BOOK OF HOURS, use of Coutances, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Normandy, Coutances, mid-15th century]
218 x 146mm. 138 leaves: 1-38, 47(of 8, lacking vii with miniature), 5-68, 77(of 8, lacking viii with miniature), 9-168, 174, 188, probably lacking two gatherings with Calendar, horizontal catchwords in lower margin on most last versos, some catchwords within ornamental pen-work frames, 15 lines written in brown ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 16 horizontals ruled in pale red, justification: 100 x 68mm, rubrics in red, text capitals touched yellow, one- and two-line initials in burnished gold on pink and blue grounds with white tracery, similar line-fillers, four-line initials of blue or blue and pink with white tracery and ivy-leaf infill on burnished gold grounds, most pages with outer borders of small burnished gold leaves on black hairline stems and coloured foliage and flowers growing from an upright coloured twig, three three-sided borders in the same style, TEN LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES, nine with outer and lower inner borders of burnished gold and ivy leaves in pink, blue and green surrounded by full outer borders of small gold leaves on scrolling black hairline stems interspersed with sprays of coloured flowers and fruits, one also inhabited by a monkey, fox and bird, the first miniature with full historiated border incorporating a Jesse tree (opening folio rubbed and darkened, occasional minor flaking of pigment, a few smudges, a few small wormholes to last six leaves). 19th-century vellum (rebacked). Red morocco box.
1. The style and liturgical use of the Offices of the Virgin and of the Dead suggest that the manuscript was both made in, and for use in, Coutances.
2. Robert d'Auray(?): 16th-century signature on f.55v
Office of the Virgin, use of Coutances, matins ff.1-10, lauds ff.11-21v, prime ff.22-26v, terce, lacking end ff.27-30v, sext, lacking beginning ff.31-34v, none ff.35-39, vespers ff.39v-46, compline ff.46v-51v; Hours of the Cross, lacking end ff.52-54v; Hours of the Holy Spirit, lacking beginning ff.55-57v; Gospel sequences ff.57v-65; Obsecre te, in feminine form ff.65-68v, O intemerata, in masculine form ff.68v-72; Prayers ff.72v-75v; Suffrages to saints Lawrence, Vincent, Cosmas and Damian, Sebastian ff.75v-77v; Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.79-96v; Office of the Dead, use of Coutances ff.97-138v
This manuscript, instantly recognisable as painted in Coutances, is a robust example of provincial manuscript production: local craftsmen satisfying local requirements with little reference to the developments in major centres. The lack of sophistication and refinement in technique is compensated for by size, extent of illumination and gold.
The subjects of the miniatures are:
f.1 Annunciation, with Tree of Jesse in the border
f.27 Annunciation to the Shepherds
f.35 Presentation in the Temple
f.39v Flight into Egypt
f.46v Coronation of the Virgin
f.79 David in prayer
f.97 Office of the Dead