Illuminated Latin manuscript on vellum - complete and early fifteenth-century illuminated Book of Hours illuminated in Northern France or Belgium for use in personal devotions, most likely for someone with ties to Flanders.

(Northern France/Belgium, ca. 1430-35).

Small 4to. Binding measuring 19,5 x 14 cm. Leaves measuring 19 x 13,5 cm. In a beatiful 16th century full limp morocco binding with rich gilding. Spine with gilt sea dragons to compartments, and boards with broad ornamental gilt borders, gilt corner ornamentations and gilt armorial centre-pieces with a lion holding a rose. All edges gilt. The spine is worn, but not weak, and the gilding on the spine is vague. Corners worn, some overall wear, and worm tracts that have resulted in tiny worm holes to outside of boards, but generally in very good condition. Inside of boards and end-papers with more extensive worm tracts. A nineteenth century inscription to front free end-paper reading "offizio della B(eate) V(irgine) scritto in Germania".

Internally in excellent condition, overall very nice, clean, and bright. First leaf of the calander with a bit of soiling and two ink spots. One ornamental border (f. 13r) with light soiling and the hen in the right side of the border sligthly wiped out. Leaf (65) with an elaborate border also a bit soiled and darkened. Otherwise the borders and the initials are generally in splendid condition with very bright, unbroken gold. The first two leaves and the last quire have small, single worm holes to the blank margins. Wide borders.

98 ff., with 18 lines of text to a page, in Gothic script, in red and black ink. All texts, including rubics, in Latin. Exquisitely and elaborately illuminated with 12 elaborately decorated large ornamental borders in gold and various colours, 12 large initials elaborately illuminated in gold and colours (3,5 x 4,5 cm) and ca. 170 initials in gold and colours (ca. 1x2 cm), as well as numerous smaller initials and ornamentations in gold and different colours. No full-page miniatures, but fully complete. (For further details about the decoration, see below, in the note).

Contents: Calendar (ff.1r-12v) with universal and local feast days of the liturgical year, followed by the Hours of the Holy Cross (ff. 13r-18v), the Hours of the Holy Spirit (ff. 19r-22v), the Hours of the Virgin (ff. 23r-128v), the Seven Penitential Psalms (ff.65r-72v), the Litany of Saints (ff. 73r-75r, followed by petitions of the three types, Ab, Per, and Ut, ff. 75v-76r and preces (Kyrie eleyson, f. 76r), Collects (ff. 76r-76v), the Office of the Dead (ff. 77r-98r) and the Collect “Partem beate resurrectionis“ (f. 98r).

An exquisite, beautifully illuminated and very well preserved fully complete book of hours from ca. 1430-35, in a magnificent early gilt binding. 


Primary Decoration: Six-line decorated initials on burnished gold backgrounds at the opening of each major liturgical division (Hours of the Cross, Hours of the Holy Spirit and Hours of the Virgin, Penitential Psalms and Office of the Dead) as well as full page borders. Five-line decorated initials on burnished gold backgrounds as well as three-sided borders at each of the canonical Hours of the Hours of the Virgin. The areas enclosed by the six-line and five-line letters are painted with stylized leaves and stems in pink, blue, green, and white.

Borders (on 12 folia): Black pen rinceaux with gold balls, interspersed flowers, berries, and curling acanthus leaves, some in vases. The acanthus leaves are painted predominantly in blue and white or brown and gold. The flowers and berries are mostly red and are attached to brown stems with green leaves. A number of the floral elements can be identified as strawberries, pansies, roses, thistles, etc. The right-hand margin of the folia with four-sided borders is decorated with a single bird, human figure, or hybrid. They are more specifically a rooster (f. 13r), bird, (f. 19r) bird with a woman’s head (f. 23r), duck (f. 65r), and a figure praying in the right margin with rosary beads (f. 77). The last perhaps represents a monk or a cleric, who prays for the dead.

Secondary Decoration

Calendar: KL, the abbreviation for Kalendae, the Latin for the first day of the month, is written at the top of the recto of the first 12 folia and before the name of the month. The two letters are executed in gold and placed against an ornamental background of pink, blue and white.

Folios 13r -98r: Two-line gold initials on pink or blue fields. Their interiors are painted in a contrasting color, pink or blue, upon which are painted graceful foliate or floral tendrils. The one-line initials are in gold or blue and many have elaborate pen flourishes in contrasting colors (blue or red) sprouting from their forms.


Textual Components and Liturgical Evidence

The Calendar

The Calendar of the manuscript has a strong emphasis on saints from Northern France and Flanders. It is laid out on in two quires on twelve pages (ff. 1–12v), and hieratically graded red and black. It includes feasts from the Roman martyrological Calendar as well as those of saints venerated throughout France, most importantly Martin of Tours (feast graded red, November 11; octave, black, November 18; translation, black, July 4) and Vincent (graded red, January 22).

Feast days for other saints venerated throughout France are: two feasts of Germanus of Auxerre (July 31 and translation, October 1), Desiderius of Vienne (May 23), Marcellinus of Embrun (April 21), Romanus of Condat (February 28), Leonard of Noblac (November 6), Lazarus (December 18), Patron Saint of Autun, etc.

