State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 51 & 52 1993


Plate 29. St Veronica with the Mandylion. Book of Hours. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *096/R66Hf.f. 200v. (See p. 88).


“The Daily Round, the Common Task” Three Books of Hours in the State Library of Victoria

Amongst The Illuminated manuscripts in the State Library Collection there are three Books of Hours which range in date from approximately 1480 to about 1520.1 Each was designed for a separate location. The Hours for the Use of York was destined for the north of England, the second text, for the Use of Rome, belonged in the southern Netherlands, whilst the third, for the Use Of Paris, was intended for the region about that city.
Each volume would have been personally chosen and probably treasured. As artistic objects they were expected to please the viewer, and as private prayer books they were designed to help the user to follow the Church's devotion to Mary in its daily round of prayer.2 So, by studying these three books, we can become familiar with some general characteristics of that most popular genre of medieval illuminated manuscripts. And, by treating them as cultural documents of their era we may discover some of their owners' personal aspirations, thereby gaining some understanding of the religious attitudes current in the later Middle Ages.


The York Hours is an impressive volume measuring 345 by 235 millimetres, with seventy-two leaves, still with its original cover of old oak boards and worn brass bosses. Each vellum page is ruled in faint red ink to guide the scribe who copied the text into two columns in a heavy large-sized late Burgundian script; and each page is four times the area of pages in the other two Books of Hours. Hence the visual impact is quite unexpected given that Books of Hours were customarily smaller, with their contents written in single columns.
There is a hierarchical system of decoration (Fig 19). Sentences begin with one-line blue or gold capitals flourished with red or blue penwork. Prayers are marked by ornamental initials two lines high, and the main divisions of the text are announced by ten quite splendid illuminated initials four or five lines high with burnished gold grounds patterned with vines and leaves in red, blue and white, and with touches of green and yellow. These initials are all attached to panel-borders of conventional fifteenth-century Flemish design, with rich blue acanthus leaves furled in bronze or red, and with white dotted spines and red veining; flowers and occasional bunches of grapes fill the interstices (Fig 19). All the borders except two are shaped as long rectangular open brackets. However, the first page of Matins is framed by a four-sided border displaying an empty shield at its base, and the Calendar pages are decorated with vertical outer panels containing small rectangular vignettes which depict the labours of the month. Thus the scene for January shows a man warming himself by the fire (Plate 31); in February he cuts wood in the snow; in March he digs the earth; in April he clasps a bunch of flowers. From June onwards he scythes his crop, he harvests it, then he threshes the corn, he sows fresh grain, gathers acorns and, in December, two men slaughter a hog (Plate 32). The vignette for May is cut out, an act of vandalism that predated the present century.3
These are traditional scenes, found in innumerable Books of Hours. But what is unusual is the fact that they are the only illustrations in the book; and the result is that, as the pages are turned, the two-column arrangement takes on an impersonal appearance more in keeping with a secular work or a liturgical Missal than a book of private devotions. Moreover the manuscript contains none of those secondary texts that are usually present in a Book of Hours, such as the four Gospel passages, the Passion according to St John, any of the popular prayers to the Virgin, or alternative Offices such as

Fig. 19. Matins. Book of Hours. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *f096/R66Hb.f.13r.

the Hours of the Cross or of the Holy Ghost. Nor are there any identifiable accessory texts, such as favourite personal prayers or meditations to indicate whether the book was a special commission. It must be said, however, that the unusual form, the Use of York, may itself presuppose a special commission; indeed, it has been claimed that the York Hours in the State Library of Victoria is one of perhaps only six extant manuscript examples of that textual variant from the fifteenth century.
To judge from its style, the manuscript was executed in the southern Netherlands towards the end of the fifteenth century. Moreover its distinctive appearance invites comparison with manuscripts from the library of an important Burgundian bibliophile, Raphael de Marcatellis, who became Abbot of Oudenberg in 1463 at the age of 26, and, in 1476, abbot of the great Benedictine Foundation of St Bavon in Ghent. One of Philip the Good's many illegitimate sons, Raphael must have enjoyed considerable wealth for, until his death in 1508, he spent a fortune on his private library, commissioning many luxurious manuscripts from a Bruges workshop.4 These works present so many parallels in layout, decoration and figurative details that, clearly, the York Hours must have been made in the very same atelier patronised by the abbot.

