Tiny Flanders Book of Hours leaf, c. 1475

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The Seven Penitential Psalms.

Recto:  18 lines of text in Latin written on vellum in black ink in a Gothic bookhand script.  Ruled in red and rubrics in red.  One two-line Lombard style initial ‘D’ in blue and many one-line versal initials alternating in blue and red.

Verso: As Verso, with coloured versal initials.

Source:  Flanders.

Date:   c.1475

Content: The text is from The Seven Penitential Psalms.  The two-line red initial ‘D’ begins Psalm 101 (KJV 102):

Domine exaudi orationem meam: et clamor meus ad te veniat. Non avertas faciem tuam a me: in quacumque die tribulor, inclina ad me aurem tuam.

(O Lord hear my prayer: and let my cry come to thee. Turn not away thy face from me: in what day soever I am in tribulation, incline thine ear to me.)

Condition:  The leaf is in excellent condition, with clear text on clean vellum and with brightly coloured initials.   Light toning to the outside edge. The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

Size:  Leaf: approx. 90x65 mm.

Notes:   The Seven Penitential Psalms or Psalms of Confession are the psalms 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129 & 142 (Vulgate numbering), or psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 & 143 (KJV numbering). Authorship is traditionally ascribed to King David who composed them to atone for his grievous sins which included adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. They have long been associated with penitential devotions and commended as defence against the seven deadly sins, each psalm being associated with one of them.   St. Augustine is said to have had them placed  before him to read while he was on his deathbed.

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 were intent on imitating 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 Number: MBH154

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