There is a significant inclusion of saints venerated in Northern France and Flanders and a number of them are in red, the highest grading. Those venerated in Northern France are: Remigius of Rheims, "Apostle of the Franks" (red, October 1) Donatien of Rheims (October 14, also venerated in Bruges) Nicasius of Rheims (red, December 14),  Germanus of Normandy (May 2), Denis who was venerated in Paris, (October 9) and in Flanders: Saints Amand of Tongeren-Maastricht and Vedast (graded red, February 6), Gertrude of Nivelles (March 17), Saint Hubert of Liege (November 3), Lambert of Maastricht (September 17), Livinus of Ghent (November 12), Bertin of Saint-Omer (September 5), Eligius of Noyon-Tournai (translation, red, June 25, feast, red, December 1 ) and St. Adrian, martyr (March 4) whose relics were housed in the Flemish abbey of Saint Adrian of Geraardsbergen. Other saints who were venerated in Flanders and who are included in the Calendar are: Egidius (graded red, September 1), Nicolas (translation, May 9, feast, December 6), Catherine (red, November 25) and Barbara (December 4).

The saint Valerius (April 17) is unknown to us (but the entry could possibly be significant).

There are also mendicant saints. Amongst the Dominicans are: Thomas Aquinas (March 9) and Dominic (August 5), amongst the Franciscans are: Claire (August 12) and Francis (October 4).  There are also two entries honoring St Benedict, whose rule was followed by the Benedictines and other orders, (his general feast, March 21, and translation, red, July 7) and one honoring Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20).

The Litany

Martyrs: Stephan, Linus, Cletus, Clement, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Vincent, Alexander, Fabianus, Sebastian, George, Dionysius, Christopher

Priests, Confessors and Hermits: Leo, Hilarius, Augustine, Ambrosius, Gregory, Nicholas, Benedict, Francis, Dominic, Louis, Josse, Anthony, Eligius, Egidius, Remy, Bavo

Virgins: Anna, Mary Magdalene, Perpetua, Agatha, Agnes, Cecilia, Clara, Lucy, Barbara, Catherine, Margaret, Gertrude, Caritas, Elizabeth

Significantly, the Litany contains saints venerated in Flanders: Josse, Eligius, Egidius, Remy, Bavo, Barbara, Catherine, and Gertrude.  As in the Calendar there are also mendicant saints: Francis, Dominic, Louis, Anthony, and Claire.


Three Collects, folios 76r–76v follow the Litany: Deus cui proprium est misereri semper et parcere, Ure igne sancti spiritus renes nostros and Fidelium Deus omnium Conditor et Redemptor.

Hours of the Virgin (ff. 23r-128v), Use of Rome. A number of additional devotions, e.g., prayer: Famulorum tuorum quesumus (f.53v- f. 54r); Presta quesumus omnipotens deus ut nullus (f. 54r) as well as commemorations to all saints (Memoria de omnibus Sancti Dei omnes).

Office of the Dead, (f. 77-98r). Short form, unidentified use, responses to lessons1, 2, and 3, Ottosen's [i] sequence: 14, 72, and 38.

The Office of the Dead is of the short form, consisting of only has three lessons with the following responses and versicles:

First Lesson (Parce), f. 87v, Response: Credo quod ; Versicle: Quem visurus

Second Lesson (Tedet), f. 88v, Response : Qui lazarum; Versicle: Qui vent urus es

Third Lesson (Manus), f. 89r Response:  Libera me Domine ; Versicle: Dies illa, dies iræ

Collect f. 98r. Oreson “Partem beate resurrectionis obtineant vitamque eternam mereantur habere in celis…” According to Erik Drigsdahl, this prayer found in the Office of the Dead in a Book of Hours from French Flanders which he examined had a prominent place in the liturgy of Northern France (Amiens - Arras - Cambrai).[ii]



The Calendar of the manuscript has a strong emphasis on saints from Northern France and Flanders while the Litany contains several saints venerated in Flanders. Two principle Ghent saints, Bavo (Litany) and Livinius (Calendar), are included as are the Bruges saints Donatian and Basil (Calendar).

Although the Hours of the Virgin are for the use of Rome (universal use)  and the Office of the Dead has an unidentified use, the Calendar and Litany indicate that they were written for someone with connections to Northern France and Flanders.

The decoration of the borders has similarities with Books of Hours illuminated in Northern France and Flanders, such as Walters 281 (Baltimore, Walters Library), made in Northern France or Belgium, c. 1430-35, illuminated by the so-called Master of Walters 281. Other manuscripts illuminated by this master and his circle depict similar borders to those in the manuscript under discussion, namely borders decorated with black pen rinceaux, gold balls, interspersed birds, flowers, berries, and curling acanthus leaves, some in vases. However, the decoration in the manuscript under examination is much less extensive. There are no miniatures included in the manuscript and a codicological and textual examination has not shown that any folia are missing.

[i] Knud Ottosen, The Responsories and Versicles of the Latin Office of the Dead, Aarhus, 1993.


Order-nr.: 60335

DKK 240.000,00