Minuscule Book of Hours leaf c.1460


Recto:  14 lines of text in Latin written on vellum in a gothic script. Rubrics in red.  One two-line illuminated initial ‘Q’ in raised and burnished gold on a blue ground outlined in black. The initial is infilled in pink and finished with fine white detailing.  A bar border in burnished gold and red outlined in black runs the length of the block of text and terminates above and below the text with coloured illuminations of acanthus leaves, flowers, burnished gold bezants and fine black seeding.


Verso:  As Recto with text only.


Origin:  Northern France, probably Paris.


Date:  c.1460


Content:  The text is from the Office for the Dead, Matins, Second Nocturne.  The capital ‘A’ in the first line begins the versicle:  Anima mea turbata est valde: sed tu Domine succurre ei. Miserere mei dum veneris in novissimo die. (My soul is troubled greatly: but thou O Lord succor it. Have mercy on me, whilst thou comest in the later day.)  

The two-line illuminated initial ‘Q’ then begins the sixth lesson, taken from Job 14:  Quis mihi hoc tribuat, ut in inferno protegas me, et abscondas me, donec pertranseat furor tuus, et constitutas mihi tempus, in quo recorderis mei? Putas ne mortuus homo rursum vivet?  (Who will grant me this, that in hell thou protect me, and hide me, till thy fury pass, and appoint me a time, wherein thou wilt remember me? Shall man that is dead, thinkest thou live again?)


Condition:  This leaf is in very good/excellent condition.  It retains all of its original sparkling illuminations of gold and bright colours. It is unconditionally guaranteed genuine. 


Size:  Size of leaf: approx. 70x50 mm. Text & illuminated area: approx. 60x35 mm.  Presented in a museum quality mat, ready to frame. Please note that packing/postage is invoiced separately.  Australia: $22.50.  Overseas, ask for quote.  


Notes:  Books of Hours were prayer books designed for the laity  who wished to emulate the cycle of daily devotions followed by the clergy.  The Book of Hours is modelled on the Divine Office - the prayers and readings performed by members of religious orders. Its central text is the Hours of the Virgin. There are eight Hours (times for prayer): Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline.

The Office for the Dead was in the back of every Book of Hours the way death itself was always at the back of the medieval mind.  It was the cause of considerable anguish for medieval men and women to think of the potentially long periods of time their relatives would spend in the painful fires of purgatory. Along with the funding of funerary Masses, praying the Office was considered the most efficacious means of reducing this fiery price of obtaining paradise.

The extremely small size of this leaf can be explained thus:  Medieval piety involved substantial elements of public display, and the small but emergent urban bourgeoisie, mostly merchants or administrators in the growing royal bureaucracies, naturally sought to imitate their superiors.  So it is not surprising that the Book of Hours became something of a chic devotional accessory, especially for women, an incongruity that occasionally attracted disapproving comment. Eustache Deschamps, the great French poet of the late 14th century, put his satire into verse when he imagined the thoughts of a bourgeois wife who yearns for a Book of Hours that  "is as graceful and gorgeous as me... So the people will gasp when I use it, That's the prettiest prayer-book in town.”

Item No:  MBH 085a


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