THE BOURGEOYS HOURS, use of Bourges, mainly in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[France, Bourges, c.1505-1510 (before 1515)] 275 x 130mm. 91 leaves, COMPLETE: i2, ii2, 16, 28, 34, 4-88, 94, 10-128, with catchwords and leaf signatures in most quires, the last and the first four leaves are not foliated and were originally unwritten ruled flyleaves, the two bifolia that form the front flyleaves should be a single quire of 4 leaves at the end of the volume in the order ff.i, iii, iv, ii, and in the final quire the second and third bifolia have been transposed, ff.49v-50v, 61v-62v, and the final flyleaf are ruled, otherwise blank, prickings survive sporadically, 24 lines written in brown ink in a fine bâtarde hand between two verticals and 25 horizontals ruled in red, justification: 130 x 65mm, rubrics in burgundy, calendar in alternating red, blue and - extremely rare - green, with major feasts in gold, one-line initials alternately gold with blue penwork or blue with red penwork, two- and three-line initials in gold on grounds of red and blue with white ornament, similar line-endings in the litany, THIRTEEN HISTORIATED INITIALS FIVE OR SIX LINES HIGH, the first eight lines high, ACCOMPANIED BY THREE-SIDED BORDERS, ONE SMALL MINIATURE seven lines high, and THREE LARGE MINIATURES ACCOMPANIED BY FULL BORDERS of stylised and semi-naturalistic plants and flowers on a gold ground (some cockling, thumbing to margins, some inconsequential losses of gold leaf in some miniatures, occasional offsets, not affecting miniatures). Contemporary blind-stamped leather over wooden boards, the covers with repeated rectangular tools including a lamb and flag, a six-pointed star and flowerheads, gilt edges (rebacked, with original spine laid down, corners restored, traces of two missing clasps at the fore-edges, a few worm-holes, a section of leather missing from the lower fore-edge). Brown solander box.
AN UNUSUAL AND ATTRACTIVE MANUSCRIPT BY AN UNRECORDED BOURGES ARTIST, WITH A DISTINGUISHED PROVENANCE, IN A FINE CONTEMPORARY BINDING
1. Written and illuminated probably in Bourges for someone living to the west of the diocese or originating from the area of Poitiers, to judge by the calendar: the feasts include William of Bourges (10 January, in gold), and Austregesil of Bourges (20 May, with octave), but also the miracles in the church of St Mary, Deols, about 50 miles southwest of Bourges (30 April) and at least four saints of Poitiers: Maxentius (25 June), Hilary (translation, 26 June), Junianus (12 August), and Radegund (13 August). The style of illumination, the headdress worn by Bathsheba, and the tall, narrow, format of the volume suggest a date around 1505-10.
2. Raymond Bourgeoys of Paris, procureur en parlement, and his wife Nicolle Aimes; on the front flyleaves are details of the dates and times of the births, godparents, and baptisms of their seventeen children, with one born every year from 1514 to 1533 except 1520 and 1523; those born from 1514-1515 and 1522-1533 were baptised at the church of St-Pierre-aux-Boeufs (on the Île de la Cité, Paris, adjacent to the Parlement) and those from 1516-1521 at St-Christophe. The godparents include several Bourgeoys relatives, plus priests, abbots, archdeacons, and higher-ranking officials, including Guillaume Hue, Dean of Paris, and Guillaume Poyet, who became Chancellor of France in 1538. Slight differences of ink and script in each entry suggest that they were added individually, which would means that Raymond owned the book before the birth of his second child in 1515.
3. A second list on the front flyleaves record the children of the above Raymond's ninth son (born in 1526), also called Raymond, and his wife Adrienne Regnault; their four children were born from 1553 to 1557 and baptised at the church of St-Jacques de la Boucherie (of which the Tour St-Jacques still stands, just north of the Île de la Cité). This Raymond copied part of his last will and testament into the manuscript (ff.17-18), stating that he wished to be buried in the cemetery of the Holy Innocents, where his father-in-law, Guillaume Regnault, was buried; he got his wish in 1587, and that his wife joined him in 1590 (H. Cocheris, Histoire de la ville et de tout le diocèse de Paris, I, 1863, p.202; Épitaphier du vieux Paris: Recueil général des inscriptions funéraires des églises, 1890, p.317; cf. F. Bonnardot, Registres du bureau de la ville de Paris, IX, 1586-1590, p.2). He appears in a variety of 18th- and 19th-century works about the history of Paris, his name usually spelled Remond Bourgois, because he became an échevin in 1584.
