TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Book of Hours (use of Paris)

In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment, printed section on paper
Northern France (Paris?), manuscript sections c. 1400-1450 and 1885; printed section 1622(?)

TM 1207

i (parchment) + 142 (parchment) + 55 (paper) + i (parchment) folios on parchment and paper, modern foliation in pencil, 1-142, printed section on paper with printed foliation, 2-56, watermark on the paper includes grapes(?) but is not fully visible, collation impracticable, but lacking c. 18 leaves, ff. 1-2, 9, 20, 37 (only the upper part of the original leaf was replaced), 49, 55, 66, 73, 97, 103, 131, 137 were copied, painted and inserted in 1885, no catchwords, ruled in red ink (justification 93 x 65 mm.), original sections: written in brown and red inks in gothic textualis bookhand on 14 lines, capitals touched in yellow wash, 1- to 2-line champie initials and line-fillers in burnished gold on dark pink and blue grounds decorated with white penwork, one 4-line initial in dark pink decorated with white penwork, infilled with bluebells on  a burnished gold ground (f. 62), two floral rinceaux borders with small leaves in burnished gold (f. 37v, the upper part removed and replaced, and  f. 62), sections copied and decorated in 1885: written in black and red inks imitating gothic textualis bookhand on 14 lines, 1- to 2-line initials in liquid gold on pink/red and blue grounds with white decoration, ten 4-line initials in colors and liquid gold, two of which are inhabited by the figure of Christ, eleven floral rinceaux or acanthus borders in colors and liquid gold, all decoration imitating late medieval French illumination, some stains and signs of use, in overall good condition. Bound in the seventeenth century(?) in brown leather, gold-tooled with a stamp representing covered trumpet glass in the center of both covers and double fillets along the edges, spine with four raised bands, gold-tooled with fleurons, the front board is detached and overall the binding is very worn and scuffed. Dimensions 149 x 100 mm.

Demonstrating the longevity of medieval manuscripts, this is a fascinating example of a “restored” (per the title page) Book of Hours, originally made for the wife of a jurist in the fifteenth century, and subsequently owned through the centuries by a succession of women who signed their names “Christine,” “Jehanne,” “Dionne.”  In the nineteenth century (1885 per the title page), the manuscript was extensively modified (“restored”) with the excision and insertion of newly written and illuminated leaves in a neo-Gothic style.  At an unknown date, a seventeenth-century printed copy of French prayers was also bound in.


1. The original manuscript was possibly made for use in Paris. The Hours of the Virgin (Prime antiphon “Benedicta tu,” capitulum “Felix namque” (Paris); lacking None) and the Office of the Dead follow the liturgical use of Paris. However, Parisian use was adopted well beyond the diocese of Paris, and an origin elsewhere in Northern France cannot be ruled out. The styles of the script and decoration suggest a date in the first half of the fifteenth century.  Originally owned by a woman and likely made for her; the original text ended with a rubric in red in French, f. 142v: “Cez heures sont a... <moi?, erased> femme de <name erased>.”

In the fifteenth century the manuscript belonged to Christine Blondeau, the wife of Jean Blondeau, who was probably a jurist. She had her name inserted in brown ink in the rubric (discussed above) at the end of the text on f. 142v: “(in red: Cez heures sont a) xpine (Christine) (in red: femme de) maistre jehan blondeau licen(cié).”

2. Inscribed “Jehanne Seign(i)eau” on ff. 24, 78v, 129v in 1630; Jeanne included the date “1630” under her signature on f. 129v (the tail under the figure “3” turns into a “0”).

3. Inscribed “Dionne Louange” on f. 3v in the beginning of the seventeenth century. It was probably Jeanne (see the note above) or Dionne who added the printed prayers at the end of the volume.

4. In 1885 the following new leaves were added: ff. 1-2, 9, 20, 37 (only the upper part of the original leaf was replaced), 49, 55, 66, 73, 97, 103, 131, 137. 


f. 1, title page, “HORAE Instauratae Anno M° viij iiijxx° v” [that is, Book of Hours restored, 1885]; [f. 1v, blank];

ff. 2-13v, Calendar, in French;

ff. 14-19v, Gospel extracts, ending imperfectly;

f. 20rv, Hours of the Virgin, including “Deus in auditorium meum intende,”; the leaf was copied and inserted out of context here in 1885;

f. 21r-v, The prayer, “Obsecro te”, beginning and ending imperfectly, incipit, “//in illa hora quando tibi per Gabrielem archangelium... et per illam sanctam maximam compassionem et acerbic[simum]//”;

ff. 22-32, Hours of the Virgin, Matins, first nocturn, beginning imperfectly, “[Jubilemus] //deo salutari nostro preoccupemus …,” including the hymn “O quam glorifica luce” (typical of the liturgical uses of Paris, Troyes, Sens, etc.) and the standard Psalms 8, 18, 23; [f. 32v, blank];

ff. 33-37, Hours of the Virgin, Matins, first nocturn, continues imperfectly with the three lessons for the first nocturn (i. Surge beatissima virgo, R. Beata es virgo, ii. Cecos cordium oculos terge, iii. O sacratissima virgo);

ff. 37v-49, Hours of the Virgin, Lauds, with the standard psalms and the hymn “Virgo dei genitrix”; the beginning initial on f. 37v (as well as the five lines of text around it and part of the rinceaux border), which was removed at some stage, was replaced with a new one in 1885 imitating the original style;

