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Lot 926: Anglo-Saxon Gold 'Aestel' Manuscript Pointer
December 7, 2016
Harwich, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: 9th century AD. A piriform gold Æstel or book pointer, comprising of a leaf-shaped flat base with applied coiled granulated ropes and pellets; a prominent raised round dome with a cloisonne portrait of a male formed from gold wire cells filled with blue, white, dark red and brow enamel; applied geometric decoration from coiled granulated ropes, a cross to the top and two prominent pellets; a tubular neck pierced twice for attachment. 11.27 grams, 35mm (1 1/4"). Purchased through Spink & Son, King Street, London SW1, on behalf of Maurice Braham and Lord Alistair McAlpine in 1980; restored and retained by Maurice Braham until 1997 (September), then sold to a private collector in London. Accompanied by a positive X-Ray Fluorescence metal analysis certificate. This artefact belongs to a group of objects that have been interpreted as pointers, often referred to as 'aestels', used while reading books. It is thought that the riveted sockets held a shaft for pointing at text, and the flat bottoms helped them slide across the page. King Alfred of Wessex (Alfred the Great) sent aestel to each of the bishops of his kingdom to accompany a copy of the newly-translated text of Pope Gregory I's Regula Pastoralis. All surviving aestels differ slightly in size, form and decoration but most share typical features of domed body, riveted socket and flat base. The best known is the Alfred Jewel, now in Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Another comparable examples are The Minster Lovell jewel and The Bowleaze Cove jewel, with similar features as this aestel, notably with granulation and enamel. There are other examples known with more or less similar features, such as The Warminster jewel or Yorkshire aestel.
Condition Report: Very fine condition. Extremely rare.