Signed in three places and dated in four by an unrecorded scribe, who must therefore have taken great pride in his work, this near-miniature devotional manuscript betrays unusual decoration and idiosyncratic liturgical features that place it in the southeastern Low Countries in the diocese of Liege. Precisely localized signed and dated manuscripts are rare..
1. Signed in three places (ff. 108v, 268v, and 47v, the latter carefully tooled on the gold leaf of an initial) and dated in four (ff. 7v, 1501; 58, 1500, written in the bar of an initial; 108, 1500; and 268, 1499) by the scribe: "Fr. Ar. Guetsen." He appears to be unrecorded. Although no liturgical use is indicated for the Psalter-Breviary, the saints in the calendar and litanies are specific to Maastricht and Liege: Lambert and Hubert, bishops of Maastricht, both in red (17 September and 3 November). Saint Odilia of Alsace also appears in the calendar (her translation on17 July as in the diocese of Liege) and in the litany, as does St. Servatius, bishop of Tongeren (St.-Servatius Church in Maastricht), in red (13 May).
2. Still in use in the seventeenth century, when a later reader added many prayers to the text and some saints to the calendar, including an obit dated 1647 (f. 2).
f. 9, in the border, richly illuminated in thick gold leaf scrollwork enclosing the figures of David holding his harp, a phoenix regarding his nest, another bird, a putto, and a lion in full flight.
ff. 109v-110, in an architectural border with an armorial shield containing fanciful motifs is an Annunciation, in a bedroom, the Virgin portrayed with long blond hair, interrupted while reading her hours, an angel hovers in the left middleground, a view through a doorway in the background and a roundel in the center background in which the dove, the Holy Spirit, is depicted, facing a Renaissance border with scrolls (blank),candelabra, and garlands of fruit.
f. 246, in the border, rich acanthus in a variety of colors enclosing a lion and several birds; the thick gold leaf ground of the initial delicately tooled with foliate scrollwork.
The two fully illuminated borders and the full-page miniature and facing border are in the style of work produced in the southeastern Low Countries. Especially the richly illuminated borders reveal the influence on Liege painting at the end of the century of middle-Rhenish motifs from the last half of the century. The gold leaf scrollwork borders and the dense acanthus borders are atypical, as strewn borders are more common in other Liege productions of this date.
The model for the Annunciation in our book is the same as that in a closely related Book of Hours and Prayerbook for Dominican use (The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 74 G 36, f. 82v) made for a member of the Bylant family in Liege (Maastricht?) between 1505-15 (see Online Resources).
Digital images of illuminated manuscripts in The Hague
An introduction to the Roman Breviary
The Breviary in Latin and English