitz: Katalog zur Ausstellung im Schnütgen-Museum, ed. by Joachim M. Plotzek,, Cologne, 1987.


  1. To be added to the list of Psalter leaves should be Athanasian Creed (fol.202. Private collection, UK. See and

  2. Thank you. I was already aware of this leaf and it will appear in a revised listing in a catalogue of "The McCarthy Collection" that I am currently preparing, but I should have added it here as well. I now have details for the series of collects and creeds, fols.190-203, lacking only fols.191, 196, and 198-200.



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