By Professor THOMAS BODKIN
THE ILLUMINATED BOOK, by David Diringer (Faber and 'Faber, £6 6s.).
IN his brief modest preface, Dr.
Diringer describes this exhaustive work as an up-to-date "synthesis" of our present knowledge of illuminated books from the first known Egyptian illustrated papyrus, done about the year 2000 B.C., to the latest products of the Renaissance.
It might he better described as a "compendium", for it offers the reader little by way of critical or historical comment, though it provides an amazing wealth of names, dates and brief descriptions, arranged in sequence and illustrated by 273 small but clear and well-selected illustrations in monochrome and six full-page ones in colour.
The chapter-headings and the index make it possible to trace a reference to every outstanding illuminated manuscript executed during the last 4,000 years and still surviving. This prodigious feat of learning has not resulted in a text that makes easy reading. The main value of the work is that of a guide to fuller sources of information which are set out in a series of excellent bibliographies.
`Hours of Turin' OCCASIONALLY, the necessity for condensation has made it difficult to track down A particular manuscript. For example, the index contains no reference to the brothers van Eyck, nor to Trivulzio, nor to "The Hours of Turin". Nor is that manuscript mentioned tinder the heading -Milan. Arnbrosian Library", where most of what is left of it now reposes.
The diligent searcher will find that it is mentioned on pages 399 and 440, though he is told nothing about its recent history, nor of its extreme importance to arthistorians, which lies in the fact that the greatest connoisseurs of early Flemish painting, from Georges Hullin de Loo to Max. J. Friedlander, have held that some of its miniatures were painted by the van Eycks before they won fame.
In 1904, many pages of this marvellous book were accidentally burnt, fortunately not before they were photographed. Since then other pages have come to light and provide further evidence for the attribution of several of them to the van Eycks.
Doubtless this exciting theory about its authorship is wellknown to such a fine scholar as Dr. Diringer, and lack of space has alone constrained him to omit all mention of it. Only by the most severe pruning can he have managed to condense his text to 524 pages and to offer it for the moderate price of six guineas.
It is not likely that many private individuals will feel able to afford that sum or to find room for the stout volume in the restricted accommodation of the modern flat, though everyone who is interested in literature, art, or religion will find frequent occasion to consult it; and no library worthy of the name can afford to be without a copy.