BOOK OF HOURS, use of Sarum, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[southern Netherlands, possibly Bruges, c.1430]
190 x 135mm. 60 leaves + ii 18th-century additions containing an index of contents and a short list of common Latin abbreviations, early modern pagination 1-62 and 65-122. TWENTY-ONE LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIALS extend into foliate borders with bezants, flowers and fruits, SEVEN FULL-PAGE MINIATURES with full-page floral and foliate borders (lacking a number of leaves at the end of each Hour of the Office of the Virgin, slight marginal cropping and smudging throughout, some loss of pigment to miniatures, ff.9, 11, 13, 21, 23 and 26 partially or completely backed). Late 18th-century brown calf (lightly scuffed, cracking to spine).
The text and style of illumination show that the book originated in Bruges c.1430 for the English export market. The addition of Latin prayers in a 15th-century English hand (ff.31, 36-6v and 59) indicates that the manuscript arrived in England soon after its production; Jonas Smorden, his name on f.13 (a Jonas Smerdon, yeoman, lived in Ashburton, Devon in 1690); in the library of the Earls of Devon, and already missing some leaves, by the 17th or 18th century, when it was paginated and given an index, then by descent to the 18th Earl of Devon; Sotheby's 7 July 2009, lot 51.
Calendar f.1-6v; prayers to the Trinity and to various saints ff.7-14; Office of the Virgin ff.15-31; prayers to the Virgin f.32; the Seven Hymns for the Virgin, here attributed to Pope Clement f.37; prayers to the Virgin and St John the Evangelist f.39; Bede's prayer, De septem verbis domini f.41; Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.43-50; Office of the Dead f.51; Gradual Psalms f.56; readings on the Passion f.58; the Psalter of St. Jerome f.60.
The figures with their oval faces, minimalist features and some green underpainting for flesh, inhabit hilly landscapes with little trees or interiors with diapered black and silver floors, all characteristics of the Masters of Otto van Moerdrecht (see for comparison a Book of Hours in Modena, BEU, ms. lat. 805 -- Miniatures Flamandes, 2012, p.34). Although named from a book produced in Utrecht, one of the chief practitioners of the style ran a workshop in Bruges from the mid-1420s, which has also been associated with Claes Brouwer, a name found in one of the manuscripts in the Moerdrecht style. The Moerdrecht Masters' activity may have continued into the 1440s; the miniature borders place this book early in their production. The main illuminator of the present manuscript has a more painterly technique than some of the Masters, evident in his figures and in the modulated pink backgrounds of three of the miniatures. The burnished gold backgrounds more typical of the Moerdrecht Masters appear in two miniatures, while St John the Baptist is set against a gold patterned background of the sort that provides the name for the Masters of the Gold Scrolls, also major figures in Bruges illumination.
The subjects of the full-page miniatures are:
St. John the Evangelist f.9v; the Virgin and Child f.11v; St. Catherine f.13v; Christ before Pilate f.21v; the Scourging of Christ f.23v; the Crucifixion f.26; the Commendation of Souls to Heaven f.55v.