BOOK OF HOURS, use of Paris, in Latin and French, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
165 x 118mm. ii + 142 + ii leaves: 15(of 6, lacking vi), 2-78, 87(of 8, lacking vii with miniature), 96, 10-188, 194(of 6 or 8, lacking central leaves), catchwords down inner vertical of most final versos, 17 lines in black ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 18 horizontals ruled in pink, text justification: 108 x 71mm, rubrics in red, text capitals touched yellow, one- and two-line initials of burnished gold against grounds and infills of pink and blue with white decoration, major devotions open with two-line initials with pink monochrome-patterned staves against grounds of liquid gold with a flower spray in the infill, FOUR LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES accompanied by full-page borders with sprays of acanthus and naturalistic flowers against liquid gold grounds or divided fields with sprays of flowers against gold and acanthus against red or blue (slight loss of surface detail in parts of miniatures and borders). Tan panelled calf gilt, border of a double fillet and, in the centre of the upper cover, 'DE LA BIBLIOTHèQUE DE LA CHEVALIèRE D'EON' in gilt capitals within a double fillet, spine gilt-tooled in four compartments with title in one and a swagged urn in each of the others (joints cracked, head and tail of spine slightly rubbed). Brown morocco box.
1. The style of illumination suggests that the manuscript was produced in Rouen, although the liturgical use of both the Office of the Virgin and the Office of the Dead are for Paris.
2. Jean Gardin, Canon of Laon, 1620: his ownership inscription on ff.1 and 62
3. Chevalier d'Eon de Beaumont (1728-1810): binding as above and the inscription De la Bibliothèque de la Chevalière d'Eon in lower margin of the opening folio in an early 19th-century hand. This soldier, diplomat and swordsman was the subject of one of the most remarkable scandals of 18th-century London, one which included allegations of attempted murder and political intrigue, and culminated in the startling announcement that the Chevalier was, in fact, a woman. After a successful career in the secret service of Louis XIV and Louis XV, d'Eon's antagonism towards a fellow diplomat resulted in his being charged with treachery and his exile in London. Rumours as to his sex -- which became a subject of considerable speculation on the Stock Exchange -- began in 1769. He initially accounted for the irregularity of his attire by claiming that he first wore female dress during the course of his duties as a spy; he subsequently declared himself to be a woman, an expedient that allowed the settlement of his quarrel with the French king and government. In 1775, as part of this settlement, d'Eon was commanded to wear female dress for the rest of his life. He returned briefly to France but spent most of his penurious old age in London, where he remained the object of great curiosity until, on his death in 1810, medical opinion pronounced him, after all, to be a man.
He was, nonetheless, included by Q. Bauchart among Les femmes bibliophiles de France (1886), pp.451-452. In 1791 Spilsbury, London, had published a catalogue of his/her library in six parts, and a further catalogue appeared in 1813. The binding with ex-libris title used for the Chevalière's books is reproduced in the Bulletin du bibliophile, April 1869, p.152: it is the same as that of the present manuscript.
4. Arthur William Trollope STP, FAS, FRSL (1768-1827), headmaster of Christ's Hospital: his ownership inscriptions on front endleaves
5. Richard Lawson: his name written on second front endleaf
6. Joseph Sikes LLB; his armorial bookplate inside upper cover
Gospel extracts ff.1-5v; Office of the Virgin use of Paris ff.6-59: matins f.6, lauds f.26, prime f.35v, terce f.40, sext f.43v, none f.46v, vespers f.49v, compline f.55; Hours of the Cross, lacking opening ff.60-62; Hours of the Holy Spirit ff.62v-66v; Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany ff.67-84v; Office of the Dead ff.85-124; Sequence of prayers and devotions ff.124-142v, including Obsecro te... f.129 and O Intemerata ... f.132
The miniatures were painted by the Rouennais illuminator Robert Boyvin. He was identified through documented work undertaken for Cardinal Georges d'Amboise, but the majority of the manuscripts containing illumination by him are Books of Hours for the use of Rouen. He seems to have taken over both the patterns and the market of his predecessor in the city, the Master of the Échevinage de Rouen.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows:
f.67 David in Penitence
f.85 Raising of Lazarus