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[Zwolle, eastern Netherlands, ca. 1470]
161 x 112mm. 147ff lacking some leaves between 74 and 75, 102 and 103 and some at the end, 19 lines written in brown ink in a gothic bookhand between 2 verticals and 20 horizontals ruled in brown ink, justification: 86 x 63mm, rubrics in red, one-line text capitals alternately blue and burnished gold, two-line versal initials of burnished gold against grounds and infills of blue and pink with white decoration and marginal sprays of ferny penwork tendrils with trefoil and disk terminals of burnished gold, TWENTY-FIVE LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIALS WITH THREE-SIDED BORDERS of curling penwork tendrils with flower and fruit terminals, golden trefoils and disks and golden bars, and SEVEN LARGER HISTORIATED INITIALS accompanied by FULL-PAGE BORDERS with curling acanthus fronds of pink and blue, green stems of flowers and fruit all interspersed with golden disks and dots, some with figures of angels (Calendar folios stained and reinforced, some spotting and darkening of the vellum, figures on f.125 abraded). Contemporary blind-stamped brown calf over wooden boards with two later brass clasps, centre panel with a mandorla containing a half-length John the Baptist, with the Evangelists' symbols at the corners (restored and rebacked, stamps flattened).


The manuscript was bound by Peeter Jans (Janssen or Petrus Johannes) a lay brother of Sint-Agnietenberg at Zwolle who died in 1471; P. Verheyden, "Boekbanden van het Klooster op Sint-Agnietenberg te Zwolle", Het Boek, xxi (1932), pp.26-32, ill.2. It is of the same type, and with the same stamp as a Book of Hours (Ms G B 80 71) in the library of the Ruusbroec Genootschap, Antwerp, also datable around 1470. Other books bound by Peeter Jans include three autograph manuscripts of Thomas à Kempis, the most illustrious member of the congregation of canons at Sint-Agnietenberg.


1. The Office of the Virgin is use of Utrecht and the Calendar includes many of the feasts of northern Netherlandish saints in red : Pontianus (14 January), Servatius (13 May), Odulf (12 June), Lebuin (25 June and 12 November), Lambert (17 September), Willibrort (7 November).

2. A note written in Dutch in the lower margin of f.1 records the gift of the book in 1562.

3. Victor von Stedingk, Sweden 1944; armorial bookplate on front


Calendar, ff.1-12; Office of the Virgin, f.13-48: matins ff.13-21, lauds ff.21-8, prime ff.28-31, terce ff.31-33v, sext ff.33v-36v, none ff.36v-39, vespers ff.39-44, compline ff.44-48; Hours of the Cross, ff.49-71: matins ff.49-55, lauds ff.55-58v, prime ff.58v-60v, terce ff.60v-62v, sext ff.62v-64v, none ff.64v-66, vespers ff.66-69, compline ff.69-71; Hours of the Holy Spirit: ff.72-88: matins ff.72-74v, prime ff.75-77, terce ff.77-79, sext ff.79-81, none ff.81-3, vespers ff.83-5v, compline ff.85v-88; Hours of Eternal Wisdom ff.89-106v: matins f.90-96v, lauds ff.96v-98v, prime ff.98v-102, vespers 102-104, compline 104-106v; Seven Penitential Psalms ff.107-115v; Litany ff.115v-124; Office of the Dead ff.125-47; 48v, 71v and 88v blanks


This Book of Hours is illuminated in the style attributed to the Masters of the Zwolle Bible, the artists responsible for painting the 6-volume Bible (Utrecht University Library, MS 31) made at the community of the Brethren of the Common Life at Zwolle between 1462 and 1476. The illumination of the present manuscript accords well with the description of this style given in the catalogue of the 1989 exhibition The Golden Age of Dutch Manuscript Painting -- 'finely decorated but never excessively or exaggeratedly opulent. Palettes are confined to a relatively small number of colours, among which pink, red, blue and green figure largely. Often these colours are kept pale, and the illumination has a quality of extreme lightness (p.244)'.

The subjects of the historiated initials are as follows:

f.13 The Virgin with Child on a half-moon, two angels in the border
f.49 Christ as the Man of Sorrows, two angels with symbols of the Passion in the border
f.72 Pentecost, the Virgin seated surrounded by the Apostles
f.89 The risen Christ blessing and holding an open book
f.107 Christ in Judgement seated on a rainbow, with angels sounding the Last Trump in the upper border and three dead rising from their graves in the lower border
f.125 Two souls, one male and one female, imploring upwards, their lower legs in flames

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