|Salisbury Cathedral Library, MS 150: the tenth-century Salisbury Psalter, with its twelfth-century English gloss|
Missing from the Salisbury Psalter folio pictured above is an enormous, probably historiated initial I (Iubilate is the opening word of Psalm 100  here). A possible reason that that initial was removed--along with many, many others in this manuscript--is that it contained a human being as its decorative design. It was most likely similar to this one that survived the knife:
or this rapid cut from Lampeter, Burgess Library, MS 2 (Petrus de Capua's Distinctiones theologicae):
In Cambridge, Trinity College, B. 5. 4, a late twelfth-century Psalter, at least thirty-five individual figures of early theological authors have been excised from the margins, sometimes creating lonely bystanders, like Augustine here on the left.
And the echoing remnant of an absent figure is attested here by just the point of his spear-like obelus (see Trinity College's superb digital repository for this and many other manuscripts):
The extraction of these initials suggests a real demand for human figures by the cutters and collectors, as well as a desire for other decorated or inhabited initials. Such demand is illustrated by volumes of cuttings now in private collections and libraries; one such example that contains the finest quality, medieval Italian initials is London, BL, Additional 39636.
Art galleries also display these partial representations of books, as if they were, in fact, discrete artefacts. In St Louis Art Gallery, for example,
the excised initial I from the beginning of St John's Gospel is (without much comment or sense of the obvious irony) displayed in a frame adjacent to a medieval arm reliquary in a glass-case. Both exhibits represent disembodied bits, bits that are representative of a venerated, fragmented whole.
The display of excised initials draws attention to the desirability of these severed book-parts. Indeed, on EBay, reproductions of just a manuscript initial, like this one, are currently for sale:
|Print reproduction of initial for sale on EBay (22.vii.15)|
Such objects should most usefully also be shown with the accompaniment of a statement like that of ILAB, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. Their Code of Practice explicitly condemns the contemporary cutting-up of rare and unique books, but could, arguably, go a lot further than it does to prevent the sale or movement of discrete bits of medieval manuscripts, too.
And, just as Benjamin Albritton (Stanford), Lisa Fagin Davis (Beauvais Missal) and others are digitally reconstructing broken books, the leaves of which are scattered throughout multiple repositories, it might be possible--who knows?--to discover and recover initials on collectors' cards or sheets (as below, which was for sale on EBay in June 2015) and reunite them with their original contexts of production, their original textual companions.