Dala’il al-Khayrat, illuminated manuscript in Arabic on polished paper

Ottoman Turkey, first half of nineteenth century


Sm. 8vo, 175 by 120mm., 97 leaves plus two later flyleaves at each end, complete, text-block in single column throughout, 11 lines scribal black naskh per page, illuminated head-piece opening the text with gilt and polychrome decorations, opening two leaves with gilt borders and interlinear colouring of pounced gilt decorations, polychrome headings opening sections of the text throughout, two full-page coloured illustrations of Mecca and Medina, verses marked throughout by gilt roundels, leaves ruled in gilt, red and blue, some very small smudges, one blank upper outer corner repaired, erroneous inscription dating the manuscript to 1050 AH at the end of the text, twentieth-century bookplate of “Pamela and Raymond Lister” to upper pastedown. In fine red morocco boards with flap, covers decorated with three-piece central medallion of inlaid green leather, embossed with spiralling gilt decorations, covers ruled and tooled in gilt, spine and crease of flap repaired, lightly rubbed in places, housed in custom red cloth drop-box.

A popular collection of Sunni prayers and blessings dedicated to the Prophet Muhammad for the purposes of daily recitation. The text was compiled by the Moroccan Sufi leader al-Jazuli in the fifteenth century and is commonly considered the earliest collection of liturgies in Islamic history dedicated entirely to the Prophet. Manuscript copies of the text often feature the double-page illustrations of Mecca and Medina which sometimes depict the tombs of Prophet Muhammad and the Caliphs. The inclusion of illustrations is unusual for Islamic manuscripts as the Muslim tradition generally condemns iconography, and the illustrations in this text are a break from that common principle. The 99 names of Allah and 100 names of the Prophet are also common additions, the latter present in this copy. Since al-Jazuli’s death in 1465, this prayerbook has become one of the most popular collection of daily prayers among Sunni muslim communities worldwide, and particularly throughout North Africa, the Levant, Turkey, and some areas of South Asia. 

This copy of the Dala’il al-Khayrat is a fine example of Ottoman manuscript production, skillfully illuminated and copied by the copyist named in the colophon. Hafiz Ahmed Aziz bin al-Zahidi was likely a court calligrapher, specialising in Qur’anic texts, whose neat and scribal naskh calligraphy are exemplified to a high standard in this manuscript. This particular copy was likely commissioned by a noble patron and produced in a skilled Ottoman workshop, for private use by the consignor. 

Manuscript from the collection of the late Pamela and Raymond Lister. Dr Raymond Lister founded the Golden Head Press and was notably the governor of the Federation of the British Artists during his lifetime.


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copied by scribe Ali bin Shahab al-Din, decorated manuscript in Arabic on polished paper

Safavid Persia, dated Jumada II 973 AH (December 1565 – January 1566 AD)


185 by 120mm., 216 leaves, complete, text in single column throughout, 14 lines of black naskh, headings and key word in red, catch-words throughout, marginal annotations throughout copied in both contemporary and later hands, early twentieth-century Persian export stamps to preliminary and penultimate leaves, large paper label to upper pastedown, in contemporary blind-stamped morocco, perhaps missing a flap, spine and outer extremities repaired in later morocco, paper label to spine, wear to covers.

One of the founding pillars of Islamic Fiqh – Islamic jurispudence based on divine law – is the ritual of purity and cleanliness. The faith determines that if impurities exist on the human body, the negative impacts of this on their health and mental state will pollute the soul. Therefore one of the methods of purification for the soul lies in the hygiene and cleanliness of the human body. This work outlines the methods by which muslims can practice ritual purity in their daily lives as outlines by the Shi’a understanding of Islamic jurisprudence. This Kitab al-Taharah (literally meaning the book of purification) is divided into multiple sections covering a wide range of topics including: ablution, tayammum (the Islamic ritual of dry purification using purified sand or dust), death washing rituals, and performing wudu (cleaning parts of the body in preparation for prayer).

