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les Enluminures

Book of Hours (Use of Sarum)

In Latin and Early Modern English with some French, printed on paper
Paris, Nicolas Prévost, 18 July 1527
17 large metalcuts and 44 small metalcuts by the Master of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany and Jean Pichore


In-4o format, 7 unnumbered leaves (5 at the beginning, 2 at the end), 219 foliated leaves, lacking eight leaves, 29 quires with signatures (collation +10 [lacking five leaves, sig.+1, sig.+2, sig.+8, sig.+9, sig.+10] A8 [lacking sig. A1] B-U8 X8 [lacking sig. X8] Y-Z8 z8 ɀ8 AA-BB8 CC8 [lacking sig. CC8]), printed on paper, Gothic letter with small Gothic border text, printed in red and black on up to thirty-three lines per page, metalcut borders on every page (many historiated, including a long Dance of Death series, and many with captions in French or Latin), 44 small metalcuts and 17 large metalcuts, text in some parts of the volume scraped away or crossed out in black ink (see especially sig.+3 recto-sig.+7 verso and sig. I7 recto-sig. L7 verso), with some sixteenth-century additions accompanying some of the cross-outs, some sporadic pen trials in the margins, along with slight soiling and staining in the margins, sig.+3-sig.+5 repaired at one point with tape, now yellowed.  Modern morocco binding preserving ORIGINAL FRONT AND BACK COVERS by Nicholas Spierinck of Cambridge of brown calf, blind-tooled with three concentric rectangular triple-fillet frames and blind-stamped with Spierinck’s characteristic “NS” monogram interspersed with griffins, wyverns, and lions, with some worming and wear, spine with four raised bands, late thirteenth- or early fourteenth-century manuscript flyleaf from a glossed Latin translation of the Ethica Nichomachea.  Dimensions 247 x 179 mm.

Manuscript flyleaf:

1 folio on parchment, ruled in lead with sets of two full-length vertical bounding lines and one horizontal bounding line (justification 116 x 70 mm.), written in a late thirteenth- or early fourteenth-century English Gothic bookhand on twenty-one long lines, marginal and interlinear glosses written in an early Anglicana script, trimmed along the upper and outer margins, one-line paraphs in red or blue, script somewhat obscured on recto due to fading and offset from a bifolium formerly placed against the surface, its lower edge aligned with the gutter of the present leaf, with traces of Gothic script, rubrication, and blue painted initials, traces on verso from where leather would have folded over this leaf when it served as a pastedown, damage to both outer corners with loss of text.  Dimensions 246 x 170 mm.

A rare edition of a bilingual Book of Hours, printed in Paris for use in England, and surviving in a binding preserving contemporary covers by Cambridge book-seller and -binder Nicholas Spierinck, this volume bears witness to a thriving book trade between the continent and Tudor England.  Frequent interventions by one or more early readers, one of whom may have been an Irish friend of Henry VIII, are evidence of its continued use after England’s break with the Catholic Church.  Books of Hours such as these were frequently passed down in English recusant families, who were faithful to Catholic traditions and beliefs long after the English Reformation.  Printed Books of Hours for Sarum Use are rare on the market, and this volume provides concrete illustration of the impact of the Protestant Reformation in England.


1. Printed in Paris on 18 July 1527 by Nicolas Prévost, with the date found in the edition’s colophon (lacking here).

2. Bound by Nicholas Spierinck (d. 1546), a Cambridge-based book-seller and binder between 1500 and 1534 (at which point he was appointed official Stationer and Printer to the University) (Gray, 1904, and Oldham, 1952).  The book’s presence in Cambridge, a center of Protestant thought and the distribution of Protestant writings, may well coincide with the systematic erasure and blotting out of some of the book’s most clearly Catholic contents.

3. Belonged to the Wyse family, possibly for several generations; inscriptions in different hands record the names “William Wise” (sig.+5 recto), “Wyllelmus[?] Wyse” (parchment flyleaf, recto) and, in two slightly later hands, “Francis Wyse” and “Francis Wysse” (parchment flyleaf, recto).  Sir William Wyse (d. 1556), a prominent Irish statesman, was brought up in the royal court, where he was friendly with the future Henry VIII.  He was later rewarded for his steadfast loyalty to Henry VIII with knighthood after he returned to England in 1536 as ambassador to the crown.  It is possible he acquired this book during this visit to England.  Within a century his estate passed into the hands of a Francis Wyse, one of his nephew’s descendants.

