# 17833

Book of Hours (Use of Rouen)

Northern France (Rouen), c. 1490-1510. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment; with 4 large miniatures with architectural borders, 10 large arch-topped miniatures, 8 small miniatures, and 24 calendar miniatures by a follower of the Master of the Échevinage of Rouen and the Playfair Hours Master, with borders by Jean Serpin.

ii (paper) + i (parchment) + 96 + i (parchment) + ii (paper) folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil top outer corner recto, first and last paper flyleaves are marbled, complete (collation i12 ii-vi8 vii6 viii-xi8 xii6), vertical catchwords in most quires, no signatures, ruled lightly in reddish crayon, (justification 93 x 64-62 mm.).

Written in a formal cursive gothic script in twenty long lines, majuscules touched in pale yellow, one-line brushed gold initials on alternate grounds of red or blue, red, blue, or gold line fillers with brushed gold decoration, a few in the shape of logs, 2- to 4-line modelled white-grey initials infilled with small red and/or blue flowers on gold grounds, KL-monograms in the same style, panel borders running the length of the text on every page with white-grey acanthus, realistic flowers, leaves, and fruit, often with animals (birds, reptiles), and fantastic beasts, illustrated calendar with the labours of the months and the signs of the zodiac, eight smaller miniatures accompanying large miniatures, ten large miniatures with full borders of realistic flowers, fruit, animals, birds, and fantastic creatures on liquid gold, four large miniatures with elaborate architectural borders.

A few leaves damaged (f. 1, outer margin, a small hole, f. 13, very bottom edge damaged), ff. 2 and 70, lower outer corner repaired, f. 45v, top outer margin, small paper repair, opening folios stained in the lower margin, some folios darkened, ink has powdered on a few text pages (e.g., f. 30), gold backgrounds in a few miniatures and borders show some damage, cockled.

Bound in nineteenth-century dark brown gold-tooled morocco, front and back covers with gold frames and small filigree tools at the corners, rounded spine, elaborately tooled with five raised bands, gold-tooled leather doublures, gilt edges, in excellent condition apart from minor wear along joints.

Dimensions 163 x 112 mm.

The artists of this lavishly illuminated Book of Hours created a successful program of decoration that unites stylistic elements and iconography from earlier workshops active in Rouen c. 1460-1480, including the Master of the Échevinage of Rouen, with those active in Rouen and Paris in the last decades of the century.


A richly illuminated Book of Hours from Northern France. The saints in the calendar and litany, including Romanus, the patron of Rouen, Martialis, and Mellon, and the Use of the Hours of the Virgin and the Office of the Dead, all confirm that it was copied for use in Rouen, where it was illuminated at the end of the fifteenth or early sixteenth century. Although masculine forms are used in the prayers, the original owner, a woman, may be depicted kneeling before the Virgin and Child on f. 90.

Two coats of arms were added on f. 95 in the early sixteenth century, suggesting that the book was then owned by a member of the La Tour d’Auvergne family, a French noble family with numerous royal connections (different branches of the family were dukes of Boulogne and Auvergne, and Vicomte of Turenne). The first (De gueules, à la tour d’argent maçonnée de sable), is the ancient arms of La Tour d’Auvergne; the second (parti, au 1. de gueules, à la tour d’argent maçonée de sable, au 2. de gueules à une coquille demi d’argent), has not been identified (the Amanzé family of Languedoc had arms, de gueles, à trois coquilles d’or), but likely represents a marriage alliance between La Tour d’Auvergne and another family.

This Book of Hours belonged to the distinguished German collector, George Nestle-John (1839-1895): see Schilling and Swarzenski, 1929, no. 125, pp. 139-141; and Katalog der Sammlung Nestle-John, 1890, no. 4. Sold by his heirs H and O. Nestle by Joseph Baer & Co., Frankfurt, Bibliothek George Nestle-John: Frankfurt am Main (1839-95); illustrierte Bücher des 13.-19. Jahrhunderts; deutsche, englische, französische, italienische und spanische Literatur …; Versteigerung: Dienstag, den 6. Oktober 1931, Frankfurt am Main, 1931, no. 81.