The wide margins and informal annotations throughout this volume indicate that it was probably copied for practice in an Islamic school, likely connected to a mosque, during the reign of Shah Tahmasp I of the Safavid dynasty. The hand is not consistent with the formal scribal practices at the time, but has clearly been copied by a trained hand suggesting that the scribe here, Ali bin Shahab al-Din, was likely either a scholar himself or an educated student copying the text for personal use.

This volume was formerly part of the both the Hagop Kevorkian and Mohamed Makiya private libraries, these important twentieth-century collections of Islamic books and manuscripts.


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Sharh al-Mulakhas fi’Ilm al-Hay’a (a commentary on the Compendium of Cosmology), decorated manuscript in Arabic on polished paper

Region of Samarkand, likely last decades of fifteenth century


12mo, 170 by 95mm., 86 leaves (including 4 contemporary flyleaves), complete, text in single column throughout, 19 lines delicate black nasta’liq, some overlining and headings in red, numerous diagrams throughout the text also in red, contemporary annotations to margins, catch-words throughout, some very faint water-staining to extremities, a few early ownership annotations and stamps to preliminary and penultimate leaves, including some quatrains of Persian poetry, early eighteenth-century russet morocco with flap, centrally placed medallions stamped in blind to covers and flap, also ruled in blind, some staining and light wear to extremities.

Musa bin Muhammad Qazi Zadeh al-Rumi (d.1436), known simply as Qazi Zaheh, was an Ottoman astronomer and mathematician based in Samarkand. Qazi Zadeh was a celebrated scholar in his field and is best known for the Zij’i Sultani, his collaborative work with fellow astronomer and Govenor of Samarkand Ulugh Beg (d. 1449). Their treatise is considered the first truly comprehensive stellar catalogue containing over 900 stars and is still considered an important treatise in the field of cosmology today. During his career Qazi Zadeh also became the directory of the Samarkan educational observatory, built under the direction and patronage of Ulugh Beg, which became the centre for astronomical research and education in the region.

The present text is a commentary on Mahmoud ibn Muhammad ibn Umar al-Jaghmini’s influential astronomical text entitled Al-Mulakhas fi’Ilm al-Haya (Compendium of Cosmology) which was likely compiled in the early 13th century. Qazi Zadeh’s treatise both acts as a summary and commentary of Jaghmini’s text, dealing with the configuration of the celestial and territorial worlds combined (including the arrangement of Ptolemaic celestial orbs). These treatises are compiled in a simplified format to accommodate a wider scholarly community and thus explain cosmographic theories in basic elementary terms and target broad audiences. The approachable nature of this text meant it became particularly widespread, often copied alongside Jaghmini’s text, and was even used as a curriculum for schools in Ottoman regions. 

This particular manuscript was probably copied for personal use by a scholarly student. Though there are wide margins throughout (for annotation) the text itself is miniscule and copied in a very tight format, an economic solution for self funding copyist. The contemporary marginalia and ownership seals are in keeping with the Eastern regions of Timurid Persia, not far from Samarkand, and probably copied only a few decades after the author’s death. 


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Illuminated manuscript in Arabic on paper

Mamluk territories, probably Egypt, mid-fourteenth century


4to, 237 x 170mm., 53 leaves, the complete Juz’ Qala ‘alam (XVI), containing text from surah al-Kahf (18) verse 57 to surah Ta Ha (20) verse 135. Text in single column throughout, 7 lines fine scribal muhaqqaq script in black, some vocalisation in red, opening two pages with text-blocks framed within gold borders, each containing rectangular panels at the top with headings in white muhaqqaq against blue, green and orange arabesque designs, three circular medallions extending into the margins on each side, recto of first leaf with large circular device, heightened in gold with decorative rays extending outwards, two illuminated surah headings in the text, each with heading in white thuluth text against gold polychrome banners with circular device extending into the outer margins, verses marked throughout with gold roundels, each of these decorated with red and blue. Very scattered faint spotting, some blank outer corners repaired and a few small worm-holes to lower margins (not affecting text), overall very clean and attractive example, in eighteenth-century dark brown morocco, with three-medallion design to covers displaying floral pattern (a little rubbed), remains of hand-painted gilt decorations to medallions, borders ruled in gilt, covers a little scuffed, rebacked, corners repaired.