4. Sixteenth-century[?] inscription in English upside down on parchment flyleaf, recto: “Ryght <…> loued <…> Ory<…>.”

5. Belonged to bibliographer E. F. Bosanquet; his twentieth-century bookplate pasted on the recto of the loose, front paper flyleaf, along with notes on the book’s contents (in Bosanquet’s hand?) and a pasted-in auction catalogue description.

6. Rebound in 2002 with the leather coverings of both boards from the earlier old binding laid down on the modern one; binder’s note on verso of rear modern flyleaf.

7.Neatham Mill Library embossed stamp in lower corner of rear modern flyleaf.

8.Penciled sellers’s inscriptions on the first modern front flyleaf, recto.


Flyleaf, recto-verso, beginning imperfectly, “// diximus omnis anime habitus a quibus innata est … scire quidem aut parum aut nil prodest alia autem non parum //”

Fragment of Book Two of a Latin translation of Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics.

sig.+3 recto-sig.+7 verso, Calendar [lacking January and February], with the following English saints’ feasts highlighted in red: Edward the Martyr (18 March), Erkenwald (20 April), the Translation of Edward the Martyr (20 June), the Translation of Thomas a Becket (7 July, now effaced), the Translation of Edward the Confessor (13 October), the Translation of Erkenwald (14 November), Thomas a Becket (29 December, now effaced);

sig. A2 recto-sig. A3 recto, Gospel Sequences, with rubrics in Latin and English;

sig. A4 recto-sig. A7 verso, Passion according to Saint John;

sig. A8 recto-sig. B6 recto, Suffrages to be said on different occasions and for different people, with rubrics in English and Latin;

sig. B7 recto-sig. C7 recto, Hours of the Virgin (use of Sarum), with Matins (sig. B7 recto) and Lauds (sig. C3 recto);

sig. C7 verso-sig. D5 recto, Suffrages of Saints;

sig. D5 verso-sig. D6 recto, Hours of the Holy Cross, with Matins;

sig. D6 verso-sig. F8 recto, Hours of the Virgin (use of Sarum), accompanied at each hour by Hours of the Cross and for Compassion of Mary, with Prime (sig. D6 verso), Terce (sig. E2 recto), Sext (sig. E5 recto), None (sig. E7 verso), Vespers (sig. F2 recto), and Compline (sig. F5 verso);

sig. F8 verso-sig. H6 recto, Suffrages of the Virgin, with rubrics in English and Latin [many crossed out (see below)];

sig. H6 recto-sig. H8 recto, Rosary of the Virgin;

sig. H8 recto-verso, Prayer of the Three Kings, with rubric in English;

sig. H8 verso-sig. I4 recto, The Fifteen Oes of Saint Bridget, in Latin, with rubrics in English [now crossed out] and Latin;

sig. I4 verso-sig. I6 verso, Prayer of St. Gregory and other Suffrages, with rubrics in English [some now crossed out];

sig. I7 recto-sig. L7 verso, Prayers to be said at and after the Elevation of the Eucharist, followed by additional Suffrages, with rubrics in English [many now crossed out] and Latin;

sig. L8 recto-sig. M1 verso, Hours of the Conception of the Virgin;

sig. M1 verso-sig. N3 verso, Suffrages of Saints, with rubrics in English [some now crossed out] and Latin;

sig. N4 recto-sig. Q3 recto, Prayers for the Five Wounds and other Suffrages, with rubrics in English and Latin;

sig. Q3 verso-sig., S1 recto, Penitential Psalms, followed by Litany and prayers;

sig. S1 recto-sig. S2 verso, Seven Verses of Saint Bernard, with English rubric;

sig. S3 recto-sig. U6 verso, Office of the Dead (use of Sarum);

sig. U7 recto-sig. Y7 recto, Commendations of Souls (Ps. 119, in twenty-two parts), followed by Psalms on the Passion and other prayers, with rubrics in English and Latin;

