Charming "hybrid" in a M/s Book of Hours leaf, c. 1465

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Recto: Text in Latin written on vellum in black ink a precise Gothic bookhand. Ruled in red and rubrics in red. Two two-ine and three one-line illuminated initials in blue and salmon with fine white penwork on a ground of burnished gold outlined in black. An intricate full length panel of illuminations of blue, red and liquid gold acanthus leaves and flowers is inhabited by a “hybrid” - a colourful songbird with a curved beak, bat-like ears, a long tail and a dragon’s striped chest.

Verso: As Recto, with nine lines of text, an illuminated line filler and a similar panel of illuminations, but with no hybrid.

Origin: Northern France, probably Paris.

Date: c.1465

Content: The first illuminated initial ‘C’ begins the prayer Converte nos deus salutaris noster. Et averte iram tuam a nobis. Deus in adiutorium meum. (Convert us O lord our saviour. And turn away thy anger from us. Incline unto my aid O God. O Lord, make haste to help me.)

Condition: The leaf is in excellent condition with fine, clean vellum apart from a few brown spots in the margins and outstanding illuminations. It is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

Notes: Books of Hours were prayer books designed for the laity who wished to emulate the cycle of daily devotions followed by the clergy but without taking actual vows. The contents grew out of the psalter but included a mixed variety of other types of material - hymns, lessons, biblical readings, calendars etc. 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.

Hybrids, half-men, half-beasts or fanciful animals & birds are sometimes found lurking in the margins of medieval manuscripts, particularly psalters and Books of Hours. Their purpose has long been speculated on by scholars.

In a persuasive article titled "Marginal Beings: Hybrids as the Other in Late Medieval manuscripts" Heidi Thimann proposes that the elaborately decorated margins of Books of Hours occupied by the hybrids were sites of disruption and rupture that challenged the authority of the text itself. The purpose of the fanciful beings, some amusing, others frightening, was didactic - to direct the devout reader to the safety and truth of the holy text where salvation was to be found, rather than be distracted or seduced by the "borderlands" of the ribald, the earthly, and the sinful.

Size:  Leaf: approx. 130x100 mm. Text and illuminated area : approx. 70x75 mm.

Item No: MBH127

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