The Qur’an is divisible into 30 equal sections, sometimes copied into independent volumes, to facilitate readers to complete the entire text in one calendar month. Each of these sections is called a Juz’, a popular division of the Qur’an in North African territories, and considered a complete section of the Qur’an in itself. The text here was likely part of a wider set, in which all the 30 Juz’ were copied in the same hand and illuminated in a consistent style with one another. 

This manuscript contains Juz’ XVI of the Qur’an, known as Qala ‘alam, which is formed of three separate chapters: surah al-Kahf (from verse 57), the entirety of surah al-Maryam and surah Ta Ha (up to verse 135). These three chapters of the Qur’an include passages relating to Mryam and Isa (the Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Christian faith), God’s call to Moses, the Exodus of the Isralites and the crossing of the Red Sea. 

This is an early example of a Mamluk Qur’anic Juz’ dating back to the first period of the Mamluk Sultanate, known as the Bahri era (1250 – 1382), and is a notably fine example of its kind. The lavish illumination and quality of calligraphy exemplified in this manuscript indicate that it was copied for a member of the Mamluk courts, whose patronage of Islamic manuscripts was well established by this period. The border designs of the opening two leaves together with the style of script are distinctive in their styles and highly comparable to manuscripts produced in Egypt during the final decades of the fourteenth century. The script is spaciously laid out using only 7 lines to the page, which further indicates courtly or royal patronage, and the fine scribal muhaqqaq script is consistent and symmetrical throughout. 


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Dominican Use, illuminated manuscript on vellum

[southern Germany, 1476]


Sm 4to, 160 by 120mm, 197 leaves (plus 3 paper at each end), complete. Collation: i-xvii10, xviii9 (viii a cancelled blank), xix10, xx8, single column of 18 lines in a professional late gothic German bookhand, extensive music in square notation on 4-line red staves, a few capitals touched in red. Simple red or dark blue initials throughout, larger initials often with human faces skilfully picked out in penwork, one very large ornately decorated initial in blue heightened with white penwork on burnished gold grounds opening the first Psalm, borders of delicately scrolling coloured foliage terminating in pointed flowerheads. The remaining Psalms with similar sized initials in red or blue with contrasting geometric penwork, some with drollery animals (often with dog-like faces) left in blank parchment within their bodies, or in blue or pink on burnished gold with pink tessellated squares or coloured foliage within their bodies and acanthus leaf sprays in margin. Occasionally annotated by a sixteenth-century hand giving German names for festivals and holidays, markers at numerous leaf edges in form of simple folded tags to allow easy finding of certain readings, occasional flaking, in robust and good condition, on good and heavy vellum. In sixteenth-century German binding of ornately tooled calf over wooden boards, probably by Thomas Drechsler of Frankfurt, scuffed and bumps in places, a few small holes to boards and losses to spine, wanting one brass clasp, in folding box.


  1. 1.Most probably written for use by a Dominican from southern Germany, with SS. Dominic and Catherine of Siena repeated in the Litany, and Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor and his wife Cunigunde pointing towards Bamberg, Sebald towards Nuremburg and Elizabeth of Hungary or of Thuringia towards Marburg. The volume is dated boldly in red medieval Arabic numerals “1476” at foot of text on last leaf.
  2. 2. As with many portable-sized Dominican books the volume seems to have travelled with an itinerant preacher, and by the mid-sixteenth century was in Frankfurt, where it was rebound with toolmarks of repeating rolls of saints above cartouches holding the text “Tu es Petrus et” (Matthew 16:18), “Apparuit benignitas” (Titus, 3:4), “Ecce Agnus Dei” (John 1:29) and “Data est mihi o[mnis]” (Matthew 28:18) identical to those on an Avicenna owned by Adam Lonicer bound by the Frankfurt master-binder Thomas Drechsler in or after 1560 (now Sibbald Library, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh; see also article on this binding in Journal of the Royal College of Physicians, 41, 2011, pp. 278-80) and a Regimen sanitatis Salernitanum published in Frankfurt by the heirs of Christian Egenhoff in 1582 (Princeton, RA775 .xR4 1582). It was likely in the possession of a Dominican of that city, and part of the library of the Dominikanerkloster there. That house was founded in 1233, and by the fourteenth century was the largest ecclesiastical presence in the city, serving as the site for royal coronations in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It was significantly expanded in the fifteenth century with the construction of an enclosed cloister. It was suppressed in 1803, and its goods and library dispersed by the city authorities over the next decade or so. The remaining medieval structures were destroyed by bombing in 1944.
  3. 3.The present volume seems to have remained in ecclesiastical use until at least the eighteenth century (when a small slip with a liturgical reading in a hand of that date was inserted, and with contemporary ex libris marks of “101” and “H” added to its front endleaves). It was in English-speaking private hands by the early twentienth century (it includes a typed description in English on a slipped in card of that date).