4. Joseph-Louis, Baron d'Heiss, ambassador of the Elector Palatine in Paris, who ruined himself through extravagant book acquisitions and was forced to sell his library in 1781 for 100,000 livres to Antoine-Rene d'Argenson, marquis de Paulmy (1722-1787), founder of the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal (see H. Martin, Histoire de la Bibliotèque de l'Arsenal, Paris, 1900, especially pp.228-41). Able to pay off his debts, but bereft of his library, d'Heiss began to collect again, and in the next few years formed a second library, which was dispersed in his anonymous sale by de Bure, Catalogue des livres rares et précieux de M. ***, Paris, 7 March 1785, in which the present manuscript was lot 18; inscribed 'No. 18 Bon. d'Heiss' on the upper pastedown.
5. '531' in an unidentified 19th-century collection or sale, with this number in red crayon on an oval label on the upper pastedown.
6. Bertram, 4th earl of Ashburnham (1797-1878) (Catalogue of the Manuscripts at Ashburnham Place: Appendix, London, 1861, no LVII; Historical Manuscripts Commission, VIII, part III, p.103 no 57); inherited by his son the 5th earl of Ashburnham (1840-1913); the 'Appendix' collection was sold en bloc to Henry Yates Thompson (1838-1928) who resold all those surplus to his requirements; Sotheby's, 1 May 1899, lot 18, bought by the London bookseller Julius Ichenhauser.
Calendar ff.1-6v; Gospel extracts ff.7-10; Obsecro te, O intemerata, Stabat mater, and other prayers to the Virgin ff.10-15v; the Seven Prayers of St Gregory, with a rubric in French granting an indulgence of 14,000 years to anyone who says them devoutly seven times f.16r-v; the will of Raymond Bourgeoys ff.17-18; Hours of the Virgin, use of Bourges, with the Hours of the Cross and of the Holy Spirit intermixed ff.19-49, with matins f.19, lauds f.28, prime f.34v, terce f.37, sext f.39, none f.41, vespers f.43, and compline f.46v; Seven Penitential Psalms and litany including William of Bourges and Radegund of Poitiers ff.51-61; Office of the Dead, use of Bourges ff.63-78v; Suffrages to the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, the Holy Spirit, the Face of Christ, Michael, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Peter and Paul, James, All Saints, Stephen, Laurence, Christopher, Sebastian, William of Bourges, Nicholas, Anthony, Martin, Anne, Mary Magdalene, Catherine, Margaret, Barbara, and Apollonia ff.79-86v.
Bourges was an important centre of illumination in the late 15th and early 16th century, home to artists including Jean and Jacquelin de Montluçon, the Master of Spencer 6, the Master of the Lallemant Boethius, and above all, Jean Colombe (F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France 1440-1520, 1993, pp.324-47). The tall, narrow, format of the volume had been used in Bourges since at least the 1480s, as in the Hours from the circle of Colombe now in the State Library of New South Wales (ms Mitchell 1/7c). The borders formed of tree-trunks with the branches cut off which accompany each historiated initial are very typical of the Spencer Master, who apparently adopted it from Jean de Montluçon, who was perhaps its inventor (cf. Avril & Reynaud, pls. on pp.171 and 340 for variations on the theme). The facial types also suggest a familiarity with the work of Jean de Montluçon, but it has not been possible to find another published example of the present artist's work, which is characterised by extensive use of gold over-painted with red, often to create brocade drapery effects, white skin for female figures, and Renaissance costume worn by biblical figures.
Explicitly erotic depictions of Bathsheba in Books of Hours seem to derive from a lost panel painting dating from the 1470s by Jean Fouquet, and have been the subject of considerable recent work, including Thomas Kren, 'Looking at Louis XII's Bathsheba', in A Masterpiece Reconstructed: The Hours of Louis XII, Los Angeles, 2005, pp.43-61. We are grateful to Katja Airaksinen, who is preparing a study of late Bourges illumination, for help with this manuscript.
The subjects of the miniatures and historiated initials are:
f.7 St John the Evangelist on Patmos
f.8v St Matthew with the angel
f.9v St Mark with the winged lion
f.10 The Virgin and Child
f.19 The Annunciation
f.28 The Visitation
f.33v The Crucifixion
f.34v The Nativity
f.37 The Annunciation to the Shepherds
f.39 The Adoration of the Magi
f.41 The Presentation in the Temple
f.43 The Flight into Egypt, accompanied by a woman
f.46v The Coronation of the Virgin
f.51 David watching Bathsheba
f.63 Job on the Dungheap
f.79 The Trinity, holding tablets inscribed 'Ego sum Alpha et ho' [sic]