MBS JARRY, NICOLAS, CALLIGRAPHER. AN ILLUMINATED VELLUM MANUSCRIPT IN FRENCH
- Dear minibook-lovers!
I found a very beautiful miniature manuscript at the web!
best greetings from Vienna
JARRY, NICOLAS, CALLIGRAPHER. PRIÈRES ET ORAISONS DÉVOTÉS. AN ILLUMINATED VELLUM MANUSCRIPT IN FRENCH AND LATIN.
Phillip J. Pirages Rare Books (ABAA)
(McMinnville, OR, U.S.A.)
A Very Lovely Little Manuscript by Nicolas Jarry
The Greatest Calligrapher of the Century
Stock #: ST10261 $29500
PJP Catalog 57.002
JARRY NICOLAS CALLIGRAPHER. PRIÈRES ET ORAISONS DÉVOTÉS. AN ILLUMINATED VELLUM MANUSCRIPT IN FRENCH AND LATIN.
(Paris ca. 1640) 108 x 70 mm. (4 1/4 x 2 3/4"). 3 p.l. 169  pp.  leaves (complete the first leaf and final two leaves blank). Not unattractive 18th century unadorned black sharkskin skillfully rejointed appealing original hinged silver clasps and catchplates raised bands silk pastedowns marbled endpapers. Each leaf containing 14 lines of text within a thick gilt border as well as with rubricated initials and headlines two-line initials in red blue or gold; the text featuring five three-line gilt initials with floral infill in colors; three floral headpieces a floral wreath with lavender ribbons surrounding the gilt title at the front and AN EXQUISITE FULL-PAGE ILLUMINATION OF THE ANNUNCIATION as frontispiece. Verso of first blank with ink ownership inscription: "Mary Countess Strangford her booke 1673" below which in pencil the modern inscription of P. A. M. Russell and an extremely faint "ex libris." Front endpaper with engraved circular armorial bookplate bearing the motto "Spes mea in Deo." A hint of soiling to the covers a few leaves with minor thumb soiling in fore margin a few openings with a tiny ink spot at very bottom edge but IN FINE CONDITION the skillfully restored binding solid and pleasing the text and decoration clean and bright and the whole production with immense charm.
This is an exquisite little volume typical of the beautiful small format calligraphic manuscripts executed by Nicolas Jarry (ca. 1610-ca. 1665). At a time when calligraphy had been relegated almost entirely to the arena of legal or ceremonial documents it is the work of Jarry during the 17th century that stands out as representing particular achievement even if it was only appreciated by a select circle. Whereas the interest and level of accomplishment in beautiful handwriting had fallen off elsewhere in France calligraphy was not only alive but flourishing and Jarry and his patron Louis XIV were the two main reasons. The quality of Jarry's output as well as the prominence of his clients confirm his reputation as the greatest calligrapher of the century. Whether one admires the Latin part of the present text done in an elegant roman hand or the French text appearing here in an extremely graceful italic the script is regular flawless and tastefully restrained. The exhibition catalogue for "Two Thousand Years of Calligraphy" says that "using a delicate script of great refinement Jarry . . . beautifully proportioned his letters to the limited space of the page with no sense of crowding or loss of legibility." Nouvelle Biographie Universelle says that "the beauty of [Jarry's] writing surpassed anything previously considered outstanding in the genre" and his work has long commanded a high price. True aficionados of penmanship will be drawn to the handwriting but the illuminations are also attractive and worthy of study. The Annunciation unusual in that the angel enters from the right rather than the left is delicately realized and full of subtle shading. And the florals which illustrate a variety of recognizable species are outstanding. Jarry used several different artists to embellish his works so we cannot be sure who painted ours. However Nicolas Robert (1610-84) is a likely choice as he collaborated on many Jarry productions including his most celebrated book "La Guirland de Julie" designed as a gift for Julie Lucine d'Angennes from the enamored duke of Saint Maure who became her husband. Robert also painted birds and beasts for a manuscript prepared for Gaston d'Orleans uncle to Louis XIV. Louis himself received his first Jarry prayer book at the age of eight and Jarry would later serve the king as "écrivain et noteur de sa musique." Four others among Jarry's known customers were the king's mother an early mistress of the king named Louise de la Vallière Cardinal de Richelieu and Anne of Austria. Although the original owner of the present item was most likely a Frenchwoman our prayer book soon passed into the ownership of Viscountess Strangford born Mary Porter whose grandfather Endymion Porter had been a groom of the bedchamber to Charles I. She was the wife of Philip fourth Viscount Strangford. Our volume is unsigned but there are a sufficient number of specimens of Jarry's work to allow for a definitive comparison. From among a number of other examples there are eight specimen pages illustrating a manuscript signed by Jarry pictured to accompany lot #44 in the Sotheby's 27 March 1972 sale of calligraphic books and manuscripts from the collection of Mrs. E. F. Hutton. The size dimensions decoration and script of this manuscript are obviously the same as or remarkably similar to ours. Although Jarry had a circle of followers who imitated his style (as well as generations of imitators) there are certain features that are likely to be unique to his hand including for example the roman capital "A" which is consistently raised slightly above the other capitals; the distinctive roman capital "V" with its rather long extended serifs at the top; and the unusual italic "ff" where the first letter is flourished and the second is unusually straight. Our manuscript seems not to be included in Portalis' census of 110 Jarry manuscripts as printed in the "Bulletin du Bibliophile" 1896-97 though it is difficult to be certain given the rather unsystematic nature of the work Portalis did. Many of the works in the census are signed but many are not; most are bound in red morocco but some are not. Quite similar to ours is #60 a book of prayers to the Virgin bound in black sharkskin with a frontispiece and six floral vignettes and there is another very similar book also in black sharkskin listed without catalogue number on page 92. We believe the manuscript to be the work of Jarry but even if it happens to have been done by an associate or a member of his circle it is so beautiful as to be almost irresistible.