April 14, 2017

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

As the first printed and illustrated account of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the account by Bernhard von Breydenbach (1440–97), a canon of Mainz, of his travels occupies a special position in the history of printing. In particular, the book is renowned for the high-quality, large-format woodcuts by Erhard Reuwich illustrating, among other things, the topography of Palestine, the ethnic and religious groups living in the Holy Land, and the different alphabets used by these peoples. Reuwich’s reproduction of these alphabets is regarded as a milestone in the history of the printing of oriental languages, as it marks the point of transition from handwritten to printed alphabets. For the first time, albeit not with movable type, the Arabic, Chaldean, Coptic, Ethiopian and in later editions the Armenian alphabets were reproduced in print; Hebrew and Greek letters already had been printed in earlier works. The models for the oriental letters and their Latin circumscriptions probably were provided by Paul Walther of Guglingen (born circa 1422), a Franciscan friar who joined Breydenbach and his tour in Jerusalem in the summer of 1483, having previously spent a year there studying the languages of the Holy Land. Walther’s own travel narrative, preserved today in the Studienseminar at Neuburg on the Danube, bears testimony to his knowledge of oriental alphabets. In addition to being used for the printed edition of Breydenbach’s text, Walther’s work was the source of a Latin–Arabic dictionary with colloquial features of the Syrian-Palestinian speech that was included in Breydenbach’s book (folio 134 recto–135 verso). Despite its achievements in reproducing oriental alphabets, Breydenbach’s book had no real influence on printing in the Arab world, which began around 25 to 30 years later. The woodcut above the Arabic alphabet (folio 75 recto) depicts a group of Muslims, or Saracens as they were referred to at the time, wearing various types of clothing, probably modelled on Venetian illustrations.

Book of Hours

This Book of Hours was created in northeastern France in the early 14th century, possibly for the marriage of Louis I of Châtillon (died 1346) and Jeanne of Hainaut, as the Châtillon de Blois arms are depicted on folios 19 recto and 81 verso, and the arms of Hainaut also appear in the borders, including in conjunction with the Châtillon arms on folio 19 recto. The manuscript is exceptional for the abundance of drolleries and lively hybrids that inhabit nearly every page. Stylistically these images have been linked to a workshop in the Artois region, possibly based in Arras, in northeast France. Although the manuscript is incomplete, lacking its calendar and likely some images, its surviving illumination provides an excellent example of the playfulness of art during this period. The first folio with miniatures and last two folios were added early in the work’s existence. It is written in textura formata (a formal Gothic script found in elaborate manuscripts of the period), with the text in black ink and rubrics in red. Three artists’ hands are distinguishable. The highest-quality images are by the first artist on folios 51 recto and 81 verso; the secondary artist is responsible for historiated initials in the Hours of the Virgin; and a third and less-skilled artist is responsible for the remaining miniatures. The main decorative elements are: eight miniatures (two full-page, added early) and five extant historiated initials set within heavy gold architectural frames (to a depth of 10‒13 lines); decorated illuminated initials at secondary text divisions (two lines); borders around text and line fillers found intermittently throughout, with line fillers containing hybrids, dragons, fish, animals, and foliage.

Gratian’s “Decretum”

This deluxe version of Gratian’s Decretum was created circa 1280‒90, most likely in Hainaut (in present-day Belgium). The lively decoration of the manuscript indicates a marked taste for narrative, and there are 37 historiated initials. The gloss work was completed by Bartholomew of Brescia. At first examination, Paris would seem to be the most likely place of origin, given that it was the leading center for the study of canon law. However, this particular manuscript exhibits scribal features that suggest its place of origin as being the Cistercian abbey of Cambron in Hainaut. Furthermore, Abbot Baudouin de Bousso, whose tenure at the abbey was from 1283 to 1293, was schooled in theology at the University of Paris, and he would eventually endorse the production of many fine manuscripts while at Cambron. In fact, the catalyst for this endeavor seems to have been the Beaupré Antiphonary (W.759‒761), also in the collections of the Walters Art Museum, which was created at Cambron during the 1280s. Stylistic features of this edition of Gratian’s Decretum (W.133) seem to have connections with the Beaupré Antiphonary. For example, Cistercian monks are shown in three extant illuminations throughout three of the antiphonary volumes; these monks are pictured in brown habits similar to the type worn by clerics in the Decretum. The reliance upon Cistercian precedents for textual and design features associates the work with the Cistercian abbey at Cambron. However, more remains to be confirmed by further inspection of the output of the scriptorium at Cambron. Little is known about Gratian, an Italian Benedictine active in the 12th century, who made the first systematic compilation of canon law, which we know as the Decretum. The main decorative elements in this version are 37 historiated initials, including two inhabited initials, which are on folios 11 recto and 130 recto; flourished initials for secondary text divisions in red and blue ink; smaller initials for tertiary text divisions in blue and red ink; marginal drolleries throughout; rubrics in red; and text in dark-brown ink.

