HUMPHREYS, Henry. Miracles of our Lord. London: Longman, 1848.
FIRST EDITION (170 x 120 mm) pp. 30, iv.
All edges gilt, marbled end papers, & illustrated title page. Original black papier mâché cover. Damage (and repair) to bottom gutter-edge corner on front cover; chipped top fore-edge corner on back. Extremities of spine somewhat rubbed with spine showing signs of wear.
An increasingly rare & sought-after fragile memory of the Victorian enthusiasm for the Middle Ages, Humphrey’s Miracles of our Lord combines Gothic-style chromolithographic illumination with the weighty book art of papier mâché covers to create a Neo-Gothic gift book of biblical passages describing the miracles of Christ. In the same way that sumptuous medieval manuscripts in the High and Late Middle Ages demonstrated the conspicuous consumption of their lay patronage, this nearly-overwrought package of color and texture was intended to be on display in the home of the affluent Victorian socialite who owned it.
With 30 pages of acanthus and seashell borders and figures in grisaille (a type of grey scale illustration in vogue in Northern France and environs in the 15th and 16th century), Humphrey’s re-styling of the Medieval is put on splendid display. In the 4 pages of remarks by the illuminator, Humphry explains that “It has been sought to render the cover appropriate by enriching it with medallions representing the principal miracles: it has been partly taken from a magnificent cover in carved ivory, executed in the 12th century enclosing a remarkable MS. Of the Gospels, now in the British Museum. The designs of the medallions are original.” The model appears to be the (now detached) binding from the Melisende Psalter (British Library, Egerton Ms 1139/1), a 12th century ivory binding with panels from the life of David and the six vices and six works of charity, embellished with pieces of turquoise. The manuscript that it housed was made for Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem, wife of Fulk, count of Anjou, and was likely made in Jerusalem.