Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2019 Issue

Sixty Medieval Manuscripts from Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books

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Celebrating the past.

Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books has created a spectacular catalogue entitled Celebrating the Past. Sixty Medieval Manuscripts. These are works of art, labors of love, and very old. The Medieval period is generally thought of as running from the fifth through the fifteenth century. A few come a few years later, the early 16th, but these are manuscripts created five or more centuries ago. They range from the tenth century to 1521. Twenty-five of them predate Gutenberg.

 

The Medieval period, or Middle Ages, is sometimes referred to as the "Dark Ages." With the fall of the Roman Empire, learning fell into a dark period, scholarship drying up. In this catalogue, we see there was light even in the darkest times. Naturally, theology is a major theme. Writing and scholarship mainly took place in the institutions of the church. Nevertheless, from these manuscripts we find a variety of learning and artistic expressions. Subjects found within these manuscripts include religion, devotions, legends, literature, poetry, law, art, music, theater, history, heraldry, exploration, science, medicine, magic, and politics. Günther notes that the "manuscripts and their illuminations connect us to mankind and to human history, providing a glimpse of the worlds and eras in which they were created."

 

Still, it is usually not the knowledge within these manuscripts that make them so valuable and highly desirable to collectors. It is, after all, quite dated, and not all that many people can read Latin, the primary language used among the educated in Europe at the time. What is stunning is the beauty, the calligraphy of the writer or scribe, the artwork and coloring of the skilled hands that created these manuscripts. Not only were they not mass productions of printing presses, they were not the scribblings of people with interesting things to say but no artistic skills for enhanced expression. These are mostly works of art as well as text, and this and their great age and rarity is what combine to make antiquarian, illustrated manuscripts so highly valuable today. Two of the top five most expensive items at auction in the books and paper field last year were 15th century illuminated manuscripts. That is how much these ancient illustrated works by obscure artists, often in some isolated monastery, are treasured today. This catalogue is filled with such works.

 

The catalogue is arranged in chronological order, item 1 being the manuscript dated to the 10th century. It is one of the great works of the Middle Ages, from a scholar some consider the last of the early church fathers, though he may be a bit late to be early. Isidore of Seville lived during the sixth and seventh centuries. He was the Archishop of Seville in what is today Spain. His great work is the one that was copied on this manuscript, the Etymologiae. It was written over a period of years, roughly 600-625. It contains 20 books, filled with all sorts of knowledge available at the time. It is something of an encyclopedia, compiled from hundreds of scholarly works dating back to Greek and Roman times. While technically an etymology, a study of the origin of words, it covers a myriad of other subjects, both religious and secular. Among these are mathematics, geography, canon law, religion and heresies, medicine, animals, the human body, agriculture, weights and measures, and much more. It was the major textbook of this period, and provides us with text from works that are now lost.

 

This copy of the Etymologiae was written in multiple scribal hands. It contains the scribe's colophon, translated, "Who does not know [how] to write, thinks that this is not a worthy job. In fact, three fingers write, [but] all body parts work. As good is the best harbor for him who sails, so good is also the latest verse for him who writes." There are also various notations through the text, both contemporary and from the following couple of centuries. It contains various charts, a "T-O Map" ( a very primitive world map divided into three sections - Asia, Europe, and Africa) and one of Anatolia (Asia Minor).

 

Item 6 is a manuscript of Decretum Gregory IX (Decretals of Pope Gregory IX) with Constitutiones novissimae of Gregory X and other legal texts. The papacy of Gregory IX ran from 1227-1241. Gregory IX was noted for attempting to achieve greater order in the church. Along with the Decretals, laws issued by the Pope, he is noted for the Papal Inquisition (not to be confused with later Spanish and Roman Inquisitions). While inquisitions don't sound good, this one may have been kinder to those accused of heresy than the alternative of the day. Back then, civil governments could enforce heresy laws, and did so without fair trials, on the whim of local authorities. Gregory sought to provide ground rules for such trials and afford those accused the opportunity to repent and avoid the brutal punishments often inflicted on those found guilty. In his Decretals, the writing of which he assigned to Raymond of Penyafort, Gregory IX had Raymond compile the various canon laws into one text where they could all be found and readily applied. The Decretals were compiled during the 1230s.