sig. Y7 recto-sig. Z7 recto, Psalter of Saint Jerome, with Latin rubric [now crossed out];

sig. Z7 verso-sig. z6 verso, Hours of the Name of Jesus;

sig. z6 verso-sig. ɀ8 recto, additional readings for the Hours of the Virgin and the Hours of the Virgin for Advent;

sig. ɀ8 recto-sig. BB4 recto, Prayers;

sig. BB4 verso-sig. BB7 verso, The Form of Confession, followed by the Ten Commandments, all in English;

sig. BB7 verso-sig. CC5 recto, The Fifteen Oes of Saint Bridget in English, followed by two prayers in English;

sig. CC5 verso-sig. CC7 verso, Table of Contents, in English and Latin.

Nicolas Prévost’s 1527 Book of Hours (Use of Sarum), printed in Paris for sale by Franz Birckman in Tudor England; this edition (STC 15953) recorded in Hoskins, 1901 (no. 79) and Moreau, 1977 (vol. 3, no. 1234; eight other copies listed, seven in the UK).  Another copy was recently on the market (Sotheby’s London, 5 June 2013, lot 37).

Nicolas Prévost (fl. 1524-1532) printed in Paris at the sign of Saint George on the Rue St. Jacques.  His wife, Marie Hopyl, was the daughter of prolific printer Wolfgang Hopyl, and it was Hopyl’s Parisian printing business that Prévost took over in 1524.  Hopyl had been printing for the English market since 1494, and Prévost continued in Hopyl’s business of supplying England-based booksellers like Franz Birckman.  A native of Cologne, Franz Birckman (fl. 1511-1527; d. 1529) was part of a large family of book-sellers active in different cities across Europe.  Based in London at St. Paul’s Churchyard, Birckman commissioned books from Paris and Antwerp to be sold in England, where he was “the busiest and most important alien book-importer of the 1520s” (Blayney, 2013, p. 247).  He worked with Parisian printers Thielman Kerver, Wolfgang Hopyl, and John Higman, as well as Prévost.

This edition was customized for the English market.  Important English saints like Erkenwald and Thomas Becket are found in the Calendar and Suffrages, and the Form of Confession, Ten Commandments, Fifteen Oes of St. Bridget, and two additional prayers are in the vernacular rather than in Latin.  The choice of texts in English is quite interesting, especially since there are also English rubrics before some of the Latin texts, many of which are lengthy explanations of the indulgences and other benefits promised believers saying a particular prayer (Duffy, 2006, discusses the prominence of such indulgences in Books of Hours printed for the English market). 

This book arrived in England during the period in which King Henry VIII was initiating his break with the Roman Catholic Church; indeed, it was printed in the year that he first requested an annulment of his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.  Interventions of one or more early readers in our copy, including erasures, defacements, and additions reveal how it was adapted use in the years after the Reformation.  Throughout, references to popes and abbots have been removed, including in the calendar, where the word “pape” (pope) has been blacked out, with the word “episcopi” (bishop) frequently supplied in its place.  Not unexpectedly, references to Saint Thomas Becket have also been effaced or crossed out (see sig.+5 recto and sig. D2 recto); wishing, perhaps, to undermine the cult of a saint particularly revered for defying royal authority, Henry VIII ordered in 1538 that his shrine be destroyed and that all mention of his name be obliterated in books.  Many of the rubrics accompanying prayers have also been blotted out with thick, black ink strokes, notably rubrics describing papal indulgences granted to those who say the prayers devoutly.

These defacements follow a pattern found in other Books of Hours used in England.  Just after Henry formally broke with Rome (between 1532 and 1534), Protestant reformer William Marshall published the second edition of his Goodly Prymer in English (1535), in which he now warned against earlier prayer books’s “goodly glorious titles [rubrics], that promyse innumerable dayes, & yeres of pardon, some more, some lesse, to the sayers of such blasphemous prayers, yea sometyme to the bearers aboute of them” (quoted in Erler, 1999, p. 504).  Describing two English Prayer Books with similar patterns of defacement, especially around Fifteen Oes (which appears twice in this volume, with the rubric crossed out in both cases), Jennifer Summit concludes that the defacement of these books “surgically corrects them in a way that redefines their use” (2000, p. 120).  The changes introduced in the Book of Hours described here are evidence of its continued use after the English Reformation; “emended” books such as this one were used both by Protestant believers and by Catholic Recusant families.


