Book of Hours, Use of Rome, in Latin with some French [France, c. 1500 (after 1481)]

BOOK OF HOURS Use of Rome (1500)


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Rubrics in red or blue, numerous one-, two- and three-line initials in gold on blue or red ground or white initials on gold ground, decorated with tracery or with floral ornamentation, line fillers in gold and colours, many in gold shaped as branches, lacking all miniatures, and with them often the first and/or last lines of text of each major section.

Manuscript on vellum, 114 leaves, c. 175×105mm, ruled in pale red ink for 24 lines of text per page (19 in the Calendar) c.120×50mm, written in an elegant lettre bâtarde. Bound in 16th-century brown morocco with triple gilt fillet borders on each cover and the flat spine, gilt edges (the spine expertly restored, vestiges of clasps at the fore-edge). 

A handsome Book of Hours, possibly made for a woman with an unusual calendar pointing to Franciscan connections and ties to Austria - see below. Although lacking miniatures, the manuscript is beautifully illuminated throughout with initials and line fillers, the calendar with rubrics in blue and red. 

Text: (fols. 1r–12v) Calendar, in Latin with headings in French. (fols. 13r–20r) The Passion narrative from the Gospel of John, followed (fol. 19r) by a devotion based on the prayer ‘Stabat Mater’. (fols. 20v–28v) Prayers ‘O intemerata’, ‘Obsecro te’ (fol. 22r), and ‘Missus est Gabriel’ (fol. 24v), with some rubrics in French. (fols. 29r–61v) Hours of the Virgin, with Matins, Lauds (fol. 39r), Prime (fol. 47r), Terce (fol. 49r), Sext (fol. 52r), None (fol. 54r), Vespers (fol. 56r), and Compline (fol. 60r). (fols. 62r–63v) Hours of the Cross. (fols. 64r–66v) Hours of the Holy Ghost. (fols. 67r–68v) Hours of the Conception of the Virgin. (fols. 69r–82v) the Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany (fol. 76v). (fols. 83r–111v) Office of the Dead, Vespers followed by Matins (fol. 87v) and Lauds (fol. 103v). (fol. 112r) The Seven Prayers of St Gregory on the Passion of the Lord. (fol. 112v) Prayers to be said at Mass. (fols. 113r–114v) Four contemporary added prayers to be said before going to sleep.  

Provenance: 1. Although some prayers use masculine Latin forms (e.g. ‘ … qui me indignum famulum tuum N …’, fol. 114v), the presence of the Hours of the Conception suggest that the book was written for a female patron. 2. Mrs Eva Sardinia Borthwick-Norton (1891–1988), art collector, sold at Christie’s, Medieval and Illuminated Manuscripts, 7 December 1988, lot 27 (with plate), attributed to ‘Tours or Loire Valley?’.    

There are a number of peculiarities in the calendar that would repay further study. For example, St Sigismund on 30 April presumably refers to Sigismund, King of Burgundy, but he was normally venerated one or two days later, on 1 or 2 May. ‘Amendi episcopi’ (25 June) presumably refers to the obscure 6th-century hermit (not a bishop) from Périgord. The presence of Vivianus of Saintes (27 Aug.), Salvius of Albi (10 Sept.), Gerald of Aurillac (13 Oct.), Restitutus of St-Paul-Trois-Châteaux (3 Nov.), and two feasts of Privatus of Mende (13 July and 21 Aug.), suggest a connection with south, or more particularly south-west, France. There are also two saints, very rarely found in French manuscripts, who strongly suggest an Austrian interest: St Rupert of Salzburg (27 March) and St Florian, patron of Linz (4 May).  

The calendar includes several mendicant saints, e.g. Gilbert of Sempringham (4 Feb.), Peter Martyr (29 April), Francis (4 Oct.) and his translation (25 May), and Clare (12 Aug.), but much more remarkable is the extremely rare group of the first Franciscan martyrs in the litany: Berard, Peter, Acursius, Adjutus, and Otto (fol. 27v), who died in 1220 and were canonized in 1481.  

To account for this disparate evidence, one possibility is that the book was made for a married woman with strong Franciscan sympathies, living in southern France, but originally from Austria.


Stock Code: 231699

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