Newly-recognised 16th century manuscript leads Sotheby's auction at £500,000

Sotheby's is holding an auction tomorrow (July 6) of Fine Manuscripts and Miniatures from Western cultures.

For those drawn to studying and collecting rare documents and texts the sale is unmissable. Particularly exciting are two texts - one from 16th century France, the other from 13th century Spain.

The former, now known as The Hours of Anne de Montmorency, is the previously unrecognised sister manuscript of the so-called Hours of François I, illuminated by the Master of François de Rohan for Anne de Montmorency, Constable of France.

Rare manuscript: The Hours of Anne de Montmorency
Rare manuscript: The Hours of Anne de Montmorency

Anne of course was male, and was childhood friends with the future King Francois I, and followed him into power, rising to become the most important nobleman in the kingdom and a wealthy collector. Indeed he became one of the most distinguished art patrons and manuscript collectors of his time.

It is therefore fitting that the beautifully illuminated text leads the sale at £300,000-500,000. The work is extremely similar in style to the so-called Hours of Francois I, and the two books probably share a history, being produced in the period 1539-40 for Anne, one for himself and another to present to his friend the king.

However, a failed peace-settlement between Francois and the Holy Roman Emperor, arranged by Anne but from which the Emperor pulled out, much to Francois's embarrassment. The episode relegated Anne to the political wilderness until after his friend's death.

Pentateuch on vellum

In the same sale, a Hebrew vellum scroll presents the Jewish Torah, or Pentateuch - that is the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The scroll was almost certainly created in Toledo, Northern Spain in the early 13th century.

This version of the bedrock of Judaism and Christianity is likely to be autographed by scholar-scribe R Israel ben Isaac who was active from the 1220s to 1241.

The work is estimated at £200,000-300,000, but for some collectors it will be simply priceless. This and the other texts will be sold in London from 10.30am onwards. Watch this space for the results.


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