Fig.20. “Disco Pati”. Book of Hours. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *096/R66Hf.f.125v.

It is likely that the scribe was not familiar with his assignment, for the Hours of the Virgin are introduced incorrectly by the rubric “secundum usum sar …” (“Use of Sarum”) on f.13 (Fig. 19), even though the textual modifications for York usage have been properly incorporated.5 Nevertheless, this scribal slip is understandable, given the realities of the commission. Not only was the York variant less common than the Sarum form usually required for English clients, but the Bruges workshop seems to have been principally engaged with secular books — humanistic, scientific, medical and educational texts — for its major client, the abbot. For it is a matter of note that Raphael de Marcatellis' library contained very few theological works, and possibly only two liturgical books. So, given his literary tastes, it seems unlikely that he would have been interested in the York Hours as a collector's item. Who then could have commissioned the manuscript?
A disfigured autograph “Lumley” at the bottom of the first page may help to resolve the question (Plate 31). This signature belonged to the Elizabethan bibliophile John, Lord Lumley whose library was merged with that of his father-in-law, the Duke of Arundel, in 15576 Because the York Hours does not bear the Duke's book stamp it must have been in Lord Lumley's possession prior to that year. It is possible that the manuscript was commissioned by one of his fifteenth-century forbears, either Thomas (d. 1485) or his son George (d. 1508).7 Both were barons involved in the government of Northumberland in the ecclesiastical province of York; and during the later fifteenth century both father and son were active in the service of King Edward IV who, in 1471, was exiled for a time in Bruges. It is possible therefore that the Lumleys had personal links with Raphael de Marcatellis whose half-brother, Charles the Bold, was married to Margaret of York, daughter of the English king. Thus we may speculate that the abbot, or perhaps Margaret herself, could have ordered the Hours as a gift for the Yorkist Lumleys, or, alternatively, that the Lumleys ordered it themselves.8 It is tantalizing not to know more: the shield in the border of f. 13r, which could have contained the owner's arms, was never filled in.9 But the unusual size, the layout and the clarity of the text suggest that the volume was

Fig.21. Vision of the suffering Christ. Book of Hours. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *096/R66Hf.f.199r.


Fig. 22. St Mary Magdalen. Book of Hours. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *096/R66Hf. f.264v.


Fig. 23. Job and his comforters. Book of Hours. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *096/R66Ho. f.88r.

designed for family prayers, perhaps in the Lumley family chapel, rather than for one individual's private use.


The second Book of Hours provides many points of contrast to the York Hours, the most obvious being that, throughout, its patron's personal stamp is strongly felt. In some respects this Flemish manuscript is a conventional representative of the genre. The pages are written in single columns, and the dimensions are small-to-average (146 by 110 mm.), although it is quite a bulky tome of 265 leaves.
All the text pages are decorated with outer vertical panels painted in blue, green, pink, citrus yellow, dark grey, semi-grisaille or even black, and strewn with naturalistic floral motifs which often cast grey “shadows” upon the surface. The main text divisions are marked by five or six line ornamental initials with full border surrounds containing insects, birds, and amusing grotesques (for example a monkey with a drum) and occasional small vignettes — such as a fool who holds a mask as he rides on a pig's back, and a skeleton hurling a spear at a victim (ff. 144R, 61v.).
Full borders also frame the five large miniatures and one historiated initial in the later part of the volume (Plates 29, Figs 21, 22) while introductory calendar pages display signs of the zodiac in their vertical borders and perfunctory renderings of the labours of the months in the lower margins. Indeed, it is probable that more than one craftsman worked on the border decorations, because the full frames seem to be of slightly higher quality than the outer vertical panels, and a little different in their patterning. The miniatures could be by another hand again, reflecting a likely division of labour in the workshop: and from the naturalistic decoration and the mannered figurative style, the manuscript atelier must have been located within the early sixteenth-century Bruges-Ghent area. Indeed the cluster of saints in the Calendar suggests the region of St Omer.10
Despite the book's modest quality, it has its own distinctive stamp, reflecting the patron's strong religious commitment. It contains as secondary texts the popular Hours of the Cross and Hours of the Holy Ghost, each comprising a hymn, an antiphon and a prayer. But, whereas these Offices are generally situated straight after the Hours of the Virgin or threaded in between Lauds and Prime, here they have been placed immediately after the Calendar, before the Hours of the Virgin. In this way stress has been placed on the penitential nature of the owner's devotional practices right from the outset. This emphasis continues throughout the book as the patron's leit motif for the motto “Disco Pati” (“I learn to suffer”) has been inserted into thirteen borders — either in large letters on furling scrolls, or issuing from birds' beaks, or in tiny black print almost hidden among the decorations (Fig. 20).
But the patron's concern about the penitential aspects of devotion is most sharply focussed in the distinctive subject matter selected to illustrate six of the later prayers. These images, together with the promise of indulgences accruing from repeated recitation, would have kept reminding the owner of the necessity for self-discipline and good works to his salvation. Fittingly, the miniature for the prayer. “Domine: ihesu christe qui hanc sacratissimam carnem” (“Lord Jesus Christ whose most sacred flesh”) (f. 199R) sets the tone for those that follow. The patron is kneeling on a rocky outcrop before an image of Christ who reveals the wounds of His side and hands. (Fig. 21). The visionary element is clearly stated. Christ is the larger figure. He is separated from the landscape by an encircling heavenly cloud and behind Him are numerous angelic figures. Accepting the reality of visions and acknowledging their salvational power are hallmarks of late medieval spirituality, and we see here the patron's own commitment to these tenets.11 Apparently the continuing thrust of his devotions was to advance his faith by repeated contemplation of the sufferings of Christ. This theme is reiterated in three other images, the Crucifixion, with the prayer “O domine ihesu christe adoro te” (“Lord Jesus Christ I adore you”) (f. 202 v.), the Suffering Trinity with God the Father holding the crucified Christ, over whom the Dove hovers, with the salutation “God the Father

