There is a LOT to love in this historiated initial from a 12th-century manuscript of Gratian’s Decretum (the canon law book of the Roman Catholic church from the 12th century until 1918).
- The wonderful animal faces chomping on the bars of the “H”
- The representation of the two powers, ecclesiastical and secular (no surprise which is on top)
- The plethora of scribal abbreviations: the “M” bar over the V in HVMANVM; the apostrophe-like VS curve for GENVS; the semi-colons that show up for ablative endings in duobus and moribus
- The visibility of the ruling, so that even the scroll in the initial looks lined
- The Tironian note (that looks like a 7), which predates the ampersand (I love that & and 7 are on the same key on keyboards)
- The glorious legibility of this elegant 12th-century French hand:
HVMANVM GENVM duobus regitur naturali videlicet iure et moribus
“The human race is ruled by two things, that is, by natural law and by customs.”
These are the opening words of the first page of the first part of Gratian’s Decretum.
Fun fact: my grad-school roommate wrote his dissertation on the textual history of several Decretum manuscripts, and he won a MacArthur “genius” fellowship for it.
This initial, found at BibliOdyssey, is from a manuscript found in the library of Troyes, in France: MS. 103.