The 17 large metalcuts, all within Renaissance frames, are from Jean Pichore’s 1505-1508 octavo set for Simon Vostre, unless otherwise noted:

sig. A3 verso, Arrest of Christ;

sig. B6 verso, Tree of Jesse [Master of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany, for Vostre];

sig. B7 recto, Annunciation;

sig. C 3 recto, Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl;

sig. D5 verso, Crucifixion;

sig. D6 verso, Nativity;

sig. E2 recto, Annunciation to the Shepherds;

sig. E5 recto, Adoration of the Magi;

sig. E7 verso, Presentation in the Temple;

sig. F2 recto, Flight into Egypt [Master of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany, for Antoine Vérard]

sig. F5 verso, Death of the Virgin;

sig. I7 recto, Crucifixion (same as that on sig. D5 verso);

sig. L8 recto, the Virgin and her Emblems;

sig. N4 recto, Crucifixion (same as that on sig. D5 verso);

sig. Q3 verso, King David handing a letter to Uriah;

sig. S3 recto, Last Judgment [Master of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany, for Vostre];

sig. U7 recto, Last Judgment (same as that on sig. S3 recto) [Master of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany, for Vostre].

44 small metalcuts:

A preliminary analysis of selected metalcuts only reveals that they are either the work of the Master of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany or appear to be adapted from his work with minor changes.

sig. A2 verso, Saint Matthew;

sig. A3 recto, Saint Mark;

sig. A8 recto, Trinity;

sig. A8 verso, Crucifixion;

sig. C7 verso, Pentecost;

sig. C7 verso, Crucifixion;

sig. D1 recto, Saint Andrew;

sig. D1 recto, Saint John the Evangelist;

sig. D2 recto, Saint Thomas a Becket;

sig. D2 verso, Saint Nicholas;

sig. D3 recto, Saint Mary Magdalene;

sig. D4 recto, Saint Katherine;

sig. D4 recto, Saint Margaret;

sig. D4 verso, Pentecost (same as that on sig. C7 verso);

sig. G1 recto, Saint Anne teaching the Virgin;

sig. G8 verso, Lamentation of Christ;

sig. H3 recto, Annunciation;

sig. H3 verso, Crucifixion (same as that on sig. C7 verso);

sig. H6 recto, Virgin and Child;

sig. H8 verso, Christ Child blessing;

sig. I4 verso, Crucifixion;

sig. K4 verso, Christ blessing;

sig. L1 recto, Veronica’s Veil;

sig. L2 recto, Crucifixion;

sig. L4 recto, Crucifixion (same as that on sig. C7 verso);

sig. L6 verso, Christ Child blessing (same as that on sig. H8 verso);

sig. M1 verso, Saint Michael the Archangel;

sig. M2 recto, Saint James;

sig. M3 recto, Saint Sebastian;

sig. M3 verso, Saint George;

sig. M4 verso, Saint Francis;

sig. M5 recto, Saint Anne teaching the Virgin;

sig. M5 verso, Saint Barbara;

sig. M6 verso, Saint Apollonia;

sig. N2 verso, Saint Roch;

sig. Z7 verso, Christ Child blessing (same as that on sig. H8 verso);

sig. ɀ8 verso, Christ blessing (same as that on sig. K4 verso);

sig. AA2 recto, Crucifixion (same as that on sig. C7 verso);

sig. AA2 verso, Trinity (same as that on sig. A8 recto);

sig. AA7 recto, Christ blessing (same as that on sig. K4 verso);

sig. AA8 recto, Virgin and Child (same as that on sig. H6 recto);

sig. BB2 recto, Christ blessing (same as that on sig. K4 verso);

sig. BB7 verso, Crucifixion;

sig. CC4 verso, Christ blessing (same as that on sig. K4 verso).

Printed Book of Hours like the present example illustrate the transition between the world of the medieval manuscript and the age of the printed book.  In contents, use, and layout they follow in the tradition of the medieval illuminated Book of Hours – illustrated texts for private prayer – but they are the products of newer print technology.  The handwritten script of the past has been simulated with type, and hand-painted miniatures have been replaced by detailed metalcuts.

