French Book of Hours illuminated leaf c.1480


Richly illuminated leaf. Delicate rinceaux illuminations



Recto:  14 lines of text in Latin written in two sizes on vellum in black ink in a high quality gothic bookhand.  Rubrics in red. One two-line illuminated initial ‘E’ in pink and black with fine white penwork.  The initial is on a ground of raised and burnished gold and is finished with an internal foliate design. One one-line initial ‘E’ in raised & burnished gold and one line filler. Radiating into the left margin from the initial ‘E’ are illuminations of fine black tendrils bearing red & blue coloured flowers, green leaves and gold ivy leaves. The right margin has an intricate panel of illuminations running the length of the text in a style known as rinceaux. 


Verso:  As Recto, with 6 one-line illuminated initials in burnished gold, two line fillers and an equally fine panel of illuminations.


Source:  Northern France, probably Paris


Date:   c.1480


Content:  The text is from the Office of the Dead, Matins, Second & Third Nocturnes.  The first line is the end of a Second Nocturne reading from Job 14: [Tu quidem gressus me] os dinumerasti, sed parce peccatis meis. (Thou indeed hast numbered my steps, but spare thou my sins.)

Then in the smaller script is the prayer: Domine secundum actum meum noli me iudicare: nihil dignum in conspectu tuo egi. Ideo deprecor maiestatem tuam, ut tu Deus deleas iniquitatem meam.  (Lord do not judge me after my deeds; I have done nothing worthy in your eyes. Therefore I beseech You in Your majesty to deliver me from my sins).

The illuminated ‘E’ begins the Third Nocturne with Psalm 39 (KJV 40):  

Expectans expectavi Dominum: et intendit mihi. Et exaudivit preces meas: et eduxit me de lacu miseriae, et de luto faecis.  (Expecting I expected our Lord: and he hath attended to me. And he heard my prayers: and brought me out of the lake of misery, and the mire of dregs). 


Condition:  The leaf is in very good/fine condition, on clean vellum with just the expected edge browning which is masked off by the mat.  The extensive and very pretty illuminations retain their original bright colours and lustrous burnished gold.  The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.


Size:  Size of leaf: approx. 185x130 mm. Text and illuminated area : approx.  115x100 mm. Presented in a museum quality mat, ready for framing.  Please note that packing and postage is invoiced separately.  Within Australia: $22.50.  Overseas: ask for quote. 


Notes:  The English composer William Byrd set the prayer Domine secundum actum meum to music, a motet for 6 voices.  A beautiful performance of the motet is in the film "Elizabeth" - Night of the Long Knives.

The Office of the Dead (its old name was 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. These aids were essential, because only the living could help the dead. The Office of the Dead includes a moving series of readings from the Old Testament Book of Job. The trials endured by Job become an allegory for one's time on earth, or one’s relatives in purgatory.


Item Number:  MBH 097


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