Tenschert, Cat. 16, 1985, Catena aurea: 50 illuminierte und illustrierte Handschriften überwiegend auf Pergament des zwölften bis zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts, no. 19;

Dörling, June 12, 1986, cat. 117, Wertvolle Bucher, Manuskripte und Autographen, lot 6;

Hauswedell, cat. 310, May 23, 1995, Wertvolle Bucher und Autographen des 15.-20. Jahrhunderts, lot 1783.

Les Enluminures, Paris, 2017, BOH 136


ff. 1-12v, Calendar in French, with entries alternately in red and blue, and with major feasts in gold; some months are full, but this is not a “composite” calendar, and there are occasional spaces left blank.

There is general agreement here with the type Erik Drigsdahl described as a “T” (found in printed Books of Hours from Paris from 1490, but also found in many manuscripts), but with numerous feasts proper to Rouen: 30 January, translation of Anne (“Les reliques saincte Anne”); 1 February, Severus; 9 February, Ansbertus, bishop of Rouen; 10 February, Austreberta; 5 May, Audoenus, bishop of Rouen (“Ouen”); 8 June, Gildardus, bishop of Rouen (“Godard”); 12 June, Ursinus; 17 June, translation of Romanus; 3 July, Martialis, in gold; 8 October, Evod, bishop of Rouen; 11 October, Nicasisus, bishop of Rouen; 13 October, Eduard (translation of Edward); 16 October, Michel (not found in Paris calendars); 22 October, Mellon, bishop of Rouen; 23 October, Romanus, patron of Rouen, in gold; 14 November, Laurentius, bishop of Rouen; 30 December, Ursinus. The Transfiguration is included in gold on August 6 (observed generally from 1457);

ff. 13-22, Gospel pericopes, followed by prayers, both with masculine forms, Obsecro te (masculine forms)

(f. 17), and O intemerata (f. 19v); [f. 22v, blank];

ff. 23-53, Hours of the Virgin, use of Rouen, with Matins (f. 23), Lauds (f. 30), followed by suffrages of the holy spirt, Michael, John the Baptist, Nicholas, Romanus, Katherine, and for peace, Prime (f. 39), Terce (f. 42v), Sext (f. 45), None (f. 47), Vespers (f. 49), and Compline (f. 50v);

ff. 53v-55v, Short Hours of the Cross;

ff. 56-58, Short Hours of the Holy Spirit; [f. 58v, blank];

ff. 59-70v, Penitential Psalms and Litany (beginning f. 67) including Martialis among the apostles and evangelists, followed by Ursinus (the holy disciples of our Lord), Gervais among the martyrs, and with Mellon, Romanus, Audoenus, and Severus among the confessors;

ff. 71- 89v, Office of the Dead, use of Rouen;

ff. 90-95v, Prayers, incipit, “Doulce dame de misericorde …”; the Fifteen Joys of the Virgin; and the Seven Requests;

ff. 95v-96v, [Added prayer], incipit, “A toy royne de hault parage … prie lux quil ait de moy” [Prayer to the Virgin attributed to Guillaume Alexis (d. 1486), Sonet, 1956, no. 24, here with six stanzas];

Back flyleaf, Latin prayer to the Trinity added in a sixteenth-century hand.


The calendar is illustrated with the labors of the month and the signs of the zodiac; January, f. 1, has a full border, and the remaining months have panel borders in the lower and outer margins.Subjects illustrated in the calendar are:

Subjects illustrated in the calendar are:f. 1, January, feasting, and a naked youth pouring water into a river (Aquarius);

f. 1, January, feasting, and a naked youth pouring water into a river (Aquarius);
f. 2, February, warming by the fire, and two fish (Pisces);
f. 3, March, pruning vines, and a ram (Aries);
f. 4, April, hawking, and a bull (Taurus);
f. 5, May, courting (a couple on horseback), and the twins as an amorous couple (Gemini);
f. 6, June, shearing sheep, and a crab (Cancer);
f. 7, July, resting in the fields during hay harvest, and a lion (Leo);
f. 8, August, harvesting grain, and a young girl (Virgo);
f. 9, September, sowing seeds, and scales (Libra);
f. 10, October, treading on grapes, and a scorpion (Scorpio);
f. 11, November, gathering acorns, and an archer (Sagittarius);
f. 12, December, butchering pigs, and a ram (Capricorn).

