In the beginning was the Word

[Biblia latina - NT - Ioannes]. The Gospel of John.

Italy, ca. 1300.

Latin manuscript (bastarda) in ink on vellum. A large single sheet with 10 lines of text in the lower third, written space ca. 74 x 178 mm. With the ink drawing of a kneeling woman bearing a bouquet. Leaf size 309 x 210 mm.


The first fourteen verses of the Gospel of John, beginning with the famous phrase that has become one of the best-known sayings of Western culture: "Initium Sancti Evangelii secundum Ioannem. In principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud deum" ("In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"), ending with "et verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis et vidimus gloriam eius gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patre plenum gratiae et veritatis. Amen Amen Amen" ("And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth"). The "Word", a translation of the Greek "logos", is widely interpreted as referring to Jesus Christ.

At centre right of the leaf is a drawing, probably by the hand of the scribe, showing a late 13th century lady wearing a crespine or snood (hairnet), fillet (headband) and neckerchief, holding what appears to be a gift bouquet of flowers.


From the collection of the U.S. classicist Marvin Leonard Colker (1927-2020), dispersed by Christie's of London in 2022.


One large edge tear touching the illustration, professionally repaired on verso. Occasional light staining and browning; a few kinks and wrinkles; edges trimmed irregularly. As shown by an early modern inscription ("1299 ad 1307"), the sheet (then perhaps still including a second half) was later used as a cover for archival documents from the late 13th and early 14th century, a timeframe that agrees well with the paleographic evidence of the Gospel quotation.


Colker MS 226.

Stock Code: BN#63792 Tags: , , ,