Item #4141 [La cairrtainne et véritable] Longueur [de Notre Seigneur] Jésus-Christ. [Comme il étoit sur la terre et la S]ainte Croix. [Cette longueur a été trouvez à Jér]usalem en l’an 1655 & a été [confirmé par Clement VIII Pape de ce nom. [Bracketed sections in manuscript.]. PRAYER ROLL AMULET.
[La cairrtainne et véritable] Longueur [de Notre Seigneur] Jésus-Christ. [Comme il étoit sur la terre et la S]ainte Croix. [Cette longueur a été trouvez à Jér]usalem en l’an 1655 & a été [confirmé par Clement VIII Pape de ce nom. [Bracketed sections in manuscript.]
[La cairrtainne et véritable] Longueur [de Notre Seigneur] Jésus-Christ. [Comme il étoit sur la terre et la S]ainte Croix. [Cette longueur a été trouvez à Jér]usalem en l’an 1655 & a été [confirmé par Clement VIII Pape de ce nom. [Bracketed sections in manuscript.]
[La cairrtainne et véritable] Longueur [de Notre Seigneur] Jésus-Christ. [Comme il étoit sur la terre et la S]ainte Croix. [Cette longueur a été trouvez à Jér]usalem en l’an 1655 & a été [confirmé par Clement VIII Pape de ce nom. [Bracketed sections in manuscript.]
[La cairrtainne et véritable] Longueur [de Notre Seigneur] Jésus-Christ. [Comme il étoit sur la terre et la S]ainte Croix. [Cette longueur a été trouvez à Jér]usalem en l’an 1655 & a été [confirmé par Clement VIII Pape de ce nom. [Bracketed sections in manuscript.]
[La cairrtainne et véritable] Longueur [de Notre Seigneur] Jésus-Christ. [Comme il étoit sur la terre et la S]ainte Croix. [Cette longueur a été trouvez à Jér]usalem en l’an 1655 & a été [confirmé par Clement VIII Pape de ce nom. [Bracketed sections in manuscript.]
Talismanic typography

[La cairrtainne et véritable] Longueur [de Notre Seigneur] Jésus-Christ. [Comme il étoit sur la terre et la S]ainte Croix. [Cette longueur a été trouvez à Jér]usalem en l’an 1655 & a été [confirmé par Clement VIII Pape de ce nom. [Bracketed sections in manuscript.] (colophon:) Cologne: Martin Fritz, 1741.

Five printed letterpress strips, each approximately 350 x 48 mm., pasted together and mounted on early 19th-century strips of thicker paper (including printed waste), forming a long roll measuring approximately 48 x 1820 mm. (approx. 2 inches by 6 feet 2 inches). Printed, longitudinally, each text strip containing 2 columns enclosed by a rule border and separated by a vertical rule, each with 8 long lines of text; the third strip with a central panel containing a typographic cross composed of sacred abbreviations and Latin crosses. Loss to outer portion of title, supplied in contemporary manuscript; the roll backed with partly printed paper waste in the early 19th century, some fraying and a few vertical tears through text, repaired tear in the third strip, hiding a few letters, last strip with marginal blue paper reinforcements; browning and soiling. With: a contemporary beige patterned silk bag, used to hold the amulet (the pattern of tears match the form of the rolled amulet, which fits rather snugly). ***

A letterpress roll-amulet measuring the length of Christ’s body. This rare survival testifies to the once widespread use of apotropaic texts in popular piety and its propagation or exploitation by enterprising printers. Known in German as Heilige Längen (Holy Lengths), such cheaply produced amulet-rolls, containing formulaic prayers and invocations and intended to be worn or carried, are the descendants of a medieval manuscript tradition. “Lengths of Christ” were held to protect from a variety of ills, and were notably intended to be worn by pregnant women during pregnancy and childbirth. Printed mainly in the German-speaking regions, only a handful survive. This example is unusual for being printed in French, for the French market, and, remarkably, is preserved with its original stitched silk pouch.

This six-foot long prayer strip contains its own instructions for use. In a symbiosis of content and support that is characteristic of the outer frontiers of private religious practice, the text both embodies and explains the magic powers of the support containing it: “He who carries on his person the Length of our dear Lord, or he who has it in his House, will be protected from all his Enemies, both visible and invisible, from all brigands and thieves, and similarly from all magic, and no spiteful gossip or slander will harm him. A pregnant woman who carries it on herself, or who wraps it around her breast, will give birth without great pain and will have no ill fortune to fear during birthing. In the House where the Length of Our Lord [hangs] nothing evil can stay, neither thunder nor storm will be able to harm it, and it will be preserved from both fire and floods...”

Instructions for prayer follow, and allowances are made for the illiterate:
“Bless yourselves Christian men [Latin cross, indicating that one should make the sign of the cross] every morning with the Length of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and say every Sunday 5 Paternosters, 5 Aves and one Credo, in honor of the 5 Holy Wounds of Jesus Christ. He who wishes to have the Length of the Lord is obliged to read it three times a year, and if he can’t read, to have someone read it to him, and if in the entire year he can’t find anyone to read it [for him], he should say the Rosary 4 times, the first time on Holy Friday, the second on the Friday before Pentecost and the third on the Friday before Christmas and the Christian man [Latin cross] will be blessed by the length of Our Lord during the whole year, on land and at sea, by day and by night, in his body and soul, forever. So be it” (our translation).