The fourteen large miniatures include full borders of two types; eight small vignettes of additional subjects accompany five of these miniatures. Four large miniatures are enclosed in elaborate gold architectural borders with pillars on either side (gold with blue fleur-de-lis, or gold and blue marble and pink marble) that form part of the scene, with the text copied on blank rectangles below the miniatures, shaped to suggest they are curling at the outer edge, with red shading.

f. 23, (Hours of the Virgin, Matins), the Annunciation, topped with three Gothic arches with Adam and Eve, the serpent, and two male saints (the figure on the far left over-painted), below, two small scenes from the life of the Virgin at the bottom: Anne and Joachim at the Golden Gate; and Anne and Joachim presenting Mary at the Temple);

f. 39, (Hours of the Virgin, Prime), the Nativity, with a small scene of Moses removing his shoes before the burning bush at the bottom;

f. 59, (Penitential Psalms), David reprimanded by Nathan; small scene of David and Goliath depicted below (miniature is slightly damaged near the top);

f. 71v, (Office of the Dead), the Three Living and the Three Dead, with a small scene of death spearing a man below.

Ten large miniatures above four- to five lines of text in arch-topped frames with full borders of realistic flowers, fruit, animals, birds, and grotesques on liquid gold. Subjects as follows:

f. 13, John on Patmos, with his eagle, with fortified city walls in the background; small vignettes showing Matthew, Mark, and Luke, writing, included in the border;

f. 30, (Lauds), the Visitation; two hybrid man-animals depicted jousting in the lower margin; f. 42v, (Terce), Annunciation to the Shepherds;

f. 45, (Sext), Adoration of the Magi; in the border two dragon-lizard creatures, and a monkey cradling a baby;

f. 47, (None), Presentation at the temple; comic scene of jousting astride rams in the lower border; f. 49, (Vespers), Flight into Egypt; the Miracle of the Cornfield depicted in the corner;f. 50v, (Compline), Coronation of the Virgin; a wild-man and horse in the lower border;

f. 53v, (Hours of the Cross), Crucifixion;

f. 56, (Hours of the Holy Spirit), Pentecost;

f. 90 (prayers), Virgin and child with a female patron kneeling alongside.

The English occupation of Rouen ended in 1449, and Rouen emerged as a centre of French manuscript production in the second half of the fifteenth century. Professional illuminators, scribes and bookbinders set up a flourishing book trade around the cathedral, and produced books both for local use and for export. This is a deluxe Book of Hours made for use in Rouen, lavishly illuminated with miniatures and panel borders on each page.

The artist who created the miniatures in the Book of Hours described here was working in the tradition of one of the most important Rouen painters of the previous generation, the Master of the Échevinage of Rouen (formerly Master of the Geneva Latini or “Bouquechardière Master”), active in Rouen from circa 1460 to 1480 (Rabel, 1989); he was also influenced by contemporary artists in Rouen, and those in Paris. The influence of Parisian artists is evident especially in the four miniatures framed in elaborate Renaissance borders (for example, Reynaud and Avril, p. 269, cat. 147, Book of Hours, Paris, 1498).

The miniatures are executed in shades of blue, rose, green, violet-grey, with copious use of gold used to shade the drapery and to highlight details. The older men typically have white beards; youths and women have finely shaped oval faces with heavy eyelids. The landscapes with their fairy-tale castles fade to blue in the distance. Of particular note are the very fine landscape backgrounds. In the background to the miniature of John on Patmos (f. 13), for example, we see not only the fortified walls of a medieval city, but a river complete with a fleet of tiny ships. The lollipop-like trees of the Master of the Échevinage de Rouen here are softened, and look more like real trees. The traditional four-part Evangelist page is reworked with small square vignettes in the borders. In the border of the Annunciation regal columns are decorated with gold fleur-de-lis and elaborate gothic arches, complete with Adam and Eve and the serpent (with a person’s face) at the top; the text is copied as if on a curling piece of parchment, and two further scenes are depicted below. In the miniature of the three living and the three dead, the realistically depicted horses and the elegant apparel of the rich men are notable.

