BOOK OF HOURS, use of Rouen, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
124 x 90 mm. ii + 259 leaves: two inserted leaves, followed by 112, 2-38, 44, 5-158, 167 (of 8, lacking i), 17-358; ff.22v, 157-159v, 188v-191v and 277-279v are ruled blanks, 16 lines written in brown ink in a formal calligraphic bâtarde script between two verticals and 17 horizontals ruled in red, rubrics in purple-red, text capitals touched yellow, line-endings in blue and gold, one-line initials alternately in burnished gold and blue or in blue and red, at least one two-line initial on the vast majority of pages, in blue or pink with foliate infills on burnished gold grounds, each accompanied by a border to the outer margin of acanthus and sprays of flowers and fruit, and occasional flower-pots, with gold disks and leaves on hairline tendrils, FIFTEEN LARGE MINIATURES WITH FULL BORDERS OF STYLIZED ACANTHUS AND SEMI-NATURALISTIC FRUIT AND FLOWERS, the first on a gold ground, a further full border at the beginning of the weekday hours, these and several other prayers each with a four-line initial (lacking one leaf after f.120, occasional minor flaking, the penultimate border smudged, minor thumbing and creases). Blind-tooled straight-grained brown morocco, the spine lettered in gilt 'Liber Praecum M. S.', gilt edges, with the binder's ticket 'Bound by C. Hering, 10 St Martin's Street'.
AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE BOOK OF HOURS, WITH UNUSUAL CONTENTS, BY THE MASTER OF THE GENEVA LATINI, THE LEADING ROUEN ILLUMINATOR OF THE THIRD QUARTER OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY
The calendar points clearly to Rouen, with Martial (3 July) and Romanus of Rouen (23 October) in gold, plus Sever (1 February), Austreberta (10 February), Hugh (9 April), Ouen (5 May), Ursin (12 May, 30 December), Taurin of Evreux (11 August) and Mellon (22 October); in the litany, the martyrs end with Bernardino (canonised in 1450), Ouen, Jerome, Maurus, Mellon, and Romanus, and the virgins include Austreberta. The Office of the Dead is almost identical to Sarum Use (using a variant also found in Huntington Library HM. 1145 and HM. 1166) as a result of the English Occupation of Rouen from 1419 to 1449. Prayers use masculine forms.
An owner probably from the Southern Netherlands or Northern France in the late 15th or 16th century added her impaled coat of arms on the verso of the first inserted leaf: her family arms of argent, a créquier vert, are impaled by those of her husband, sable, three lions argent langued and armed gules; their arms are repeated separately above; below left the arms of his mother, sable, three crescents or; below right the arms of her mother, vert, a fess ermine, a label of three points azure. Her paternal arms, with the addition of a canton, and maternal arms, identified as a branch of the Oignies or Ongnies family, are recorded as appearing together in the church of Carvin, near Lille; the créquier is best known in the canting arms of the Créquy family of Artois, or a créquier gules. Her husband's arms were borne by several families, among them the de Rampemont of Hainault in the 14th century. It is likely that the owner and her husband came from the southern Netherlands and that the book had left Normandy by this date.
On the verso of the second added leaf are the arms of their daughter, also in a lozenge, impaled by those of her husband, argent, a fess sable charged with three mullets or, and surrounded by their parents' arms in a similar arrangement; his maternal arms are possibly blazoned as azure, three cinquefoils argent, a dove argent but the cinquefoils may be intended to be on bezants and the bird's identity is unclear. Her husband's arms were borne by the Jongelinx and by the Assonleville of Artois, although the latter also used mullets pierced. These coats of arms differ in execution from those of her mother and were presumably added when the book was passed on to the next generation.
Bound c.1800 by Charles Hering (d.1815) 'the artistic successor to Roger Payne, the doyen of English bookbinders' (J.G. Marks, 'Bookbinding Practices of the Hering Family', British Library Journal, 6 (1980), p.46).
REBEKAH BLISS (1749-1819), ENGLAND'S EARLIEST FEMALE BIBLIOPHILE (K. Davies, 'Mrs Bliss: A Collector of 1794' in Clark and Worral, eds, Blake in the Nineties, 1999, p.222); bequeathed to her life-long companion Ann Whitaker (d.1825); her sale at Saunders & Hodgson, 26 April 1826, Bibliotheca Splendidissima: A Catalogue of a Select Portion of the Library of Mrs. Bliss, Deceased, Removed from her Residence at Kensington ..., lot 461. Inscribed with a faint pencil inscription, presumably by the purchaser, 'Missal of considerable delicacy & beauty, Cost Mrs Bliss £25(?)' (f.ii).
Quaritch, Catalogue 211 (1902) no 137, with a clipping from the catalogue loosely inserted.
