Use of Saint Omer Book of Hours Master of the Gold Scrolls | Les Enluminures



Luxurious, specially commissioned volume in its original binding with many signs of ownership and use

This highly personalized, luxurious volume was meticulously planned and executed for its original owners, a well-born husband and wife from Saint-Omer, who commissioned high quality illuminations by the Masters of the Gold Scrolls.  Relatively large in overall dimensions, and exceptionally lengthy, this manuscript survives in its original blind-stamped binding.  Books of Hours have been called “Archives of prayer” (Reinburg, 2012); that is certainly true in this case–to such an extent that is difficult to know what to call this amazingly compendious collection of texts and images for private devotion.  All the expected texts for a Book of Hours are present, but in addition, so are an almost overwhelming number of prayers, some in Latin, but most in French, especially important for a volume dating this early in the fifteenth century.

ii (parchment) + 331+ ii (parchment) folios, modern foliation in pencil bottom outer corner, lacking an undetermined number of leaves and miniatures, but likely at least nine miniatures on single leaves, and fifteen additional leaves, many of which may have included miniatures (collation i-ii6iii4 [of 6?, stubs visible after f. 13 and 15, 6, f. 16, ends imperfectly] iv8 [lacking five leaves, -1, 3, 4, 6, 8, before f. 17, 18 (two leaves), 19, and one leaf after 19] v4 [original structure uncertain] vi8 [lacking four leaves, -2, 3, 4, 8, following ff. 23, 25, 26, 27, with loss of text following f. 25 and 26] vii3 [of 5?, stubs visible before f. 28 and 30] viii8 [probably lacking single leaves with miniatures before ff. 31 and 35] ix8+1 [4, f. 40, single leaf with miniature] x8+1 [5, f. 50, single leaf with miniature] xi8 xii8+1 [2, f. 64, single leaf with miniature, probably lacking single leaves with miniatures before ff. 68 and 71] xiii8 [probably lacking single leaves with miniatures before ff. 74 and 79] xiv8+1 [3, f. 82, single leaf with miniature] xv8 xvi8 [probably lacking single leaf with miniature before f. 97] xvii8 xviii8+2 [7, and 10, ff. 119 and 122, are single] xix8+1 [1, f. 123, single leaf with miniature] xx-xxii8 xxiii8+1[1, f. 156, single leaf with miniature] xxiv-xxvii8 xxviii8 [probably lacking a single leaf with miniature before f. 204] xxix8+1 [4, single leaf with miniature before f. 208] xxx8 xxxi8+1[7, f. 228, single leaf, now blank, with traces of glue from an image, now missing on the recto] xxxii-xxxvii8 xxxviii7 [original structure uncertain, no obvious loss of text] xxxix-xli8 xlii6 [originally a quire of six with two leaves added at the beginning, now lacking] xliii-xliv8), horizontal catchwords inner lower margin in many quires, partial quire and leaf signatures in red in quire 36 with ‘a’ designating the quire, ruled in lead or red ink with the top one to three and bottom horizontal rules full across, single full-length vertical bounding lines, prickings on most pages in the three outer margins (justification 100-98 x 70-67 mm.), written in a gothic book hand by several scribes in sixteen long lines on ff. 31-122, and otherwise in seventeen long lines, red rubrics, majuscules within text touched with red, one-line blue or polished gold initials with pen flourishes in red or black respectively, two- to three-line polished gold initials infilled and on grounds of red a pink, the three-line initials decorated with black ink sprays and polished gold leaves, red and blue or blue and gold line fillers, EIGHT FULL-PAGES MINIATURES WITH FULL BORDERS (described below), facing pages with five-line initials and FULL BORDERS (except f. 120, without a border), NINE FULL BORDERS, two including coats of arms (ff. 31, 35, 60, 68, 71, 74, 79, 97, 204) without facing miniatures (presumably missing), f. 122v, life-size drawing of a nail from the Cross, in brown with red crosses, with a red triangle representing Christ’s wound some thumbing and some stains in the upper or lower margins (not affecting the text), but with many pages and the miniatures in almost pristine condition.  CONTEMPORARY blind-stamped leather binding over wooden boards, both covers tooled with fillets and small stamps (Agnus dei in a roundel, monkey holding a mirror in a rectangle, a winged serpent or dragon in a narrow rectangle), spine with five raised bands, edges gauffered and gilt, rebacked in the seventeenth or eighteenth century, spine with title in gold on red leather: “Heures Latines et Franca[is] / Manuscrit,” clasps and catches missing, once fastened front to back, some wear especially to corners and at the joints, but the stamps remain legible, and in good overall condition, modern fitted box.  Dimensions 170 x124 mm.


