52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings: Week 13

Fragment of a 14th century Gospel manuscript found in 16th century German binding

As I was searching through the stacks at our new storage facility I came across a beautifully tooled spine that I just had to pull off the shelf. The boards turned out to be as beautifully tooled and the book had been carefully restored. This copy of Johannes Brenz’s commentary on the Gospel of Luke (Frankfurt: Peter Braubach, 1545) is bound in contemporary calf on oak boards with blind tooled fillets around the edges and double panels of both boards, with heraldic and medallion blind rolls, and with the remains of two clasps. The blind roll tools are the same used on another item in our collection, another commentary by Johannes Brenz on Exodus (Frankfurt: Peter Braubach, 1550), which also features an engraved panel stamp of Temperance on the top board (signed “IB A”) and Patience on the back board.

The real treasure, however, was waiting for me when I opened TypGF.B45BB. Two fragments of a 14th century medieval manuscript had been used as fly-leaves for the original binding of this item. When the book was conserved and rebound, these fragments were sewn back into place and had remained hidden. Both fragments are from the same text, the last page of the Gospel of Luke and the first page of the Gospel of John; considering the subject of the commentary of the printed work that these fragments are found with, this was surely a conscious decision on the part of the binder. The fragment at the back of the book gives us a taste of the quality of the manuscript, the text being copied in a good 14th century hand with rubrication done in the same hand, and with a 6-line illuminated initial that marks the beginning of the Gospel of John. There is also evidence of border decoration done in the same style on the verso of this leaf, illuminated with the same vine-scroll decoration in blue and red (which has been worn extensively).

This book was from the collection of John Duncanson, Principal of St. Leonard’s College (d. 1566), and was probably purchased and bound at the same time as TypGF.B50BB.

DG

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