BOOK OF HOURS, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[France, c.1380]190 x 152mm. 90 leaves: 19(of 8, two single leaves replacing i and pasted onto viii), 27(of 8, viii lacking), 36(of 8, lacking ii and vii), 46(of 8, lacking iv/v), 56(of 8, lacking iv/v), 62(likely of 8), 74(of 8, lacking i, iii and vi, viii now pasted to following gathering), 86(of 4 + i and iv), 9-118, 127(of 8, lacking vii), 139(of 10, lacking x), 144(undetermined), catchwords in centre lower margin of final versos rarely following on, 17 lines written in a gothic bookhand in black ink between two verticals and 18 horizontals ruled in grey, justification: 113 x 76mm, rubrics in red, one-line initials of burnished gold on grounds and infills of pink and blue with white filigree decoration, line-fillers of the same colours, two- to four-line initials of pink or blue on grounds of gold with a leaf or leaf-spray in the infill, BAR BORDERS WITH IVY-LEAF SPRAYS INTO THE UPPER AND LOWER MARGIN AND OFTEN INCLUDING A DRAGON TERMINAL accompany all two- to four-line initials, SEVEN LARGE MINIATURES, FIVE OF THEM WITH BORDERS IN ALL MARGINS (miniatures rubbed, spotting and staining, tears in two folios and small section cut from one margin). French 16th-century calf over pasteboard, central crucifixion stamp above the motto 'loyal desir' and a coat-of-arms on a semé of fleur de lis, arabesque cornerpieces, date 1590 stamped on lower cover (worn).
A MANUSCRIPT CONTAINING FRENCH VERSES
1. The manuscript was made for the lady, apparently a noblewoman kneeling before the Virgin on f.70v: she appears to wear a coronet and originally her coat of arms, now erased, was painted at the right above a small lion. Although her arms have been erased she may be identifiable from another feature of the decoration: on several folios line-fillers have the names Phelipes or Ruffier or PHs replacing the filigree decoration, and in one case Phelipes Ruffier (f.81v). A manuscript of a similar date where the name included on line-fillers can be certainly identified as the patron's is the Book of Hours of Agnes de Pont Saint-Maxence, Leuchtendes Mittelalter V, Katalog XXX Antiquariat Heribert Tenschert, 1993, no 16. The owner of the present manuscript is probably identifiable as the Philippe -- or Philipotte -- Ruffier, wife of Raoul IV, sire de Coëtquen in Saint-Helen from 1386-1420. She was the only daughter of Jehan, seigneur de Vau-Ruffier in Plouasne, vicomte de Rougé, in Tréfumel and his wife Saveline du Guesclin, dame de la Ville-Anne in Saint-Servan. Philippe is believed to have married Raoul de Coëtquen around 1360. She was the heiress of Ville-Anne and lived until at least 1431.
The manuscript was rebound towards the end of the 16th century by someone whose coat of arms bore a chevron and who used the motto 'loyal desir'.
Suffrage to Sts Peter and Paul f.1r and v; suffrage to St Anne f.2r and v; Office of the Virgin, of unidentified use and fragmentary ff.3-31v; parts of Pss 6, 37 and 50 from the Seven Penitential Psalms ff.32-34v; part of vespers and matins of the Office of the Dead ff.35-36v; part of the Short Hours of the Cross f.37r and v; Short Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.38-39v; Fifteen Joys of the Virgin, in French, lacking opening and closing lines, ff.40-42v; Seven requests, in French, lacking end ff.43-44v; part of a sequence of prayers ff.45-46v; Office of the Dead opening in the first nocturn of matins ff.47-70; prayer to the Virgin in French, opening Glorieuse virge raine, lacking one leaf ff.70v-78; Gradual Psalms ff.78-85; Passion according to John ff.85-86v; indulgenced prayer opening O anima christi sanctifica me f.86v; four non-consecutive leaves from a verse account of the legend of St Margaret and her death at the hands of Olimbrias, lacking the beginning, f.87 opening '...Quelle est la loy que vous tenez', f.88 opening '...Lors revint .i. homme mor', f.89 opening '...Ceulx saillent sus que plus natendent', f.90 opening '...Enson courage coyement' and f.90v breaking 'Mes le corps avoit bel et gent...'; the text was already defective when the leaves were annotated in a 15th-century hand, ff.87-90v.
St Margaret, who had escaped without harm from the belly of a dragon was invoked to protect women in childbirth and pregnancy: her verse legend was a particularly efficacious addition to the prayerbook of a lady. Since the surviving miniature comes in the middle of the story, it is likely that it was originally one of a series of illustrations, placing the present Hours with the select group of four manuscripts with a cycle of St Margaret miniatures listed by Alison Stones, 'La Vie de sainte Marguerite', Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie, 1990.
This manuscript was painted with great delicacy, charm and wit. The figures and their fluid drapery are modelled with exceptional subtlety and the range and wealth of decorative elements are treated with a lively freshness. Even standard components like the dragon terminals of the borders avoid monotony: they have different types of wings, different feet -- sometimes webbed -- different tongues, occasionally one creeps up to or into an initial, crawls into a shell, or snaps at a hapless passing frog. Even the filigree patterns on the line-fillers are applied with an unusual fine precision.
There is an equal invention and thoughtfulness in the religious compositions.
The subjects of the miniatures are:
f.1 Sts Peter and Paul; f.2 St Anne; f.23 Presentation in the temple; f.28v Massacre of the innocents before Herod; f.38v Pentecost; f.70v the lady owner, kneeling before the Virgin and Child enthroned, an attendant lion; f.89v the torture of St Margaret, the naked saint suspended by her hair and scourged and beaten by two executioners.