Text and decoration:

The volume comprises: Prayers, including the Our Father, Hail Mary and Credo, and doxologies and invitatories (fols. 1r-4r); a Psalter (fols. 4r-167v), with noted responses, verses and antiphons, ff. 4-167v; the Ferial canticles (including Benedicite, Te Deum and Benedictus) and a Litany (fols. 167v-186r); a set of 9 oration prayers (fols. 186r-187r); and hymns and antiphons (fols. 184v-197r).

The wealth and variety of decoration here, as well as the charming motif of leaving grotesque drolleries suspended in blank vellum within the bodies of the initials are Germanic monastic features of the fourteenth and fifteenth century, seen also in a dispersed Austrian antiphoner once in the collection of Jakob Heinrich von Hefner-Alteneck (1811-1903; see Semenzato auction, 25 April 2003, lot 197, and more recently Bloomsbury Auctions, 2 July 2019, lot 57) and another Dominican Psalter probably from Nuremberg (sold in Bloomsbury Auctions, 8 July 2015, lot 87, £28,000 hammer).

A handsome and particularly charmingly decorated monastic choir book of the later Middle Ages.


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Musical bifolium from an early noted Missal, decorated manuscript on vellum

[Italy, or perhaps southern France, early 13th-century]


Folio, each leaf 380 by 268 mm, recovered from reuse in a later binding, with most of single column of 9 remaining lines of text in a good angular liturgical hand, with pronounced fishtailing to ascenders and descenders, many extending these with hairline penstrokes for ornate visual effect, with accompanying music in neumes arranged around a red clef line, red rubrics, capitals in ornate penstrokes and touched in red, one large blue initial enclosed within red penwork, reused folded around boards of later binding, with staining and scuffs on outside, one large tear to edge of one leaf, overall fair and legible.

Containing readings for Palm Sunday, a prayer for the preservation of the Pope and a hymn, all to be chanted, with full musical notation for doing so.


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Book of Hours, Use of Autun, in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum

France (probably Besançon), c. 1430


8vo, 165 by 105mm,152 leaves (plus original singleton at front, and original endleaf formed from final leaf of last gathering), wanting a leaf from end of Compline, the Office of the Dead, and the opening leaf of the Hours of the Cross. Catchwords, collation: i-iii6, iv-x8, xi7 (wants last), xii-xviii8, xix3 (wants at least one), xx8, xxi2, single column of 13 lines per page in late gothic bookhand, rubrics in red, line fillers in red and blue designs, capitals touched in pale yellow wash, small initials in red or dark blue (some with contrasting penwork), larger initials in same colours with elaborate scrolling penwork, initials opening major text breaks in blue or faded pink with white penwork, on burnished gold grounds and enclosing coloured twists of foliage. SEVEN THREE-QUARTER PAGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES edged with thin gold frames, with full borders of single-line foliage with gold and coloured foliage and flowerbuds enclosing sprays of coloured acanthus leaves, some spaces left for miniatures in suffrages, a few near-contemporary additions in Latin and French. Small spots and marks, a little flaking from a few miniatures or decorated borders, on fine vellum with wide and clean margins. In contemporary panel-stamped dark brown leather with flower-heads and fleur-de-lys set within frames of chevrons and foliage, some small scuffs, bumps and a few wormholes, loss at head of spine, eighteenth-century paper label “heures” on spine, leaves from later fifteenth-century Book of Hours reused as pastedowns, overall solid and in good condition.