 

This manuscript was created around 1281. It features beautiful artwork, three historiated initials and five miniatures. The finely colored miniatures tell stories, such as the Pope speaking with his counselors. The details in the artwork suggest it is the work of the famous illuminator Maitre Honoré of Amiens.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>Fall 2019 Auction<br>September 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Sep. 28:</b> AUDUBON, John James. Snowy Owl, Plate 121. Aquatint Engraving with original hand color. London: Havell Jr., 1827-1838 from <i>Birds of America.</i> $225,000 to $300,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Sep. 28:</b> JEFFERYS, Thomas. <i>The American Atlas...</i> London: Sayer and Bennett, 1776. $65,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Sep. 28:</b> RACKHAM, Arthur. Original Illustrations for <i>Jack and the Beanstalk.</i> Pen and ink with watercolor on paper. C. 1913. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Sep. 28:</b> AUDUBON, John James. Ruffed Grous, Plate 41. Aquatint Engraving with original hand color. London: Havell Jr., 1827-1838 from <i>Birds of America.</i> $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Sep. 28:</b> ROESSLER, A. R. Latest Map of the State of Texas. Lithograph with original hand color. New York: Mittendorfer, 1874. $50,000 to $65,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>Fall 2019 Auction<br>September 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Sep. 28:</b> AUDUBON, John James. American Bison or Buffalo (Male), Plate 56. Lithograph with original hand color. New York, 1845-1848 from <i>Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.</i> $18,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Sep. 28:</b> HOOKER, Sir William Jackson & FITCH, Walter Hood. Victoria Regia. Lithograph with original hand color. London: Bradbury & Evans, 1851. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Sep. 28:</b> AUDUBON, John James. Pin Tailed Duck, Plate 227. Aquatint Engraving with original hand color. London: Havell Jr., 1827-1838 from <i>Birds of America.</i> $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Sep. 28:</b> LEWIS, Meriwether and CLARK, William. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River and Across the American Continent...</i> London, 1814. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Sep. 28:</b> AUDUBON, John James. American Black or Silver Fox, Plate 116. Lithograph with original hand color. New York, 1845-1848 from <i>Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.</i> $18,000 to $25,000.
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 26, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Dubliners,</i> first edition, signed presentation inscription from the author, 1914. £100,000 to £150,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> The Beatles.- Baker (Geoffrey.) 3 Autograph Letters and 1 Autograph Card signed to Ann Gosnell, addtionally sgn’d by George Harrison, John Lennon, Cynthia Lennon and others, 1968. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Pilgrim Press.- Dod (John). <i>A plaine and familiar exposition of the tenne commandements ...,</i> [Leiden], [William Brewster], 1617. £15,000 to £20,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 26, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Automaton Chess Player & Mechanical Illusion.- Reynell (H., printer). “The Famous Chess-Player, No.14, St.James's-Street, next Brooks's,” broadside advertisement for "The famous Automaton", [1784]. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Clemens (Samuel Langhorne). <i>Life on the Mississippi,</i> first English edition, signed presentation inscription from the author, 1883. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Arctic Sledge Flag.- Fulford (Reginald Baldwin). Sledge flag... HMS Discovery, 1875. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 26, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> first edition, first printing, 1997. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Piranesi (Giovanni Battista). <i>Le Antichità Romane,</i> 4 vol., 1756. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal, called). <i>Urbis Venetiarum Prospectus Celebriores,</i> 3 parts in 1, Richard Ford's copy, Venice, Giovanni Battista Pasquali, 1751. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 26, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Atlases.- Speed (John). <i>A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World,</i> bound with <i>The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine,</i> 1631-27. £12,000 to £18,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 26:</b> Anatomical illustration.- Aselli (Gaspare). <i>De lactibus sive lacteis venis... dissertatio,</i> first edition, Milan, Giovanni Battista Bidelli, 1627. £20,000 to £30,000

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