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  • Place of origin:

    Pontigny (illuminated)

  • Date:

    12th century (illuminated)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Water-based pigments and ink on parchment

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case I, shelf 72

This fragment is part of a page from Gratian's Decretum, a summary of Canon Law. Johannes Gratian was a Benedictine monk. About 1140 he compiled a collection of nearly 3,800 texts touching on all areas of Church law. Professionally made books used decorative initials, such as the initial Q on this fragment, to signal the main divisions of a text. There was usually a hierarchy of initials within any book to designate sections, chapters, paragraphs and other breaks. The initials were added either by the scribe or by a specialist, in spaces left blank by the scribe. The latter was increasingly the practice in the later Middle Ages. The important initials might be historiated (that is, embellished with a figurative picture, istoire being the term for story) or decorated. The lesser initials were made of coloured letters on coloured or gold grounds, often with flourishing in ink of a contrasting colour.

Physical description

Part of a leaf with 18-line decorated initial L in blue with green ground. Vine stem and acanthus leaf in blue, ochre and green with some interlaced decoration, extending from the face of a horned grotesque. Lead point ruling and evidence of pricking visible. Simple 1- and 2-line calligraphed initials in red, blue and yellow throughout the text. Some marginal notes visible in 12th century hand. 4- and 5-line intials throughout the text on the verso, in red, green and yellow and also some rubrication.

Place of Origin

Pontigny (illuminated)


12th century (illuminated)



Materials and Techniques

Water-based pigments and ink on parchment


Height: 34.1 cm, Width: 14.1 cm

Object history note

Bought from W.H. James Weale, 1883.

Historical context note

Hanns Swarzenski knows of other leaves from the same MS in a private collection in Princeton; reference taken from ms note in Prints and Drawings Study Room copy of Catalogue of Miniatures, Leaves and Cuttings from Illuminated Manuscripts. London, V&A, 1923.

Complete surviving leaves (Cleveland, Auxerre) measure 450 x 320 mm. Columns of at least 49 lines and divided by a space of 13 mm. Margins: upper, 40 mm, outer, 70 mm, lower, 45 mm). Ruling is below top line and pricking along outer and top edges with lines 6.5 mm apart and a wide double line for the running title at the top of the page.

'Data taken from notes compiled by Rowan Watson. The full text of the entry is as follows:

The cuttings make clear that they were taken from a large book with spacious margin. Complete surviving leaves (Cleveland Auxerre) measure 450 x 320 mm. The margins of the V&A fragments are wide (upper margin 40 mm; outer margin 70 mm; lower margin 45 mm) and were used to enter a gloss amd noter in the late 12th century; the columns are of at least 49 lines and divided by a space of 13 mm. Ruling ad in lead point (ruling below top line – 8985 C, E, F, which also show pricking for ruling on outer edge and top edge of leaf), with lines 6.5 mm apart. There is a wide double line for the running title at the of the page.

Bought from W. H. James Weale, 1883
Pub: Walter Cahn ` A Twelfth-century Decretum fragment from Pontigny’, Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Feb. 1975 pp. 47-59

Cat. no. 227/5
8985 E (MS 692)
Part of leaf, with decorated initial L on verso extending 23 lines (vine-stem and acanthus leaf in blue, ochre, green, extending from horned monster's face); 1- and 2-line in red, yellow, blue, green. Marginal notes in 12c hand.

Causa X - Inc: Laicus quidam basilicam a se factam. Rubric: Cuiuslibet ecclesie clericos valet ordinare

France (Pontigny) Mid-12th century
(340 x 140) mm; 45 lines of 1 col. visible; 2 cols.

Pub: 1908 cat, 65; 1923 cat, 57; Cahn, 1975, fig 6 reproduces the initial L'

Descriptive line

Part of a leaf from "Decretum" of Gratian, decorated initial L; France; 12th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Cahn, Walter. 'A twelfth-century Decretum fragment from Pontigny' in Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, February, 1975. p. 47-59.


Pigments; Ink; Parchment


Illuminated; Writing

Subjects depicted

Ornament; Grotesque


Christianity; Manuscripts; Religion; Images Online


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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