"[Illuminated Leaf]", Verard, Antoine
Subject: Early Printing
Period: 1506 (published)
Color: Hand Color
5.5 x 8.5 inches
14 x 21.6 cm
Book of Hours were prayer books designed for the laity, but modeled on the Divine Office, a cycle of daily devotions, prayers and readings, performed by members of religious orders and the clergy. Its central text is the Hours of the Virgin. There are eight hours (times for prayer ): Matins, Lauds. Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. During the Middle Ages, the leaves making up a Book of Hours were written by hand on expensive parchment and beautifully illuminated with jewel-like pigments and gold leaf. These illuminated manuscripts combined the collaborative efforts of an array of highly skilled craftspeople; requiring the joint labors of the parchmenter, professional scribes to write the text in Gothic script, artists to illuminate the pages with decorations, and masterful binders to complete the process.
A very beautifully printed leaf from the early transitional period. Verard was the most prolific publisher of Books of Hours in Paris. The genre had certain definite rules and this leaf is a prime example of the art, closely based on manuscript traditions. Although the text was printed, the initials were painted by hand in red, blue and liquid gold. The text is from the Office of the Dead, Matins, Psalms 5, 6 and 7. The leaf is elaborately decorated with scenes printed from metal plates. These include vignettes of Death taking all kinds of people: the curate, the laborer, the friar minor, the infant, and the clerk. At bottom are scenes of children being chased by a dragon and playing with wooden horses. Also in the margins are familiar Christian adages: Creavit deus hominem ad [imagem suam] God created man in [his own image] and on verso, Ego sum alpha et o[mega] I am the beginning and the end…