1. Written and illuminated at Saint-Omer or perhaps in Bruges c. 1430-1440 for members of the Sainte-Aldegonde and Rabodengues-Rentry families, presumably a husband and wife, perhaps Jean de Sainte-Aldegonde (d. 1453?) or for his brother Jacques (or Pierre) de Sainte-Aldegegonde (d. after 1438), seigneur de Rabodengues (Online Resources).  The Sainte-Aldegonde coat of arms are included in the border on f. 83:  d’hermine, à une croix de gueules chargée de cinq quintefeuilles d’or (also found in the earlier Psalter of Gilbert de Sainte-Aldegonde, Saint-Omer, Bibliothèque de L’agglomération, MS 270, end of thirteenth century and 1323, Nys and Gils, 2004, fig. 35 and p. 65), and the Rabodengues-Rentry arms are included in the border on f. 204: ecartelé, aux 1 et 3 d’or à la croix ancrée de gueules (Rabodengues); 2, d’argent à trois doloires de gueules (Renty); 4, d’argent à la bande de fuselée de sable (Boncourt?) (see the fifteenth-century, Armorial de l’Europe et de la Toison d’or, Paris, Bibl. de l’Arsenal, MS 4790, f. 74, where the same divided coat of arms is labelled (in a somewhat later hand) “Rabodengues”; Online Resources).  

Both families were prominent in Saint-Omer and the surrounding regions.  This is a highly-personalized Book of Hours; its text is markedly local, including a Saint-Omer calendar, the Hours of the Virgin follow Use of Saint-Omer, and the Office of the Dead, a variant of Thérouanne Use (Saint-Omer is part of that diocese).  Numerous texts bear witness to devotion to St. Aldegonde, as one would expect from members of the St. Aldegonde family.  On f. 23 there is a Suffrage of St. Aldegonde (in a prominent position as the first female saint), which refers to her as “our patron,” her feast is included in the calendar, and she is mentioned in the Litany.  The prayer beginning on f. 261v mentions a chapel at Saint-Omer.

The manuscript was illuminated by a very skilled artist working in the style of the prolific and rather diverse group of artists known as the Masters of the Gold Scrolls.  These artists are particularly associated with Bruges, and this manuscript could have been commissioned in Bruges. However, there are manuscript painted in this style produced in areas other than Bruges itself, and given the degree of local specificity in its texts, as well as the lack of any liturgical links to Bruges in the calendar or elsewhere in the text, it is not impossible that this book was made in Saint-Omer (note that both Saint-Omer and Bruges in the fifteenth century were both part of the Burgundian territories).

Saint-Omer, on the border of French Flanders and Artois, was founded in the seventh century when people settled around the Abbey of St. Bertin.  Severely hit by the plague in the fourteenth century, Saint-Omer slowly recovered prosperity in the late fourteenth century; it was part of the Burgundian territories from 1384 and was a center for artistic production in the later Middle Ages (Gil and Nys, 2004).

2. This volume is full of physical evidence of an active devotional life.  Long bypassed by scholars, the importance of evidence of this type has been brought to the fore by the numerous recent works by Kathryn Rudy (Rudy, 2015, 2016).  Imprints of about a dozen pilgrim or Eucharistic badges remain on the front flyleaf where they were once sewn; marks, possibly from badges, also remain in the upper margins of ff. 25v-26 and ff. 32v-33.  Sewing holes and occasionally silk threads in the upper margins of ff. 40, 50 and 64 are evidence that the miniatures were once covered by silk curtains. Traces of glue on two folios, now blank, are evidence of images once glued into the volume (both in textually appropriate places for a devotional image, see ff. 123 and 228).

3.Front flyleaf in pencil, “No. 753.”

4. Private collection, France.


ff. 1-12v, Full Calendar in French including the feast of St. Omer, “Saint Omer en fleurs” (June 8), translation of St. Omer, in red, “St Omer evesque,” in red (September 9), St. Bertin, founder of the great abbey outside of St.-Omer, in red (September 5), and his translation, in black (July 16), and St. Denis, to whom a church in Saint-Omer is dedicated, in red (October 9); other feasts of note include St. Firmin, bishop of Amiens (January 13), St. Adelgunde (January 30), St. Silvin, evangelist in the area of Thérouanne (February 15), St. Eligius, bishop of Noyon and Tournai, in red (June 25), “Oufran,” or Wulfran of Abbeville (here March 20 and October 15), St. Winnoc, monk at Sithiu [Saint-Omer] and founder of the monastery of Wormhoult (November 6), St. Willibrord, missionary to Friesland and Luxembourg, bishop of Utrecht (November 7), and St.  Fuscian, martyr, killed at Amiens (December 11);

f. 13rv, [An account of the Mass of St Gregory in French], incipit, “Au tamps [sic] que saint grigore estoit pape …”;

The text promises 4,000 years of pardon for those who repeat the Pater noster and the five sorrows of Our Lord five times in front of this image (“ceste figure”) on one’s knees; the image is now lacking, and it is noteworthy that the Seven Prayers of St. Gregory (the Adoro te) was not included.

