Close XYL-12 Christ as Man of Sorrows (‘Image of Pity’)

 [England, c. 1480–90]. Woodcut with Greek and English inscriptions.

 Schr. 873a. Christ as Man of Sorrows, positioned in front of the cross, half-length, with flowing hair, eyes half open, his head inclined to his right, arms crossed, showing the wounds on his hands and side. The inscription on the tablet over the cross is in Greek, and reads ‘ ‘ΒΑCίAEΎS: ΗOAO: ζ[:]:’ (a corruption of ό βασιλεύς τής δόζης); see XYL-11. On either side of Christ’s head, above the cross-bar, are inscribed the words ‘IC. XC.’. The panel beneath the image contained the text of an indulgence, extending over four lines, now completely deleted. Double-lined frame, diagonal shading top and left. Unique copy. It seems certain, on the basis of the parallels assembled by Bradshaw and Dodgson (see XYL-11), that the text was an indulgence of 32,755 years in English. This may be the earliest surviving example of a woodcut Man of Sorrows from England.

ills. Dodgson, ‘English Devotional Woodcuts’, pl. XXXV (a); Dodgson, English Woodcuts, fig. 1; Illustrated Bartsch (Supplement), 163.873–1.

refs. Dodgson, Ashmolean, 33 (Bodl.18); Dodgson, ‘English Devotional Woodcuts’, 98–9; Schreiber, Handbuch, VIII 48; Hind II 737–8; Dodgson, English Woodcuts, 7 no. 1; STC 14077c.8a; Hodnett no. 2505; Nicholson no. 71.

copy One eighth of a chancery sheet. 147 × 99 mm (woodcut 95 × 66 mm). Chain-lines vertical. No watermark visible. Printed in pale brown ink on one side of the paper by rubbing. Uncoloured. The inscription has been rendered totally illegible by an evidently deliberate act of mutilation. Badly torn, especially top left and bottom right, with resultant loss of parts of the woodcut. Also some worm-holes. The woodcut is attached to the original upper pastedown (fol. iv), which is otherwise completely blank, of MS. Bodl. 939, a late fifteenth-century parchment manuscript containing a calendar, private prayers, psalms and devotions in Latin, individual items in English and a heading in French (fol. 84r…), illuminated with decorated borders and 13 historiated initials (others cut out). The illumination is most likely Flemish. The leaf bearing the woodcut is the first of an added quire with Latin prayers (fol. i, 1–5, text fols 1r–4v, fol. 5r/v ruled but blank), which precedes the calendar; its illumination is similar in style but clearly distinguishable from the minor decoration in the main body of the manuscript. The text facing the image, appropriately, is a commemoration of the Holy Cross, incipit: ‘Signum sancte crucis + defendat me ab malis presentibus preteritis et futuris interioribus et exterioribus . . .’ (fol. 1r…). See Haimerl 91; printed in Nicolaus Salicetus, Liber meditationum ac orationum devotarum qui Antidotarius anime dicitur (Strasbourg: Johann Grüninger, 1490; S-008), fol. 41ra-va. The script is probably English rather than Flemish (as suggested in SC) and datable, like the illumination, to the last quarter of the fifteenth century.

refs. SC 27691; Pächt–Alexander I no. 377.

Binding: Contemporary blind-tooled inboard binding, later rebacked. 204 × 143 × 38 mm. Brown tanned calf over gently bevelled oak boards. The original parchment pastedowns are now lifted, and separate paper board sheets have been added to replace them. All tooling is blind, executed with a single and a three-line fillet and four tools: small square stamp with fleur-de-lis and crown; fleur-de-lis; larger square stamp with fleur-de-lis, crown, and four stars; circular stamp with a hybrid dragon-man; the first three of these are identifiable as tools used by Oldham’s Binder D (attested c.1483–6), for which see Oldham, Blind-stamped Bindings, pl. XXVI nos 364, 370, 377 (……ex informatione Mirjam Foot). The upper board preserves the stub of a tanned-leather strap in a recess, anchored by one decorative copper-alloy nail and one iron nail with washer. A copper-alloy catch plate is anchored to the lower board by two copper-alloy pins. Both boards have other holes and scars around their current furniture, indicating that alterations were made at an early date. Rebacked with brown tanned leather; the trimmed original spine is mounted on the rebacked spine. There is nothing to suggest that the binding is Flemish, as suggested in SC.

Provenance: Eleanor (‘Elina’, ‘Alienora’), unidentified (fl. 1470–80). The main part of the book (fols 6r–11v, 22r–88r), which was intended for the use of a woman, whose name is repeatedly mentioned in the prayers on fols 76r–83r, is probably Flemish, to judge from the style of illumination, but made for an English patron, as indicated by the calendar, whose script and illumination are consonant with the body of the book. ‘Elina’ was speculatively identified by Falconer Madan in SC V 338 as Eleanor Nevil, granddaughter of John of Gaunt. The calendar, which follows an English use, is not distinctive except for the unusual (Flemish?) spelling ‘Zwilchin(us)’ for St Swithin at 15 July. Napier’s suggestion, reported in SC, that the English vernacular texts contained in two added blocks of leaves, fols 12–21 and 89–122, of which 120v–122v are an addition of Latin prayers relating to the plague, might have been written in the northern Midlands is not supported by linguistic evidence (ex informatione Anne Hudson). The quire with the woodcut, although written in a different style from these leaves, may also have been added in England. Nathaniel Crynes, M.A., of St John’s College, Oxford (1686–1745). Presented in 1736.

shelfmark: MS. Bodl. 939, fol. iv.