The second section, called a “prayer of St. Francis,” contains more invocations for protection, against misfortune, sadness, dangerous wounds, calomnies, etc., repeating the evils previously listed and adding for good measure protection against poison, witches, hail, and lightning, and of one’s “fields, grains, gardens, crops, animals, and all that I own,” and reiterates the prayer to grant to all pregnant women an easy birth. The supplicant begs Christ to hide him or her “between your shoulders and your holy Crown, and in your sacred wounds, and to wash me with your length and your precious blood.” The roll concludes with repeated invocations of God, of the father, son and holy ghost, etc., punctuated with Latin crosses.

Further Latin crosses are used within the typographic calligram of a cross, in the approximate center of the roll; the crosses alternate with letters representing the names of the four evangelists and the three kings (see Jacoby, p. 9), with at top the Titulis Crucis (INRI: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum), and flanking the cross the names of the holy family (Jesus, Mary Joseph, Joachim and Anne). Sometimes known as characteres (”non-standard or magical script”) or Buchstabenreihe in German, such variable sequences of crosses and majuscule letters were often used on German amulets (Skemer, art. cit. p. 127 & 143, and Binding Words, pp. 17-18).

The belief, in popular Christian practice, that a measurement representing a holy personage or object could embody the divinity of its original model dates back to the Middle Ages (cf. Ettlinger, p. 109, and Jacoby, passim). Other talismanic measurements were the wounds of Christ, Christ’s or the Virgin’s feet, the height of the Cross, of Mary, Mary’s tomb, or the length of the nails used in the Crucifixion. The origin of these magic measurements lay in pilgrimages to Jerusalem, where pilgrims would measure, for example, the Holy Sepulchre, and the “measuring tape” itself became a treasured talisman; such tapes or strings were soon enough sold to pilgrims to bring home as souvenirs (cf. Jacoby, pp. 190 and 193; and see p. 34, no. 76, in Ettlinger’s typescript catalogue of the Hildburgh collection of amulets). Similarly, other holy measurements drew their initial power from the physical touching of the piece of textile or document to the relic, but fairly quickly the measurement itself, produced in manuscript or reproduced through print, took on its own life and became a tangible and potent symbol of Divine power. For the Length of Christ, an accretion of prayers and formulae (whose sources are analysed by Jacoby) gradually became associated with the measuring strip, evolving, in the German-speaking lands, into a standard text, here translated into French. (In Italy, pictorial strips, illustrated with woodcuts, were also produced; there are three framed examples in the Museo della Sindone in Turin.) The reference to Clement VIII in the title is fictive (he reigned from 1592 to 1605), but it appears true that earlier “Holy Lengths” of Christ were longer (approximately 208 cm.), apparently having been based on the Sepulchre instead of the height of Christ; one scholar suggested that this changed after a discovery in 1684 of a stone found in the tomb of the crusader Godefroy de Bouillon, taken to be the stone upon which Christ’s body was lain. The present example is slightly longer than usual because of the blank spaces preserved between the printed panels.

“Unlike handwritten amulets, which had been custom-produced like manuscript books, paper amulets could be printed on speculation, at a low unit cost. Paper amulets were printed in press runs from a few hundred to a few thousand in expectation of meeting a robust market demand, though they were inherently ephemeral and thus survive in meager numbers, if at all” (Skemer, Magic Writ, p. 145). Indeed, in spite of the prevalance of these rolls, or because of it, and thanks to their ephemeral and fragile nature, very few examples survive. The only extant leaf from a 15th century Length of Christ is held by the Morgan Library (Orazione della misura di Cristo: ISTC io000title). The Hildburgh collection of amulets at the Wellcome Library preserves an example in German (catalogue no. 74, pp. 33-34), without place or printer, dated by Ettlinger ca. 1700; and a roll dated 1755, also in German, and printed, like ours, in Cologne (with no printer’s name) appeared recently in the trade.

This roll, which evidently did make its way to France, was worn and damaged by the early 19th century, when an heir or later user copied the damaged portion of the title and laid the text panels down on sturdier paper, one piece containing a woodcut of a staff or caduceus with a single entwining ribbon, other pieces cut from one or two official documents, mentioning Napoleon, the Consistoire, and Austria in the context of war, thus datable to ca. 1809. The silk pouch accompanying the roll seems indeed to have been used to carry it: “One could transport such amulets, depending on their size and number, by placing them in containers, such as gold or silver suspension capsules, jewelled cases, cloth sacks, and leather pouches. Such containers ranged from purely utilitarian to highly decorated” (Skemer, Magic Writ, 127-8). I locate no other copies of this roll, or descriptions of any such amulet rolls in French.

References: Ellen Ettlinger, “The Hildburgh Collection of Austrian and Bavarian Amulets in the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum,” Folklore vol. 76, no. 2 (Summer 1965):104-117; Ettlinger, typescript catalogue of the Hildburgh collection of amulets, digitized, on the Wellcome Collection’s website. The catalogue occupies pp. 37-177 of the 417-page archive. Adolf Jacoby, “Heilige Längenmaße. Eine Untersuchung zur Geschichte der Amulette,” Schweizerisches Archiv für Volkskunde 29 (1929): 181–216 (online). Xavier Barbier de Montault, “Les Mesures de Dévotion,” Revue de l’Art Chrétien 15 (1881): 360-419 (online on archive.org); Don Skemer, “Magic Writ: Textual Amulets Worn on the Body for Protection,” Schriftträger - Textträger: Zur materialen Präsenz des Geschriebenen in frühen Gesellschaften, volume 6 in the series Materiale Textkulturen (De Gruyter 2015 ), 127-149 (open access). See also Skemer, Binding Words: Textual Amulets in the Middle Ages (Penn State Univ., 2006).
Item #4141

Price: $12,500.00