Initial from Gratian's Decretum thumbnail 1
Initial from Gratian's Decretum thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Prints & Drawings, Room 90, The Julie and Robert Breckman Gallery

Initial from Gratian's Decretum

Manuscript Cutting
ca.1160-1165 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Water-based pigments and ink on parchment
Brief Description
Cutting with initial Q from Gratian's Decretum, France (Pontigny), ca. 1160- 1165.
Physical Description
Decorated initial Q, at the beginning of Pars secunda, Causa XXVI.

Part of a leaf with a 10-line initial Q in ochre, orange and blue with green foliage, against a green ground with fine green bordering. Central panel inside initial has blue ground. Simple 1-line calligraphed initials in red, blue, green and yellow throughout the text. Rubricated header at top. Lead point ruling and evidence of pricking visible. Verso has text with some rubrication and one 3-line initial in yellow..

Text: 'Quidam sacerdos sortilegiis...'.

17 lines from 1 column visible; 2 columns.

Marginal notes in a 12th-century hand.



The cuttings make clear that they were taken from a large book with spacious margin. Complete surviving leaves (Cleveland) 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 and notes in the late 12th century; the columns are of at least 49 lines and divided by a space of 13 mm. Ruling 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.
Dimensions
  • Height: 165mm
  • Width: 195mm
  • Interlinear space height: 6.5mm
Production typeUnique
Marks and Inscriptions
Modern numbering '22' written in the top right corner, in pencil (?).
Object history
Almost certainly from the Cistercian abbey of Pontigny, and probably from the Volumine uno, Decreta Gratiani no. 153 in the late twelfth century catalogue of Pontigny, no. 100 in the early seventeenth-century catalogue, no. 235 in the catalogue of 1778, no. 7 in the catalogue of 1791, and finally no. 73 in the list prepared after the sequestration of Pontigny at the French Revolution, described there as ‘in-folio atlantico, elegans et completus’ dismembered probably in Auxerre in the early nineteenth century.

Part of cuttings purchased in batches from William Henry James Weale in 1883, 95 on 9 April 1883, 258 on 17 April 1883, 20 on 20 February, for the total sum of £96.7.2 (now Museum nos 8972-9042).

Other cuttings from the same manuscript in the V&A collection: Museum nos 8985A-F.

Cuttings from the same manuscript in other collections: Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, MS. 4874 E no. 2; Auxerre, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 269; Bloomington, Lilly Library at Indiana University, Ricketts 205; Cleveland, Cleveland Museum of Art, 1954.531, 1954.598; Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis EM 16:8 and 16:9.
Subjects depicted
Literary ReferenceDecretum Gratiani
Summary
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.
Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • Catalogue of Miniatures, Leaves, and Cuttings from Illuminated Manuscripts. Victoria and Albert Museum. Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design, by S.C. Cockerell and C. Harcourt Smith (London: HMSO, 1923, 2nd edition).p. 57.
  • Victoria and Albert Museum: Review of the Principal Acquisitions, ii (1908).p. 65, nos. 688-93.
  • Romanesque Art [Victoria and Albert Museum, Small Picture Book No. 15], London, 1957.no. 13.
  • William D. Wixom, Treasures from Medieval France, Cleveland, 1967.pp. 92, 93 repr., 356, no. in-24, called 'Single Leaf from a Decretum by Gratianus ... Burgundy, Arch diocese of Sens, possibly Abbey of Pontigny, second half 12th century' (Cleveland cutting).
  • Hoffmann, Konrad, The Year 1200: a centennial exhibition at the Metropilitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cloisters, New York, 1970pp. 242, 243, no. 241, repr., called 'leaf from Decretum Gratiani, France, Burgundy, 1170-1190' (Cleveland cutting).
  • Cahn, Walter. 'A twelfth-century Decretum fragment from Pontigny' in Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, February, 1975. p. 47-59.
  • Catalogue of illuminated manuscripts : Part II, Miniatures, leaves, and cuttings, by S.C. Cockerell and E.F. Strange (London: HMSO, 1908, 1st edition).p. 65.
Other Number
MS 690 - Previous number
Collection
Accession Number
8985C

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record createdFebruary 24, 2004
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