TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Book of Hours (Use of Rome)

In Latin and Spanish, illuminated manuscript on parchment
Spain, c. 1525-1550

TM 847

i (parchment) + 167 + i (parchment) folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil, upper outer rectos, 1-167, incomplete with loss of leaf, at least one quire lacking at the end, and possibly lacking an opening quire and tipped-in miniatures (collation i-x8 xi4 [8 leaves;+3, 4, 5, and 6, ff. 83-86, tipped-in singletons] xii-xiii8 xiv8 [-6, with loss of text between ff. 109 and 110] xv8 xvi6 [8 leaves;+3 and 6; ff. 122 and 125 tipped-in singletons]  xvii6 [8 leaves;+3 and 6; ff. 130 and 133 tipped-in singletons] xviii6 [8 leaves;+3 and 6; ff. 138 and 141 tipped-in singletons] xix6 [8 leaves;+3 and 6; ff. 146 and 149 tipped-in singletons] xx6 [8 leaves;+3 and 6; ff. 154 and 157 tipped-in singletons]  xxi6 [8 leaves;+3 and 6; ff. 162 and 165 tipped-in singletons]), ruled in light brown ink with full-length horizontal and vertical bounding lines, some prickings visible in the upper margin (justification 112-116 x 76-83 mm.), written in black ink in a very fine Iberian gothic rotunda bookhand on thirteen long lines, red rubrics, one-line paraphs painted in gold on green, red, or blue grounds, line fillers in green, red, or blue with gold tracery, one-line versal initials painted in gold on green, red, or blue grounds with gold tracery (perhaps without guide letters, as many of the initials are incorrect), two-line initials in the same style, but with more elaborate gold tracery often taking the form of floral infill, marking the beginnings of texts, eleven three- to four-line initials in the same style, some filled with delicate designs of flowers, even a bird and a snail, painted in gold, marking many major textual divisions, one five-line initial formed of acanthus, painted in gold and delicately shaded, on a blue ground (f. 1), some words blotted out in black ink on f. 117, possibly by the scribe, four lines of text scraped away on ff. 120v-121, upper corner of f. 1 neatly cut away, with no loss of text, traces where paper(?) stuck to the top of f. 89, ink has faded on some leaves (see ff. 1v-2, 3v-4), but with no loss of legibility, some minor smudging, otherwise in excellent condition.  EARLY BINDING of sixteenth-century(?) calf over wooden boards (rebacked), gilt-tooled and -stamped on front and back with simple double fillet rectangles, stamped at every corner by fleurons and enclosing two fleurons, spine with four raised bands, traces along the edges of both boards of two fore-edge clasps, now lost, minor worming and wear, edges gilt on all sides.  Dimensions 163 x 118 mm.

Skillful, calligraphic script and vivid, delicately decorated initials adorn this deluxe Book of Hours, produced in Golden Age Spain.  Sixteenth-century Spanish manuscript Books of Hours are rare; intriguingly this book lacks miniatures or other figurative decoration.  The wording of the Spanish rubrics accompanying the Latin contents of this book suggests that it was probably copied from a Book of Hours printed by Jorge Coci.  The likelihood that this continued to be used even after sweeping reforms of the Council of Trent warrants further research.


1. Script and decoration point to this manuscript’s origin in Spain, as does the language of its rubrics.  The absence of a calendar and Litany make it difficult to localize it any further.  It may have been copied from a Book of Hours first printed in 1516, and was certainly copied before the reforms of the Council of Trent, which convened from 1545 to 1563 (see below).  Script and decoration corroborate this dating, pointing to the manuscript’s creation in the second quarter of the sixteenth century, c. 1525-1550.

This book was certainly a deluxe production, made for a person of means.  Feminine forms in one of its prayers, the Obsecro te, indicate that it was very likely made for a female patron.

2. Several changes to the same prayer testify to this book’s adaptation, perhaps for continued use after the Council of Trent (1545-1563).  Specifically, the words “et conceptus” has been blacked out on f. 117 from the phrase “in illa hora in qua tibi per gabrielem archangelum annunciatus et conceptus filius dei fuit” and four lines have been scraped away on ff. 120v-121.  Variants of these four lines, once reading “Et in nouissimis diebus meis ostendes[?] mihi faciem tuam et annunties mihi diem et horam obitus et mortis mee,” can be found in other copies of the Obsecro te (Drigsdahl, Online Resources), but they are notably absent in at least one printed post-Tridentine prayerbook (Gunhouse, Online Resources).

3. Belonged to Charles Walker Andrews (1861-1946), Syracuse, NY, lawyer, book collector, and early member of the Grolier Club; his bookplate on inner front cover, along with a note, in pencil: “Bot at Madrid / Feby 25 1930 [or, possibly, “1920”].”  Held by Andrews’s family ever since.


ff. 1-110v, Hours of the Virgin, use of Rome, with Matins (f. 1), Lauds (f. 31v), Prime (f. 53v), Terce (f. 63v), Sext (f. 72), None (f. 79), Vespers (f. 86v), and Compline (f. 101v);

ff. 110v-116v, Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary;

ff. 116v-121, Obsecro te, using feminine forms;

ff. 121-124, O intemerata, using masculine forms;

ff. 124-126v, Stabat mater, followed by versicle, response, and short prayer;

ff. 126v-132v, Gospel extracts;

ff. 132v-136v, Athanasian Creed, misidentified in the rubric as a Psalm;

ff. 136v-143v, Office of the Holy Spirit;

ff. 143v-151v, Office of the Cross;

ff. 151v-157v, Mass of the Cross;

ff. 158-159v, Seven prayers of Saint Gregory on the Passion, with indulgences;

ff. 159v-161, Verses of Saint Bernard;

ff. 161-163v, Prayer to guardian angel, with antiphon, versicle, response, and short prayer;

ff. 163v-165, Prayer to Saint John the Baptist;

ff. 165-166, Prayer to Saint John the Evangelist;

ff. 166-167, Prayer to Saint Peter;

f. 167rv, Prayer to Saint Paul, ending imperfectly.