ff. 49-55v, Hours of the Virgin, Prime; the original leaf f. 49 is lacking and was replaced in 1885; the nineteenth-century artist decided to paint a large initial for the opening hymn “Veni creator spiritus” (rather than a large “D” for “Deus in adiutorium meum intende” as would have been on the original leaf);

ff. 55v-62, Hours of the Virgin, Terce; the original leaf f. 55 is lacking and was replaced in 1885;

ff. 62-66, Hours of the Virgin, Sext;

ff. 66-72v, Hours of the Virgin, Vespers (lacking None between Sext and Vespers); the original leaf f. 66 is lacking and was replaced in 1885;

f. 73r-v, the original leaf f. 73 beginning Compline is lacking and was replaced in 1885 with the hymn “Regina celi”;

ff. 74-92v, Hours of the Virgin, Compline, beginning imperfectly;

ff. 93-96v, Litanies, followed by prayers;

f. 97r-v, “Pater noster” and other prayers; the original leaf f. 97 is lacking and was replaced in 1885, out of context;

ff. 98-102v, Short Hours of the Cross and Hours of the Holy Spirit, beginning imperfectly;

f. 103rv, incipit, “Si iniquitales observaveris ...”; the original leaf f. 103 is lacking and was replaced in 1885;

ff. 104-130, Office of the Dead, beginning imperfectly; ending imperfectly before the lessons in the second nocturn; the first nocturn is according to the liturgical use shared by Paris and Arras (Ottosen, 1993, series 72-14-38);

f. 131rv, prayer in French, incipit, “Si de (?) Dieu veulx appaiser...”; [the original leaf f. 131 is lacking and was replaced in 1885];

ff. 132-137, The Fifteen Joys of the Virgin Mary, Les XV joies de nostre dame; beginning imperfectly; ending imperfectly: the last section about her Assumption is on f. 137, which was inserted in 1885 to replace the lacking leaf;

ff. 137-140, The Seven Requests of Our Lord, Les Sept requêtes à Notre Seigneur; the beginning is on f. 137, which was inserted in 1885 to replace the lacking leaf

f. 141v, prayer to the Holy Cross, Sancte vraye croix aouree;

ff. 141v-142, Antiphon, “Salve regina”;

f. 141r-v, Prayer, “Concede nos famulos tuos”;

ff. 141v-142v, Hymn, “Veni creator spiritus”, followed by a prayer to the Virgin.

[Imprint], ff. 2-56v, [printed foliation], Dévotes oraisons... compiled by Pierre Coton, Devotes Oraisons pour tous chretiens et catholiques. Oraison en se levant le matin.”; ending with a prayer to King Louis XIII (r. 1610-1643) on ff. 55v-56v; the title page was omitted.

This manuscript is especially interesting for exploring the question of post-medieval reuse of medieval manuscripts. At some stage in the history of the book, almost all leaves containing decoration were removed from the manuscript. Such removal of illuminations from medieval manuscripts was usually motivated by “recognition of the illuminations’ beauty and desire to reuse them in different contexts and formats, be it in new manuscripts, scrapbooks or albums, as lampshades or paintings” (Panayotova, 2016, p. 163). This act of vandalism perhaps took place in the mid-nineteenth century, coinciding with the revival of interest in Gothic art, but it may have happened earlier.  Even in the Middle Ages, owners embellished their Prayerbooks and Choir Books with miniatures, borders and initials taken from other manuscripts.

The new text and illuminations that were made for this manuscript in 1885 provide a fascinating case study of how the life of a medieval manuscript was extended in the modern age. The person who painted the new decorations took inspiration from the remaining original rinceaux border and the penwork initial. In many places, however, the text copied onto new leaves does not follow the original text. On f. 97, for example, the Pater Noster was inserted into the lacuna at the beginning of the Hours of the Cross. Perhaps this prayer was more important to nineteenth-century owner, and the manuscript continued to be used, albeit differently.

The printed work bound at the end of the volume is Dévotes oraisons pour tous chrestiens et catholiques, lesquelles se peuvent dire chasque jour, ès heures dédiées à la dévotion, the Hours of the Virgin in French, compiled by the Jesuit, Pierre Coton (1564-1626), adviser to King Louis XIII of France. The work was printed in several editions and appeared under the title found in our volume in the editions of 1622, 1640 and 1648 (De Backer. 1891, columns 1551-2); perhaps the one in our volume is the edition printed by Guillaume le Bé in Paris in 1622.


De Backer, A. and A. Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, vol. 2, Brussels, Paris, 1891.

Hindman, Sandra, Michael Camille, Nina Rowe, Rowan Watson. Manuscript Illumination in the Modern age: Recovery and Reconstruction, eds. Sandra Hindman and Nina Rowe, Evanston, Illinois, 2001.

Ottosen, K. The Responsories and Versicles of the Latin Office of the Dead, Aarthus, 1993.

Panayotova, S. “From Vandalism to Reconstruction,” Color: The Art & Science of Illuminated Manuscripts, London, 2016, pp. 162-175.

Online Resources

Glenn Gunhouse, “A Hypertext Book of Hours” (Latin and English)

Erik Drigsdahl, CHD Institute, Late Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts - Books of Hours 1300-1530

TM 1207