Monday, 8 June 2009

The Grimani Breviary

The publishing house Salerno Editrice, based in Rome, has just announced the publication of a splendid facsimile of Venice, Bibl. Nazionale Marciana, MS Lat. I 99 (2138), the so-called Breviario Grimani, named after its owner Cardinal Domenico Grimani. The manuscript comprises 832 folios, 28 x 19.5 cm (11 x 7 ¹¹/16); justification: 15.5 X 11.5 cm (6⅛ X 4½ in.); 31 lines of gotica rotunda in two columns; 50 full-page miniatures, 18 large miniatures, 18 small miniatures, 12 bas-de-page calendar miniatures.

The Grimani Breviary is the most elaborate and arguably the greatest work in the history of Flemish manuscript illumination. Purchased by Cardinal Domenico Grimani by 1520 for the enormous sum of five hundred ducats, it brought together the leading illuminators of the time, including the Master of James IV of Scotland (probably Gerard Horenbout), Alexander Bening (the Master of the First Prayer Book of Maximilian?), the Master of the David Scenes in the Grimani Breviary, Simon Bening, and Gerard David. More important, each of these artists created for this manuscript some of his most exquisite and original miniatures.
Thus Thomas Kren, Maryan W. Ainsworth and Elizabeth Morrison in their catalogue entry, No. 126 in Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003), pp. 420-424. One can hear the frustration in their tone when they wrote about the massive amount of work still to be done on this manuscript: 'Indeed, the two-day examination of the manuscript by Maryan W. Ainsworth and Thomas Kren proved woefully inadequate to the task of sorting out all of the stylistic and technical issues that the book raises' (p. 420), a frustration all more acute since the manuscript was not actually displayed in this exhibition.

After you finish drooling, read Michael Camille, 'The Très Riches Heures: An Illuminated Manuscript in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction', Critical Inquiry, 17 (1990), 72-107; and see too Sandra Hindman and Nina Rowe, (eds), Manuscript Illumination in The Modern Age: Recovery and Reconstruction (Evanston, Il: Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, 2001).

If anyone would like to buy me this facsimile for a birthday or Christmas, or Easter, or really, any other day of the week, please feel free. It is selling, apparently, for €22,000.


Bo said...

TWENTY TWO THOUSAND EUROS?!!! You've got to be kidding me.

Miglior acque said...

Well, this is a very high figure but in the world of luxury facsimiles it is about right. The Ellesmere facsimile done in Tokyo in 1995 costs about that, and the Swiss facsimile of the Book of Kells must be pretty close too. The Italians are particularly good at this sort of thing actually.

Anonymous said...

There are a number of earlier facsimiles. The one I have is The Grimani Breviary: Reproduced from the Illuminated Manuscript belonging to the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice. Preface by Giorgio E. Ferrari, Introduction by Mario Salmi, Commentaries on the plates by Gian Lorenzo Mellini. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press, 1974.

This is apparently an American limited edition — my copy is number 434 of 850 — of a 1972 British edition of a 1971 Italian edition (which itself had a second edition in 1979). So if you look around, you might be able to pick up one of the earlier facsimiles for less than €22,000!

Miglior acque said...

Oh, yes, I imagined there'd be an earlier facsimile though thank you for the references. I was just fascinated by the high-end luxury of it all! Thanks for reading. Hmm, it sounds like you've got a high end library yourself! I'm very curious.

Anonymous said...

The earlier "facsimiles" are only of the pages containing paintings, and do not purport to emulate the vellum, gold leaf or other special features of the original. I assume the salerno edition will be a true facsimile, including binding, all pages (including only text pages, or pages with only text and border), and will have special paper designed to mimic vellum, gold leaf, etc.

Giovanni said...

Those interested in knowing more about the facsimile published by Salerno Editrice can view some high-quality photos on our website (especially in the PDF brochure): Codices Illustres.
We supply this facsimile to Cultural Institutions worldwide - assuring very special conditions.
And even though a price of 22,000 euros sounds really a huge amount, we can assure you that the quality of the facsimile fully justifies this apparently excessive amount of money.
Just as an example, this facsimile has been recently displayed during an international study day with scholars from every part of the world (event held in a major US Museum).
We hope you enjoy the photos and the article!


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