BOOK OF HOURS AND PRAYERBOOK, in Dutch, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM AND PAPER
[Lower Rhineland, Emmerich, Cleves, c.1480]141 x 104mm. 274 leaves: modern pencilled foliation numbers second and third fly leaves as 1 and 2 with the first calendar leaf as 3, including ff.33 bis, 103 bis, 146 bis and 188 bis, paper unless specified as vellum: 14(uncertain, original ruled endleaves), 26 (vellum), 37(of 6 vellum + vii paper), 48(i/viii vellum), 5-68, 710(i/x vellum), 812(of 10 + i vellum and xii paper), 99(of 8 + iii vellum, i/ix vellum), 1010 (i/x and iv/vii vellum), 126(iii/iv vellum), 138(ii/vii vellum), 149(of 8 + vi vellum, i/ix vellum), 158, 1610, 178(i/viii vellum), 186, 1910(i/x vellum), 206, 218, 227(of 8, vi cancelled, text apparently continuous), 23-246, 258(i/viii vellum), 26-278, 2810(i/x vellum, text breaks at foot of x, queried by a contemporary note 'dubium ut nichil debeat seq'), 29-348, 354, apparently COMPLETE, 20 lines written in black ink in a gothic hybrid bookhand between two verticals and 21 horizontals finely ruled in black ink, justification: 87 x 62mm, rubrics in red, text capitals touched red, one- and two-line initials in red or blue, numerous three- to five-line initials in red flourished in green and blue or in blue flourished in green and purple, some with yellow, FOUR VERY LARGE DECORATED OR ILLUMINATED INITIALS flourished into the margin, THIRTEEN VERY LARGE INITIALS WITH FULL BORDERS OF BARS OR FLOWERS (silvery metal lost from some folios, slight rubbing and creasing to initial on f.184, slight wear to some margins). Contemporary calf over wooden boards stamped in blind with tools including an Agnus Dei, a double-headed eagle, a sun and a lion, two metal catches on upper cover (lacking two metal clasps, leather torn at spine and part of lower cover, where small section missing).
Red solander box.
1. The Convent of St Agnes, Emmerich, Cleves: 'Dit boeck hoert toe embrick in sce.agneten convent in bewaringe suster' followed by an erased name, f.266v. Founded in 1419 as a house of the Sisters of the Common Life by members of the Deventer house where the movement originated, the convent became Augustinian in 1463; it was suppressed in 1811. Sister Anna Heskens, named on f.3 in a late 16th- or early 17th-century hand, is listed as a nun of St Agnes in Wassenberg's Embrica of 1667. 'Mechtelt' is in an earlier hand on the first endleaf. The book continued in use: a later hand has numbered the Psalms in the Psalter of the Virgin; P. Francoise de Witt is in an 18th-century hand on f.2. The book was probably made for the Convent or one of its members. The language is an eastern form of Middle Dutch, as is the Book of Sisters, compiled by a nun in 1503 (A. Bollmann and N. Staubach, Schwesternbuch und Statuten des St. Agnes-Convents in Emmerich, 1998). Emmerich was in the diocese of Utrecht within the archdiocese of Cologne. In the Calendar are Cologne saints like Pantaleon (28 July) and the bishops Severin (23 October) and Cunibert (12 November), along with St Agnes in red (21 January), St Aldegunde, patron of one of Emmerich's main churches (30 January) and her nephew, the very rare St Dentelin, in red (14 July); his relics were at Rees, just upstream on the Rhine.
2. William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor (1848-1919): paper label 'A 23' on first endleaf; Astor Deposit at the Bodleian Library; Astor Sale, Sotheby's, 21 June 1988, lot 56.
Calendar ff.3-14; unruled blank f.15; Sunday Hours of God the Creator ff.16-38; Hours of the Sweet Name of Jesus ff.39-48v; Golden Hours of the Virgin (Gulden Getijde, a name applied to various texts), ff.49-60v; Psalter of the Virgin arranged for the night office of matins for the days of the week from Sunday and then for vespers from Sunday, preceded by prayers to Christ and the Virgin, followed by Litany of the Virgin ff.61-127; Seven Penitential Psalms of the Virgin followed by Litany of the Virgin, ff.128-141; Meditation on the Virgin and the Life of Christ with refrain 'Ave Maria' and prayer ff.142-182; ruled blank, f.183; prayers to Christ with refrain 'Lof si di here' ff.184-195; on the heart of Jesus ff.195-199; on the Sacrament ff.199-204; ruled blanks ff.204v-206v; Hours attributed to St Jerome on the Passion ff.207-216v; prayer attributed to St Augustine, ff.217-266v; ruled blanks ff.267-268.
The Psalter of the Virgin, attributed to St Bonaventura, was a rewriting of the Psalms to direct them to the Mother of God. With the Penitential Psalms and Litany similarly treated, this is a striking embodiment of the Virgin's place in popular devotion within a highly individual selection of texts.
Illumination was clearly of great importance to the book's commissioner and maker: the scribe carefully planned where decoration would be needed and so where to use vellum bifolia. The book demonstrates a pleasing range of initial and border types: initials on delicately patterned gold grounds, puzzle or foliate initials, borders of stylised flowers with fine curving coloured lines and gold, bar borders in a silvery metal, flourished borders and borders combining flowers and flourishing. Their style owes much to Cologne, while the bold flourishing reveals connections with the Ijssel region and Deventer. The convent of St Agnes is not known to have made books but the Emmerich House of the Brethren of the Common Life, dedicated to St Gregory, saw book production as a way of earning money and achieving a reputation for their newly established house, founded in 1467. The first Rector, Peter van Maastricht (d.1472), could bind books and Willem van Sint Truiden (d.1490) was a scribe and illuminator. The Emmerich Brethren maintained close ties with the Deventer House, responsible for their foundation as well as that of St Agnes. The manuscripts localised to St Gregory's all date from well into the 16th century but their stiffer stylised flower borders in comparatively thin washes of colour could be seen as a later development of some in the Heskens Hours (see S. Bossmann, 'Die vergessenen Handschriften des Fraterhaus von St Gregorius zu Emmerich', Scriptorium, 2009, pp.252-80). The Brethren were initially housed across the road from the St Agnes Convent and would have been an obvious source for the Convent's books.
The large initials and borders are on ff.16, 39, 49, 61, 63, 73, 78, 84, 90, 95, 102, 106, 128, 142, 184, 207 and 217.