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Medieval Manuscript Leaves: Book of Hours, France, circa 1530 AD

This guide provides information about the eight Medieval Manuscript Leaves held by NIU Libraries Rare Book Room.

Catalogue Description

175. EXQUISITE LEAVES FROM A VERY FINE BOOK OF HOURS IN LATIN. (France, Tours or Paris, ca. 1530) 4 1/2 x 2 1/2". Single column, 21 lines of text, written in a very fine, tiny upright humanistic hand. Rubrics in red, varying numbers of paragraph markers and one- and two-line initials in gold on a black ground or the reverse (and often with red filigree elaboration), frequent delicate line fillers in various combinations of gold, black and red, featuring knotted rope and pruned branch motifs, text on both sides within a knotted ropework border in gold and black and convoluted tassels at the bottom. 


These leaves come from the celebrated atelier known as the 1520s Hours Workshop, discussed in entries #95-103, above. Even though they do not feature any miniatures or historiation, it is not overstating the case to say that even these text leaves are exquisite. The tiny and beautifully regular script and the delicate initials and line endings are impressive manifestations of scribal artisans working at the very top of their craft during the final flowering of illuminated manuscript production in France. 

Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Manuscripts. “175. EXQUISITE LEAVES FROM A VERY FINE BOOK OF HOURS IN LATIN.” Phillip J. Pirages Catalogue 47, 1992.

Book of Hours, France, circa 1530 AD


This leaf is from a Book of Hours in Latin from France, possibly from the cities of Tours or Paris, from about 1530 A.D. This example has several decorated initials.

The design of this leaf is similar to two leaves offered for sale by Sotheby's in 2003, associated with "Dr. Myra Orth's so-called 1520s workshop." The most famous example of this workshop is the Doheny Hours, sold in 1998 by Sotheby's. The device of the knotted rope and the restrained colors used may indicate "that the patron was a member of the Cordelieres, the order of Franciscan Tertiaries to which the women of the French royal family belonged."( 9)

This leaf we have is not representative of the manuscript as a whole, some are highly illustrated and colorful, others are very plain. 

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