Fig. 24. Nativity. Book of Hours. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *096/R66Ho.f.48v.

and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (f. 208.), and Christ, again displaying His wounded side, framed in a historiated initial which introduces the Seven Words from the Cross (f. 214 v.).
The two remaining miniatures remind us more directly of another feature of medieval lay piety, namely the intention to go on pilgrimage, or if this proved impossible, to make a vicarious journey to a shrine by venerating an appropriate image. For his part, the owner of the Book of Hours was labelled as a pilgrim by the small badge hanging about his neck (Fig 21). Two further images reinforce the same idea. (Plate 29, Fig. 22). The first is a depiction of the Mandylion, a cloth bearing the imprint of the Holy Face which had been venerated in St Peter's in Rome from early times.12 The miniature shows St Veronica presenting the relic to the viewer, with the accompanying prayer “Salve sancta fades” (“Save, Holy Face”).
Again, there is a strong visionary element here. Christ does not wear a crown of thorns and His expression is free of suffering. Instead, the timeless nature of the image is reinforced by the presence of two hovering angels who support the cloth. Pilgrims returning from Rome very often carried or wore a portrait of the Holy Face as a favourite memento, and its quotation in the Flemish Hours points to the patron's own commitment to venerate this popular relic.
Pilgrimage is also the idea behind the painting of St Mary Magdalen who is depicted with her body protected by long tresses of hair, ministered to by an angel as she kneels in a rocky landscape at the entrance to a cave (Fig. 22). In the distance there is a cluster of buildings, including two circular temples. The accompanying prayer opens with the words “Maria ergo unxit pedes” (“Mary therefore anoints His feet”).
The miniaturist had in mind, of course, the Magdalen shrine in the grotto of La Sainte Baume in Provence, where the saint supposedly withdrew after the Crucifixion to end her days as a hermit.13 Although he did not attempt to depict the scene accurately, he was clearly influenced by contemporary “realistic” landscapes which often included rocky prominences, closed-in skylines, and distant temple buildings to suggest the site of the shrine. Such compositions from the circle of Patenir were common at the time the manuscript was produced, reflecting the shrine's enduring popularity.
Whether the owner of the book actually went on a pilgrimage to these holy places himself we do not know. But his wish to do so was apparently sincere, and he undoubtedly would have “experienced” the journeys vicariously through contemplating the images. Hence this Book of Hours, although a modest example of the illuminator's skill, nevertheless clearly mirrors the owner's pious intentions.


