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Book of Hours

Horæ Beatæ Mariæ Virginis

Vellum leaf from an illuminated Medieval Manuscript
France; Middle 15th Century
Latin Text; Angular Gothic Script
18.5 by 13 cm

In the second half of the 15th century, the devout and wealthy laymen had a wide selection of Books of Hours from which to choose, both manuscript volumes and printed texts. These were often sold, in large cities, in book stalls erected directly in front of the main entrance to the cathedral.

The first printed and illustrated Book of Hours appeared in 1486. It was a crude work, but later noted printers such as Verard, Du Pre, Pigouchet, and Kerver issued in great numbers Books of Hours with numerous illustrations and rich borders. The decorations were frequently hand colored and further embellished with touches of gold. These Books of Hours created a strong competition for the more costly manuscript copies.

Customers who still preferred the manuscript format and could afford it also had a choice of many different types of decoration and could stipulate what quantity and quality of miniatures they desired. By this time the ivy spray had a variety of forms. It might be seen springing from an initial letter, from the end of a detached bar, in a separate panel in company with realisitic flowers, or forming a three- or four-sided border intermixed with acanthus leaves and even birds, animals, and hybrid monsters which are neither man nor beast.

Keywords: 1400s, Book of Hours, decoration, France, formal, gothic, initials, script

Manuscripts | Cary Collection