A PRINTED BOOK OF HOURS ON VELLUM, IN LATIN AND FRENCH. USE OF ROME.
(Paris: Germain Hardouyn, 1533 [with Calendar covering 1520-32]). 207 x 125 mm. (8 1/8 x 5"). 92 (of 96) unnumbered leaves (without A1, C8, D8, and I1).
Remnants of green brocade over old (perhaps contemporary) thin wooden boards. WITH 12 SMALL MINIATURES AND 17 LARGER ONES (five of the latter full-page, and the others from a half to two-thirds of a page), ALL COLORED BY A CONTEMPORARY HAND (lacking a miniature on each of three missing leaves); ALSO WITH EVERY PAGE (except those featuring a larger miniature) ENCLOSED BY A HAND-PAINTED DECORATIVE OR INHABITED FRAME, the frames always in pairs, with a conventional border of plants, fruits, and geometric shapes on one page and on the opposite page a border constituting an original painting of an outdoor scene, always containing humans and/or animals, MANY OF THE INHABITED FRAMES OF IMMENSE CHARM, even if essentially naïve in style. Front free endleaf with (illegible) early ink inscription. Not in Adams or Brunet. Binding quite worn but still (remarkably) sound, and not without a certain antique charm. A bit of worming to endleaves, front free endleaves slightly loose, margins somewhat thumbed from devout use, paint occasionally rubbed or smudged without loss to decoration, last gathering with light dampstain to lower fore-edge corner (not affecting borders), other lesser defects, but an excellent specimen despite its imperfections, the text generally clean and consistently fresh on creamy vellum, and the richly colored decorations very well preserved, with paint intact.
In addition to containing 29 miniatures of various sizes supplied by the publisher, this is a well-loved Book of Hours of very great charm because of its special added feature--what amounts to 84 original paintings in the form of distinctive borders depicting delightfully imaginative outdoor scenes. However quaint they may appear next to the work of the Limbourg brothers, these frames are remarkably diverting, showing as they do grotesques cavorting with woodland creatures, birds, or fearful humans; dogs dancing on their hind legs to the accompaniment of musicians with drums and pipes; animated hunts featuring hounds, archers, fleeing rabbits, graceful doomed deer, and fierce wild boar; a woman baking bread; a woodsman by a bonfire; a man charming a snake-like creature by playing a horn; a woman shearing sheep; shepherds serenading their flocks with bagpipe tunes; a rooster confronting a fox; St. Jerome and his lion, and so on. The miniatures enclosed by these borders are themselves of considerable interest, being richly hand colored and lavishly heightened with gold, but their conventional elegance is outshone by the lively, whimsical frames, whose homespun immediacy forges a strong connection between us and the past. We are irresistibly drawn to speculate about the person for whom this was created--no doubt a seriously devout believer, as the book's signs of use indicate, and someone in touch with the elemental dimensions of life. This printed Book of Hours is rare: copies seem to have appeared at auction just three times in the last 50 years. More importantly, in 40 years of bookselling, we have never seen original painted compositions of this sort comprising the borders, as here, in any Book of Hours, manuscript or printed. (ST12863)