As always with this blog, if you want to see the picture larger and in more detail, all you have to do it left click on the picture.
There is something exciting about holding an old book in your hands. Thoughts race through your head and you wonder who owned it before you held it, what did they think of the book? Did they treasure it? In most cases we have no way to know. With the book of hours I have been sharing with you, we actually know who some of the people were because they had an owners’ signature page. This book of hours is located in the Lilly Library and can be found as MSS 30 Medieval and Renaissance.
A comment on terminology. A decorated manuscript is a manuscript that has not precious metal used in it. An illuminated manuscript does have precious metals used in it. This book of hours is an illuminated manuscript.
In most books of hours there is a calendar. That way you not only know what the date is but more importantly what Saint’s Day it is. Reading a medieval calendar is not the same as reading calendars of today. The Getty Museum has a wonderful short video on How To Read A Medieval Calendar
Here we have January through mid-March
The amount of gold usage in this book of hours is almost overwhelming.
You have probably also been noticing a rich color palette being used as well. What range of colors did the medieval decorator have? A very wide range including colors you might not expect. Say like Danger Orange.
And they would paint in great detail even the smallest of things. Like this strawberry. They painted in the seeds of the strawberry, that is fine detail work!
Of course today we like to drool over the pretty gilding and painting. At the time all of that was important and cost a pretty penny mind you, but the star of the show was the writing. Most of the time the calligrapher got to sign their name to the work, the decorator and illuminators often worked in obscurity. Yes, there are some that are known but the majority are not. The writing in this book of hours is a Gothic hand and is very well done.
I hope you have enjoyed this pictorial romp through this beautiful book of hours. I certainly enjoyed my time with it as well