BOOK OF HOURS, use of Besançon, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Franche-Comté, probably Besançon mid-15th century]
195 x 151mm. 68 leaves (including 2 replacement folios): 14(of 6, lacking iii & iv), 26, 38(later blank folio tipped in to replace lacking i), 48, 58(later blank folio tipped in to replace lacking i), 6-98, 102, with pencil foliation 1-66 skipping replacement leaves, 20 lines written in black ink between two verticals and 21 horizontals ruled in red, justification: 111 x 83mm, one-, two- and three-line initials of burnished gold against grounds and infills of red and blue with white decoration, four-line initials of red or blue against gold grounds with leaf- or flower-sprays in the infill, NINE THREE-SIDED OR FULL-PAGE BORDERS with sprays of acanthus, flowers and fruit among hairline tendrils with gold trefoils, some including birds (occasional slight spotting, dampstain in upper outer margin of ff.19-24, some smudging to border of f.16v). 17th-century red morocco gilt, gilt edges (some scuffing and spotting).
The manuscript was made for use in Besançon: Sts Ferreolus and Ferrutio (16 June), the principal patrons of the city and Antidius (17 June), bishop of Besançon appear in both the Calendar and Litany, and the Office of the Virgin is for the use of Besançon. The manuscript remained in Franche-Comté until at least the end of the 16th century. Philibert de Prat of Franche-Comté noted family events in the lower margins of the first five folios: he recorded his marriage in 1562 to Marie de Balay, daughter of the Seigneur de Longvy, and the births of their children from François in 1563 to Cateline in 1586. His later note (f.5) added around the announcement of Jehan's birth in 1576 records this son's departure for Malta in 1594 to join the Order of St John of Jerusalem. By the 18th century the manuscript was in Langres: inscription of 1788 on front endleaf and stamp on f.10bis
Calendar, lacking March and April ff.1-10v; Office of the Virgin, use of Besançon ff.11-39v: matins, lacking opening f.11, lauds f.16v, prime f.23v, terce, lacking opening f. 26, sext f.28, none f.30, vespers f.32v, compline f.37; Hours of the Cross ff.40-41v; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.42-52v; Office of the Dead ff.Office of the Dead ff.53-61; Suffrages to Sts George, Francis, Anthony, James (later addition), Louis, Clare. The prayer 'Concede mihi misericors deus...' is added in the hand of Philibert de Prat on f.66v.
Pages where the devotions open are decorated with extensive borders and large initials, and there are golden initials throughout the book. The borders are vigorous and colourful versions of the more polished decoration in manuscripts produced for Charles de Neufchâtel, bishop of Besançon from 1463, and his cousin, Antoine de Neufchâtel, bishop of Toul (especially the latter's Pontifical, Besançon, Bibl. Mun.,Ms. 157): M.M. Manion et al, Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts in New Zealand collections, 1989, pp.55-58, fig.67. Spaces were left for miniatures to open eight of the major devotions and five suffrages. The fact that these were never supplied clearly never detracted from the importance of the manuscript in the devotional and family life of its early owners.