1475 outstanding «Book of hours»
illuminated and manuscript on vellum
from the renowned atelier of the
“Master of The Echevinage” of Rouen
Master of the Echavinage. Book of Hours at the Use of Rouen. [Illuminated manuscript on vellum, in Latin
and French Language. Rouen (Normandy, France), about 1475].
8vo (165x122 mm), 19th full calf
century binding, gilt tooled borders on both covers and squares, elaborate gilt
decorations and rules at spine (recently restored) ff. (108, last two leaves
ruled but left blank). Gothic type, 18 lines (16 for the calendar) in sepia
illuminated in blue, red and gold. End lines in gold, blu and ochra.
inserted in a rich foliated border with flowers, fruits and gold bands enriched
by gold and colors three lines Illuminated initials.
9 three lines
initials illuminated in gold and colors along the text, surrounded by a three sides
full page rich floral border with acanthus and flowers.
137 two lines
and hundreds of one line gold and colors illuminated initials.
1475 outstanding «Book of hours», richly illuminated
and manuscript on vellum, from the renowned
atelier of the “Master of The Echevinage de Rouen”.
The Book of Hours is
a prayer book that contains, at its heart, the Little Office of the Blessed
Virgin Mary, that is, the Hours
of the Virgin. For this reason the Latin term for
the book is Horae (“Hours”). The Hours
of the Virgin are a sequence of prayers to the
Mother of God that, ideally, were recited throughout the course of the entire
day divided into eight segments, or “hours”: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, Nones, Compline, and Vespers.
Other prayers are usually found in Horae: the Penitential Psalms, for example, were
recited to help one resist temptation to commit any of the Seven Deadly
Sins (which could land one in hell). The Office of the Dead was prayed to
reduce the time spent by one’s friends and relatives in purgatory.
the structure: The Calendar is
always located at the starting of each book of hours and its function is to
mention the moment of the Christian liturgy, day by day. The feasts listed in medieval Calendars are
mostly Saint’s days, generally the commemoration of their martyrdom. Some feasts, of
course, are more relevant than others, and their relative importance is
indicated in the way Calendars are written, highlighting them in red or gold.
The analyses of the most important Saints mentioned in a calendar helps to
identify the provenance of a specific book.
Gospel lessons follow the calendar and they are the first proper text in every Book of Hours. Although not always found in Horae of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, by the fifteenth these
Lessons had become a regular feature. The text from the Gospels can vary from
book to book but the first reading, from John (1: 1-14), is always present and
it’s a kind of preamble for the entire Book of Hours: «In principio erat Verbum et Verbus erat apud Deum et Deus
erat verbum (In the beginning was the
Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God)».
Two special prayers to the Virgin, Obsecro te and O intemerata, appear
in nearly all Books of Hours and they are known by their incipit (opening words): Obsecro te (“I beseech you”) and O intemerata (“Immaculate Virgin”). Written in the first person
singular, the prayers address the Virgin directly in especially plaintive, urgent
tones. They are among the most moving of all prayers in Books of Hours and
encapsulate the essence of late medieval spirituality, especially as it relates
to the cult of the Virgin and her role in one’s personal salvation.
The Hours of the Virgin, also called the Little Office of the Blessed
Virgin Mary, or the Hours of
the Virgin, are the real heart of
every Book of Hours.
There are eight separate Hours, consisting mostly of Psalms, plus varying
combinations of hymns, prayers, and readings. Ideally these eight Hours were
prayed throughout the course of the day: Matins and Lauds were
said together at night or upon rising, Prime (“the first hour” of the day according to
ancient Roman time, and thus medieval Church time) around 6 A.M., Terce (“the third hour”) at 9 A.M., Sext (“the sixth hour”) around noon, None (“the ninth hour”) at 3 P.M., Vespers (“evensong”) in early evening, and Compline before retiring.
Psalms are ascribed by Medieval tradition
to King David, who composed them as penance for his grievous sins. These
transgressions included adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband,
Uriah that Davis sent to the front lines of battle, ensuring his
The Penitential Psalms are usually followed by the Litany, that was an hypnotic enumeration of saints whom one asked to pray for him. The
list begins with Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison (“Lord, have mercy”, “Christ, have mercy”, “Lord, have mercy”). Christ,
God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Trinity are then invoked. Following
these preliminary petitions is the Litany. It is a list of saints with each
invocation followed by Ora pro
nobis (“pray for us”).
