What we have here for Sale and a great pleasure and find for felixrarebooks is this remarkable early Byzantine Book, using Eastern Orthodoxy holy images of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Book is certainly pre 10th. century. But the Lettering implies the use of uncial majuscule script handwritings. The Book would be considered one of the rarest and most interesting books in the world still in private hands. The book I now believe might have been made privately in the 7th. century..this book uses religious motifs mixed with stunning images of daily life, of love, lovers, religion and much more…..Sensational.
This extremely rare Greek /Orthodox vellum book has both secular and Orthodox religious motifs, with the use possibly of uncial majuscule script writings, yet to be terminated, that is probably 7th Century AD or earlier??; This vellum Book has 22 x 2 - 44 full pages- 7 inches by 6 inches, with handwritten uncial majuscule script writings, to the front and back of every vellum page, interesting engravings to both the front and back of most panel vellum pages. The covers of the bindings are much later, possible 12th. century ??, again with an engraved cross done as symbolic wheat lines, another iconology of the early christian church. The lined cross to the centre of the back cover binding with the use of uncial majuscule script which was commonly used from the 4th to 8th centuries. Uncial lettering is undetermined at this moment, further research is needed and is ongoing, including tests. An engraved roundel with possible uncial majuscule script lettering, enclosed to the front covers. Plaited cord and twisted cords used to keep the vellum pages in place, quite pleasing in a decorative sense, a very beautiful binding.
One vellum page in the Holy Book folds out into three sections, with two engravings within, The three panels are, one, is of a young Christ, his head covered with a halo ring with a cross of light that surrounds the head of Christ. The golden halos are heavily used in many of the etched engravings, the used of this iconography is typical of early Christian symbolism, but the only figure in which the cross is used, is in the halo surrounding the head of the full figure of Christ. A beardless Christ sits on a grand throne, on an oversized cushion, with a book, but most probably a Bible in his left hand, the Bible in his left hand has another etched image of a cross to the front cover of the Book engraving, his right hand is raised, offering a blessing, the central panel fold out is just uncial majuscule script handwritings to the front and back of the fold out panel, but what is curious also, is there is an engraved roundel with possible uncial majuscule script lettering, enclosed to the centre of this vellum page, a repeat of the roundel that is also on the front cover binding.
The clothing or robes are of the Roman/ Greek era, 1st. century to the 4th. century. The robes and throne of Christ are in vivid yellow gold, as are every other etched engraving. The other interesting figure to the third panel to the left of the fold out on vellum of the fold out page is, I assume one of the Four Evangelists, probably the figure is of St. Mark, Father of the Coptic Christian Church or most definitely an early Church Father, with a large book in both of his hands, again a plain halo around his bearded head.
The halo also known as a nimbus, aureole, glory, or gloriole, in early Christian visual art, was used as few people at that time could read, so visual Christian art first began appeared in and around the 5th century, in the earliest periods of Christian Iconography, halos was confined to the figures of the persons of the Christian Godhead, in the form of Christ, first, and only, but it was afterwards extended to his mother, the Virgin Mary and later to several of the early church fathers, such as St. Peter and later to nearly all the early church saints. The same halo motif was known from several centuries earlier, in pre-Christian Hellenistic art. It is found in some Persian representations of kings and gods, and appears also on coins of the Kushan kings Kanishka, Huvishka and Vasudeva, as well as on most representations of the Buddha in Greco-Buddhist art from the 1st century AD. The halo use has also been traced through the Egyptians to then on to the ancient Greeks and Romans, representations of Trajan used in the grand arch of Constantine and Antoninus Pius, reverse of a medal being found with it. Roman emperors were sometimes depicted wearing a radiant crown, with pointed rays intended to represent the rays of the sun.
So the use of golden halos in his Book places the Book after the 5th, century, most certainly before the 8th. century, judging also by the clothing, and furniture used. The type of clothing was used before the 8th. century, Draped toga were worn by the men used in the etched engravings in this interesting vellum book. The few woman engravings show the women wearing the stola which was the traditional garment of Roman women at the time, corresponding to the toga, or the pallium, that was worn by most men. The stola was made of linen. It was considered at the time, disgraceful for a woman to wear or to be seen wearing a toga, wearing a male garment was associated with prostitution and adultery.
