The Minor Initials of the Murano Gradual

Bloomington, Lilly Library, Ricketts I.12

The only extensive list of the minor initials of the Murano Gradual is that published very recently by Azzarello & Keene [1]. But this list is very incomplete, contains a number of errors, does not provide references to reproductions, and sometimes lists the cuttings of a collection in no discernable order, so it seems worthwhile to provide a more complete and systematic list here. No doubt it will need further additons, corrections, and revisions in due course.

Some initials are cropped (i) very close to the edge of the illumination following their irregular shape,  some (ii) follow the outline of the initial but allow a narrow border of parchment, while others (iii) are simple rectangles and preserve more of the surrounding parchment:


These different approaches to trimming the initials may relate to different stages of their dispersal, and thus be relevant to an understanding of their provenance (I suspect that the close-cropped initials were distributed earliest). In the list below, the close-cropped initials are therefore listed in bold.

For many of the initials listed below we provide details of an online or printed reproduction; here are three of the unpublished inhabited initials:

ex-Lehman Collection, M.9
Princeton University Art Museum
V&A Museum, Circ.140-1919

Institutional Collections

  • Austin, TX, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
    • HRC leaf I.1
      • 1 initial: I (online; citing the Houghton and Columbia cuttings)
  • Bloomington, IN, Lilly Library (unpublished; not in de Ricci)
    • Ricketts I.12
      • 9 initials: A, B, C, E, F, G, H, I, D
    • Ricketts I.13
      • 9 initials: I, L, M, N, O, P, S, T, A
  • Cambridge, MA, Houghton Library
    • MS Typ. 521
      • 4 initials: Q, N, I, G, G (online)
  • Chicago, IL, Art Institute (online from here)
    • 1924.153, 1924.155-61
      • 8 initials: C, E, G, L, M, S, T, C? 
    • 1925.57-64
      • 8 initials: G, G, A, M, G, A, Q, C
    • 1984.553-556
      • 4 initials: Q, I, I, A
  • London, British Library (online)
    • Add. MS 22310, fol. 10
      • 1 initial: M
    • Add. MS 22310, fol. 11
      • 2 initials: S, S (pace Azzarello & Keene)
    • Add. MS 22310, fol. 12 (pace Azzarello & Keene)
      • 18 initials: B, E, A, T, S, P, S, I, G, G, M, A
  • London, V&A Museum [many are available from the collections database; for the reference numbers, see the Note at the bottom of this page]
    • 2849–2860
      • 12 initials: A, A, A, G, G, A, B, C, E, G, I (with horned creature), L
    • 2870–2877
      • 8 initials: C, C, E, M, O, S, S, S
    • 2992–3004
      • 12 initials: A, A, B, B, C, E, A, I, B, D, E, M
    • 3006–3010
      • 5 initials: B, G, P, G, S
    • 3088
      • 1 initial: L
    • 4000–4003
      • 4 initials: A, N, O/C, E
    • 4005–4007
      • 3 initials: A, N, P
    • 4009–4010
      • 2 initials: N, S
    • E.448.1911–E.450.1911
      • 3initials: A, O, I (with an angel singing from an open book), T, G
    • Circ. 125.1919–135.1919
      • 10 initials: G (with a hare?), I, I, I, Q, C, B, S, S, P
    • Circ. 138.1919–149.1919, and 151.1919
      • 12 initials: G, G, I (with a winged creature), N, A, T, D, A, Q, A, P, O, L
    • Circ. 471 and 472.1921
      • 2 initials: P, P
    • Circ. 200, 201–202, 205.1923
      • 4 initials: D, A, D, B
    • Circ. 522–523, 525.1923
      • 3 initials: P, G, S
    • Circ. 957–960.1923
      • 4 initials: A, A, A, O/D
    • Circ. 862, 867, and 931–932.1924
      •  4 initials: G, P, A, G
  • New Haven, CT, Beinecke Library
    • MS 483.6–7
  • New York, NY, Columbia University, Butler Library
    • Med/Ren frag. 81
  • Philadelphia, PA, Free Library (online)
    • Lewis EM 12:4, 8–12, 14–18, 22, 24–25
      • 14  initials: Q, Q, P, S, ?, T, Q, P, L, L, M, B, H, G
    • Lewis EM 13:1–2, 4, 7–14, 16, 18
      • 13  initials: G, G, A, A, A, A, A, N, N?, O, I, I (with a small animal), G
  • Princeton, NJ, Art Museum (unpublished)
    • Inv. nos. 125 and 126
      • 2 initials: B, I (with a cat? in the middle)
  • Venice, Museo Correr, Gabineto Disegni e Stampe
    • inv. Cl. II nos. 242–245, 247–266, 278–279, 301–308, 375–377, and 741–751 [pace Azzarello & Keene]
      • 46 initials: including a T (no. 250) and I (no. 278), which are reproduced in colour by Margherita Zibordi, ‘La raccolta di ritagli e fogli miniati del Museo Correr di Venezia: un primo esame’, Bolletino d’arte, Series VII, 39–40 (2018), pp. 217–34, at p. 226. I am grateful to Margherita for sending me a PDF of her article.

