BOOK OF HOURS, unidentified use, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[?Bourges, c.1460]95 x 74mm. i + 170 + ii leaves, a 15th-century remodelling including the relocation of three leaves with miniatures, replacement of four leaves and the addition of three leaves and four gatherings, lacking Prime from the Office of the Virgin probably on three leaves (full analysis available), 14 lines written in lettre bâtarde by two hands, the original scribe in brown-black ink, the second generally in black ink, between two verticals and 15 horizontals ruled in pink, justification: 45 x 36mm, rubrics in red, text capitals touched yellow, one- and two-line initials alternately in burnished gold flourished with dark blue and in light blue flourished with red, line-endings in liquid gold and blue, three-line initials with staves in blue or pink with white penwork decoration and foliate infills on grounds of burnished gold below THIRTEEN LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES framed in burnished gold with fine three-sided baguettes in liquid gold and full borders of hairline tendrils linking burnished gold leaves and disks with small painted flowers between larger plant motifs and acanthus sprays enhanced with liquid gold (some rubbing to miniatures, those on ff.31v, 47, 60, 99, 118, 125v retouched in ink, small tear to top of ff.125-6, creasing of ff.91, 99 and 122, borders rubbed and some slightly cropped). French 16th-century calf over pasteboard tooled in gold with the monogram HCC within a laurel wreath (clasps lacking, slightly worn). Red leather box.
1. The contents show that the book was originally written and illuminated for someone connected with Levroux to the west of Bourges, where Saints Silvanus and Rodena were the centre of a comparatively local cult. The Litany places the uncommon saint, Silvanus, as second of the confessors, followed by Ursin and William, presumably the bishops of Bourges, and includes the extremely rare Rodena, companion of Silvanus; the book ends with a prayer to St Silvanus. The Hours of St Catherine are an unusual element, indicative of a special devotion to the saint.
2. Soon after its completion the book was adapted in a sympathetic hand and with similar text decoration. The use of the Office of the Virgin was altered by erasing and replacing text, removing and replacing entire leaves and by adding new leaves. Further feasts were written in the Calendar, predominantly honouring Dominican saints (Thomas Aquinas, 7 March, Vincent Ferrer 5 April, Peter Martyr, 29 April, Translation of Dominic 24 May, Dominic 5 August). Although the Office of the Dead is of Dominican use, a beginning seems to have been made at erasing the responses.
3. Monogram HCC on the 16th-century binding.
4. Pen trials repeating Saligny on final endleaves.
Calendar ff.1-12; Gospel extracts ff.13-19; Office of the Virgin, lacking prime, adapted to an unidentified use, ff.20-75v: matins ff.20-32, lauds ff.32v-46v, terce ff.47-50v (original ending on f.51 erased), sext ff.51v-55, none ff.55v-59, added office (with leaf with miniature reused) ff.60-63, vespers (with leaf with miniature reused from prime) ff.63v-71, compline (with leaf with miniature reused) ff.71-75; Temporal Hours (added) ff.76-90; Hours of St Catherine ff.91-98v; Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.99-117v; Hours of the Cross ff.118-121v; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.122-125; Office of the Dead, Dominican use, ff.125v-164v; Obsecro te ff.164v-169v; Prayer to St Silvanus ff.169v-170v.
Devotional manuscripts were frequently altered to bring their contents in line with a change in the owners' concerns. The example of the Hours of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, now divided between Brussels, KBR, and Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, shows that economy was not always so much the motive as the preservation of valued miniatures and texts.
The miniatures with their deftly indicated figures and settings relate to the Master of the Boethius, BnF fr.809, who collaborated with the Jouvenel Master on the Mare historiarum (BnF lat.4915), made for Guillaume Jouvenel des Ursins between 1447 and 1455. The Boethius, and its second volume BnF fr.19153, shows elongated figures, with flattened profiles, and summary landscapes, with isolated spiralling rocks, as in this manuscript. The squatter figures and exaggerated stances in this Hours, as in the Adoration of the Magi, are closer to some of the Mare Historiarum miniatures. Different illuminators worked in this style, making precise attributions difficult (see E. König, Französische Buchmalerei um 1450, esp. pp.189-91, 254, pls.40-42; F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France 1440-1520, pp.109-20).
The Jouvenal Group of illuminators was based in Angers or Tours. The Boethius Master's later work has been associated with Bourges, a localisation for which this manuscript provides important supporting evidence.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows:
f.47 Annunciation to the Shepherds
f.51v Adoration of the Magi
f.55v Presentation in the Temple
f.60 The Virgin seated in a garden with the Christ Child beside her
f.63v The Nativity with the Virgin adoring the Child
f.71v Coronation of the Virgin
f.91 St Catherine
f.99 David at prayer in a landscape
f.122 The Trinity with the Dove between the enthroned Father and Son, shown as identical bearded men, sharing a cloak
f.125v Burial in a cemetery