Early English Book of Hours by an important Bruges artits with remarkable continous ownership recorded through the Protestant Reform

This manuscript is a remarkable early example of a Book of Hours made in Bruges for the English market illuminated by the Master of the Beaufort Saints and associates. The softly modeled figures are rendered with subtle plasticity of pre-Eyckian realism and are typically set against decorative backgrounds. Its notable provenance tells the story of its ownership across centuries. Through signatures and additions to the calendar we can trace its history through prominent families in England, sometimes women, sometimes men, members of Parliament, some of whom were also close to the royal family. The manuscript thus witnesses the strength of English Catholicism through the years and across the turbulent era of the Protestant Reformation.

Its production and provenance attest to the flourishing trade between the Southern Netherlands and England in the fifteenth century. With texts for the liturgical use of Sarum and with a calendar comprised of English saints, it was no doubt made for an English client. First recorded with the Bybbesworth family, its original owner is very possibly Edmund Bybbesworth (d. 1443, also spelled Bibbesworth and Bybesworth), a member of parliament from Middlesex. Bybbesworth was most likely involved in the wool trade with Bruges, since he possessed important manorial lands in northern Essex, the site of many English "wool towns." The manuscript would remain in the area of the wool towns, later passing to Anne Shouldham (d. 1592), who also lived in the heart of the rich wool-producing lands of Suffolk. It is further connected to Bruges through the Englishman Edward Grimstone, who added notes that document Anne Shouldham's ownership of the book. This is none other than the great grandson of Edward Grimstone (also spelled Grimston), diplomat and English ambassador to Philip the Good, who appears in a portrait by the important Bruge-based painter Petrus Christus in 1446.

101 + i ff., collation impracticable, probably lacking one inserted miniature leaf between ff, 19 and 20, representing St. Anne (see below under Provenance), text complete, written in brown ink in a Gothic bookhand, rubrics in red, on 25 lines lightly ruled, when visible in red (justification 64 x 110 mm.), alternating 1-line initials in gold and blue with blue and red penwork, larger initials of two types, Gothic ivyleaf on burnished gold ground, initial in red, vines in blue and red, red and blue penwork line fillers (for the litany), TWELVE FULL-PAGE MINIATURES on inserted leaves with borders on three sides, three facing rectors with full ivyleaf borders (some wear and paint losses to the miniatures, some staining, see f. 21v), tiny pin holes evident in the upper margins of all miniatures once fastening silk curtains to the miniatures, some frames with silver leaf, normal signs of wear and use throughout. Bound in 20th-century brown morocco stamped in black (slight cracking to front joint). Dimensions 176 x 115 mm.


1. The book can be dated and localized to Bruges from comparison with a Book of Hours, now in Durham, Ushaw College MS 10, dated by the scribe in Bruges on 21 January 1409 (n.s.). The present manuscript was certainly made for export to England. Its text is for the use is Sarum; its calendar includes predominantly English feasts with a few Netherlandish saints; and the litany includes many English saints. English annotations confirm it reached its intended market in the fifteenth century; a later owner did not obey Henry VIII’s legislation of 1538 to erase celebrations of Thomas Becket.

2. Bybbesworth, in a 15th-century English hand on f. 9v: the main family from Bibbesworth in Hertfordshire also held lands in Middlesex and Essex. A possible first purchaser would be Edmund Bybbesworth (d. 1443), Member of Parliament for Middlesex 1421-1437; his grandson Thomas (d. 1485) was his last heir in the male line.

3. Sir Edward Stanley, Lord Monteagle, KG (d.1523): Elas et qant E. Stanley on f. 21v is the motto – Hélas et quand – and signature of Edward Stanley, son of the Earl of Derby and stepbrother of Henry VII.  He had the same formulation carved in stone at Hornby Castle in Lancashire. His grandson William, 3rd Lord Monteagle (d. 1581), left only a daughter Elizabeth (d. 1585), married to the 12th Lord Morley; all were active Catholics. The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was discovered when a fellow Catholic warned their son, William, Lord Monteagle (1574/5-1622), to avoid Parliament.

4. Anne Shouldham (d. 1592): Anne, daughter of Edward Cocket of Ampton in Suffolk (d. c.1543) and Anne Froxmere; in 1556/7 she married Humphrey Shouldham of Marham (c. 1511-1566). Anne’s previous ownership of the book was recorded by her nephew Edward Yelverton of Grimston in Norfolk, eldest son of William and his second wife, her sister, Jane Cocket (f. 2); evidently a Catholic, she may have removed the miniature of St. Anne for independent use. Edward Grimston is the great grandson of the Edward Grimston who sat for the remarkable portrait by Petrus Christus in 1446 (Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art). The Morley estates were in East Anglia: the book possibly reached her through Elizabeth, Lady Morley.