Calendar ff.1-12v; Office of the Virgin, use of Rouen, ff.13-53v; Hours of St Catherine ff.54-67; Hours of John the Baptist ff.67v-80v; Seven Penitential Psalms ff.81-92; Litany, petitions, and collects, ff.92-97; Hours of the Cross ff.97v-100; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.100v-103; Hours for the days of the week: of the Trinity ff.103-106, of the Dead ff.106v-110, of All Saints ff.110-113, of the Holy Spirit f.113, of the Sacrament ff.113v-116v, of the Cross f.117, of the Virgin (lacking end) ff.117-120v; Hours of the Compassion of the Virgin (lacking beginning) ff.121-141; Litany of the Virgin ff.141-144v; prayers to the Virgin ff.144v-145v; a devotion consisting of the incipits of the Seven Penitential Psalms, each accompanied by a prayer, ff. 145v-150v; Psalm 113, the Athanasian Creed, and a collect, ff.150v-157; Office of the Dead, use of Rouen-Sarum, ff.160-188; Gospel extracts ff.192-197v; prayers Obsecro te and O intemerata ff.197v-204v; the Passion of Christ according to Matthew chapters 26-27 ff.205-220; Long Hours of the Passion ff.220v-243; prayers to St Michael and the Virgin ff.243-255v; Psalter of St Jerome ff.256-274; prayer to All Saints ff.274v-276v.
The illumination shows all the characteristics of the finest work of the Master of the Geneva Latini, also known as the Master of the Echevinage de Rouen from his work in manuscripts made for the public library assembled by the aldermen of Rouen. His career in the Norman capital began c.1460 and continued into the 1480s.
The present lot can be dated to his early years in the 1460s, from the borders, where grisaille acanthus on gold makes an early and limited appearance on f.13, and the miniatures with their wealth of detail and incident, all controlled by the Master's feeling for pattern and shape. On f.67v, for instance, we see the headless body of the Baptist and the executioner sheathing his sword as well as Salome bringing the head to Herod and Herodias, with a little dog gnawing a bone under their table. The plausible figures and landscapes filled with turreted castles are comparable to those in his miniatures in copies of La Bouquechardière, datable between 1457 and 1461, and the Chronique de Normandie of c.1460, certainly before 1465 (Paris BnF mss fr. 2685 and fr. 2623). By the 1470s the Master's figures had become more elongated and settings and details more summary. (For the Master and these manuscripts, see F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France, 1993, pp.168-73.)
The miniatures for the Office of the Virgin open conventionally, but the Annunciation to the Shepherds, traditionally placed at terce, is omitted, to the confusion of the rubricator who wrote the expected 'ad sextum', f.37v, before the Adoration of the Magi, f.38. At vespers appears the rare scene of Christ among the Doctors in the Temple, f.47, while at compline the Coronation of the Virgin has been replaced by the Death of the Virgin, f.50. The miniature of Christ among the Doctors may owe something to the Master of the Munich Golden Legend, who used the scene in an Hours of Paris use (BL, Add. 18192) and painted a small version in the Sobieski Hours (Windsor Castle, The Royal Library), where the subject also appears in a miniature in the Bedford style. The Master of the Munich Golden Legend spent time in Rouen, where his emphasis on surface pattern and firmly outlined shapes informed the style of the Master of the Geneva Latini. The younger Master repeated this variant on the illustrative cycle for the Office of the Virgin, with the replacement of the Death of the Virgin by the Marriage at Cana, in the book now known as the Hours of Chrétienne de France (Paris, Arsenal ms 562), commissioned c.1470-1475 by the couple who appear in one of its miniatures. A comparison of the two scenes of Christ among the Doctors highlights the richness of detail in the earlier miniature; despite its larger size, the Arsenal miniature is sparser and more economical in painting technique and motif (ill. Avril and Reynaud, p.172). The present lot shows the Master's work before demand encouraged him to simplify his style for speed of execution and ease of imitation.
The refined delicacy of the illumination, where burnished and liquid gold intensify the dominant blues, pinks and greens, ensures that this Hours stands out from the run of the Master's production. Its very full texts and unusual miniatures indicate a special commission from a patron with particular requirements that elicited an exceptional response.
The subjects of the miniatures are:
The Annunciation f.13
The Visitation f.22v
The Nativity f.33
The Adoration of the Magi f.38
The Presentation in the Temple f.41
The Flight into Egypt f.44
Christ among the Doctors f.47
The Virgin on her Deathbed f.50
St Catherine and the destruction of her wheel, the lower margin with a water fountain, f.54
John the Baptist's Head brought to Herod f.67v
David in Penitence f.81
The Crucifixion f.97v
Burial with the priest asperging the unshrouded corpse f.160
Betrayal and Arrest of Christ f.220v