Paris (France), or possibly England
Ink on vellum
335 folios, plus two vellum flyleaves; 8.5 × 6.3 × 3.3 in. (21.5 × 16 × 8.5 cm)
On view in The History of the Bible, Translating the Bible
This pocket Bible is mostly complete, lacking the text of Psalms, the beginning of which was erased and the following several folios removed at some point. The small, carefully-written Gothic text appears in two columns of 53–54 lines. Large blue and red initials with extensive tendrils above and below begin each book, with smaller initials alternating between blue and red at the start of each chapter. An elaborate image of acanthus leaves with an interwoven scroll lies at the bottom of the first folio’s recto. On the scroll, Brother Johannes asks people to pray for him. An illuminated pointer between the columns marks the beginning of Genesis on the verso of the second folio.
Created between 1230 and 1260, likely in Paris, France, although England is also possible. Acquired by Brother Johannes (or John) Tellis. Acquired in 1489 by Adrian van der Rijt, a canon from Leuven, Belgium, who was vice-curate of St. Lambert in Vught, the Netherlands; Gifted after 1489 to Father Heinrich Orschott, prior of St. Maximin’s Abbey near Trier, Germany; Ownership assumed after 1489 by St. Maximin’s Abbey. Acquired before 1865 by one of the Dukes of Manchester, Kimbolton Castle, England; By descent until 1949 in the family of the Dukes of Manchester. Sold at auction in 1987. Acquired before 2010 by Martin Schøyen, book collector, Norway; Acquired by 2010 by Sam Fogg, London, England; Purchased in February 2010 by Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Donated in 2015 to National Christian Foundation (later The Signatry), under the curatorial care of Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC.
Notes:  According to the dealer notes from Sotheby’s and Sam Fogg, Paris is the likely place of origin. In 2014, Laura Light, a scholar working for Les Enluminures, viewed the manuscript. Based on the style and placement of the initials, she suggested the manuscript came from England and that the date was post 1230.  Below the text on folio 1r is a drawing of a scroll interwoven with acanthus leaves. The inscription on the scroll reads, “Frater Joha(n)nes tellis [erased] orate p(ro) eo,” which translates as, “Brother Johann (or John) Tellis [erased] Pray for him.” Since there are very few Latin words that begin with telli- or even teli-, it seems likely that Tellis is the brother’s surname. The date is uncertain, but is late medieval, likely from the fourteenth or fifteenth century. Similar acanthus leaves in frames appear on the rear pastedown, and the third inscription partially covers the tendrils coming from one of them.  An inscription on the rear pastedown says, “Ista biblia p(er)tinet d(omi)no Adriano van der Riit can(oni)co Leuwen(ensis) a(n)no xiiii c(entum) lxxxix p(ro) tu(n)c vicecurato eccl(es)ie S(anc)ti Lamb(er)ti in Vught,” which translates as, “This Bible belongs to Master Adrian van der Rijt, canon of Leuven in the year 1489, at that time the vice-curate of St. Lambert’s in Vught.”  A second inscription below the first written in a different hand and darker ink continues the provenance saying, “quam delegavit p(at)ri Heynrico Orschott p(ri)ori mo(na)ster(i)i S(anc)ti Maxi(m)ini p(ro)pe Treveri(m) situati (erased) suo, orate pro ip(s)is,” which translates as, “which he entrusted to Father Heinrich Orschott, prior of St. Maximin’s Abbey situated near Trier (erased) its(?), pray for them.”  A third inscription on the pastedown written in the same hand as the second says, “Codex monasteri(i) S(anc)ti maxi(mi)ni Ep(iscop)I prope Treverim situati,” which translates as “Codex of the Abbey of St. Maximin the bishop, situated near Trier.” The manuscript likely entered the abbey’s library soon after Father Orschott acquired it and may have remained there until the suppression of the monastery in 1802.  Two inscriptions on the front pastedown record that this manuscript is listed on page 2 of a “Great Catalogue” and one of these inscriptions is dated 1865. A later label from Kimbolton Castle records that the manuscript was number 3423 and was found in the Alcove. It is unclear which Duke of Manchester acquired the manuscript, but the most likely candidates include William Montagu, 5th Duke of Manchester (1771–1843), George Montagu, 6th Duke of Manchester (1799–1855), and William Drogo Montagu, 7th Duke of Manchester (1823–1890). The three dukes span the period from the suppression of the Abbey of St. Maximin in 1802 to 1865.  Alexander Montagu, 10th Duke of Manchester (1902–1977), inherited his title in 1947. With the title came many debts, which forced him to sell Kimbolton’s furnishings, including its collection of manuscripts and rare books in July 1949, and the castle itself in the 1950s. Although the books were sold the first day, this manuscript is not specifically listed. Instead, the auctioneers Knight, Frank, and Rutley grouped books together into 57 lots with imprecise descriptions such as Lot 271 “Various, old calf, and odd volumes 30.” See https://www.somewhere.org.uk/auction/salelist/books.htm.  Sold by Sotheby’s, London, on June 6, 1987, Western Manuscripts and Miniatures, Lot 78, listed in Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts number SDBM_1157 https://sdbm.library.upenn.edu/entries/1157.  His bookplate is inside the front cover, shelf mark MS 22.
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