BOOK OF DEVOTIONS, use of St Donatian, Bruges, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Bruges c.1430s]
An unusual combination of devotional texts more appropriate for use by a religious than a lay person but richly illuminated in the decorative and delightful style characteristic of Bruges Books of Hours.
(1) The Calendar and liturgical use show that the manuscript was made for use in St Donatian, a collegiate church that became the cathedral of Bruges in 1559. The unusual compilation of theological and instructional texts suggests that it was made for the use of a priest or canon attached to the church. (2) JOHAN STORTELBERCH: his death in 1510 recorded on the verso of the back flyleaf and named on the front fly leaf as donor of the manuscript to: (3) ABBOT THEODORICUS CLATER of Hattingen, a town on the Ruhr in Westphalia.
Calendar ff.1-12v; prayers and the Creed ff.14-18v; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.20-32v; prayers ff.34-38v; Suffrages ff.40-62v; Hours of the Passion ff.63-76v; Office of the Virgin, use of St Donatian, Bruges, ff.77-122; Meditations on the Seven Penitential Psalms composed by the theologian Pierre d'Ailly (1351-1420) when he was bishop of Cambrai (from 1397) ff.123-89; letter of Peter Damian to countess Blanche ff.189v-191v; De misteriis horarum ff.192-93v.
Although the manuscript contains several elements customarily found in Books of Hours, it seems unlikely to have been intended for lay use: its most substantial component is Pierre d'Ailly's Meditations on the Seven Penitential Psalms. The text described in the explicit as the letter of Peter Damian is attributed to Werner of St Blasius (PL 157 1159 ff.) but was transmitted as De terroribus mortis, advice and encouragement to an 11th-century countess of Milan on her new life as a nun (PL 145, 731ff).
This is a richly illustrated and attractive book. Yet it is not clear that the scribe had anticipated illustration for this rare selection of texts: the miniatures are variously added on spaces on versos left blank below or after text or on inserted singletons. There seems to have been no wish to illustrate either the meditations or instructional texts or the devotions commonly found in Books of Hours: the Office of the Virgin, the Hours of the Passion and the Seven Penitential Psalms. This makes for a very individual volume.
The artist responsible for these charming miniatures is associable with the oeuvre of the so-called Masters of the Gold Scrolls, known from their elaborate decorative backgrounds. The leading providers of book illumination in Bruges from around 1420 to 1450, they served a varied clientele and decorated books for the home market and for export. The present example reveals an engaging delicacy and refinement in the finish of the miniatures and exemplifies the very peak of what the style could achieve. Colours are varied and intense and combine to rich visual effect, with all the miniatures set off against deep red backdrops with the customary gold scrollwork.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows: Last Judgement f.19v, Crucifixion f.33v, Virgin of Humility f.36v, St Veronica (half-page) f.38v, St Catherine (misplaced, it should precede the prayer on f.57), Angel f.41v, St Christopher f.43v, St Anthony f.45v, St Martin f.46v, St Sebastian f.48v, Sts Peter and Paul f.51v, St John the Baptist (half-page) f.52v, St John the Evangelist f.54v, St James (half-page) f.55v, St Barbara (half-page) f.57v, St Margaret (half-page) f.58v, All Saints (half-page) f.59v, St George f.60v, St Mary Magdalene (half-page) f.61v, Death of the Virgin f.122v.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION AND CONDITION:
135 x 103mm, i + 194 + i leaves, apparently COMPLETE, 17/18 lines, ruled space 90 x 60mm, illuminated and penwork initials throughout, SEVEN HALF-PAGE and FOURTEEN FULL-PAGE MINIATURES (10 on inserted singletons) (some stains and smudging, two corners cut, ff.43 and 141, retouching to miniature on f.48v). Modern white leather over wooden boards, brass catch and clasp.