illuminated leaf...something doesnt look right

I recently bought this leaf, but the printing appears to be printed, not calligraphy…can anyone help identify this? Looking for the period, region, possibly the printer? Its definitely vellum, not paper, but thats all I know…

Thanks, teeming millions!

That’s not a great big scan, but from looking at it I’d say that if it is old it’s almost certainly a luxury edition printed page. In the 15th and 16th centuries with most print runs they’d do several copies on vellum–printed text and sometimes outlines of images, and everything would be hand-colored. I can’t tell right off what book it is in particular-- looks like a prayer manual or other devotional text. I’d say Italy, likely. 16th c? I’m not sure when they gave up printing on vellum.

Ah, I think it’s a book of hours of the BVM-- among other things a reading called ‘et sic in syon’. Not that that helps narrow down the date or location. One other copy I found on line is for Cistercian use and uses this bit at Sextam. But I’d say this is for lay use and the 16th c probability I think holds.

extremely helpful.
Do you know any good discussion forums or groups that are interested in these kinds of things?

As capybara says, there’s nothing suspicious about the fact that it’s a printed page on vellum.

But it was more probably printed in France, not Italy. Crude statistics for the printing of Books of Hours by themselves make that more likely. (See this article for the details.) Moreover, the Antiqua typeface could just as easily be French as Italian.

By way of a comparison, take a look at this French-printed Book of Hours. Don’t get too excited by the similarity of the marginal decorations, as stylised floral decoration was very common. The typeface is different, but see this example of Antiqua type, which was also printed by Germain Hardouyn. Not that any of this means that your page is one printed by Hardouyn. But France and the early sixteenth-century is unlikely to be far wrong.

This thread is restoring my faith in the Straight Dope :slight_smile:

Am I the only one who doesn’t think it looks printed? The letters don’t appear to be completely consistent. Look, for instance, at the small a at the end of “regna”, and the ones in “dicat” and “maria” two lines down: They’re all slightly different (and in fact, the one in “regna” is significantly different). Would the different type pieces in a printing press be that different?

Oh, wow, the first time I went to your scans I didn’t scroll down and see the other scans, hah! I still think it’s printed-- APB’s right, I’m sure, about France (I’ve had Italian printing on the mind lately) but I still think it’s printed despite the difference in letters. Inconsistency and printing are close pals in this time period. Font and type and type setting were much less standard than what we can accomplish-- lazy apprentice sticks an ‘a’ from font X in the font Y bin or the metal wasn’t pouring as well or they used a slightly different mold for that piece or whatever-- note how the letters don’t line up very well, either. They’re working largely with little wooden shims to get type to line up right. I think the gummy mushy edges might be due to printing on uneven vellum with a bit of pooling of ink in spots and totally missing the surface in others.
Is it out of the frame? If so, can you tell if there’s anything like a plate strike along the margins? Probably hard to tell with type/woodcut but there might be a little impression made? Do the letters feel embossed at all to your fingers?
With the . . ligatures? What do we call the compound-letter type, like the s-t or the c-t in Benedicta in the second line of the first scan? Anyway, do those compounds occur as often in script, or are they an artifact of printing-- timesaving device in typesetting, does anyone know?

I agree that it looks printed.

But I can see why it might be thought to look handwritten. That was partly the point, with early printed books often trying to imitate manuscripts. Hence the use of vellum and coloured decoration. This one even has ruled lines.

The other thing that probably makes a difference is the magnification of the scan. Handwritten letters tend to be larger than type (for obvious reasons) so magnifying the image can be confusing.

its definitely printed, mainly because the letters (on high magnification) have dark outlines and then a bit of an outline then more ink in the middle, something that cant be achieved with writing. The lines are misleading, and the person who sold this to me (a 35 year veteran of the trade) thought it was illuminated. I realized it was printed immediately, but it came with a really great book, so it was more of a bonus. (Iambichus mysteries printed in 1577) What confused me at first was the roman style font, but it appears the closed loop “g” and the ampersand characters actually date back a lot further that I originally thought. I havent been able to find any examples of this font “illuminated” but the printing, including the joined “ct” characters appears on a lot of my late 15th early 16th c. manuscripts, and from what I read France was producing these kinds of things more than anyone in this period. I agree now its likely early 1500’s french, and some kind of book of hours.
so I ask again, does anyone know of a forum where I can pose more questions about rare books like this? I feel utterly alone as a collector of 17th century and previous books and manuscripts…although I suppose thats not surprising :wink:

I think you’re utterly alone, except for us :slight_smile:
I don’t know of any forum online, but I’m surrounded by likeminded dweebs in my profession so I’ve never felt the need to search one out.

I passed this question on to my wife who’s a professor of medieval music history. She does a lot of manuscript work, but this is a little outside of her specialty. She agrees that it’s probably 16th Century. She actually leans a little toward it being Italian rather than French because of the letter forms, but she said realistically it could be either.

She also forwarded it to a colleague of hers who specializes in liturgy. Here’s what Professor Cyrus at Vanderbilt had to say:

thanks so much everyone! Now Ive gotten info on two leaves. This is a great forum.

More follow-up from my wife. She sent the images to Bruce Whiteman who is the Head Librarian at UCLA’s rare book and manuscript collection.

Here’s his additional comment:

So, it looks like France after all.

Even with movable type, the individual letters tended to be hand carved, meaning that on any page there might be several minor variations among some letters.
It was not, originally, linotype where the letters were all lead shots poured into the same molds.