For Manuscript Monday, we profile two exquisite illuminated religious manuscripts recently added to our online catalog from our gallery Manhattan Rare Book Co. Today, illuminated manuscripts are highly valued as artistic links to our past but we owe them another great debt–if not for religious illuminated manuscripts most of Greek and Roman literature would have disappeared from history.As the manuscripts featured here, most surviving manuscripts are religious leafs from the Middle Ages. The earliest surviving manuscripts date to 400-600 AD, and the ornamentation of these manuscripts with gold leaf, elaborate borders, and miniature illustrations is what allowed them to be preserved in a time when most people were not literate. Most medieval manuscripts were written on parchment but only manuscripts important enough to illustrate were preserved on vellum, as these manuscripts are.
The second leaf of these richly colored leaves of Saint Christopher, which “presumably follow[s] the miniature in the same Book of Hours, contains the beginning of the Hymn to St. Christopher in Latin.” It is Saint Christopher‘s most famous legend that is illustrated here: carrying a child across the river before the child revealed himself as Christ. Hence, Christopher is the patron saint of travelers.
This wonderfully detailed large 15th century vellum leaf with miniature depicting the adoration of Mary is remarkable “for both the large number of figures presented, as well as the extensive contemporary annotations.” In the background of the central image are 11 saints and angels forming a triptych, and in the foreground are two donor figures kneeling before the Madonna and child. Unusually, the central scene is surrounded by 13 medallions with images of saints, most of whom are named on the bands they hold. To shop or learn more about these works, click the images or reach out to Manhattan Rare Book Co. here.