BOOK OF HOURS, use apparently of Troyes, in Latin with additions in Catalan, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[France, perhaps Champagne, possibly Troyes, third quarter of 13th century]
120 x 90mm. i + 119 leaves: 16 (of 8, lacking iii, probably blank, and vi; i is the pastedown), 2-118, 124, 13-158, 167 (of 8, lacking vii, probably blank; viii the pastedown), occasional catchwords, 12 lines written in brown ink in a formal gothic bookhand in two sizes according to liturgical function, between two verticals and 13 horizontals ruled in plummet, justification: 85 x 60mm, rubrics and calendar entries in red, some capitals touched red, line-endings in red and blue, the lower margin of each recto with a diagonal sword-shaped ornament in red and blue, two-line initials in gold infilled and surrounded by a field of rose and blue, with white tracery ornament, ONE FIVE-LINE AND EIGHT FOUR-LINE HISTORIATED INITIALS EACH WITH A GOLD GROUND, from which spring extensions into the outer and sometimes also upper margins (lacking one calendar leaf and two blanks, some thumbing and darkening of leaves, some rubbing and flaking of pigment, the decoration in the lower margin somewhat cropped, the pastedowns somewhat wormed). MEDIEVAL SPANISH BINDING of late 14th- or 15th-century brown leather blind-tooled with rope-work stamps over wooden boards, sewn on three double bands (nail holes at the fore-edge from a missing clasp and catch, minor worming to the upper cover). Red solander box.
AN EXCEPTIONALLY EARLY AND APPEALING BOOK OF HOURS OWNED BY A CATALAN TEXTILE MERCHANT, IN A FINE EARLY MUDéJAR BINDING
1. Apparently written for, and perhaps at, Troyes. The Hours of the Virgin is not entirely consistent with the Troyes text of the later Middle Ages, but where it deviates it usually corresponds with the readings of Sens, about 35 miles to the west. The only French saint in red in the calendar is St Remi of Reims (in which diocese Troyes lay), but Nichaise of Reims is in black, and one of the few other localisable saints is Lupus of Sens (1 September).
2. Late-13th or early 14th-century Spanish owners, surely itinerant textile merchants, used the blank flyleaves for memoranda concerning their stock and the Champagne Fairs (see below), two of which were held in Troyes. They also had a number of southern French and Spanish entries added to the calendar, including 'Eulalia barch.' (i.e. of Barcelona, 12 February), her translation (24 October), Ermengardus bishop of Urgell (3 November), and the dedication of Barcelona cathedral (18 November). Another Spanish owner made further alterations to the calendar and had the volume rebound.
3. Laurence Witten, New Haven, Catalogue 4 (1957) no 53, with his(?) pencil annotations on a front flyleaf.
Calendar, lacking the end of February and beginning of March ff.1-12; f.12v blank; Hours of the Virgin ff.13-88v: matins f.13, lauds f.29v, prime f.46v, terce f.55, sext f.60, none f.65, vespers f.70v, compline f.80v; Seven Penitential Psalms ff.89-110; Litany of saints, petitions, and two collects ff.110-118v.
This is one of the earliest surviving independent French Books of Hours, similar in size and page-layout to the de Brailes Hours (BL, Add. ms 49,999), the earliest surviving English example. It contains only the most essential contents of a Book of Hours, without additional texts such as the Hours of the Cross and Holy Spirit, or Office of the Dead.
The upper pastedown and facing page are inscribed, in Catalan, with a list of quantities of textiles, beginning:
'[Dra]p [d]arras -- xlvi al
Pelos darras -- xl al
Drap engles -- xlviii al . . .'
The place-names include Arras, England, Châlons, Ypres, Ghent, Lille, Douai, Cambrai, Valenciennes, St-Quentin, Bonneville, Monsteruel, St-Omer, Beauvais, Provins, Huy, Saintes, Venice, Trieste, Reims, Vitry, and St-Fergera.
Similar lists of textiles are printed in Bienvenido Oliver y Esteller, Historia del derecho en Cataluña, Mallorca y Valencia. Código de las costumbres de Tortosa, 1876, p.413, and in Bernard Alart, Documents sur la langue catalane des anciens comtés de Roussillon et de cerdagne, 1881, pp.78, 110.
On the following page is inscribed, by another hand but also in Catalan, a list of the so-called Champagne Fairs and their dates, beginning: 'The Lagny fair begins on the day after New Year; The Bar-sur-Aube fair begins on the Tuesday before mid-Lent; The Provins May fair begins on the Tuesday before the Ascension; The Troyes fair of St John begins on the first Tuesday after the fortnight of St. John's Day . . .'
The most detailed modern description of the Champagne Fairs is J.L. Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D.1250-1350, 1991, chapter 2. Describing the importance of textiles to the fairs, she notes, 'Each fair began slowly, with some eight to ten days allotted to the arrival of merchants and their installation in special lodgings and storage halls. The highlight of the fair, however, was when the town crier called 'Hare' [a word whose origin is obscure], a signal that the cloth fair was about to open. Until that time, no sales of cloth were permitted and during the official ten days of the cloth fair no other transactions were allowed. This was clearly the economic heart of the fair, for it involved the long-distance merchants -- the traders from Flanders who brought their manufactured goods to export to Italy and the Levant, and the Italian merchant-bankers who had come laboriously over the Alps for a chance to bid on them, bringing eastern products in exchange.'
The heyday of the Champagne Fairs was the mid-13th to the mid-14th century. The decline arguably started in 1284 when Philip the Fair, the future king of France, married Joan I of Navarre, Countess of Champagne, and thus the County of Champagne became part of the royal domain; the incentives for traders that the Counts of Champagne had previously offered were removed.
Production of illuminated manuscripts in Troyes for ecclesiastical patrons declined with the decline of the fairs, as patrons increasingly looked to Paris instead, although a few major works were still being produced at Reims towards the end of the century, and a Breviary of Montier-la-Celle was perhaps made at Troyes c.1300.
On the back pastedown is a recipe for a syrup intended to increase one's powers of memory and recall, attributed elsewhere to the Franciscan Frater Robertus (see Thorndike & Kibre, 1st edn. cols 617-8, 2nd edn. col. 1333): 'R[ecipe] rad[icis] lingue bovis r[adicum] v[alerane] '.
The charming initials are painted with a limited palette of blue, green, reddish-brown and an unusual dull yellow, with white detailing against burnished gold grounds. Stylistic comparisons are made difficult by their small scale, but they have some similarities to a Book of Hours and a Psalter, both in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, both dated to the third quarter of the 13th century: ms W.40, which has been attributed to Paris but was in Reims by the early 14th century, and ms W.43, attributed to northeast France (L. Randall, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts: France, I, 1989, nos 29-30).
The subjects of the historiated initials are:
f.13 Virgin and Child enthroned
f.55 Nativity, with the ox, ass, and Christ above; Mary and Joseph below
f.60 Flight into Egypt
f.65 Adoration of the Magi
f.70v Presentation in the Temple
f.89 David enthroned, tuning his harp
The Adoration of the Magi is out of its normal biblical sequence, which is perhaps related to the fact that the adjacent rubric mistakenly identifies the hour of none as terce.
For further information about the flyleaf inscriptions, apply to the Department.