Maitre Francois Book of Hours | Inventory | Les Enluminures



183 leaves, complete (collation: i12, ii8, iii6, iv-ix8, x6, xi-xvii8, xviii7 [vii a singleton], xix-xxiii8) paginated 1-376 skipping from 130 to 141, followed here, written on 16 long lines in a Gothic bookhand in dark brown ink between two verticals and 17 horizontals, ruled in dark pink, rubrics in dark pink, capitals touched yellow, one- and two 4-line initials of burnished gold against grounds and infills of dark pink and blue with white penwork decoration, line-endings of the same colours, 3- and 4-line initials with blue staves with white pen-work decoration against ground and infills of burnished gold with sprays of naturalistic flowers or fruit or formalised trefoils of red and blue, each page with a panel border of curling hairline tendrils of gold disks and ivy leaves and terminating in sprays with pink, blue and red flowerheads, each page with a 4-line initial having a three-quarter border of similar type but including blue and gold acanthus sprays at the corners, seven arch-topped large miniatures accompanied by full-page borders made up of delicate scrolling blue and gold acanthus intermingled with sprays of berries, strawberries, pink campions and cornflowers etc, one border with three historiated roundels (slight rubbing). Bound in French 18th-century tan calf gilt, spine gilt in six compartments, red morocco lettering-piece in second, the others with repeated patterns of floral and frond stamps. Dimensions 160 x 115 mm (justification 91 x 59 mm.).

Everything about this manuscript is Parisian: the calendar, the use of both the Hours of the Virgin and the Office of the Dead, and especially the illuminator, the workshop of the Maître François, which dominated manuscript production in the French capital during the third quarter of the fifteenth century. This is a classic, highly finished product by the industrious painter and his workshop with refined miniatures marking the major sections of the text.


1. The use of the feminine form suggests that the manuscript was made for a woman and the Paris use of the Hours of the Virgin and the presence in the Calendar of Saints Genevieve (3 January), Merry (29 August), Denis (9 October) and Marcel (3 November) indicate its destination as Paris. The style of the illumination is thoroughly Parisian (see below).

2. Thomas Weld-Blundell (d. 1887), his armorial bookplate inside upper cover. Thomas Weld added Blundell to his name in 1837, after inheriting Ince Blundell Hall and the collections there formed by Henry Blundell and his son Charles. The manuscript remained at Ince Blundell until this century and by descent to the previous owner. Thomas Weld ­Blundell was the grandson of Thomas Weld of Lulworth Castle (1750-1810), founder of Stonyhurst College, who owned the Bedford Psalter and the Luttrell Psalter before their acquisition by the British Library. It is yet to be established whether this manuscript descended from Thomas Weld of Lulworth Castle or from the Blundells.

3. Private Collection.


pp. 1-24, Calendar, in French, in red, gold and blue, including noteworthy Parisian saints such as: Genevieve, in gold (Jan. 3), Merry, in gold (Aug. 29), Denis, in gold (Oct. 9) and Marcel, in gold (Nov. 3); 

pp. 25-34, Gospel Sequences; 

pp. 35-41, Obsecro te in the feminine form; 

pp. 42-49, O Intemerata

pp. 49-51, Memorial to the Five feasts of the Virgin, rubric, Memoire des .v. festes nostre dame

pp. 53-170, Hours of the Virgin, use of Paris, with Matins (p. 53), Lauds (p. 95), Prime ( p. 112), Terce (p. 121), Sext, p. 128, None (p. 144), Vespers (p. 151), Compline (p. 162); 

pp. 171-202, Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany (pp. 192-199); 

pp. 203-208, Short Hours of the Cross;

pp. 209-215, Short Hours of the Holy Spirit;

pp. 216-296, Office of the Dead (Use of Paris);

pp. 297-309, Fifteen Joys of the Virgin;

pp. 310-316, Seven Last Requests of Our Lord;

pp. 317-344, Suffrages to the Trinity (p. 317), the Cross (p. 318) St. Michael (p. 318), St. John the Baptist (p. 319); Saints Peter and Paul (p. 320), St. John the Evangelist (p. 321), St. Denis