The Pilgrimage of Human Life

The allegorical text of Le pèlerinage de la vie humaine (The pilgrimage of human life) written in vernacular verse was inspired by the 13th-century French poem Roman de la Rose by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun. Composed circa 1330‒32 by Guillaume de Digulleville, with a second recension in 1355, this text represents the earlier of the two versions. Produced in northeast France in 1370, this copy from the Walters Art Museum (W.141) contains a frontispiece miniature with a portrait of the author, as well as 83 tinted grisaille illustrations. These images are based on models consistent with contemporary thematic choices and contain abundant anecdotal detail, lending character to the text. The Institute for Textual Research and History, at the National Center for Scientific Research in France has been gathering all reproductions of Digulleville’s manuscripts. The version shown here is one of the few copies outside of France. The text consists of a prologue and four books. It is written in brown ink, with rubrics in red, in littera cursiva formata script, and in two columns to the page, often with borders between them. There are painted capitals at text divisions and an illuminated capital on the frontispiece. The names of speakers are generally centered, sometimes above the illustrations. There is no original punctuation. The illustrations are of average quality, especially toward the end, and are contained in yellow frames with vine leaves. Instructions to artists appear as text next to images (for example, on folio 8 recto), as letters inside images, and as phrases in the lower-left margins (for example on folio 45 recto).

Book of Hours of Daniel Rym

This richly illuminated Book of Hours was created circa 1420‒30 for Elizabeth van Munte and her husband Daniel Rym. The couple is represented throughout the manuscript in a number of ways. Rym’s heraldic shield is held by an angel on folio 42 recto, while van Munte’s heraldry is held by a dragon on folio 18 recto. Both are also depicted in donor portraits, with van Munte kneeling on folio 62 recto and Daniel Rym kneeling before his namesake, Saint Daniel, on folio 168 verso. Made for personal use, this exquisite Book of Hours begins each hour with a full-page miniature. Gold is widely used in the illumination, and drolleries throughout the book depict playful figures and hybrids engaging in a variety of activities, such as reading texts, kneeling in devotion, playing with or climbing the foliate fillet of the initials, or emerging from large flowers. Especially touching is a sweet couple embracing on the folio facing the Deposition and the Veronica (folio 118 recto). This devotional work is by the Master of Guillebert de Mets, an illuminator working in the Parisian style in Flanders in about 1410‒45, whose moniker derives from illuminations by him in a manuscript signed by a scribe called Guillebert de Mets. The layout of his pages closely links the text, miniatures, and border decorations in a distinctive way. The text is written in black and brown ink in a textura script, with rubrics in red. Instructions to the rubricator are often in the side margins. Gold initials mark text divisions. The book has 13 extant full-page miniatures at the beginnings of each hour.

The Mirror of the World

This manuscript, which is dated in a colophon to 1489, is one of the three known 15th-century copies of a rare vernacular cosmography originally composed in verse under the title Image du Monde (The mirror of the world) in the dialect of Lorraine circa 1245‒46. The manuscript provides descriptions of the seven liberal arts, along with astronomical theories, especially about the earth, the creatures that inhabit it, and its movements within the universe. Each one of the liberal arts is illustrated with a small miniature in grisaille, and extraordinary geometric astronomical diagrams recur throughout the book. The importance of this work (Walters Art Museum W.199) is both textual and pictorial. Illuminated by followers of Willem (also called Guillaume) Vrelant, who was active in Bruges in 1454‒81, the manuscript reveals an affinity of format and content with a 1464 copy of the Image du Monde made in Bruges (London, British Library, Royal 19 A.IX). The text of the work, by Gossouin (or Gauthier) of Metz, originally was commissioned by John, duke of Berry and Auvergne, and appears here in a Gothic littera batarda script. The epilogue refers to “Iehan clerc librarien” in Bruges, who is credited with organizing this edition. The manuscript also includes prayers for physical and spiritual benefits for the readers or auditors. The rubrics are in red and the text is in dark-brown ink with major divisions marked by red or blue initial capitals. The work has one full-page illumination, 11 smaller figural miniatures in grisaille, and 27 polychrome scientific diagrams.