Produced in the age of print, this volume is a strikingly luxurious volume, the product of careful, concerted labor.  It is extremely well-preserved, but for some textual losses at both ends – presumably the book once began with a calendar, and concluded with the Penitential Psalms and Litany and Office of the Dead.  Books of Hours are almost always illustrated with miniatures or historiated initials that accompany the prayers. (Many of the most famous illuminated manuscripts from the later Middle Ages are Books of Hours).  It is therefore very interesting that this deluxe book includes no pictures at all.  It is possible that it once included miniatures, but the evidence for this is weak.  All the miniatures, if they existed, would have to have been tipped in as singletons; moreover, there is no evidence of offsets.

This manuscript may well have been copied from a printed Book of Hours.  In fact, particularities in the wording of the Spanish rubrics accompanying the Latin contents point to the work of a specific printer, Jorge Coci.  A transplant from Germany, Coci was one of first and most important printers in sixteenth-century Spain, and he produced as many as six Book of Hours editions in Zaragoza before his death in 1546 (Wilkinson, pp. 222-223).  His earliest edition of a Latin Book of Hours with Spanish rubrics, printed in 1516, prefaces the Seven Prayers of Saint Gregory with a rubric laying out the accompanying indulgence in terms identical to those found here (f. 158; the 1516 rubric is printed in Londoño, 2013, p. 155).  Comparison of the 1516 rubric with contemporary printed rubrics for the same prayers reveals substantial variation (Londoño, 2013, p. 155).  Further analysis of this manuscript alongside this edition would be worthwhile.

Books of Hours were easily the bestsellers of the late Middle Ages, the single most popular and widely circulated set of texts in the Latin West.  Named for their core text, the Office (or Hours) of the Virgin Mary, Books of Hours bring together prayers to be recited by lay people at different times of day, following the eight hours of the monastic Divine Office.

In spite of the general popularity of Books of Hours, Spanish Books of Hours manuscripts – particularly those, like the present manuscript, that were produced in Spain – survive in relatively small numbers (Rodríguez, 2000).  France and particularly the Low Countries came to the fore as major centers of production for Books of Hours in the fifteenth century and particularly after 1551, when the rule of the Habsburg Netherlands passed to the Spanish Habsburgs, Flanders would have offered a ready source for more fashionably illuminated Books of Hours.  Furthermore, by the sixteenth century, Spain may well have been producing more Books of Hours in print than in manuscript form.  Numerous editions were printed during the sixteenth century in Spain, including many Books of Hours translated into Spanish; Wilkinson lists fifty-nine editions printed in Spain before 1601 (2010, pp. 222-225).

By the middle of the sixteenth century, moreover, Spanish Books of Hours (both manuscript and printed) had become a target of liturgical reform and the Inquisition.  Particularly in manuscript form, their contents, tailored to the tastes of their owners, could be quite variable, including popular prayers and amulets.  Printed Books of Hours were so widely available in sixteenth-century Spain that even the illiterate were obtaining cheap copies as healing and protective talismans.  For the literate, Books of Hours were the most likely form in which most lay people were encountering texts from the Bible, a matter of increasing concern to the Church as Books of Hours – and all of their biblical contents – were increasingly translated into different vernaculars.  In 1559, the Index of Prohibited Books, published in Valladolid, banned Books of Hours in Spanish and ordered that Latin Books of Hours be reviewed.  Slightly later, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) dictated liturgical changes that rendered earlier Books of Hours obsolete.  This book was made as these issues of access and authority were coming to a head.


Horas de Nuestra Señora según la orden romana, Zaragoza, Jorge Coci, 1516. [USTC 338499]

Londoño, Marcela.  “Devoción supersticiosa en el Índice de Valdés: la oración de la Emparedada,” in Las razones del censor: Control ideológico y censura de libros en la primera Edad Moderna, ed. Cesc Esteve, Barcelona, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 2013, pp. 137-160.

Nalle, Sarah T.  “Printing and Reading Popular Religious Texts in Sixteenth-Century Spain,” in Culture and the State in Spain: 1550-1850, Hispanic Issues 20, ed. Tom Lewis and Francisco J. Sánchez, New York and London, Garland, 1999, pp. 126-156.

Nesvig, Martin Austin.  Ideology and Inquisition: The World of the Censors in Early Mexico, New Haven, 2009.

Norton, F. J.  Printing in Spain, 1501-1520, Cambridge, 1966.

Rodríguez, Ana Domínguez.  “Libros de Horas de la Corona de Castilla.  Hacia un estado de la cuestíon,” Anales de Historia del Arte 10 (2000), pp. 9-54.

Schwartz, Stuart B.  All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World, New Haven, 2008.

Wilkinson, Alexander S., ed.  Iberian Books: Books Published in Spanish or Portuguese or on the Iberian Peninsula before 1601, Leiden, 2010.

Online Resources

Drigsdahl, Erik.  Center for Håndskriftstudier i Danmark, 2015

Gunhouse, Glenn, ed.  A Hypertext Book of Hours

Horas de nuestra Señora segun la orden Romana, Zaragoza, Jorge Coci, 1521 [digitized by the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal]

“Spanish Book of Hours,” Welcome Additions: September 9 – December 12, 2014, Bridwell Library Special Collections and Archives, Dallas, Southern Methodist University

“Tutorial,” Books of Hours – Les Enluminures

TM 847