  1. Most probably written and illuminated in Besançon for a male patron: the liturgical usage is either Autun or Besançon, while the Calendar is firmly the latter, with the local saint, Pierre de Bellevaux (also known as St. Peter of Tarentaise, 8 May), founder of the Cistercian abbey of Bellevaux where his relics were kept throughout the Middle Ages, as well as saint-bishops of Besançon: Claudius (early sixth century; 5 June) and Antidus the martyr (d. c. 407; 17 June). That said, St. Symphorianus, patron of Autun, appears in the Litany and so there may be some liturgical crossover between these two regions in the commission of this volume for an individual patron. The prayer, Obsecro te, appears on fol. 94 in the male form.
  2. C16 ms inscription on fly “Orants. Oudot La Verne”. La Verne is a village about 30 km from Besançon. “Oudot” was a popular medieval Christian name in the region and later also a surname. Oudot La Verne, a merchant tanner, married in 1582 and a little later Alexandre Oudot was curé of Verne.
  3. Almost certainly lost or disposed of following the suppression of religious life during the Revolution.
  4. Re-emerged recently in France


Principally Latin with some French. The volume comprises: a Calendar (fol. 1r); Readings from the Gospels (fol. 14r); the Hours of the Virgin, with Matins (fol. 20r), Lauds (fol. 34r), Prime (fol. 48r), Terce (fol. 55r), Sext (fol. 60r), Nones (fol. 64r), Vespers (fol. 68r), and Compline (fol. 76r); Hours of the Cross (fol. 83r); Hours of the Holy Spirit (fol. 87v); the Obsecro te and O intemerata (fol. 91v), followed by the Sept joies de la Vierge, Dulcissime domine and the Sept joies again in Latin; Penitential Psalms (fol. 103v) followed by a Litany; the Office of the Dead (fol. 127v); and Suffrages to the Saints (fol. 144r).


The miniatures here with their distinctively stout bodied figures and split eyes identify this as the work of a Besançon artist working in the second quarter of the fifteenth century (cf. F. Avril and Reynaux, Les manuscrits à peintures en France, 1440-1520, 1993, no. 109). Our artist has been attributed to the painter of another Book of Hours, Use of Autun, now BnF., NAL. 3118, a follower of the artist of BnF., lat. 1186 (Book of Hours, Use of Langres) and New York, Morgan Library, M. 293 (Book of Hours, Use of Besançon).

The miniatures are: (i) fol. 20r, the Annunciation to the Virgin within a richly decorated interior with a burnished gold background; (ii) fol. 87v, Pentecost, with a gold and coloured tessellated background; (iii) fol. 103v, Judgement Day with Christ seated on a rainbow resting his feet on an orb, all before a dark blue night sky; (iv) fol. 127v, a funeral with hooded and tonsured monks standing before a covered coffin, all before a gold and coloured tessellated background; (v) fol. 144r, Archangel Michael striking a demon, before a gold and coloured tessellated background; (vi) fol. 146r, St. Anne and the Virgin Mary at the Golden Gate; (vii), fol. 151v, St. Nicholas.

An attractive and unusually early bourgeois Book of Hours, remarkably preserving its original decorative binding.


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[Cambio de Víñas en Morales.]

Manuscript on paper, Zamora (Spain), 1455.


4to. 8 unnumbered ll., second blank. First fol. in C17 cursive, 21 lines per full page, fols 3-7 in C15 escritura cortesana, c.28 lines per full page, pen flourishings in brown at margins and end, with notarial signatures. First three ll. slightly foxed, small tear at outer edge along nearly invisible centre fold, within a small marginal water stain, stitched. C17 ‘1455’, ‘Hueco y Cambeo mai Pos[nes]’ and ‘Hueco de unas viñas’, and C15 docket to verso of last blank.

