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Boniface VIII. Decretals.

Bologna. Late 14th century.

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This fine manuscript is an example of the great work on canon law by Boniface VIII (Benedetto Gaetano, Pope, 1294-1303). Boniface added a large number of laws to the existing ecclesiastical legislation; these came to be known as the Liber Sextus, or "six books" since the Decretals of Gregory IX, promulgated around 1239 A.D. consisted of five books. It is one of the most common of all surviving ecclesiastical law books, and many examples were produced in Bolognese workshops throughout the 14th century.

Decoration of both the miniature, which depicts the Pope handing down a copy of his laws in the form of a scroll to a kneeling figure on the left with a notary writing below him together with a another kneeling figure on the right, and of the historiated initials, is in the style of Niccolo of Bologna, although not by the master himself. Other decoration includes one and two line initials in blue or red, and two to four line decorated initials in pink on square gold grounds.

Leonardo Bruni. History of the Florentine people.

Bologna. Late 14th century

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A notable manuscript in the humanist style. The decoration is minimal, consisting of twelve burnished gold initials, enclosed in white vine decoration, and six lines high, which introduce the various books of the history. . A decorated border and one historiated initial introduce the preface. This depicts the author, Leonardo Bruni, crowned with a laurel wreath and holding an open book. This decoration is characteristic of the school of Antonio del Cherico, an illuminator and artist who was active in Florence between 1452 to 1484.

The explicit, or colophon at the end of the work supplies the researcher with a great deal information. It gives the date the manuscript was completed, 1465, and it also gives the name of the scribe, Amerigo Corsini. Corsini, and his older brother Philip, were active in Florentine humanist circles in the second half of the 15th century. If the date on the manuscript is taken as correct, Corsini would have completed the work when he was 13 years old. This would not be exceptional, since Florentine scribes often learned their trade at an early age.

Leonardo Bruni. History of the Florentine people.

Bologna. Late 14th century.

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Decorated initial detail.

Bible. Old Testament. Hebrew.

Italy. Circa 1172.

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This is a beautifully written manuscript on the highest quality vellum, with gold chapter headings and some later, added, illuminations. Originally dated to 1272, recent study has shown it to be about a century earlier, making it possibly the oldest known manuscript of Italian origin in Hebrew.

Because of the Jewish prohibition on the depiction of religious images, the original text uses its letter forms which are moulded into shapes, to produce a decorative effect. Common depictions in this way are of temple vessels, columns and other religious objects.

Statutes...

England. 12-14th century.

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An unusual manuscript in terms of its survival as the book was a working copy. This small volume of 339 leaves contains all the statute law for England for its period and was probably carried around the circuit court by the clerk as his major source of reference.

It is likely that the manuscript was passed down through a number of hands as at least nine separate handwritings can be identified. The book eventually came to be located at the Priory of Butley in Suffolk. It came to the University in 1870, probably from Sir Charles Nicholson, and for over 100 years it was kept in the Nicholson Museum.