Our third manuscript, the Book of Hours for the Use of Paris, is a further reminder that there was a flourishing market for the hand-made book of devotions long after the advent of printing. Unlike the other two illuminated manuscripts, it can be regarded as a typical workshop product. It is attractively written in a rounded gothic script on soft, fine vellum, with texts, decoration and illustrations that reflect early sixteenth-century Parisian models. And, although there are no clues from the text, we may speculate from the volume's elegant appearance and dainty size that it could have been intended for a lady.
The main divisions of the Hours are arranged in a recognized order. Two secondary texts, favourite prayers to the Virgin, “Obsecro te” and “O intemerata”, are placed after the Passion of St John, while the Hours of the Cross and of the Holy Ghost come between Lauds and Prime in the Hours of the Virgin. Then follow, as expected, the penitential psalms, the litany, and the Vigils of the Dead, a commemoration of the Trinity, and a long roll-call of prayers to saints.
Although the pages of text lack any border decoration, they do not appear monotonous or dull, because they are pointed by delicate, traceried gold initials and slender line endings, all drawn onto red, blue or green grounds. As well, seventeen pages display small square miniatures, painted in scarlet, mauve, blue, green, grey, deep beige and white, with gold hatching and diluted grey or white for modelling the forms.
But the most striking ornamentation is reserved for the surrounds of the fifteen large miniatures (see for example, the Annunciation, (Plate la on p.4). These elaborate, semi-architectural structures all have ornate columns and pediments and may also

Plate 31. January: man warming himself. Book of Hours. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *f096/R66Hb. f. Ir.


Plate 32a (left). December: men killing hog. Book of Hours. Melbourne State Library of Victoria, *f096/R66Hb.f. 12r.
Plate 32b (above). December: men killing hog. Book of Hours. Melbourne State Library of Victoria, *f096/R66Hb. f. 12r. (detail).

feature overhanging festoons and knotted rope-pulls. No two frames are exactly alike, but they all create effective stage-settings for the enclosed compositions (Fig. 24); characteristically, too, they surmount tablets that present several lines of text introduced by decorative three-line initials. Such frames were fashionable in the sixteenth century and reflect Italian Renaissance models which had been incorporated into French manuscript illumination through the influence of contemporary prints.
The programme of illustration follows a pattern as laid down in many French Books of Hours, with large miniatures emphasizing only the most important texts. Thus the important introductory Gospel of St John is marked by a large rendition of the saint on Patmos witnessing a vision of the Virgin and Child, (whereas only small-sized evangelist portraits have been chosen for the other three Gospel sequences). Other essential texts are similarly accentuated. The Hours of the Virgin present the Infancy of Christ;14 for the Hours of the Cross there is a Crucifixion; Pentecost announces the Hours of the Holy Ghost; and King David introduces the penitential psalms. The commemoration of the Trinity is also illustrated by a conventional image.
For the remaining secondary texts there are small portraits of the saints with their attributes, and representations of the Virgin and Child and the Pietà for the “Obsecro te” and “O intemerata”.15
To a certain extent, even such a familiar programme seems to reflect the client's personal artistic preferences, because, on occasion, less common themes supplant the more usual subject matter. Thus, although there was a long-standing convention to illustrate the Vigils of the Dead with a funeral or church-yard scene, alternatives were available, and in the State Library's manuscript, for example, we find Job on a dung-hill confronted by his comforters, painted in a slightly more monumental style by a second artist (Fig. 23).16 To take another example, the penitential psalms were traditionally marked by King David with his harp or psaltery in a landscape, but in the Melbourne manuscript he is seated on a throne attended by two groups of courtiers. Similarly, in a closely related book in the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery (and probably from the same workshop) we find another quite well-known variant — a lively portrayal of the king viewing a seductive Bathsheba in her bath.17
Joseph's depiction in the Melbourne Nativity is also a matter for comment (Fig. 24). In the Ballarat version, Joseph is the traditional, old, silver-haired man who stands, half-hidden by the kneeling Virgin.18 But in the Melbourne composition he is presented as a younger man who holds a candle as he kneels to adore the Christ Child, sharing the stage with Mary as a plausible figure and credible consort. As in so many instances, this change reflects important shifts in religious thought. Indeed, it was of great concern to some fifteenth-century theologians that Joseph's station should be elevated, and that he should be portrayed as a dignified member of the Holy Family rather than as a stereotyped old man.19 From these examples we may deduce that the artists in this Parisian atelier were willing to accommodate changes in their programmes of illustration, probably at the request of their patrons, as was often the case.
Thus the three Books of Hours in the State Library of Victoria reveal something of the rich variety in form and content characteristic of this genre of medieval illuminated manuscripts. The books themselves are, of course, inherently interesting as cultural documents of their period. Each one, as a hand-crafted production, reflects, to some degree, the owner's personal style of devotion. Nevertheless both texts and decoration demonstrate, as this analysis has shown, that Books of Hours addressed a common task by guiding and moderating their users' intentions to follow the Church's daily round of prayer.
Vera F. Vines