The Vellum used in the book I believe at the moment is a kind of rough gazelle or goat skins, yet be be determined. The gazelle/goat skin colour is almost a dark brown. The outline of the 12 engravings and ancient use of uncial majuscule script lettering, are etched onto the thick vellum, with the use of yellow ochre dye, or gold, to each of the 12 engravings. The yellow ochre dye if used is rich in natural earth pigment which contain hydrated iron oxide. Yellow ochre is a natural mineral consisting of silica and clay owing its colour to an iron oxyhydroxide mineral, goethite. Yellow ochre was the most common yellow dye in Europe from the Middle Ages, It was also widely used in North Africa and throughout the Roman Empire. I must at the moment keep open the possibility that the yellow ochre dye is really a gold metal, with a tinge of red dye added, which was also used at the time on vellum, further testing is required.
With 12 full vellum page images or engravings of different images. The first and last image is of a type of Coptic Cross, used in the very early Coptic Christian era, 6th. -7th. century, specially in the border land of Egypt and Ethiopia. All the images are on rough gazelle/ goat skins which are dark brown in natural colour, with approximate 1,400 years of ageing. The vellum Book is in a reasonable condition, considering the book's age, with many holes and wear and tear to almost ever vellum page, though the engravings are in remarkable vivid condition. The Yellow ochre or yellow gold ( yet to be determined) is particularly fading here and there on the characteristic engravings, but still stunning. The clothing and seating is definitely of the early roman empire era, more in keeping with the styles of the later period of 4th century to the 8th. century, the Book is a beauty to behold. While not perfect, it’s still a magnificent early Book on vellum, battered and bruised, the book appears to be incomplete but not having another book to compare with, I can't be sure. The Book with only 12 engravings and a total of 22 pages, back and front 44 in total. To any museum or biblical museum, library or private collector, the book itself is one of a great find. Considering that the earliest known Bibles only go back to the 4th. century, The two oldest known complete Bibles are an early 4th-century parchment book preserved in the Vatican and known as the Codex Vaticanus. The other Bible is the Codex Sinaiticus which is one of the four great uncial codices, an ancient, handwritten copy of the Greek Bible, now in the British Library. This places our Book possible in the 6th. or 7th. century. Priceless.
- First Image is a Cross to the front inside vellum page, writing to the front page, the Cross was in use at the time, 4th. 5th, 6th, 7th. century was common in and around the area north of Egypt or north of Ethiopia at the time. The influence is most definitely early Coptic in design. The coptic cross is coloured in yellow ochre, or the use of gold, with an etched out image of this unusual Coptic Cross that covers the full page. Handwritten uncial majuscule script notes, to the front and back of this vellum page.
2. Second Image, are three small yellow Triangles to the bottom left of the next two pages, some sort of spiritual triangles, etched into the vellum pages, I assume uncial majuscule script writings to front and back of each vellum page. The meaning of the three small yellow Triangles at the end of six pages, is the all-seeing eye of God, which looks out from the triangle of the Trinity. Used in many early religious symbols, the circle is without beginning and without end, can also symbolises a sentence in the Book of Wisdom, the souls of the righteous are nobleman, three nights in succession and threw a purse of gold in the window. Something else about the three small yellow Triangles, are, there are a total of six page with the three small yellow Triangles to the bottom left, but in every page in which the Triangles appears, there position is slightly different, like for example one Triangle to the top an two Triangles below, in another two Triangles to the right and one Triangle to the left, etc…I believe now the Triangles are some sort of a secret code..I’m open to suggestions.
3. Third Image full page is two outward young men, or two outward girls figures clothed in yellow robes and a kind of flat skull caps a bit like wearing petasos hats worn by Greek youth to their heads, also in yellow gold, I assume they are young students playing. But their hair style appears to be greek influenced, with their long hair tied straight along the back of their heads. These complex hairstyles were a major part of Ancient Greek youth fashion. As well as the hair itself being twisted, knotted and curled. The pair are having a conversation, judging by their demeanour and use of their hands. Writing to the back of the page. This Image again is astounding in scope for a religious book, the imagery is clearly greek. No religious symbolism in this engraving.
4. Fourth Image is three small yellow Triangles to the bottom left of the page and handwritten uncial majuscule script notes, front and back page. (see notes on no. 2)
5. Fifth Image is a bearded man, probably a bishop or early Church Father in full yellow gold robes with hood, a golden halo around this head. This hands are in the blessing, uncial majuscule script writing to the back of the image.
6. Sixth Image an unusual engraving in a religious book, no reference if she is a religious figure or an early church saint, anyway the woman in the etched engraving is of a grown woman sitting on a chair, clothed in a yellow gold robe with a yellow scarf covering her head, she appears to be holding the scarf away form her mouth, in passive mode, the arm of the chair is a carved serpent with a carved eye clearly seen, certainly in the Egypt style. Stunning.
