A Sixteenth-Century Illuminated Manuscript on Vellum in French and Latin
[Book of Hours]. Artois [St.-Omer] France. [n.d., ca.
sixteenth-century]. Small quarto. Approximately 8.5 x 5.75 inches.
Seventy-six leaves. Lacking one leaf after fol. 31, otherwise
complete. I3, ii4, iii8, iv4, v6, vi7+1 (of eight, lacking vi, fol.
26 inserted), vii8, vii8+2 (fols. 43 and 48 inserted), ix-x8, xi8+1
(fol. 75 inserted), with full-page miniatures and added sheets.
Eighteen lines, main text written in dark brown ink in a large
Lettre Bâtarde, rubrics in red, capitals touched in yellow, versal
initials alternately in gold and blue with penwork in black and
red, line-fillers in gold on red and green (or occasionally blue)
grounds with black or white tracery, three-line initials in
burnished gold on red and blue grounds with white tracery,
four-line initials in leafy designs in colors and liquid gold. Five
pages of astronomical tables. Twelve calendar miniatures showing
the Occupations of the Months in arched-top compartments (measuring
approximately 1.25x 1.5 inches). Nine small (seven-line)
miniatures (measuring approximately 2 x 2 inches), five of them
with full borders and four with panel borders in designs of flowers
and acanthus leaves, some with birds or people, in colors on liquid
gold grounds, four half-page miniatures among the prefatory
material, three of them circular within rectangles (approximately
4.5 x 4.25 inches) and one in an arched-top compartment
(approximately 3.5 x 2.25 inches). Eight full-page miniatures in
arched-top compartments (approximately 6 x 3 inches), with full
borders, the miniatures mostly retouched and in some cases probably
repainted, the miniature on fol. 75v is perhaps later. Bound using
sides of sixteenth-century blindstamped calf by Nicholas Spierinck
(d. 1545) of Cambridge (with rolls like those as illustrated in
Oldham, English Blind-Stamped Bindings, plates XXXIV, no.
502, and XXXIX, no. 604). Rebacked with modern clasps and catches
and new endleaves. A few small wormholes in the lower margin of the
first three leaves. Three lines of text replaced on fol. 19r, most
pages fairly clean with wide margins. Housed in quarter brown
morocco clamshell case.
The miniatures are very provincial in style. The bold script in the main section and the unsophisticated style echo the manner of the Flemish manuscripts copied for Raphael de Marcatellis (abbot of St. Bavo's in Ghent, 1478-1507). The subjects are: The solar system around a simple diagram of the world, supported by Saints Gregory, Jerome, Augustine, and Ambrose (fol. 1v); the longitudes and latitudes of the world, supported by angels (fol. 2v); the zones of the world from the arctic to the equator, followed by "Zona Ignota" and "Artanticus" (fol. 3v); Adam and Eve above and a castle below (fol. 7v); the twelve Occupations of the Months (fols. 9-14v); the Expulsion from Paradise (fol. 17v); St. John (fol. 18r); St. Luke (fol. 19v); St. Matthew (fol. 21r); St. Mark (fol. 23r); Christ showing his wounds (fol. 24r); David and Bathsheba (fol. 26v); David in prayer (fol. 27r); the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple (fol. 36v); the Annunciation (fol. 43v); the Nativity (fol. 48v); the Adoration of the Magi (fol. 49r); the Raising of Lazarus (fol. 56v); the Agony in the Garden (fol. 57r); the Crucifixion (fol. 66v); the Ressurection (fol. 67r); a female saint (fol. 75v). The text of the manuscript begins with an account of the Creation (fol. 1r) and an explanation of the solar system and its application to astrology. Added after (fol. 3r) is a remarkable working volvelle, with six turning discs on one side and five on the other, for calculating virtues and vices in accordance with the Calendar. This is followed by tables for calculating Easter and the movable feasts (fol. 4r) and movements of the sun in St-Omer (fol. 6v), and the signs of the zodiac and their medical applications (fol. 8v). Then follows a Calendar, filled with astronomical figures (fol. 9r), and planetary tables (fol. 15r). The ordinary part of the Book of Hours begins on fol. 18r, with the Gospel Sequences; the Penitential Psalms (fol. 27r) and Litany; prayers and collects (fol. 44r); the Hours of the Virgin, very abbreviated (fol. 49r); the Hours (not Office) of the Dead (fol. 57r); the Hours of the Cross (fol. 67r); and a Memorial to St. Christopher (fol. 76r).
Provenance: (1) Erased contemporary inscription on last page, "Ces heures chy appartienent a guillame sains barbier, Termoin:-De sains" and below "De sains pertinet testus." The Calendar tables were first designed for the years 1482-1494 (fol. 4r), but all examples are for the year 1499 (fols. 4r, 7v, and 8r). The instruction on fol. 6v explain that the tables are valid for "la ville de sainct Omer"; the Calendar singles out in red SS. Bertin and Omer (5 and September). The Litany includes Saints Leodegar, Marinus, Omer, Bertin, and Lambert. (2) The Rev. John C. Jackson, with his name at the top of fol. 1r; not recognizable in his sale at Sotheby's, 13 December 1895. (3) Probably from the private collection of the late Major W.A. Spowers. (4) J.R. Ritman (bookplate on front pastedown), private collection, bought from Tenschert, Leuchtendes Mittelalter, I, cat. 21 (1989), pp. 585-588, no. 84.
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