(p. 321), St. Lawrence (p. 322); St. Stephen (p. 323), St. Christopher (p. 324), St. Sebastian (p. 325), St. Adrian (p. 327), Saints Cosmas and Damian (p. 331) St. Nicholas (p. 332), St. Claude (p. 332), St. Anthony (p. 335), St. Fiacre (p. 336), St. Mary Magdalene (p. 337), St. Catherine (p. 338), St. Margaret (p. 339), St. Genevieve (p. 340), St. Apollonia (p. 340) St. Barbara (p. 342), All Saints (p. 343), Pax, “De la paix” (p. 344);

pp. 345-360, Various prayers, hymns and antiphons, beginning with the “Stabat mater,” and including further suffrages, St. Merry (p. 348), St. Martin (p. 349), St. Avoye [Hedwige of Silesia] (p. 350), hymn to St. Nicolas (p. 351), hymn to St. Catherine (p. 353), hymn to St. Catherine at Compline, St. Francis (p. 357), St. Jerome (p. 357), prayer to Christ, incipit, “O bone et dulcissime jesu”;

pp. 361-376, Seven Verses of St. Bernard and further prayers, including hymn at Pentecost (p. 363), to the Lord, incipit, “Deus propicius esto” (p. 365); Five Salutations to Our Lord (p. 367); another prayer, incipit “Ave verum corpus” (p. 369); another prayer, incipit “Anima christi sanctifica me” (p. 369); Prayer to say on receiving the sacrament (p. 371); Prayer to say after receiving communion (p. 371); Prayer to the Virgin (p. 373); Prayer to the Guardian Angel (p. 374).


The subjects of the miniatures are as follows:

p. 25, St. John on Patmos;

p. 53, Annunciation, three roundels in the margin, the, uppermost with a half-length figure of God blessing and despatching the dove of the Holy Spirit towards the Virgin, the Meeting at the Golden Gate, and, in the lower border, the Birth of the Virgin;

p. 171, King David in Prayer, in an interior;

p. 203, Crucifixion, with the Virgin Mary and St. John;

p. 208, Pentecost in a barrel-vaulted room;

p. 216, Burial in a Churchyard, with the officiating cleric in the foreground reading from a Rituale and the sexton lowering the shrouded corpse into the grave; two gesturing bystanders behind (slightly rubbed);

p. 299, Virgin and Child enthroned with music-making angels;

p. 310, God the Father in Glory.

The miniatures show an obvious debt to the style and compositions of the Maître François, the productive and influential illuminator whose workshop served the bibliophile needs of the court and prominent citizens of Paris during the third quarter of the fifteenth century. This artist takes his name from a letter written in August 1473 by Robert Gaguin to Charles de Gaucourt, entrusting the “egregius pictor Franciscus” with the designs of the pictures and the program of the images of a Cite de Dieu (now Paris, BnF, MS fr. 18-19). The letter lauds him as an accomplished artist worthy of the praise of Apelles. His success resulted in the widespread emulation of his style among Parisian illuminators, and he must have had a large and active workshop and many followers.

One of the most striking motifs of the present manuscript is the diaphragm frame around the miniature of the Annunciation (p. 53), with a stepped arch supported on side columns, and pendant tracery. This design can be found in manuscripts attributed to Maître François, for example the Hours of Jacques de Langeac (Lyons, Bibl. Mun., MS 5154), but an even more precise comparison--where the tracery has evolved into a filigree “rose”--can be made with the framing devices of Maître François most accomplished follower and successor, the Master of Jacques de Besançon, formerly known as the Chief Associate of the Maître François (e.g., New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M. 935; Plummer, 1982, pp. 69-70, ill.). Clearly, however, the present manuscript is unlikely to be of such a late date; the simple hairline tendrils of the borders, the presence of elements recalling earlier Parisian illumination, all suggesting a date no later than the 1470s. The engaging animation of some of the protagonists in the miniatures is an individual feature of this illuminator's work; for example the agitated response of John the Evangelist in the Crucifixion (p. 203).

François Avril has kindly informed us that the Pentecost is virtually identical to the miniature of the same subject and probably by the same hand in MS 546, formerly in the library at Chartres (Book of Hours for the use of Chalon-sur-Saone; see Delaporte, p. 146, no. CCLXI, pl. XXII). Compare also the Burial in a Churchyard, not using the same model but with similar stylistic characteristics (Delaporte, pl. XXII). Regrettably, the destruction of the Chartres manuscript in World War II makes further study of their similarities impossible.


Avril, François and Nicole Reynaud. Les manuscrits à peintures en France, 1440-1520, Paris, Flammarion, 1993, pp. 45-52, and 256-62.

Delaporte, Yves. Les manuscripts enluminés de la bibliothèque de Chartres, Chartres, 1929 (reprint, 1994).

Plummer, John, with the assistance of Gregory Clark. The Last Flowering: French Painting in Manuscripts, 1420-1530, New York and Oxford, The Pierpont Morgan Library and Oxford University Press, 1982.

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