Auction 119, Lot 883

"[Illuminated Leaf]", Anon.

Subject: Early Printing

Period: 1507 (circa)


Color: Hand Color

4.3 x 6.6 inches
10.9 x 16.8 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.

This Book of Hours leaf was printed by Thielman Kerver in 1507 on vellum in black and red, with many initials hand painted in red, blue and gold. Around the text are iron engravings depicting scenes from the Old and New Testament, with captions in red. These pictures explained the relationship between the Old Testament and the Life of Christ, with images of Moses, Adam and Eve, the Baptism of Christ and the Temptation of Christ. Decorative ornamental borders further enhance the page. The text is a passage from Psalms.

The firm of Thielman Kerver is best known for its lovely Books of Hours, many of which include hand-painted miniatures and initial letters. Theilman Kerver, who was one of France's most prolific printers of such books, began printing Books of Hours in 1497 and continued until his death in 1522. At that time, his widow, Iolande Bonhomme, took over the firm and continued to produce liturgical books of different types until 1556. Brunet notes that even though Kerver printed many different Books of Hours, his work is less common than that of his colleagues, Simon Vostre and the Hardouins. Brunet suspects that this is because fewer copies on vellum were printed, and paper copies were destroyed. This may also account for the rarity of this leaf.


Condition: A

Printed on very fine vellum with an old addition of extra calfskin to the verso right corner, probably to facilitate binding.

Estimate: $110 - $150

Sold for: $80

Closed on 5/9/2007