44 IVORY AND THE ELEPHANT
accessories of columns and curtains. Around the design, which though
somewhat rude is not lacking in power, runs a meander pattern as
framework. This specimen of early German art illustrates both the
merits and defects of the time and country and is an excellent example
of its kind. The inscription surrounding the figure expresses the
literary enthusiasm of the time in monastic circles, as it declares
that however precious may be the decoration of the book, the
"Sacramentarium" of St. Gregory, its contents are still more precious.
This copy belonged originally to the Cathedral of Trent.
1674, the canons of the Cathedral of Metz, feeling themselves under
some obligation to Colbert, offered him the ivory treasures of their
cathedral. He accepted the gift, and after retaining the valuable and
historical objects in his own possession for a time, he donated them to
the Bibliothèque Royale. Some further voluntary gifts of ivories were
made by the Cathedral chapter of Metz in 1802 to this institution, then
and now named the Bibliothèque Nationale. The greater number of these
ivory book covers had been provided with a broad binding of elaborate
metal work, studded with precious stones, pearls, and enamels; in many
instances, in the various revolutionary disorders and consequent
plunderings, certain of the more valuable stones were plucked from
their settings, these sometimes remaining empty, while at other times
the gaps have been filled up with enamel work or with glass imitations.
A notable instance of this wilful mutilation of a precious relic of
medieval art is the cover of the "Missel de l'abbaye de Saint-Denis,"
written in the eleventh century. Of the three ivory relief figures that
originally adorned it, the central one, that of the Christ, has been
wrenched off, doubtless because it bore attached to it some especially
valuable jewels; there remain the figures of