Art Market

In chronological order:
  • Tregaskis, Catalogue 777 (London, 1916), no 1 (reproducing only the B) [2]
    • 16 initials: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, I, L, M, N, O, P, Q, S, T (now Lilly Library, see above)
  • Sotheby's, London, 10 December 1980, lot 1 (photos in Conway Library, Courtauld Institute)
    • 2 initials: D, G
  • Sotheby's, London, 14 July 1981 (morning sale), lot 47 (not reproduced)
    • 3 initials (letters not specified)
  • Sotheby’s, London, 3 July 1984, lot 9 (photos in Conway Library)
    • 9 initials: A, A, A, A, A, A, G, G, I
  • Maggs Bros., European Bulletin 18 (London, 1993), no. 76 (col. ill.)
    • 1 initial: D (larger than most, at c.100×90mm)
  • Sotheby’s, London, 5 December 1994, part of lot 3 (not reproduced)
    • 4 initials: A, D, E, T
  • ex-Lehman, with Jörn Günther c.2004 (unpublished; photos in the Lehman Archive at The Met)
    • M7
      •  4 initials: L, P, G, Q
    • M8
      • 4  initials: G, I, B, P
    • M9
      • 5 initials: E, I, D, S, I (with a lion on a shield)
  • Christie’s, New York [pace Azzarello & Keene], Hauck sale, 27 June 2006, part of lot 130 (col. ill.) (online)
    • 1 initial: G
  • Bloomsbury Auctions, London, 8 July 2015, lot 77 (col. ill. of all 3)
  • Bloomsbury Auctions, London, 8 July 2015, lot 78 (col. ill. of only 3 of the 4)
    • 4 initials: G, G, G, G (description and one image online; cf. below) [3]
  • Bradley Symonds Ltd., London
    • 2 initals: G, G (one, online in 2018, is probably the one that was not reproduced in the catalogue for Bloomsbury Auctions, 8 July 2015, lot 78)

Private Collections

  • Maryland, Jim Sims
    • 1 initial: C

Note on V&A reference numbers

The V&A Museum's call-numbers for manuscripts can be confusing. Each item has an official accession number; these are the numbers the V&A uses on its own online catalogue, and which I use above. They take various forms; some are simple four-digit numbers, e.g. "2875", and a significant quantity which belonged to the historic Circulating Collection have a "Circ." prefix and an accession-year suffix, e.g. "Circ. 133.1919".

For the purposes of a pair of 1908 catalogues of the V&A cuttings and leaves (by Edward F. Strange, based on the attributions of Sydney Cockerell) [4], which was arranged according to the perceived style and date, "MS." numbers were invented; thus Netherlandish illuminations were numbered as MS. 1–409, English ones MSS. 661–687, French ones MSS. 688–859, and so on; the Murano cuttings were among 58 initials numbered MS. 1048–1105. But these "MS." numbers were dropped by the time the second edition of the catalogue was published in 1923. The first entry in both catalogues, for example, is a set of 8 leaves from a 14th-century Dominican Antiphonary: in the 1908 catalogue they are MS. 1-8, while in the 1923 catalogue they are 8997A-H. In other words, the numbers introduced in 1908 and abandoned by 1923, but used by Azzarello and Keene, are obsolete.


[1] Stephanie Azzarello and Bryan C. Keene, ‘Splendors of the Serenissima in a Digital Age: The Master of the Murano Gradual Reconsidered’, Manuscript Studies: A Journal of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, 6.2 (2021), 223–67, at 266-67.

[2] The Tregaskis catalogue crops its image of the initial B to its edges, but as the image at the top of this page shows, this is misleading:

[3] The catalogue reproduces six of the seven initials that comprosed lots 77 and 78:
[4] The three catalogues are:
-- Victoria and Albert Museum: Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, Part II: Miniatures, Leaves and Cuttings (London, 1908).
-- Catalogue of the Circulating Collection of Illuminated Manuscripts (Leaves and Cuttings) Selected from the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington (London, 1908).
-- Victoria and Albert Museum: Catalogue of Miniatures, Leaves, and Cuttings from Illuminated Manuscripts (London, 1923).

Page published: 13 March 2022

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