State Library of Victoria. *f096/R66 Hb.; *06/R66 Hf; 096/R66Ho. Catalogued in K. V. Sinclair, Descriptive Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Western Manuscripts in Australia, Sydney, 1969, pp. 353–4, 347–51, 351–3; and in M. Manion and V. Vines Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts in Australian Collections, Melbourne, 1984, pp. 135–6, 138–9, 208, 225. The York Hours was purchased by the Felton Bequest in 1933 from a London bookseller. The Flemish book came from the collection of J. T. Hackett whose widow sold it to the State Library in 1926. The Paris Hours was purchased by the State Library, in 1929, from the Melbourne firm of Robertson and Mullens.


For background information on Books of Hours see: J. Harthan, Books of Hours and their Owners, London, 1977, pp. 11–39; as Harthan says, a “Use” is a distinctive form of prayer and ritual followed in a particular church or diocese; R. S. Wieck, Time Sanctified: The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life, New York, 1988.


When the manuscript was still in the collection of Lord Amherst (1835–1908) it contained only eleven miniatures. See S. de Ricci, A Handlist of a Collection of Books and Manuscripts belonging to the Right Hon. Lord Amherst of Hackney at Didlington Hall, Norfolk, Cambridge, 1906; and no. 458 in the Sotheby's auction catalogue of Lord Amherst's library (3 December 1908; 24/27 March 1909).


See A. Derolez, The Library of Raphael de Marcatellis Abbot of St. Bavon's Ghent, 1437–1508, Ghent, 1979.


These are given in Manion and Vines, p. 135. A more comprehensive list of text variants characteristic of York are listed in Nigel Morgan's forthcoming article on the Book of Hours, c 1400 in the Bibl. Mun, de Boulogne Ms. 93 in the Festschrift for Prof. Gerhard Schmidt. I thank him for this information.


For the Lumley book collection, its growth and dispersal, see S. Jayne and F. Johnson, The Lumley Library, London, 1956. Plate IV shows the Arundel book-stamp.


For biographical information see “Lumley” in the National Dictionary of Biography.


S. de Ricci's suggestion that the manuscript was probably executed in Bruges about 1471 for Edward IV or Lord Arundel should be discounted on historical and stylistic grounds. A date, c 1480, or later, is more likely.


The statement in Manion and Vines (p. 135) that the arms were erased is incorrect.


Calendar entries (in red) include SS Omer (twice), Eloy and Bertin. SS Vaast, Winnoc, Willibrord and Medard are in black. These are all regional saints.


On late medieval spirituality and pilgrimage, see; C. Harbison, “Visions and Meditations in Early Flemish Painting”, Simiolus 15, 1985, pp. 87–118; M. Botvinick. “The Painting as Pilgrimage: Traces of a Subtext In The Work of Campin And His Contemporaries”, Art History 15, 1992, pp. 1–18.


A. Chastel, “La Veronique”, Revue de L'Art 40/41, pp. 71–5.


See M. D. Orth, “The Magdalen Shrine of La Sainte-Baume in 1516 A series Of Miniatures By Godefroy Le Batave (B. N. Ms. fr. 24. 955)”, Gazette des Beaux — Arts, Dec. 1981, pp. 201–14.


The complete programme of illustration is listed in Manion and Vines, p. 208, no. 87.


See Wieck (as in n. 2) pp. 94–6, 103, for the widely varied illustrations for the prayers.


Workshop collaboration between two or more miniaturists often resulted in stylistic inconsistencies which seem not to have worried patrons.


The manuscript is Ms Crouch 8 in the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery. For details see Sinclair, pp. 283–4; Manion and Vines, p. 207.


For this illustration see Manion and Vines, fig. 239.


The early fifteenth-century French theologian Jean Gerson, for example, strongly advocated that Joseph should be portrayed as a young man. See “Joseph will Perfect. Mary Enlighten and Jesus Save Thee: The Holy Family as Marriage Model in the Mérode Triptych”, The Art Bulletin, 1986, LXVIII, 1, pp. 59–65.