The Hours of the
Cross and Hours of the Holy Spirit are to be found
in most Books of Hours. Much
shorter than the Hours of the Virgin, the canonical sequencing is the same as with the Hours of the
Virgin, Matins through Compline, except that there
is no Lauds.
The Office of the Dead is a group of
prayers located in the back of every Book of Hours and usually followed
the Penitential Psalms.
The Office of the Dead consists of the three Hours: Vespers, Matins, and Lauds. Vespers was
ideally prayed in church over the coffin on the evening before the
funeral Mass. It was either recited or chanted by monks hired
specially for that purpose by the deceased's family or confraternity. Matins and Lauds were then prayed, again by monks paid for this service, on the
morning of the funeral itself.
Calendar, ff. 1-12; Gospel Lessons, ff. 13-17; Obsecro
te, ff. 17-20; O
intemerata, ff. 20-23; Hours of the Virgin use of Rouen, ff.
24-56 (last is ruled but left blank); Penitential Psalms and Litany, ff. 57-70;
Hour of the Cross, ff. 71-73; Hour of the Holy Spirit, ff. 73-75; Office
of the Dead, ff. 76-99; Devotional in French, ff. 100-108 (last two leaves
ruled but left blank).
The four Evangelists, f. 13r
Annunciation, f. 24r
Nativity, f. 41r
David in Penance, f. 57r
Crucifixion, f. 71r
Pentecost, f. 73v
Burial, f. 76r
Lamentation, f. 100r
The presence of several saints highlighted within the calendar, the specificity
in liturgy and the style of the
miniatures ascribe this Book of Hours to the production
of Normandy, and more specifically to the area of Rouen: particularly, the
style permit us to identify the manuscript as illuminated in the Atelier of
the Master of The Echevinage or Master
of the Geneva Latini.
Master (fl. in
Rouen, c. 1455-1485) is named after his patrons, the
aldermen of Rouen, who assembled one of the first public libraries in France.
Infact, echevinal in French language means
“alderman”. Since one of their early commissions was a copy of Jean de Courcy’s
chronicle, La Bouquechardière (around 1460, currently at
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France) the Echevinage
Master has thus also been called the Bouquechardière
Master. Following the end of the English occupation of
Normandy in 1449 during the Hundred Years War, there was a high demand for
texts connected with history and law, such as this universal chronicle. Eleven
other copies were illuminated by the Echevinage Master
and his workshop including this manuscript. This artist is also called the
Master of the Geneva Latini after a manuscript of Brunetto Latini’s Trésor in
Geneva (Bibliothèque publique et universitaire). The work
of the Echevinage Master is easily recognizable by his pale
stiff figures with large round eyes emphasized by grey shadows. Flat tapestries
often cover walls in his miniatures, and his strong colours highlighted with
gold hatch strokes create a cool atmosphere. The Echevinage
Master was the most successful
Norman illuminator of the third quarter of the fifteenth century, and his
compositions were used by the next generation of Rouen artists, such
as Robert Boyvin.
In the period in
which our manuscript was executed, the School of Rouen, capital of Normandy, take
the led of the artistic movement of illuminations overtaking in a short
time the other very famous illumination site of the region, Caen.
After a short period where the style of the
illuminators relieved of the strong influence from Paris, the Rouen style started to gain the
peculiarity that made him one of the most famous in manuscript production
Minor traces of use, but an
excellent copy very tall and with unusual large margins.
Provenance: I. Contemporary
handwritten note Communitati Sancti Coenobii Praemonstratensis at
upper margin of first calendar leaf. The
Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré, also known as the Premonstratensians,
or in Britain and Ireland as the
White Canons (from the colour of their habit), are a Catholic
religious order of canons regular founded at Prémontré near Laon in 1120 by
Saint Norbert, who later became Archbishop of Magdeburg. Premonstratensians are
designated by O. Praem (Ordo Praemonstratensis) following
II. At front inside cover, ex-libris of
English bibliophile (1818–1890) of Walton Hall, Wakefield, Yorkshire solicitor,
churchwarden and book collector, who left his sizeable library to York Minster,
though numerous books with his bookplate are recorded in many other libraries
e.g. (St John’s College, Cambridge).
insured and with regular export license
installments is available on request