6023. Illuminated psalter probably Lyon 1294-96

PSALTER, of Celestine Use, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum. Eastern France (most probably Lyons, in central east France), last years of the thirteenth century or opening years of fourteenth century (most probably in period 1294-96).

177 leaves (plus 6 modern vellum endleaves at front and 4 at back), wanting a gathering after first, else complete, collation: i6, ii-xxii8, xxiii3, contemporary quire signatures and marks made by last binder indicating gatherings, single column, 18 lines of a squat and square early gothic bookhand, with a more refined but slightly later hand adding the final few gatherings, linefillers in red and blue penstrokes, small initials in blue and liquid gold with contrasting penwork, larger initials in gold on coloured grounds, some with coloured bar borders and one with a human face blowing three blue lines from its mouth, eight historiated initials in a somewhat rustic style in blue or dark pink with white penwork (all of David seated and holding up a scroll or sheet with the text), on burnished gold grounds, with fleshy foliage extending up and down margins, with leaf terminals enclosed within angular gold surrounds, small cross cut in relief into lower border of one leaf, some small areas of wear throughout, else overall in good condition.
Late nineteenth-century binding of gilt-tooled leather with marbled endleaves, with "Heures" on spine, signed inside front board and on first endleaf (latter mostly erased) by "F.F. Rice", all within fitted beige cloth-covered case. Dimensions of leaves: 103x70 mm.

The inscription on the last leaf of this volume: "Incipit officium beate marie secundum usum fratrum celestinorum" identifies this as from the library of a house of the Celestine Order (founded 1244), as well as the first and only traced part of a monastic Psalter-Hours. The close date range can be deduced by the fact that the Order was only named the Celestines after 1294 when their patron, Pietro Morrone, was consecrated as Pope Celestine V; and he is commemorated as "Petrus Celestini" by an early addition to the Calendar, presumably after his death on 19 May 1296. Many of the saints in the Calendar are French, and two are distinctively local to the vicinity of Lyons: SS. Arthaut (January), who was bishop of Belley to the east of the city, and who died in 1206, and Austrobertus, bishop of nearby Vienne in the eighth century.

The Celestines of Lyon were in existence by 1275, and grew to be a large and wealthy house, with a library enhanced by gifts from Jean Gerson and others, and the patronage of King Louis XII and Cardinal d'Amboise. However, devastating fires in 1501 and 1744 consumed the library, and this may be the reason that this volume is the only recorded manuscript to survive from the Celestine convent there (a comprehensive study of manuscripts from this order has yet to be written, but a long list of the manuscript material in French public libraries can be found in O. Antonini, Manoscritti d'interesse celestiano in biblioteche di Francia, 1997, where 136 Celestine manuscripts are listed but none identified as from the foundation at Lyons; L. Delisle comments on the surviving material from the Parisian convent in Cabinet des manuscrits, II, pp. 248-251). In fact, following Antonini's list we can show that this is among the very oldest books surviving from the entire Order, contemporary with only one other French manuscript (a Missal of the thirteenth-fourteenth century, now Bibliothèque Mazarine, ms 405). It was presumably among the founding books of the convent, and may have escaped the fires through being kept instead in another part of the house, or was carried into safety before all others. The possessions of the convent, including what remained of their library, was dispersed in the late eighteenth century during the initial waves of the Secularisation.

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).