A Wide Range of Vellum Leaves from a Printed Book of Hours, Including Exquisitely Painted Full-Page Miniatures


(Paris: Simon Vostre, ca. 1502 [calendar 1502-20]). 177 x 112 mm. (7 x 4 3/8").

Each leaf with at least a few (and some with many) one-line initials painted in gold on a red or blue ground, occasional two-line initial similarly painted, rectos and versos with FULL METALCUT BORDERS incorporating various floral motifs, acanthus, animals, putti, grotesques, biblical scenes, and imagery from the Dance of Death, THESE LEAVES EACH WITH TWO SEVEN TO EIGHT-LINE MINIATURES BEAUTIFULLY PAINTED BY HAND, with some liberties taken, over printed metalcuts. Bohatta 745; Van Praet I, 161. ◆A touch of yellowing to edges of vellum, an occasional marginal blemish, but the vast majority of leaves IN BEAUTIFUL CONDITION, THE MINIATURES EXQUISITELY PAINTED and on the whole very fresh and deeply hued.

These leaves offer an array of lively and highly detailed metalcut scenes, from their border vignettes with a myriad of interesting images to the several splendid hand-painted miniatures, and taken as a whole, they comprise some of the finest examples from a printed Book of Hours that we have offered for sale. The uncolored borders, appearing on each recto and verso (except those pages with full-page miniatures), contain scenes that range from the delightful to the disturbing: jolly hunting parties and mischievous putti give way to apocalyptic scenes showing stacks of dead bodies and the gates of Hell, while in images from the Dance of Death, a skeleton sidles up to and claims members from all strata of society. Simon Vostre, a publisher and bookseller with premises on the rue Neuve near Notre Dame de Paris, was described by Fairfax Murray as "pre-eminent" among those who produced Books of Hours in this period, and it is easy to see why: the present leaves reflect both a refined sense of design in typographic terms and an obvious commitment to careful presswork. Vostre also collaborated with illuminators, and the quality of the hand-painted miniatures here reveals that the original work would have been an expensive endeavor. The artists at work here prove their skill with an harmonious palette (mostly red, blue, and gold, often offset by green) and notable achievement in detail--garments and hair highlighted with gold, faces carefully molded and delicately rouged--to create balance, depth, and allure. Taken from a very defective Book of Hours, the small miniatures here feature images of various saints, while the leaves with full-page miniatures feature scenes from the life of the Virgin, the life of King David, and the Passion Cycle--but also include two that are more unusual: the Feast of Dives, and Augustus and the Tiburtine Sybil. Besides their obvious aesthetic appeal, these leaves also help to tell the story of the gradual shift from manuscript to print and encourage further study of the iconography, typography, and artistic processes that they possess. For additional leaves at various price points, including those with full-page miniatures, please check our website.

Price: $950.00