Book of Hours, Use of Rome, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment [Southern France (Rodez?), 15th century (c. 1470s)]

BOOK OF HOURS  (c.1470)



i + 85 + i leaves, c. 170 × 115mm, ‘60’ omitted from the 20th-century pencil foliation, which thus reaches 86, the collation apparently; 1[8], 2[8-2+1]  (outer bifolium missing, first leaf should follow fol. 19), 3[8-4] (two outer bifolia missing/misplaced), 4[8], 5[6], 6[8], 7[8-4?], 8–12[8], quires 6-8 with vertical catchwords, written with 19 lines per page, the calendar with up to 32 lines, in red and brown, in an unusually spiky bâtarde script, additions in bâtarde script with blank spaces for coloured initials and rubrics (fols. 30v–33v and 79r–87r), illuminated with a HALF-PAGE MINIATURE of the Crucifixion, ANOTHER PAGE WITH AN UNCOLOURED SKETCH FOR A MINIATURE, initial, and border (fol. 34r), the miniature frame, initial, and border rinceaux drawn in black ink, the border acanthus outlined in plummet and the miniature in reddish-brown pencil (the latter conforming to medieval iconography but possibly 19th- or early 20th-century), the start of the Hours of the Cross with a five-line illuminated foliate initial and three-sided foliate border, each hour of the Hours of the Virgin and the Office of the Dead with a similar four-line initial and three-sided border, one-and two-line initials in gold on red and blue grounds, one-line initials alternately gold with blue penwork of blue with red penwork, line-fillers especially dense in the litany, the text from fol. 62r onward in gothic script, with initials alternately blue with red penwork or vice versa, but no gold.  

15th-century blind stamped binding: sewn on three bands, each cover with a central panel filled with lozenge-shaped fleur-de-lys stamps, surrounded by a border of love hearts, and a wider border of blind fillets and a repeat ‘S’ motif; traces of two clasps at the fore-edge; the spine plain. Somewhat worn, with expected weakening of the joints, but the blind-tooling mostly crisp and clear. 


1. The saints in the calendar suggest an origin in south central France, probably Rodez which is 150km northeast of Toulouse, but the litany is non-specific and the Use of Rome of the Hours of the Virgin does not help confirm the localisation. 

2. Inscribed “Achaptées des meubles de feu monsieur de rocaytelz(?) trezorier de l’extraordinaire des guerres au pris de sept soulz six deniers en Octobre 1607” (f. 8v), signed “Pelissiar”(?) (the “Extraordinaire des Guerres” treasury was an offshoot of the War Ministry run as an agency by two or three treasurers general). 

3. Inscribed “Boussaette/”Boussorette”(?), 18th/19th-century (erased, fol. ir). 

4. Unidentified French 19th- or early 20th-century owner: with a paper slip stuck to the front pastedown, “Heures … XIVs In 8o 1 min”. 

5. Hippolyte …, Paris, July 1801: inscribed: “Le 6 Thermidor an 9(?) [i.e. 1801], j’ai porté le présent livre a la Bibliothèque nationale, les Bibliothécaires ont jugé qu’il a eté écrit vers le commencement du quatorzième siècle … d’une belle execution. … juillet 1801 … dans le passage qui communique au jardin des Tuileries(?) à la Rue St. Honoré [signed:] Hippolyte …” (fol. 8v, in the margins, partially erased). 

Text [Items 1–2 occupy quire 1] 

1. (fols. 1r–6v) Calendar, major feasts in red include Robert, abbot of La Chaise Dieu, in the Auvergne (24 April), Quiteria, venerated at Bordeaux and Auch (22 May), Amantius, bishop of Rodez (4 Nov); and in ordinary ink: Clarus, bishop of Lectour (1 June), Gerald, of Aurillac (13 Oct) Gratus, of Rodez (16 October), and Dalmasius, bishop of Rodez (13 Nov). 

2. (fols. 7r–8v) Several added (late 15th- or 16th-century) prayers, with headings in French “Oraison pour impetrer grace envers dieu”, “Aultre oraison a dieu”, “Oraison au sanct esprit”, “Oraisons quand sommes affliges pour noz peches”, “Oraison pour obtenir remission des peches”, etc., followed by a note of acquisition dated 1607 (see Provenance). 