7. Seventh Image is three small yellow Triangles to the bottom left of the page and uncial majuscule script handwritten notes, front and back page. ( see notes on no. 2)
8. Eight Image is the fold out page into three sections, with two engravings within, the central panel has an engraved roundel with possible uncial majuscule script lettering, and lettering front and back of the central panel. The Right panel to the binding edge is one is of a young Christ, the halo ring with a cross of light that surrounds the head of Christ, is heavily used in a few of the engravings, the used of this iconography is typical of early church imagery, used to create a lyrical emotion, of holiness, and saintliness, but the only grown figure in which the cross is in the halo is the full figure of Christ, the same cross is in the halo is also used in the Panel 14….A beardless Christ sits on a grand high backed ceremonial ecclesiastical throne, two carved finials flames sit on the top of the golden throne. Christ is sitting in majesty on an overstuffed gold cushion, with a book that appears to be a Bible in his left hand, the Bible in his left hand has another image of a block cross to the front cover of the Bible, his right hand is offering a blessing. His clothing is regal in appearances, perhaps Christ is sitting in judgement, uncial majuscule script lettering surrounds the Christ figure and also to the back of the same panel.
The clothes used as robes are of the period, 1st. century, the robes and throne of Christ are in yellow gold as are all the other images. The other figure to the fold out page, on the left panel, is I assume a figure of one of the Four Evangelists, probably St. Mark an early Church Father, with a book in his right arm, again a plain halo around his bearded head, uncial majuscule script lettering surrounds the Christ figure and also to the back of the same panel.
9. Ninth Image is three small yellow Triangles to the bottom left of the page and uncial majuscule script handwritten notes, front and back page. ( see notes on no. 2)
This etched engraving of the two young males is astounding. Remember the ancient Greeks did not conceive of sexual orientation as a social identifier as modern Western societies have done. Greek society did not distinguish sexual desire or behaviour by the gender of the participants, but rather by the role that each participant played out in the sexual act, that of active penetrator or passive penetrated. In the etched scene the two male lovers are in what appears to be an intimate relationship is an interpersonal relationship that involves physical or emotional intimacy, rather then sexual in nature. Physical intimacy in his scene can be characterised by maybe a friendship, or maybe a platonic love.
The front and back of this vellum page has uncial majuscule script writings to the front engraving and the back of the panel, yet to be determined as my ongoing research continues.
11. Eleventh Images is a Church bearded Father with a book in his left hand, robed in his yellow robes of office, his right hand offering a blessing. A golden halo encircles his head. The robes are clearly roman.
12. Twelfth Image is a young beardless Student or Priest, studiously sitting on a ancient roman chair, clothed in yellow robes. The young man full headed hair is uncovered. He appears to be contemplating life. Uncial majuscule script writings to the front engraving and the back of the panel.
13. Thirteenth Image is three small yellow Triangles to the bottom left of the page and uncial majuscule script handwritten notes, front and back page. ( see notes on no. 2)
14. Fourteenth Image is Holy Mother with a baby Christ in her left arm close to her face. Both fully clothed in yellow robes, both with elaborate halos, a very beautiful full page image. Again the cross is in the halo is used on the baby Christ. This image is very simple in it design, very touching, almost a family portrait in concept.
15. Fifteenth Image is the same of the open page a yellow Cross. Uncial majuscule script handwritten notes, to the back page.
Notes on the Writing and Lettering;-
Early uncial script is likely to have developed from late Old Roman cursive. Early forms are characterised by broad single stroke letters using simple round forms taking advantage of the new parchment and vellum surfaces, as opposed to the angular, multiple stroke letters, which are more suited for rougher surfaces, such as papyrus. In the oldest examples of uncial, such as the De bellis macedonicis manuscript in the British Library, all of the letters are disconnected from one another, and word separation is typically not used. Word separation, however, is characteristic of later uncial usage.
As the script evolved over the centuries, the characters became more complex. Specifically, around AD 600, flourishes and exaggerations of the basic strokes began to appear in more manuscripts. Ascenders and descenders were the first major alterations, followed by twists of the tool in the basic stroke and overlapping. By the time the more compact minuscule scripts arose circa AD 800, some of the evolved uncial styles formed the basis for these simplified, smaller scripts. Uncial was still used, particularly for copies of the Bible, tapering off until around the 10th century. There are over 500 surviving copies of uncial script, by far the largest number prior to the Carolingian Renaissance.
The Book of Kells, 9th. century, is lettered in a script known as insular majuscule, a variety of uncial script that originated in Ireland.