[MANUSCRIPT] [Book of Hours].
Spain (Catalonia) and Southern Netherlands, last quarter of the 15th century. 19th century scarlet morocco binding and slipcase by Townsend & Son of Sheffield, edges in old gilt. 6 1/8 x 4 1/4 inches (15 x 10.5 cm), written on 215 vellum leaves, with 16 lines to a page written in a gothic bookhand, written area 3 1/4 x 2 5/8 inches (8.5 x 6.5 cm), with 9 fine arch-topped miniatures, of which 8 are within elaborate floral borders typical of Ghent-Bruges illumination, and one (with a conventional Vrelant-style acanthus-floral border) is in a substantially unfinished state, with only the outline in ink, and gold burnishing. Numerous fine raised gilt initials in red and blue with pen filigree in white, four- or two-line; rubrics in red; one-line initials in blue or gold with red or lilac penwork. Binding in fine condition, a marginal stain on ff. 74-80 though generally quite clean, the miniatures not rubbed and entirely untrimmed, with good margins throughout. Likely complete as issued; one blank that originally followed the calendar has been moved to become a preliminary blank.
A very rare example of a Spanish Horae, written and ornamented in Catalonia (possibly Urgell) with several notations in Catalan, these in the principal scribal hand in which the work is written. They appear in red on f.176 ("Dui se lo dimarts sanct."); on f.190 ("Dimecres Sant."); and f.204 ("Lo Divendres Sant."). Also indicative of Catalan origin, and indeed of specifically Barcelona Use, the calendar includes (as red letter days) Eulalia of Barcelona on February 12 and October 13; St. Pacianus, the first bishop of Barcelona, on March 9; as well as the much more ubiquitous George Martyr, who is patron saint of Catalonia.
The book appears to have been written for the personal use of someone named Christopher, whose name appears (abbreviated) in red in the prayers of f. 77 recto ("Et michi famulo tuo Christofor") and on f. 83 verso ("famulumm tuum Christofore"). It is perhaps worthy of note that around the time this manuscript was written, Ferdinand and Isabella gave a royal welcome to Christopher Columbus--in April 1493--after his first voyage. Another "Christopher" puzzle is included in the calendar; July 10 reads "Sancte Christofore Martiris" in red. Though this could simply be a scribal error, the principal St. Christopher Martyr is conventionally honored on July 25. A pleasant note is the inscription at the end of the work by the scribe on f. 215 recto "Qui scripsit lumen eternus cum gaudio consequatur."
The eight fine full-page miniatures are distinctly Flemish in style, likely Ghent or Bruges, and would have been commissioned or purchased for the purpose, as trade between Spain and Flanders was plentiful and abundant in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Their subjects are as follows:
1. (Matins) The Annunciation
2. (Prime) The Nativity, with St. Joseph holding a taper
3. (Tierce) The Adoration of the Magi
4. (Vespers) The Virgin and Child
5. (Ad missam) The Virgin and Child (with cross and orb)
6. (Directions for Office) The Child between the Virgin and St. Anne, holding their hands
7. (Psalms) David at Prayer [incomplete]
8. (Office of the Dead) Les Trois Vifs et les Trois Morts
9. (Prayers) St. Mary Magdalen in meditation.
The incomplete miniature of David at prayer, number 7 in the sequence above, allows valuable insight into the preparation of a miniature, and such surviving incomplete works are rare, as they were rarely incorporated. It falls on f. 98 verso, after the penitential psalm: "Domine, ne in furore tuo arguas me."
In summary, this is a very beautiful Book of Hours of Catalan origin and of the Use of Barcelona, written and illuminated in the region, and as such, is of considerable rarity. The miniatures are indicative of the trade in such items between Spain and Flanders, as was the last such work offered at auction, the Valencia Hours of Dona Violante sold in 2015, which similarly had texts in Catalan, although the Use of Rome calendar of that work does not appear to have been adjusted for regional use, as was done with our example. The Dona Violante hours had some evidence of Spanish overpainting to local style, especially in the faces, which may be the case here with the (very fine) fifth miniature of the Virgin and Child. The manuscript itself has some deeply intriguing textual aspects, very much worthy of further research.
Purchased in Barcelona October 1862 (old ink notation signed indistinctly "W. ..." )
With Charles Sessler, bookseller, Philadelphia
Marsden J. Perry, sold in his sale, Anderson Galleries 1936.
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