French Book of Hours leaf, c. 1465,
With a charming “hybrid” rooster/dragon in the illuminated panel.
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. (See Notes below).
Verso: Text in Latin written on vellum in black ink a precise Gothic bookhand. Rubrics in red. One two-line and three one-line illuminated initials in blue and salmon with fine white penwork on a ground of burnished gold outlined in black. Two line fillers. An intricate full length panel of illuminations of blue, red and liquid gold acanthus leaves and flowers is inhabited by a “hybrid” - a rooster with a comb, wattle and pointed beak, a speckled body and a long curving dragon’s tail.
Recto: As Verso, with three one-line illuminated initials, one line filler and a similar panel of illuminations, but with no hybrid.
Origin: Northern France, probably Paris.
Content: The illuminated initial ‘D’ at the top of Verso begins Psalm 66 (KJV 67):
Deus misereatur nostri et benedicat nobis inluminet vultum suum super nos et misereatur nostri; Ut cognoscamus in terra viam tuam in omnibus gentibus salutare tuum.
Confiteantur tibi populi Deus confiteantur tibi populi omnes.
Laetentur et exultent gentes quoniam iudicas populos…
(God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us;
That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.
Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.
O let the nations be glad and sing for joy:..)
Condition: The leaf is in excellent condition with fine, clean vellum and outstanding illuminations. Very minor darkening of the vellum in the bottom corner caused by page turning is masked off by the mat. 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.
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, the humorous and the sinful.
Size: Leaf: approx. 130x100 mm. Text and illuminated area : approx. 70x75 mm.
Item No: MBH128a