TEMPORAL BREVIARY WITH PSALTER, for the use of Le Mans, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[France, mid-15th century]147 x 110mm. 235 leaves: 18, 27(of 8, lacking vii), 38, 47(of 8, lacking iii), 58, 67(of 8, lacking vii), 7-98, 107(of 8, lacking viii), 11-128, 137(of 8, lacking ii), 143(?of 8, lacking iii-vi and viii), 15-168, 177(of 8, lacking ii), 185(of 8, lacking iii, iv, viii), 196(of 8, lacking ii and iv), 208, 217(of 8, lacking viii), 227(of 8, lacking i), 236(of 8, lacking ii and vii), 248, 257(of 8, lacking i), 267(of 8, lacking v), 277(of 8, lacking iv), 288, 297(of 8, lacking vi), 306(of 8, lacking iv and viii), 318, 326(of 8, lacking i and viii), 337(of 8, lacking v), a few catchwords in lower margins of final versos, modern pencilled signatures from earlier disordered binding, 27-28 lines in two columns written in black ink in a gothic bookhand between four verticals and 28-29 horizontals ruled in brown, the first and last two ruled across the page, justification: 100-104 x 71mm, rubrics in red, text capitals touched yellow, one- and two-line initials alternately in red and blue, one three-line initial in pink with foliate infill on a burnished gold ground, two four-line initials in blue or red on burnished gold grounds with foliate or patterned infills with partial borders of burnished gold leaves on hairline tendrils (ff.142 and 198v with large initials rubbed and with margins partly excised, lacking at least first gathering, final gatherings of psalter and 29 leaves, most probably illuminated, initial excised f.160, outer text column excised f.79, central margins excised cutting text on versos ff.120-126, cuts through text ff.127-134, water damage and staining to some leaves). Modern limp vellum with two leather ties, brown cloth box.
1. The breviary was presumably written and decorated in Le Mans, c.1450, perhaps for one of the canons of the cathedral: at Easter, the arrival of the Maries at the sepulchre is given as it is done in the church of Le Mans, f.94. It was still in use in the 16th century when the headings were repeated in the upper margins for ease of use. After leaves had been removed, presumably for their decoration, the headings were repeated in a 17th-century hand on the adjacent remaining leaves.
2. François Peuvret: inscribed in a 17th-century hand j'apartien afrançois and Japartien à françois peuvret, ff.16v, 137. Jean-Baptiste Peuvret from Orne, adjacent to Maine, was one of the early settlers of Quebec.
Temporal Breviary, opening in feria iii after the second Sunday in Advent, lacking first gathering and other leaves, ff.1-172; liturgical Psalter with canticles and hymns, opening with the last words of Psalm 4 and breaking in the instructions following the hymns for Saturday Compline, lacking probably three final gatherings with psalms 114-150 and other leaves throughout, ff.173-235.
A complete breviary requires a Sanctoral, Communal and Calendar; given the thickness of this book, even with its losses, it is likely that these formed a companion volume, although the Calendar and Psalter might have been included in both Temporal and Sanctoral. BREVIARIES FOR THE USE OF LE MANS ARE EXTREMELY RARE AT AUCTION and it is likely that the companion volume can be identified with the Breviary for the use of Le Mans of similar dimensions and in a similar binding, but with 425 leaves, sold Reiss und Sohn, Königstein im Taunus, Katalog 91, 21 October 2003, lot 502.
As this was a portable breviary, intended for regular daily use, its decoration was functional: there is no evidence that it ever contained any miniatures. The surviving initials show that major feasts or divisions of the Psalter were marked by an initial and border, ff.142, 198v, with an initial alone for other important feasts, f.156v. The remnants of borders with comparatively heavy ink tendrils suggest a Breton influence and the book could have been illuminated in Le Mans itself or a neighbouring centre of book production.