6014. Early 14th century large antiphoner Italy

ANTIPHONER with readings for the first Sunday of September to the first Sunday of Advent, signed by Frater Thebaldus di Parma, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum. Italy (probably Tuscany), first half of the fourteenth century (probably first quarter).

216 leaves, wanting single leaves from two gatherings (the first most probably a cancelled blank from the front of the volume), else complete, collation: i9 (first most probably a cancelled blank), ii-iii10, iv4, v-vii10, viii10, ix12, x9 (wanting a leaf from first half of gathering), xi-xiii10, xiv8, xv6, xvi12, xvii-xxi10, xxii-xxiii8, many gatherings with remains of a foliation system involving multiple penstrokes or circles in brown or red ink in outer bottom corner of leaves, catchwords, single column, 7 lines in a fine monumental liturgical hand with music on a 4-line red stave (rastrum: 28mm.), red rubrics, small initials in red or blue with contrasting penwork, thirty-eight decorated initials (mostly either one- or two text and music lines in height, one two-thirds the height of the page) formed of blue, orange and pink bands enclosing delicate sprays of acanthus leaf foliage and terminating in similar sprays which wind into the borders, all on deep blue grounds heightened with trailing white penwork, one similar initial nearly the whole page in height and formed of a robed human torso topped by the head of a dog-like creature with long green ears who clasps a double-headed foliate serpent in his mouth, three historiated initials in same (enclosing St. Augustine as a clean-shaven man in a bishop's mitre and robes, holding a staff and a book and standing on a crenelated plinth and below an arch formed of a castle's walls - perhaps meant to indicate the city of Hippo in Roman North Africa; the Nativity, with the Virgin holding the Christ Child in swaddling robes; and St. Michael the Archangel stabbing the dragon to death with his spear), some slight scuffs to gold in places, a number of leaves with worm damage to base, often repaired with fragments of other medieval manuscripts, some leaves with seventeenth- or eighteenth-century replacements of a few words by the attachment of a paper patch over the original text, else in outstanding condition.
Sixteenth- or seventeenth-century binding of dark leather over massive wooden boards (many tears and holes repaired with small pieces of leather, numerous wormholes, rebacked and restored), brass cornerpieces and central bosses, two long leather clasps with metal endpieces, contents of volume on vellum cutting fastened in medieval fashion with metal tacks at head of rear board ("Dominica prima septembris ad dominica prima Adventus"), paper label with printed "3" on front board. Dimensions of leaf: 545x370 mm.

This choirbook is in clean and fresh condition, is signed most probably by the man responsible for the planning and execution of it, and still contains his tiny notes to the artist stating what subjects needed to be painted and in what materials. As such it stands among the tiny number of extant manuscripts which offer us direct insights into the methods of their production.

The instructions for the subject and chief material to be used for the historiated initials survive in hairline-thin spidery inscriptions in secretarial hand in the adjacent margin ("De auro Sci Augustini", 'use gold with the St. Augustine', "De auro Nativitas beate virginis" and "De auro cum Sco Michaele"; another bifolium from a contemporary Antiphoner with very similar instructions was sold by Bruce Ferrini, Medieval & Renaissance Miniature Paintings, Catalogue 3, 1995, and a discussion of such instructions can be found in J. J. G. Alexander, Medieval Illuminators and their Methods of Work, 1992). Similarities in the forms of the letters 'a', 'h' and a final '-us' allow us to see that this instructing hand is the same as that which signs the foot of fol. 9v below the catchword: "Frater Thebaldus di Parma", allowing us to name this libraire or scriptorium-head who took apparently charge of this commission and its eventual form.

The painting and decoration with its tightly curling acanthus leaves and riotous sprays of colour is that found elsewhere in Tuscan books of the end of the thirteenth- and opening of the fourteenth-century (cf. Avril and Gousset, Manuscrits d'origine italienne, XIIIe siècle, 1984 nos. 152, 154-155), and careful study of manuscripts produced in that centre may reveal further traces of the artist here as well as Thebaldus di Parma.

We would like to thank Dr. Timothy Bolton for his cataloguing of the present lot.

Provenance: From the library of Ove Hassler (1904-87), Dean in Linköping, Sweden, and his son, Eivind Hassler (1939-2009).