Book of Hours, Use of Autun, in Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum
France (probably Besançon), c. 1430
8vo, 165 by 105mm,152 leaves (plus original singleton at front, and original endleaf formed from final leaf of last gathering), wanting a leaf from end of Compline, the Office of the Dead, and the opening leaf of the Hours of the Cross. Catchwords, collation: i-iii6, iv-x8, xi7 (wants last), xii-xviii8, xix3 (wants at least one), xx8, xxi2, single column of 13 lines per page in late gothic bookhand, rubrics in red, line fillers in red and blue designs, capitals touched in pale yellow wash, small initials in red or dark blue (some with contrasting penwork), larger initials in same colours with elaborate scrolling penwork, initials opening major text breaks in blue or faded pink with white penwork, on burnished gold grounds and enclosing coloured twists of foliage. SEVEN THREE-QUARTER PAGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURES edged with thin gold frames, with full borders of single-line foliage with gold and coloured foliage and flowerbuds enclosing sprays of coloured acanthus leaves, some spaces left for miniatures in suffrages, a few near-contemporary additions in Latin and French. Small spots and marks, a little flaking from a few miniatures or decorated borders, on fine vellum with wide and clean margins. In contemporary panel-stamped dark brown leather with flower-heads and fleur-de-lys set within frames of chevrons and foliage, some small scuffs, bumps and a few wormholes, loss at head of spine, eighteenth-century paper label “heures” on spine, leaves from later fifteenth-century Book of Hours reused as pastedowns, overall solid and in good condition.
- Most probably written and illuminated in Besançon for a male patron: the liturgical usage is either Autun or Besançon, while the Calendar is firmly the latter, with the local saint, Pierre de Bellevaux (also known as St. Peter of Tarentaise, 8 May), founder of the Cistercian abbey of Bellevaux where his relics were kept throughout the Middle Ages, as well as saint-bishops of Besançon: Claudius (early sixth century; 5 June) and Antidus the martyr (d. c. 407; 17 June). That said, St. Symphorianus, patron of Autun, appears in the Litany and so there may be some liturgical crossover between these two regions in the commission of this volume for an individual patron. The prayer, Obsecro te, appears on fol. 94 in the male form.
- C16 ms inscription on fly “Orants. Oudot La Verne”. La Verne is a village about 30 km from Besançon. “Oudot” was a popular medieval Christian name in the region and later also a surname. Oudot La Verne, a merchant tanner, married in 1582 and a little later Alexandre Oudot was curé of Verne.
- Almost certainly lost or disposed of following the suppression of religious life during the Revolution.
- Re-emerged recently in France
Principally Latin with some French. The volume comprises: a Calendar (fol. 1r); Readings from the Gospels (fol. 14r); the Hours of the Virgin, with Matins (fol. 20r), Lauds (fol. 34r), Prime (fol. 48r), Terce (fol. 55r), Sext (fol. 60r), Nones (fol. 64r), Vespers (fol. 68r), and Compline (fol. 76r); Hours of the Cross (fol. 83r); Hours of the Holy Spirit (fol. 87v); the Obsecro te and O intemerata (fol. 91v), followed by the Sept joies de la Vierge, Dulcissime domine and the Sept joies again in Latin; Penitential Psalms (fol. 103v) followed by a Litany; the Office of the Dead (fol. 127v); and Suffrages to the Saints (fol. 144r).
The miniatures here with their distinctively stout bodied figures and split eyes identify this as the work of a Besançon artist working in the second quarter of the fifteenth century (cf. F. Avril and Reynaux, Les manuscrits à peintures en France, 1440-1520, 1993, no. 109). Our artist has been attributed to the painter of another Book of Hours, Use of Autun, now BnF., NAL. 3118, a follower of the artist of BnF., lat. 1186 (Book of Hours, Use of Langres) and New York, Morgan Library, M. 293 (Book of Hours, Use of Besançon).
The miniatures are: (i) fol. 20r, the Annunciation to the Virgin within a richly decorated interior with a burnished gold background; (ii) fol. 87v, Pentecost, with a gold and coloured tessellated background; (iii) fol. 103v, Judgement Day with Christ seated on a rainbow resting his feet on an orb, all before a dark blue night sky; (iv) fol. 127v, a funeral with hooded and tonsured monks standing before a covered coffin, all before a gold and coloured tessellated background; (v) fol. 144r, Archangel Michael striking a demon, before a gold and coloured tessellated background; (vi) fol. 146r, St. Anne and the Virgin Mary at the Golden Gate; (vii), fol. 151v, St. Nicholas.
An attractive and unusually early bourgeois Book of Hours, remarkably preserving its original decorative binding.