The book’s illustrations combine works by two of the most prolific illuminators of late-fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century Paris.  With the presence of incunable cuts by the Master of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany, particularly numerous among the smaller cuts and the border cycles (for example, the Vices and Virtues and Dance of Death), the imprint continues the tradition of the very earliest printed Books of Hours.  This master, who is also known as the Master of the Apocalypse Rose of the Sainte-Chapelle, the Master of the Chasse à la licorne, the Master of the Life of Saint John the Baptist, and is perhaps identical with the painter Jean d’Ypres, whose documented career, c. 1490-1508, corresponds to that of the Master of the Very Small Hours, worked in numerous media, including painted altarpieces, stained glass windows, designs for tapestries, illuminated manuscripts (his eponymous Book of Hours is Paris, BnF, MS NAL 1320 of 1498), and designs for woodcuts.  His style, as well as his repertory of models, establishes him as the artistic heir of the Master of Coëtivy, possibly identical with the painter, Colin d’Ypres (active 1450-1485).  The volume and diversity of his artistic production in the international arena of the Parisian art market at the beginning of print culture suggest a flourishing workshop rather than a lone individual.

These are joined by cuts from what could be called the “second phase” in the illustration of Books of Hours, those of Jean Pichore.  First used in the late 1490s, they embody a more Renaissance style.  Pichore managed a large family enterprise responsible for the illumination of a great number of classical, secular, and religious works.  He is documented as working on two manuscripts, both in the BnF: the first volume of Augustine’s De civitate Dei (c. 1501/03) and the Chants royaux for Louise of Savoy (1517).  Although mainly an illuminator, Pichore also designed metalcuts, playing an important role in supplying Renaissance designs for printed Books of Hours.  The new style of Pichore was adopted by printers such as Thielman Kerver, Simon Vostre, and the Hardouin brothers (see Tenschert and Nettekoven, 2003, and Zöhl, 2004).


Blayney, Peter W. M.  The Stationers’ Company and the Printers of London, 1501-1557, Cambridge, 2013.

Burke, J. Bernard.  A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ..., 2 vols., London, 1852.

Duff, E. Gordon.  A Century of the English Book Trade: Short Notices of All Printers, Stationers, Book-Binders, and Others …, London, 1905.

Duffy, Eamon.  Marking the Hours:  English People and their Prayers, New Haven and London, 2006.

Erler, Mary C.  “Devotional literature,” in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, ed. Hellinga, Lotte and J. B. Trapp, vol. 3, Cambridge, 1999, pp. 495-525.

Fudge, John D.  Commerce and Print in the Early Reformation, Leiden, 2007.

Gray, George J.  The Earlier Cambridge Stationers & Bookbinders and The First Cambridge Printer, Oxford, 1904.

Hoskins, Edgar.  Horæ beatæ Mariæ virginis or Sarum and York Primers with Kindred Books and Primers of the Reformed Roman Use, London 1901.

Moreau, Brigitte, ed.  Inventaire chronologique des éditions parisiennes du XVIe siècle ..., vol. 3, Paris, 1977.

Oldham, J. Basil.  English Blind-Stamped Bindings, Cambridge, 1952.

Raven, James.  The Business of Books: Booksellers and the English Book Trade, 1450-1850, New Haven, 2007.

Summit, Jennifer.  Lost Property: The Woman Writer and English Literary History, 1380-1589, Chicago, 2000.         

Tenschert, H. et I. Nettekoven, Horae B.M.V. 158 Studenbuchdrucke der Sammlung Bibermühle, 1490-1550, 3 vols., Heribert Tenschert, 2003.

Zöhl, C.  Jean Pichore: Buchmaler, Graphiker und Verleger in Paris um 1500, Turnhout, 2004. 

Online Resources

“Hore ad usum Sarum, [Paris], Nicolas Prévost Franciscus Birckmann, (London), [1527],” Universal Short Title Catalogue, University of St Andrews, 2017

English Short Title Catalogue (STC, 2nd ed., 15953) http://estc.bl.uk/S108000

BOH 145