Catalog Archive
Auction 198, Lot 695


"[Illuminated Leaf]", Anon.

Subject: Medieval Manuscripts

Period: 1300 (circa)


Color: Hand Color

4.1 x 5.5 inches
10.4 x 14 cm
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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 vellum leaf is from an early Breviary written in northern France or Flanders. The text is written in a single column (21 lines) in a clear Gothic book hand in black and red ink. There are two large initials in red and blue ink, with a decorative border extending into the margins. The first paragraph contains four verses that were used in a Christmas hymn entitled "A Solis Ortus Cardine" (From Lands That See the Sun Arise). It covers letters B-E and translates as:

Blest Author of this earthly frame,
to take a servant's form he came,
that liberating flesh by flesh,
whom he had made might live afresh.

In that chaste parent's holy womb,
celestial grace hath found its home:
and she, as earthly bride unknown,
yet call that Offspring blest her own.

The mansion of the modest breast
becomes a shrine where God shall rest:
the pure and undefiled one
conceived in her womb the Son.

That Son, that royal Son she bore,
whom Gabriel's voice had told afore:
whom, in his Mother yet concealed,
the Infant Baptist had revealed.


Condition: B

There is light toning and soiling, as well as numerous small holes caused by the oxidation of the black ink.

Estimate: $160 - $190

Sold for: $60

Closed on 6/19/2024