For Your Consideration:
Basabe Urasandi Santa Coloma
y Mexía, Gerónimo. Manuscript, "Despacho confirmatorio, de
los escudos de armas, nobleza, genealogia, enlazes, y conexiònes, correspondientes
á Don Geronimo de Basabe, Urasandi, Santa Coloma, y Mexia, &c. Natural
de la Ante-Iglesia de San Pedro de Deusto, y vecino de la villa de la Oliva
en Extremadura....." In Spanish, on vellum. Madrid, 1808. Folio, 49 ff.
The beauty of Spanish manuscript coats of armspopularly and
often imprecisely called "cartas ejecutorias de hidalguía"has led
to their being the most popular type of Spanish illuminated manuscript across
a wide swath of the book and art collecting public. Because they are an art
form, the method of execution changes little over time but the style does. Those
of the16th century have elaborate Renaissance borders on the first text leaf,
usually have a "heroic" scene depicting an ancestor in battle, rarely have any
historiated initials, and have their texts simply accomplished in a gothic hand.
Such cartas are what are usually on display in libraries, museums,
and book and manuscript dealers' shops.
such as this one, fully in the Romantic school, are on the one hand less common
and, on the other, are often more highly illustrated than those earlier ones.
Spanish calligraphers, illuminators, and miniaturists of the late 18th and
early 19th centuries created heraldic manuscripts at various levels of quality
and at varying costs to those commissioning them, and Gerónimo Basabe
Urasandi Santa Coloma y Mexía seems not to have stinted in his largesse
to the artisans who surpassed themselves in this production. Don Gerónimo's
manuscript is laden with one full-page accomplishment of his coat of arms,
one illuminated page with miniature decoration for the King at Arms, 15 illuminated
capitals accomplished on exquisite fields offering miniature pastoral
vignettes, 6 illuminated cartouches containing family names or caption titles,
4 half-page additional coats of arms, and one "title-page" calligraphically
indited in red, blue, and black within a blue and illuminated frame. In other
words, this manuscript is pleasing to the eye throughout one's reading
or browsing of it. The
number of full-page miniatures, half-page coats of arms, and other illumination
and color ornamentation make this an extraordinary example of 19th-century
Spanish manuscripts of this genre.
manuscript's vellum is of a very fine quality. The text is accomplished on it
in a clear italic within triple-line red borders with stencilled blue corner ornaments,
that ornamented border then being surrounded by an outer triple-line red border.
The text traces the history of Don Gerónimo's family on both the paternal
and maternal sides, a family strongly rooted in the Basque provinces,
with note that the farthest back members were among those who first fought the
Arab invaders at the very beginning of the Reconquista. While many would
label the manuscript a "carta de hidalguía," in fact, it is not, strictly;
rather it is a confirmation of Gerónimo's arms, together with a genealogy
and explanations of the various ancestor families' coats of arms and of his own.
An unusual inclusion in this manuscript is a large folding genealogical tree at
the endhandsomely done in multiple colors in imitation of a real tree.
Bound in contemporary red velvet with silver clasps. All edges gilt. All pages
with illumination with blue silk guards (one guard missing). Extremely good
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