(Paris: Thielman Kerver, 29 May, 1510 [calendar covering the years 1506-30]). 171 x 108 mm. (6 3/4 x 4 1/4"). [108] leaves; title page (A1) in very good paper facsimile (though blank on the verso, so lacking the Anatomical Man engraving that should appear there).

Pleasant mid-16th century dark calf, gilt, covers framed by multiple blind rules, central panel formed by a gilt fillet with acorn tools extending obliquely from outer corners, gilt vegetal tools at inner corners, central gilt arabesque, raised bands, expertly rebacked preserving original backstrip (as well as recornered?), spine in blind-ruled compartments with saltire, unusual later (17th century?) brass clasps and catches, the hardware extending some 90 mm. (or three-quarters of the way) across each board, the extensions held in place by small brass nails. Numerous one- and two-line initials painted in colors and gold, each page with decorative and/or historiated frames featuring charming and sometimes fascinating scenic metal-cut border panels at bottom and fore edge, 34 small miniatures (measuring approximately 33 x 27 mm), and 18 RICHLY DETAILED FULL-PAGE CUTS--including the Martyrdom of St. John, the Betrayal of Christ, the Tree of Jesse, the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Annunciation to the Shepherds, the Adoration of the Magi, the Presentation in the Temple, the Flight into Egypt, the Coronation of the Virgin, the Anointing of David, the Raising of Lazarus, the Crucifixion, Pentecost, the Virgin Mary with her symbols, a diagram explaining the concept of the Trinity, and Christ with the symbols of the Passion (Arma Christi). A 17th century engraved and hand-painted holy card on vellum by Cornelius Galle tipped in at front. Front pastedown with early engraved heraldic bookplate; ink stamp of "Kön. Kupferstich Cabinet Stuttgart" on verso of holy card and of last leaf; last (blank) page with early ink ownership signatures and pen trials, and the date 1679. Bohatta 900; Brunet V, 1621, #186; Graesse VII, 375; Fairfax Murray / French 267 (1511 edition). Spine slightly cocked, backstrip a little roughened, but the carefully restored binding quite lustrous, with very little wear, and generally well preserved. Trimmed close at the top (with decorative border just touched on several of the leaves containing full-page miniatures), a half dozen leaves (including the Crucifixion miniature) with faint but noticeable brown stains, minor signs of use, the vellum generally not very bright, other trivial imperfections, but still a reasonable copy internally, with many pages quite pleasing, and with no fatal condition issues.

Apparently put to use by at least one devout person and in a binding that was remodeled in a peculiar way by a later owner, this is a deluxe edition of a Book of Hours from a leading Paris publisher, with a new and expanded series of engravings. Based on those created by the printer Pigouchet for his 1496 edition, the illustrations here are "distinguished by [their] greater freedom from convention in the treatment of the designs, there being an appearance of relief or modelling in comparison with the older cuts, [and with] cross-hatching and other forms of shading introduced." (Fairfax Murray) In both borders and miniatures, Kerver introduces new elements to familiar scenes. For example, in the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel, usually arriving as a solo flight, is here accompanied by a large crowd, perhaps the heavenly host, come to pay homage to the Mother of God; the cow in the Nativity sheds a prominent (and foreshadowing) tear; two world-weary angels watch over the Holy Family on the Flight into Egypt; the Visitation is observed by two beautifully dressed handmaids, one looking on smugly with arms crossed while the other seems to be making a snide remark. The historiated borders contain scenes from the Creation, the life of the Virgin Mary, the life of Christ (with Old Testament parallels), and the 17 Signs of Judgment (all of which appeared in the 1505 Kerver printing), along with the addition for the present edition of 42 vignettes of the Apocalypse and 66 Dance of Death miniatures. Printer Thielman Kerver the elder (d. 1522) came from Koblenz to Paris around 1497, and began printing works for the foremost Parisian publisher, Jean Petit, who was preeminent in the Paris book world for some 35 years, beginning about 1495. ISTC lists Kerver as the printer of 70 works, nearly half of them Books of Hours. Kerver's son Jacques married Petit's daughter and became a prominent printer in his own right. The covers of our binding are decorated in a style typical of the middle of the 16th century, but their mysterious, strikingly supererogatory clasps clearly have been added at a later date (in the following century?), perhaps as someone's nod to an idea of current fashion, or simply as robust prevention against splaying, to which volumes containing vellum leaves are highly susceptible. We were unable to find anything like these restrictive appliances in any of the usual bibliographies, and none of the prominent experts in binding history whom we consulted could say anything definite about them.

Keywords: Book of Hours