On f. 1: "Anna Shouldh[a]m hunc libru[m] possidebat. Nasaretha Yelverton valde illu[m] ob picturas adamavit ac desideravit. precor omnes qui devote hunc libru[m] inspexerint ut p[ro] animab[us] earu[m] orent", i.e., 'Anne Shouldham owned this book. Nazaretha Yelverton truly admired it and wanted it because of the pictures. I pray that all who devoutly examine this book should pray for their souls.

5. Edward Yelverton (d. 1623): probably a bequest from Anne Shouldham; on f. 2 Edward contrasted Anne’s ownership with Nazareth Yelverton’s love of, and desire for, the book, especially its pictures, and invited prayers for both their souls above the initials ENY, for Edward and his wife Nazareth (d. 1593). In the calendar, along with additional feasts and family obits, Edward noted Anne’s death in 1592 by 28 December and Nazareth’s in 1593 by 29 March.  In the miniature frames before the Office of the Dead and the Commendation of Souls he touchingly asked for prayers for the souls of Nazareth (f. 67v), and of Nazareth and Anne (f. 81v). Nazareth was the daughter of Edmund Bedingfeld of Oxburgh Hall, now famed for its priest hole and seen as an embodiment of the Bedingfelds’s unshakeable Catholic faith; her grandfather Sir Henry Bedingfeld was gaoler of the future Elizabeth I during Mary’s reign. Thomas Bedingfeld’s obit (1590) is added to the calendar on April 9. The Yelvertons were not united in religion but Edward was among the staunch Catholics, protecting the Jesuit missions and fostering Catholic practice.

6. London, Quaritch, A Catalogue of Illuminated and Other Manuscripts, 1931, no. 54; A Catalogue of Books comprising Bibles, etc, no. 474, 1933, no. 89.

7. Private Collection, North America.


f. 1, former pastedown with verse in a 15th-century English hand, beginning begins "Avete om[n]es fideles a[n]i]m]e / Qui vos redemit suo p[re]ciosa sanguine ...,” it is a slight variant of the prayer for use on crossing a cemetery common in English Books of Hours and printed by Leroquais, Livres d'heures, II, 1927, p. 341, no. XXIX.

ff. 2-7, Calendar including many English saints, Edmund King and Martyr (in red, 18 March), Cuthbert (in red, 20 March), George (in red, 23 April), Dunstan (in red, 19 May) Translation of Edmund (in red, 9 June), Translation of Bishop Richard of Chichester, (in red, 16 June), Cuthburga, Abbess of Wimborne (August 31), Translation of Cuthbert Bishop (4 September), Edith of Wilton, daughter of Edgar (in red, 16 September), Edward Confessor (13 October), Edmund Archbishop and Confessor (in red, 16 November), Edmund King and Marty (in red, 20 November), Hugo bishop and confessor (in red, 17 November);

f. 9-9v, Prayer to the Trinity, incipit “Domine deus omnipotens pater et filius et spiritus …”

ff. 11-20, Suffrages, Saints Christopher, f. 11; George, f. 13; Thomas Becket, f. 14; John the Baptist, f. 15; John the Evangelist, f. 17; Catherine, f. 19; Margaret, f. 19; Anne, f. 20;

ff. 22-41v, Hours of the Virgin, use of Sarum, Prime (f. 24), Lauds (f. 25v), prime 32v, terce 34v, sext, 35v, none, 37, compline 39with Suffrages after Lauds and interspersed with the Hours of the cross from Lauds;

ff. 42-45, Prayer, Salve regina

ff. 45, O intemerata; f. 46, Obsecro te (for male use); f. 48, Seven Joys of the Virgin; f. 50, Prayer to the images at the Crucifixion (wood, head, crown of thorns, hands, etc.); f. 52, Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross; f. 54, miscellaneous prayers;

ff. 57-61v, Seven Penitential Psalms;

ff. 61-62v, Fifteen Gradual Psalms;

ff. 62v-66v, Litany, including many English saints, Edward, Edmund, Eadmund;

ff. 68-80, Office of the Dead, use of Sarum;

ff. 82-89, Commendation of the Souls;


ff. 91-97v, Psalter of St. Jerome;

ff. 99-101v, Psalms of the Passion.


