Catalog Archive
Auction 98, Lot 471

"[Set of 12 Illuminated Leaves]", Anon.

Subject: Medieval Manuscripts

Period: 1400 (circa)

Publication: Book of Hours


4 x 6 inches
10.2 x 15.2 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.

Very scarce full calendar of Saints Days that began every Book of Hours. Calendars used during the Middle Ages enumerated the days of the month by citing the feast that was celebrated on that particular day. The feasts listed in medieval Calendars are mostly saints' days, commemorations of those particular days on which, tradition has it, the saints were martyred. At the top of each vellum leaf are the letters 'KL' in gold leaf, blue or red penwork, then the name of the month is given in French, the number of days of the sun and the moon (e.g. Janvier a XXX iours. La lune trente.) The saints celebrated provide further evidence that it was written in France, e.g. in January is Saint Genevieve (the patron of Paris). On the last leaf of this calendar is a text, probably written by the owner of the book, ending with "O bone jesu exaudi me..." (O, good Jesus, hear me). The margins are all decorated with delicate penwork.


Condition: B

All leaves have traces of use with some minor stains in the margins. In the last leaf, December, is a natural hole in the vellum. The calendars typically are the most damaged leaves and it is rare to find a complete set.

Estimate: $1,000 - $1,200

Sold for: $650

Closed on 3/6/2002