Remarkably well-preserved, ephemeral deed granting the use of a vineyard in Morales, near Zamora. This area, with the province of Salamanca, in north-western Spain, was part of the Tierra del Vino—later a controlled designation of origin. The document includes a ‘carta de troque, cambio y permutación’ (for exchange and permutation) and a ‘carta de juramento’ (oath), both in the name of Bachiller Alvar Rodrigues of Sant Ysidro, son of Dr Juan Rodrigues of Sant Ysidro, resident in Zamora—a member of the Council of King Ferdinand and magistrate at the Real Chancillería in Valladolid (Dominguez, ‘Nobleza’, 485). A ‘carta de troque’ stated the reciprocal transfer of items of the same kind between two parties—here between Rodrigues, and Alfonso Estevan and his wife Cathalina Fernandes of nearby Morales—in this case, also a ‘permutación’, without the need for money exchange (‘Discursos juridicos’, 45-8). Rodrigues gave a vineyard he owned within the boundaries of Morales and Almantaya, between the vineyards of Juan de Morales and Juan Estevan, in exchange for two, the borders of which were the vineyards of the Bachiller himself, that formerly of Diego de Zamora, and another. The rest explains, for both sides, the conditions of the exchange, including specified fines for non-compliance equalling the value of the vineyards, the degree of ownership and their responsibility concerning the management of the vineyard, e.g., tax payment to the king, prince and lords. The ‘carta de juramento’ reinforced the first document with an official oath.

E. Fernández Prieto Dominguez, Nobleza de Zamora (1953); J.M. Dominguez Vicente, Discursos juridicos (Madrid, 1731).


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Illuminated manuscript on vellum

[England, (most probably London), soon after 1309]


8vo, 160 x 110mm, 167 leaves, 167 leaves, wanting single leaf from main text and a leaf or so at end, else complete. Drypoint medieval leaf and quire signatures as well as old foliation in ink in lower margin, single column of 29 lines in an English secretarial hand (anglicana), running titles and marginal titles with red and blue paragraph marks, each chapter opening with an illuminated initial on bicoloured red and pink grounds. Waterstain to lower margin of first 3 leaves, cockling throughout, edges slightly dampstained, a little smudging and offsetting, occasional rubbing and spotting, good and legible. In English early seventeenth-century calf, ruled in blind and with a central gilt-stamped lozenge on upper and lower covers, leather label “Manuscript” on spine, remains of green silk ties, some wear to binding, spine skilfully restored.

A fine and early legal manuscript containing one of the fundamental texts of English law; from an important legal library.


  1. Most probably written either by a scribe of the Inns of Court or a chancery clerk in London, for a medieval lawyer whose mark or initial may be the large calligraphic capital ‘B’ on the front flyleaf. The opening writ of the present manuscript was attested at Westminster on the 12th of December in the third year of the reign of Edward II, that is 1309, and the manuscript was most likely written within a very few years of that date. Its selection of texts frequently cites London and Westminster, and was likely produced for use by a resident of that city.
  2. Red oval armorial ink stamp (bendy sinister of nine with central device) surmounted by coronet, on front endleaf.
  3. Alfred J. Horwood (1821-1881), of the Middle Temple, barrister and important historian of English law, pioneering editor of the year books of Edward I and Edward III (the records of the medieval English courts arranged by monarch and regnal year, the latter falling into the date range of the production of the present manuscript) for the illustrious Rolls Series, and a prominent early collector of English legal manuscripts. His manuscript of the Opinio Angeri de Rypone, edited in Rolls Series, 31, 1866 is now Harvard Law School, MS. 36; other legal manuscripts of his now in British Library, Addit. MSS. 32085-32090, and listed in P.A. Brand, Early English Law Reports, 1996, I, xxii, n. 15; and further non-legal manuscripts in the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Horwood’s signature on first endleaf, above “Temple” and several lines of partly erased notes by him. His library dispersed by Sotheby’s, 8 June, 1883, at which point this volume entered the booktrade; with bookseller’s catalogue of that date pasted inside upper cover (5 guineas), and later pencil inscription of price “£6-18-0”.


