On the Trail of a Dismembered Book : The New Yorker

Sometime in the fourteen-sixties, a private Christian devotional was produced in northern France. Its pages were expertly calligraphed, embellished with gold leaf, and decorated with sprays of blue acanthus, pheasants, swans, peacocks, and dancing villagers. There were seventeen full-page Biblical illustrations. Its final leaves contained an early owner’s translations of a few Latin prayers into medieval French. Such opulent books of hours became prized collectors’ items among the cognoscenti in later centuries, which may be how this one found its way into the private library of a nineteenth-century British collector named Edward Arnold. By this time, it had received a new morocco binding and its illustrations had been touched up, probably by the artist Caleb William Wing. In the nineteen-twenties, Arnold’s estate sold the book to Sotheby’s; it appeared on the auction block again at a Christie’s sale, in 2010, where it sold for twenty-five thousand pounds (then about forty thousand dollars) to an anonymous bidder.

via On the Trail of a Dismembered Book : The New Yorker.