Numerous artists were working in Rouen at the end of the fifteenth century, including the Playfair Hours master (Watson, 1984), named for a Book of Hours now in London (Victoria and Albert Museum, MS L. 475-1918). There are close iconographic parallels between that manuscript and the manuscript described here. An even closer parallel, however, is found in Bodleian Library, MS. Buchanan e. 3 (formerly MS Lat.liturg.e.24), a Book of Hours from Rouen, c. 1500, that also includes a combination of large miniatures in elaborate architectural borders with additional small vignettes, and miniatures in more traditional arch-topped frames with borders of flowers, animals, birds, and grotesques on liquid gold. The Horae described here are of a higher quality, but the similarities are very striking indeed, even down to the fact that both manuscripts have four miniatures with architectural frames rather than arch-topped miniatures. See also the Annunciation in a Book of Hours from Rouen, c. 1500, Medieval Manuscripts, Sam Fogg, Catalogue 12, 1989, no. 27, p. 103.

The miniatures in this manuscript do not appear to be by the artist known as the Master of the Missal of Ambroise Le Veneur (see Delaunay, 1991), or his contemporary Robert, or Robinet, Boyvin (Delaunay, 1991, fig. 164 and p. 104), but the borders almost certainly can be attributable to an artist with whom Le Veneur and Boyvin collaborated, Jean Serpin or Cerpin (Delaunay, 1995). Serpin introduced into Rouen liquid-gold borders with white-gris acanthus and realistic flowers and fruit from the Ghent-Bruges school. He is noted for his host of fantastic creatures and monkeys. Paris, BnF, MS lat 8551 is a documented work with miniatures by Le Veneur and borders by Serpin; many of the same motifs found in this manuscript can be found in the Book of Hours described here; for example, on f. 30, there is a dragon similar to that on f. 35 of our manuscript; on 63v, there is an identical scene of jousting hybrid man-animals as the one found on f. 47 of our manuscript, and on f. 101v, we find the same wild man with a spear found in our manuscript on f. 50v.


Avril, F. and N. Reynaud. Les manuscrits à peintures en France, 1480-1520, Paris, 1993.

Delaunay, Isabelle. “L’enluminure rouennaise à travers la production du livre d’heures, de la fin du XVe au début du XVIe siècles.” Mémoire de D.E.A d’Histoire de l’art, sous les directions de Jean Guillaume et Daniel Ternois, Unpublished thesis, September, 1991.

Delaunay, Isabelle. “Le manuscrit enluminé à Rouen au temps du cardinal Georges d’Amboise: l’œuvre de Robert Boyvin et de Jean Serpin,” Annales de Normandie 45e année, no. 3 (1995), pp. 211- 244.

Rabel, Claudia. “Artiste et clientèle à la fin du Moyen Age: les manuscrits profanes du Maître de l’échevinage de Rouen,” Revue de l’art, 84 (1989).
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/rvart_0035- 1326_1989_num_84_1_347775

Schilling, Rosy and Georg Swarzenski. Die illuminierten Handschriften und Einzelminiaturen des Mittelalters und der Renaissance in Frankfurter Besitz, Frankfurt a. M., 1929, no. 125, pp. 139-141.

Sonet, J. Répertoire d’incipit de prières en ancien français, Société de publications romanes et françaises 54, Geneva, 1956.

Watson, Rowan. The Playfair Hours: A Late Fifteenth Century Illuminated Manuscript from Rouen (V&A, L.475-1918), London, 1984.

Online References

Images of Oxford, MS Buchanan e.3



Description of MS Buchanan e.3


Paris, BnF, MS lat 8551, digitized on Gallica


We gratefully acknowledge the scholarship of Les Enluminures in the cataloguing of this manuscript.