Registers of Writs were produced as formulary books, providing a range of writs issued by the Chancery to serve as precedents in the pursuit of any action for the protection of rights, property or liberties (see F.W. Maitland in Harvard Law Review, 3, 1889, pp. 97-115, and E. De Haas and G.D.G. Hall, Early Registers of Writs, 1970). They were an absolutely essential part in initiating medieval and indeed much later litigation. It was also essential to any set of proceedings that the writ was correctly drafted, or the legal action would almost certainly fail. Accordingly, sound precedent books were the fundamental tools of English medieval practise, described as early as the seventeenth century as “the ancientist book of the law” by Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634), Attorney General to Queen Elizabeth I and Chief Justice to King James I, and their direct successors, at least until recently, were still in daily use. Modern scholarship also recognises their importance to the execution of the law, with T.F.T. Plunkett stating that they were the “basis of the mediaeval common law, a guide to its leading principles, and a commentary upon their application” (Statutes and their Interpretation in the First Half of the Fourteenth Century, Cambridge 1922, p.111).

The volume here includes a list of 60 chapter headings, followed by the Register of Writs proper from De recto to De salvo conductu.


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Choirbook, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum

[Italy (probably Florence), thirteenth or early fourteenth century]


Folio. 320 x 240 mm. 40 leaves (plus a paper endleaf at front and back), wanting single leaves throughout and at end, collation: i9 (wants ix), ii7 (wants xii, xiv-xv), iii-iv10, v4 (last two leaves cut away), single column of 6 lines of text with music on a 4-line red stave (rastrum: 21 mm.), paragraph marks in blue, red rubrics, reading numbers and original folio numbers in roman numerals in blue and red in margins, initials in red or blue with ornate scrolling penwork, the largest of these in variegated red and blue and containing sections of densely packed red and blue penwork, single large initial ‘R’ in blue, red, green and pink acanthus leaves bound together by coloured and burnished gold bands, all on burnished gold grounds, acanthus leaf fronds extending into two margins enclosing gold fruit and a roundel with a personal device (apparently one of the nails from Christ’s Cross in red and silver on black grounds), some small seventeenth- or eighteenth-century marginal additions, cracking to paint of initial in places and small losses, edges of leaves slightly scuffed and thumbed with some small losses to ink in places, lower corners repaired in places, damage worse to cockled leaves at back, tooled with floral rollstamps over early perhaps original sixteenth century leather wooden boards, four brass bosses on each board, tears to surface of leather and tears and repairs to spine, front board slightly detached from book-block at head inside front board. 


This is a single volume from a series of choirbooks, containing the relevant parts of the office from the First Sunday in Advent to the Feast of St. Aegidius (1 September), followed by readings for the consecration of a church.


The probable origin of the illumination in Florence, as well as the apparent depiction of the Holy Nail in the roundel above the principal illuminated initial, suggests this choirbook was produced for use in the Duomo there. Since the Middle Ages, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, was one of three sites to claim ownership of one of the three nails of the Crucifixion (the others being Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, and the Cathedral of Saint Peter, Trier; but note that such claims must be taken with a pinch of salt, as records exist of some thirty institutions who claimed to own Holy Nails or substantial parts of them). Cosimo Minerbetti, archdeacon of the Duomo in the opening years of the seventeenth century described it in detail, alongside a thorn form the Crown of Thorns, the thumb of St. John the Baptist, the elbow of St. Andrew the Apostle and entire corpses of SS. Zanobius and Podius. There the relic was housed in a reliquary on an altar commissioned by the Medici family. Members of this paramount Renaissance family from Lorenzo di’ Medici (reigned 1449-92) onwards, as well as the numerous artists and intellectuals they patronised such as Botticelli and the puritanical preacher Savonarola, must have gazed upon the relic and perhaps this volume among others, during their procession around the cathedral during Masses.


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