[Items 3–5 occupy quires 2–5] 

3. (fol. 9r–28v) Hours of the Virgin, incomplete and misbound, the first leaf has the start of Terce and should therefore follow fol. 19; with Matins starting imperfectly (fol. 10r), Lauds beginning imperfectly (fol. 17r), Prime (fol. 18r), None (fol. 20r), Vespers (fol. 21v), Compline (fol. 32v), and the Advent Office (fol. 25r). 

4. (fol. 29r–30r) Hours of the Cross, abbreviated, here called the “officium crucifixi”. 

[Item 5 occupies pages previous left unwritten at the end of Quire 5] 

5. (fols. 30v–33v) Hours of the Conception. 

[Items 6–7 occupy quired 6–9]  

6. (fols. 34r–44r) The Seven Penitential Psalms, followed (fol. 39v) by a litany of saints and collects. 

7. (fols. 44v–61r) Office of the Dead, Use of Rome; fol. 61v ruled, otherwise blank. 

[Items 8–13 occupy the last leaf of quire 9 and quires 10–12] 

8. (fols. 62r–72v) The Athanasian Creed, followed by devotions to the Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Holy Face (the initial with a large penwork profile face), the Marian prayers “Obsecro te” and “O intemerata”, using masculine forms, and other prayers to the Virgin Mary, including the “Stabat mater” (fol. 70r) written out as verse with alternate red or blue line-fillers. 

9. (fols. 72v–78v) Suffrages to Saints: Michael, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Peter & Paul, James, Stephen, Laurence, Christopher (“micho famulo tuo .N.”), Sebastian, Nicholas, Claude, Anthony, Anne, Mary Magdalene, Catherine, Margaret, Barbara, and Apollonia. 

10. (fols. 78v–79r) The Seven Prayers of St Gregory. 

11. (fols. 79r–81r) Added prayer to Christ, “[C]onditor celi et terre rex regum …”. 

12. (fols. 81v–87r) The Passion narrative, mainly from the gospel of John, “[E]gressus  Ihesus cum discipulis suis …”. 

[Item 13 is added in a space previously left blank] 

13. (fol. 87r) Prayers, with headings in French, probably by the same writer as those on fols. 7r–8v; fol. 87v blank. 


A half-page miniature depicting The Crucifixion occupies a space at the end of the Hours of the Virgin, facing the start of the Hours of the Cross: the Virgin clasps her hands as if in prayer while, in an unusual pose, St. John the Evangelist crosses his arms in front of his chest. The style and the latter iconography are unlike those of the major centres in the north and the Loire valley, such as Paris, Rouen, Bourges, and Tours, supporting the suggestion that the manuscript was produced in the Provençal-speaking region of southern France. 

The outline drawing of King David at the beginning of the Penitential Psalms may be post-medieval to judge by its style (including its rather clumsily drawn face, and awkward hands at the end of arms without joints) and technique (medieval preparatory sketches are typically executed in plummet or a thin grey ink, as with the sketched acanthus in the corners of the left border, not red-brown). Despite these reasons for doubt, the draughtsman did use appropriate iconography, and it is arguable that a post-medieval artist would not have left the miniature as an unfinished sketch, so he may in fact have been working in the 15th century. 


Although lacking some leaves and some of its original decoration, this volume has an extremely handsome binding and offers several avenues for interesting future research. The juxtaposition of two main sections, one written in bâtarde script (fols. 1-61) and one in gothic (fols. 62-79), each with very different decoration, is very unusual. The subsequent addition of further texts in bâtarde - yet without decoration or rubrics - on pages previously left unwritten (fols. 30v-33v, 79r-87r), marks a third stage in the book’s evolution, and the addition of prayers in the late 15th or early 16th century (fols. 7r-8v, 87r) a fourth stage.

The leaf with the unfinished miniature presents a real mystery: not only is the decoration of this leaf unfinished—a rare example that reveals some of the preparatory stages in the execution of miniatures and borders—but it is also the only leaf in its quire that is written in different ink and without decoration. It may perhaps be that the bookseller who commissioned the work had this leaf written, and then sent the bifolium to an illuminator to execute the miniature and border, but the latter failed in his task and returned the bifolium after the rest of the quire had been completed..

Stock Code: 250120

close zoom-in zoom-out close zoom