PSALTER HOURS, Use of Rouen, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Normandy, c.1450]99 x 70 mm. i paper + 262 + iii paper leaves approx. with modern pagination omitting the twelve calendar leaves and p.121, lacking approx. 40 leaves, 10 probably with miniatures or large initials and borders pp.1-2 (replaced by p.354-355), 45-46, 77-78, 109-110, 142-143, 182-183, 214-215, 250-251, 362-363, 388-389, and 30 between pp.399 and 460, 20 lines in two columns written in brown ink in a lettre bâtarde between four verticals and 21 horizontals ruled in red, justification: 59 x 18-5-18 mm, rubrics in red, text capitals touched yellow, numerous one-line initials alternately in burnished gold flourished in dark blue and blue flourished with red, many two-line initials with blue staves on burnished gold grounds with in-fills of maroon patterned in liquid gold leading to sprays of burnished gold leaves and coloured flowers and fruits on hairline tendrils, two three-line initials of similar design with gold bar and partial borders of gold and blue acanthus and similar sprays (some offsetting from penwork in borders, some leaves trimmed into borders, leaves missing as above). 18th-century red morocco gilt with tools including a pomegranate on a stem, gilt turn-ins, spine in four compartments gilt (extremities worn, repair to joints and spine).
The Office of the Dead and what remains of the Office of the Virgin are for the Use of Rouen; the Calendar has some saints particular to Rouen. The inclusion of the feast of St Ursin's relics in red (9 November) indicates a strong connection with Lisieux, to which they were translated in 1055, or with St-Ursin in Basse-Normandie; the cult of St Maur, invoked in the suffrages, was centred in Anjou but there were Norman churches dedicated to him, including St-Maur-des-Bois, not far from St-Ursin. The calendar in Latin suggests that the commissioner may have been a cleric, while the rarity of 15th-century independent Psalter-Hours makes it likely that this compact volume was intended to accompany a portable breviary with the complex sequence of daily offices obligatory for clerics that were also recited by some lay people.
19th-century note in pencil on first paper leaf: 'An exceedingly pretty specimen of the art of illuminating on vellum'.
Calendar unpaginated; Psalter with canticles, lacking 8 leaves pp.3-358, pp.354-355 bound before p.3; ruled blanks pp.359-361; Office of the Virgin, use of Rouen, pp.364-387: matins, lacking opening, p.364; lauds, lacking end, p.375; interspersed with the Hours of the Cross, matins lacking opening, p.390, and the Hours of the Holy Spirit, matins pp.391-392; memorials to the Trinity, saints Michael, Peter and Paul, Christopher, Nicholas, Maur, Sebastian, Katherine, Barbara, Anthony, All Saints (lacking end) pp.392-399; Office of the Dead, use of Rouen, lacking opening, pp.460-496; ruled blank, p.497; prayers to the Virgin added on ruled blanks, pp.498-501.
The expense of fine parchment and extravagantly wide margins is matched by the meticulously crafted text and border decoration, where the predominant red, blue and gold is enhanced by mingling green leaves with the gold. Offsets from miniature frames on pp.141, 181 and 361 suggest that all the major divisions of the Psalter, as well as the opening of the Office of the Virgin, were marked by miniatures. Although the content indicates a patron from areas to the west of Rouen, the manuscript's high quality makes it likely that it was commissioned in the Norman capital, a notable centre of book production both during and after the English occupation, which ended in 1449.