The subjects of the full-page miniatures are:

f. 8v, Trinity;

f. 10v, St. Christopher;

f. 12v, St. George;

f. 14v, Martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket;

f. 16v, Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist;

f. 18v, Saints Catherine and Margaret;

f. 21v, Annunciation;

f. 56v, Last Judgment;

f. 67v, Office of the Dead;

f. 81v, God the Father bearing Three Souls;

f. 90v, Saint Jerome in his Study;

f. 98v, Agony in the Garden.

The miniatures, with their delicately patterned backgrounds, are by the Master of the Beaufort Saints and associates. The Master was named from the miniatures added to the Hours owned by Margaret, wife of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (British Library, Royal MS 2 A XVIII); those miniatures were previously in a Psalter where three of the sequence remain (Rennes, Bibl. mun. MS 22; see S. McKendrick, J. Lowden and K. Doyle, Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination, 2011, no 25).  In the present manuscript, Saints George, Christopher and Thomas Becket are simplified versions of their equivalent Beaufort Saints. Although more than one hand can be distinguished in the Beaufort Saints miniatures, the majority seem by the same, most skillful hand, presumably that of the Master. There was apparently a small group of illuminators around him, sharing his compositions and painterly style.

Within this group, the present manuscript belongs with four Hours with miniatures derived from shared patterns; the same hand is responsible for at least some miniatures in each of them. One is for the use of Rome: New York, Morgan Library, M. 1073; three are for the use of Sarum: London, BL, Royal 2 A VIII, and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MSS Canon. liturg. 116, and lat. liturg. f. 2 (see S. Vertongen and K. Smeyers in Vlaamse Miniaturen voor Van Eyck Catalogus, 1993, nos 21-22).

Repetitions can be almost exact: from the present manuscript, for example, St. Jerome is in Royal 2 A VIII (reversed), the Office of the Dead in Canon. liturg. 116, Catherine and Margaret and the Annunciation in lat. liturg. f. 2. In all five manuscripts, the principal illuminator is distinguished by his refined detail in describing faces and modelling drapery and by his strong sense of shape established through smoothly simplified contours and a concentration on pink, blue and red, all features that mark the unusually elaborate Beaufort Saints miniatures. Allowing for their different ambition, the miniatures admired by Nazareth Yelverton also show the hand of the Master.

Pre-Eyckian paintings are so rare that only thirty – all in museum collections – have been recently traced from the decade or so before Jan van Eyck (1395-1441) in Bruges. Few such paintings are ever available on the art market. Manuscript illumination of the period greatly enhances the scope of appreciation of pre-Eyckian art, and the paintings surviving in manuscripts like the present one are often in near-perfect states of preservation.


Unpublished, see:

McKendrick, S., J. Lowden and K. Doyle, Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination, 2011,

Rogers, N. J. “Books of Hours Produced in the Low Countries for the English Market in the Fifteenth Century,” 2 vols., Unpublished M. Litt. Dissertation, University of Cambridge, 1982.

Rogers, N. J. “Patrons and Purchasers: Evidence for the Original Owners of Books of Hours Produced in the Low Countries for the English Market,” in B. Cardon, J. van der Stock and D. Vanwijnsberghe, eds., Als ich can. Liber Amicorum in Memory of Professor Maurits Smeyers, 2 vols., Louvain, 2002, vol. II, pp. 1165-1181.

Smeyers, M., ed. Vlaamse miniaturen voor Van Eyck (c. 1380-c. 1420), Catalogus, Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts, 6 (Low Countries Series, 4), Louvain, 1993 [referred to as Smeyers, Catalogus, 1993].

Smeyers, M. and B. Cardon, eds., Flanders in a European Perspective. Manuscript Illumination around 1400 in Flanders and Abroad. Proceedings of the International Colloquium, Leuven 7-10 September 1993, Louvain, 1995.

Vertongen, S. “De zgn. Meester van de Beaufortheiligen en de Brugse miniatuurkunst,” in Verslag van de Groningse Codicologendagen 8-9 oktober 1992.

Vertongen, S. and K. Smeyers in Vlaamse Miniaturen voor Van Eyck Catalogus, 1993

Vertongen, S. “Hermann Scheerre, the Beaufort Master and the Flemish Miniature Painting. A Reopened Debate,” in Smeyers, M. and B. Cardon, eds., Flanders in a European Perspective. Manuscript Illumination around 1400 in Flanders and Abroad. Proceedings of the InternationalColloquium, Leuven, 7-10 September 1993, Low Countries Series 5, Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts, 8, Louvain, 1995.

BOH 170

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