Saturday 30 October 2021

The Provenance of a Lombard Cutting [I]



A few weeks ago the two items above were sold as a single lot at a provincial English auction, with an estimate of £80-120. The portrait miniature on the right was catalogued as "an over-painted print of a duckling" (I assume "duckling" must be some sort of spellcheck error for "duke"!). The illuminated cutting on the left was described as "A small framed and glazed illuminated manuscript extract". Together they cost the buyer £280 plus fees.

Saturday 16 October 2021

Otto Ege's Armenian Lectionary Dated "1121"


I cannot read languages written in non-Latin alphabets, such as Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, and Armenian, so I will only attempt to catalogue them if I have help from a specialist. I do, however, enounter them periodically. Ethiopian codices are fairly popular with private collectors, for example, because a complete codex (usually 19th-century, but still medieval in character) can be bought for the price of a single medieval Western illuminated leaf, and because the wood boards of the bindings are often not covered, leaving the spine and sewing structure clearly visible: they therefore make very good teaching tools.

I encounter with some frequency (in person or online) leaves from an Armenian Lectionary dispersed by Otto Ege (as shown above). Leaves of it were not included in his famous portfolio of Fifty Original Leaves, but they were in three of his earlier portfolios: Original Leaves from Famous Bibles: Nine centuries, 1121 A.D. - 1935 A.D., 'Series A' issued in 1936, in an edition of 200, and 'Series B' issued in 1938, in an edition of 100; and Fifteen Original Oriental Leaves of Six Centuries issued in [1952] in an edition of 40 copies [1]. If you meet with a leaf of an Armenian manuscript on paper, written in two columns of 33 lines, there is a good chance that it comes from this manuscipt.

Saturday 9 October 2021

A Contemporary Opinion of the Ottley Collection of Illuminations

In the English journal The Athenæum, founded in 1828 [Wikipedia], is a contemporary account of the  items offered for sale in the 1838 Ottley auction of illuminated cuttings.

Saturday 2 October 2021

Manuscripts Written at Rome in 1465, Now at the V&A and Houghton [II]

Before moving on the the 20th-century provenance of the manuscript(s) discussed in the previous post, I need to add an important piece of the 19th-century provenance that I failed to include last week.

Howel Wills (1854-1901) was a collector in whom I've had an interest since the 1990s, when I catalogued some of his manuscripts now at the Bodleian. On my old provenance webpages, made in the early 2000s, I posted some basic biographical information and some images to show how his books can be recognised. More recently, I have occasionally had the chance to mention him in blogposts, such as here. [1]

It turns out that he was the owner of the 1465 manuscript (when it was still bound as a single volume) and it was included in his sale at Sotheby's, 11 July 1894, lot 1194:

[Click to enlarge]
As can be seen from the annotation in this image, the manuscript was bought by Quaritch for £20, and I suspect it was offered for sale in their Rough List no. 144: A rough list of choice and valuable books...[f]rom the library of Howel Wills, Esq., of Florence (August 1894), but I have not yet had a chance to verify this.