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Book of Hours (unknown Use)

In Latin, manuscript on parchment and paper
Western Germany (near Cologne?), shortly before 1411

TM 1039

184 folios on parchment (the outer and inner bifolium of each quire) and paper, watermark two keys crossed with hearts on the handles, Briquet 3864, localized in Gex in 1415, variant in Cologne in 1422, modern foliation in pencil, 1-184, lacking four blank leaves (collation i12 [-12, +12, one leaf replaced, without loss of text] ii10 iii-ix12 x10 xi-xiv12 xv10 [-7, -8, -9, three leaves missing after f. 170, without loss of text] xvi12 [-11, one leaf missing after f. 181, without loss of text] xvii2), horizontal catchwords cropped (visible on f. 128v), ruled in gray ink (justification c. 65 x 50 mm.), written in brown and black inks in cursive bookhand by several different hands on 13 to 20 lines, capitals touched in red, 1- to 3-line initials in red, some small stains and signs of use and small tears in the margins of ff. 74 and 157, otherwise in good condition.  ORIGINAL BINDING of brown calf over wooden boards, three raised bands on the spine, leather very worn, front board broken, both clasps missing, last two quires detached from sewing, in a very fine modern blue case. Dimensions 110 x 80 mm.

A German Book of Hours, still in its original binding, with remarkably individualized contents, notably including extensive prayers not commonly found in Books of Hours.  Textual evidence suggests it was made for a woman. The fact that it was never illustrated by miniatures or figurative initials and is copied on paper and parchment in an informal script likewise set this apart from typical Books of Hours from other regions in Europe. An amusing element is the recipe copied in Middle Dutch by the main scribe, N. Pauli, for getting rid of freckles.  


1. Copied by N. Pauli shortly before 1411 when calendrical calculations were added on f. 181.  Beginning with the year 6710 from the origin of the world, the year is calculated from Adam, Eve, the Great Flood of Noah, and finally the incarnation of Christ, providing the year on which the inscription was written, 1411: “Ab origine mundi annus 6710 / Etas ade annus 934 / Etas eve annus 705 / adam fuit in inferno annus 4664 / a diluvio noe 4771 / Ab incarnacione christi annus 1411.”  The calculation is found almost identically in a manuscript calendar possibly localizable to the diocese of Utrecht and datable (according to the year provided from the incarnation of Christ) shortly before 1398 (Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, MS HB 14921; Hilg, 1986, 2, p. 134; Pfaff, 1947, p. 85). The signature “N. Pauli” on ff. 171 and 182 is in the hand of the main scribe. On f. 182, the signature follows a proverb in Latin (found in several medieval manuscripts, cf. Dronke, 1970, pp. 124-128): “Adam sampsonen (sic) david / loth et salomonem / Femina decepit quis / modo tutus erit” (Adam, Samson, David, Lot and Solomon. A woman deceived them all. Who now would be safe?).

The calendar and litanies include several saints venerated in Cologne. Given the additional inclusion of St. Odulf and St. Willibrord of Utrecht in the calendar, as well as a recipe in Middle Dutch (see Text), it is likely the manuscript was made for a region between Cologne and the Dutch-German border. Since the calendar, litanies and the Hours of the Virgin, however, do not follow the uses of Utrecht or Windesheim (see Korteweg, 2013), the manuscript was most likely made for the German side of the border.  Utrecht was in the Archdiocese of Cologne, and the owner may have had an attachment to Utrecht.

Despite the misogynistic jingle following the scribe’s name on f. 182 (see above), this was likely copied for a woman (see the prayer on f. 180v with feminine forms, and the last prayer to St. Margaret, patron saint of childbirth).  The inclusion here (twice) of the passage from Proverbs 31 on a wise woman and one from Luke 11:27-28 is especially interesting given this fact.

