Physical description and Materiality
Parchment, a cutting, c.160×130mm, ruled in plummet and written in two columns of which 19 lines of one column are preserved, chapter and verse initials alternately red or blue, the start of the book with an 8-line inhabited initial in gold and colours, formerly pasted-down and consequently with traces of paper glued to the reverse.
It is not known when the parent volume was cut up, and apart from the next item no other cuttings have yet been recognised. The text would have been outdated by the mid-13th century, by which time the ‘Paris’ edition of the Bible was standard, so it may have been dismembered in the Middle Ages to re-use the parchment, but it does not have any of the telltale signs of having been used as binders’ waste, so it is more likely that the volume simply lay unused on a shelf or in a cupboard until the 19th century, and was then deliberately cut up to preserve the illuminated initials such as this. The person who wielded the knife was careful to preserve the entire capitula list, an approximately equal amount of text below the initial, and margins to both sides of the text.
A fine, regular, highly legible Gothic bookhand; the chapter list in a smaller version of the same script. Most minims end with a sharp upstroke, round ‘s’ only occurs at the end of words (and once as the first letter, in the rubric), both upright and sloping ‘d’ are used, the ampersand is used but not tironian ‘et’, capitals stroked in red, and small red tick marks are placed above some syllables to aid reading aloud, as well as some clarification of word-division e.g. between “Si testimonium” on the recto.
recto: “uenit per aquam … sciatis quoniam uita”
i.e. I John 5:6–13
verso: “i De diligendis cultoribus ueritatis. … Expliciunt capitula. Incipit Epistola secunda. Senior dilecte domine … sicut mandatum”
i.e. a list of chapters, numbered i–v (Donatien de Bruyne, Sommaires, divisions, et rubriques de la bible latine (Namur, 1914), p. 389, siglum A), and II John 1:1–4.
The two compartments of the initial are inhabited by semi-naturalistic creatures, one perhaps like a tailless wolf or bear, painted orange-red, except for the rear right and the forward left legs, which are beige, the other similar but wholly beige and with a crest prolonged into a vegetal terminal. Cf. the description of the next item.
The biblical book of II John is extremely short – only 13 verses – so we have about a quarter of the entire book on the verso of this cutting. In the 13th century the entire book was treated as a single chapter, but here we have a capitula list dividing it into five sections: there is a blue initial “G” and a marginal number “ii” in red marking the beginning of the second chapter. On the recto, the modern I John 5:9 is treated as the beginning of a chapter, with a red initial “S” and a marginal number “cviii”; similarly, on the bottom line I John 5:13 is given an initial “H” in blue.
The Bible in the 12th century was full of textual variants, and the opening words here provide a nice illustration of the reason why scholars produced a new edition of the Bible in the early 13th century: the incipit here is the extremely rare reading “Senior dilecte domine”: the normal text reads “Senior electe domine”.
A later reader has not only dotted some of the “i”s to make the text more legible, but has also marked pauses at “et nego …” and “sit uobiscum …” with small gibbet-like symbols, showing that the volume continued to be used for reading aloud. The ‘i’s are only dotted in the main text, however, and not in the capitula list, since the latter would not be read aloud.