2. Modern booksellers’s markings inside the front board.


ff. 1-12v, Calendar, including Paul, the first hermit, on 10 Jan., on which date (rather than 15 Jan.) he is celebrated especially in Germany, Aldegonde of Maubeuge (30 Jan.), Romanus, abbot of Jura, celebrated especially in Germany (28 Feb.), Heribert, archbishop of Cologne (16 March), Gertrude the Great (usually 16 March, but here venerated on 17 March, suggesting local priority given to Heribert on the 16th), the prophet Ezekiel (10 April, found on this date for example in manuscripts of Mersebourg or Cologne), Quirinus, Roman martyr whose relics were at Neuss in Germany (30 April), translation of Elizabeth of Hungary, celebrated especially in Germany (2 May), Peregrinus, first bishop of Auxerre, venerated also in Germany (14 May, normally 16th), Symeon of Trier (1 June), Maurinus of Cologne, abbot (10 June), Odulf, canon of Utrecht (12 June), Alban of Mainz (22 June), Lebuinus, English confessor venerated in Utrecht (25 June), Theobald, bishop, venerated in Mainz and its surroundings (1 July), Kilian of Würzburg (8 July), Two Ewalds, English martyrs enshrined in the church of St. Kunibert in Cologne (3 October), Cordula, virgin martyr and companion to Ursula (22 October), Willibrord, first bishop of Utrecht (7 Nov.), and Cunibert, bishop of Cologne (12 Nov.);    

ff. 13-66, Hours of the Virgin, concluding with a prayer for the soul of the scribe and the souls of all the faithful departed, “Anima scriptoris et anime omnium fidelium defunctorum per [added: piam] misericordiam dei requiescat in pacem. Amen”; and a prayer for the dead; [f. 66v, blank];

Prime antiphon “Ortus conclusus”, capitulum “Regi autem seculorum”; None antiphon “Beata progenies”, capitulum “Una est Columba.”  Undetermined Use; the antiphon and capitulum in Prime are those that have been localized in the liturgy of Siegburg, a town some 30 kilometers south-east of Cologne, but the Office for the hour of None is different (Drigsdahl, Online Resources).

ff. 67-87v, Penitential Psalms, followed by Litanies and prayers, beginning on f. 80, including Lambert of Maastricht, Alban of Mainz, Stanislas, patron saint of Poland, Gereon of Cologne and Kilian of Würzburg among the martyrs, Edward the Confessor and Cunibert of Cologne among the confessors, and Gertrude the Great, Walburga of Eichstätt, Afra of Augsburg and Ursula of Cologne among the virgins;

ff. 87v-88, Proverbs 31: 25-29, “Fortitudo et decor indumentum ejus ...”;

ff. 88-133, Prayers to God, Christ, Trinity, the Virgin (including “O gloriossa domina et dulcissima virgo...”, beginning on f. 91);

ff. 133-142v, Suffrages of saints Christopher, Benedict, Bernard, Anthony, Quirinus;

ff. 143-152, [copied by a different hand], biblical extracts, beginning with Proverbs 31: 25-29, “Fortitudo et decor indumentum ejus … ” (repeated from ff. 87v-88), and Luke 11: 27-28, “In illo tempore extollens quedam vocem mulier de turba...”; concluding with a prayer repeatedly invoking the sign of the Cross (“ … Salva me hodie et in omnibus diebus uite mee” (Save me today and all the days of my life), and a Suffrage of St. Michael; [f. 152v, blank];

ff. 153-159, [Prayers], incipit, “Salve sancta facies …” [f. 153v], incipit, “Deus qui nobis signatis …”; [f. 154], Oracio bona de qunique wlneribus …, incipit, “Domine Ihesu Christe deprecor te per sanctissima quinque vulnera …”; and other prayers to Christ;

ff. 160-161, Gospel lesson from saint John, incipit, “In principio erat verbum...”;

ff. 161-165v, Prayers to the Virgin, incipit, “Saluto te sanctissima virgo maria angelorum regina celorum domina...”; [f. 166, blank];

ff. 166v-167v, [Added later on blank leaves], prayer to Christ, incipit, ”Domine ihesu christi fili dei ...”; [ff. 168-171, blank, apart from the signature “N. Pauli” on f. 171];

f. 171v, [Copied by N. Pauli, a recipe in Middle Dutch for getting rid of freckles], die sproeten,

incipit, “Dat meel vanden boneen salmen menghen met water oft met loeghen die hem daer mede dwaet, sijn anscijn wort claer ende beniemt hem die sproeten” (One should mix flour from beans with water and soda. When the face is washed with this, it becomes clear, removing the freckles);

This recipe of c. 1350, is found almost identically in Brussels, KBR, MS 4260-63 (see Van Leerdam, 2014, p. 98), and was edited by W. Braekman in 1975 (see Online Resources; and Braekman, 1970, no. 702). A similar recipe can also be found in Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, MS 2818 (see edition by Huizenga, Online resources).

ff. 172-181, Suffrages of saints Peter, Nicholas, the Three Kings, Jerome, Barbara, Apollonia, Ursula, Catherine, Agatha, Margaret; [ff. 180v-181] Prayers, concluding, Oremus, incipit, “Omnipotens sempiterne deus qui ezechie …concede michi indigna famule tuo …”; followed by the calculation of the ages of the world [discussed above, Provenance]; [f. 181v], pen trials; f. 182, [a proverb], incipit, “Adam sampsonen …,” followed by the signature “N. Pauli” [see above, Provenance];

This quire, ff. 172-182, is now loose, and must have originally been bound after f. 142v.

ff. 183-184, Prayers to the Virgin, incipit, “Salve regina misericordia vita dulcedo et spes nostra ….”; concluding with a prayer added in another hand to St. Margaret, incipit, “Deus qui beate margarite per signum sancta crucis draconem superare concedisti …”

Books of Hours, the most popular type of manuscript in Western Europe in the late Middle Ages, are collections of devotional texts meant to be used throughout the day for private prayer; they were books used mostly by laity, often women, at home. However, in contrast with the numerous Books of Hours copied in France, the Low Countries, and England, and to a certain extent, Italy, relatively few examples of this popular devotional book survive from Germany. Jeffrey Hamburger writes: “For whatever reasons, the Book of Hours never really took root in German soil …” and continues to underscore that “with rare exceptions, the Book of Hours in Germany remained the province of isolated commissions.” (pp. 65-95). Hamburger’s important contribution, underlining the preponderance on German soil of libri precum and other miscellanies for private devotion, leads us to look carefully at the relatively few remaining German Books of Hours – such as the present example – to determine their idiosyncrasies compared with the more common and traditional examples from France, the Low Countries, and England.

Our manuscript omits the Office of the Dead and the two common prayers to the Virgin, Obsecro te and O intemerata, and only the first of the Gospel lessons, from St. John, is included. These omissions are common in Books of Hours copied in Germany. It also includes biblical extracts and numerous prayers not usually found in Books of Hours from other parts of Europe. This individualization of the texts and the lack of miniatures are typical features of German Books of Hours. Textual evidence tells us this was copied for a woman; analyzing the biblical texts and prayers included here with this fact in mind is a particularly interesting exercise.  Comparison between texts in the present manuscript and libri precum known to have been produced for women would be an instructive exercise.


Braekman, W. Middelnederlandse Geneeskundige Recepten. Een Bijdrage tot de Geschiedenis van de Vakliteratuur in de Nederlanden, Gent, 1970, no. 702.

Dronke, P. Poetic Individuality in the Middle Ages: New Departures in Poetry 1000-1150, Oxford, 1970.

Geh, H.-P. and G. Römer. Mittelalterliche Andachtsbücher: Psalterien, Stundenbücher, Gebetbücher: Zeugnisse europäischer Frömmigkeit, Karlsruhe, 1992.

Hamburger, J. “Another Perspective: The Book of Hours in Germany,” in Books of Hours Reconsidered, S. Hindman and J. Marrow, eds., Turnhout, 2013, pp. 65-95.

Hilg, H. Die lateinischen mittelalterlichen Handschriften, Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg, 2 vols, Wiesbaden, 1983-1986.

Korteweg, A. “Books of Hours from the Northern Netherlands Reconsidered: The Uses of Utrecht and Windesheim and Geert Grote’s Role as a Translator,” in: Books of Hours Reconsidered, S. Hindman and J. Marrow, eds., Turnhout, 2013, pp. 235-261.

Pfaff, A. Aus alten kalendern, Augsburg, 1947.

Plotzek, J. Andachtsbücher des Mittelalters aus Privatbesitz, Cologne, 1987.

Van Leerdam, A. (et al., eds). Kennis in beeld: denken en doen in de Middeleeuwen, Hilversum, 2014.

Online Resources

Braekman, W. Medische en technische middelnederlandse recepten: een tweede bijdrage tot de Geschiedenis van de vakliteratuur in de Nederlanden, Gent, 1975, p. 133 (edition of the fourteenth-century recipe against freckles)

Briquet Online

Calendoscope, IRHT-CNRS, Paris

Drigsdahl, E. “New Tests for Localization of the Hore Beate Marie Virginis”:

Huizenga, E. (ed.) Het Weense arteshandschrift, Hs. Wenen, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 2818, 2, Hilversum, 2004, p. 1041 (lines 20-26)

TM 1039