ff. 14-30v, [Prayers in Latin in French, including numerous Suffrages of saints and other prayers, Memore de saint franchois; f. 14v, [Prayer to be said when one passes a cemetery], incipit, On doit dire cheste orison quant on passe le chimentiere …, incipit, “Avete fideles anime in pace …”; f. 15rv, Memore de saint Christophe; f. 16, Memore de saint anthoine; f. 16rv, Orison de saint leu, ending imperfectly; f. 17rv, Memore de saint iaqueLi papes iehans xii donne …, incipit, “Ame de dieu sainte fie moy …”; f. 18rv, De saint sebastien martir; Cheste orison …, incipit, “Anime christi …”; f. 19rv, Memore de saint glaude [sic, for Claude]; f. 20, Memore de saint pierre et saint pol; f. 20v, Memore de saint erasme; f. 21-22v, Memore de saint nicolay; f. 23, Memore de sainte auldegonde, [V., Ora pro nobis beata patrona Aldegondis …]; f. 23v, blank; f. 24rv, Orison de sainte anne; ff. 25rv, De sainte kateline [Katherine of Alexandria], ending imperfectly?; f. 26, incipit, “// Et ne me laisse point perir …”; f. 26v, A son propre angle, incipit, “Dous angles qui es de putes …” ending imperfectly; f. 27, De sainte amelbergae; f. 27v, blank; ff. 28-29v, [prayers in French], incipit, “Remembre toy chy creature …”; ff. 28-29v, Oratio, incipit, “Uierge sainte marie de pite ..”; f. 30rv, Memore de saint michiel;

ff. 31-34v, Short Hours of the Cross;

ff. 35-39v, Short Hours of the Holy Spirit [ending top f. 39v; remainder and f. 40, blank];

ff. 40v-81v, Hours of the Virgin, use of Saint-Omer (Online Resources) with Matins (ending top f. 50), Lauds (f. 50v), Prime (f. 60, concluding f. 63v, f. 64, blank), Terce (f. 64v), Sext (f. 68), None (f. 71), Vespers (f. 74, likely ending imperfectly in the prayer, “Concede nos famulos tuos”) and Compline (f. 79); [f. 82, blank];

ff. 82v-96v, Penitential Psalms and Litany beginning f. 92v including Quentin and Denis among the martyrs, Audomare (Omer) and Bertin among the confessors, and Amblaberga [sic] and Aldegondis among the virgins. 

ff. 97-118v, Hours of the Trinity; [f. 119, blank];

ff. 119v-122, [rubric, f. 118v; f. 119, blank; Prayer in French on the suffering of Christ on the Cross for each of the Canonical Hours], Chy sensieuent les heures de le crois, incipit, “Ihesu crist a matines fu nostre char vendue …”;

f. 122v, [Life-size drawing of one of the nails from the Crucifixion, and a diagram showing the size of the wound in Christ’s side, with explanatory texts and an accompanying prayer in French], incipit, “Chest chi le longueur et le largueur des claus qui furent frappe es mains et es pies de nostre signieur Ihesu Crist …”; incipit, “Chest ch1 le longueur et le largueur de le plaie du coste ihesu crist …”; [f. 123rv, now blank, with traces of glue suggesting an image was once pasted on the recto];

ff. 123v-155v, Office of the Dead, Use of Thérouanne, but inverting the first two responses; Ottosen, 1993, p. 188; [f. 156, blank]; 

ff. 156v-176v, [Funeral service], Les commendaces, incipit, “Subuenite sancti dei occurite angeli domini …”; 

ff. 177-185, Quiconques par deuotion dira ceste orison ensieuant tous les iours par lespace dun an il deliuera xv ames del paine de purgatore …, [f. 178v], incipit, “Domine ihesu eterna dulcedo te amancium …”; 

The “Quindecim orationes” or “Fifteen Oes” attributed to Birgitta of Sweden (d. 1373). Although certainly inauthentic (Montag, 1968, pp. 25-26), they were widely circulated and printed in many incunable editions under Birgitta’s name (GW 4362-83); see also Gejrot, 2000, here prefaced by an unusually long and detailed rubric in French. 

ff. 185-188, Le pape Innocent a donne et ottroiet a tous…, incipit, “Obsecro te domina … [in Latin, masculine forms]”; 

ff. 188-189v, Deuote orison de nostre dame, incipit, “O intemerata. Treschertaine esperanche … [Sonet, 1956, no. 1538]”; 

ff. 189v-203v, Chy sont contennus ensieuvant les xv douleurs …, incipit, “Sainte et tres sage mere de ihesu crist tres piteuse vierge …”; ff. 194v-200, Sensient les v turbations de nostre dame, incipit, “On no list en lescripture sainte …, Le premiere turbation, Tres douce vierge marie, mere de nostre signeur ihesu crist moienneresse de tous pechies …”; ff. 200-203, Les v. goyes [sic] de nostre dame, incipit, “Mere de dieu tres de bonnaire/ … [18 rhymed stanzas]”; ff. 203rv, Chy ensient vne orison por dire ale eleuation du sacrament de le messe, incipit, “Dieus qui por nous vosis descendre …”; 

ff. 204-207v, les xv goyes [sic] nostre dame, incipit, “Douce dame de misericorde … [Sonet, 1956, no. 458]”; [f. 208, blank];

ff. 208v-211v, les vii Requestes a nostre signeur, incipit, “Douls dieus dous peres sainte trinities … [Sonet, 1956, no. 504]”; 

ff. 211v-215v, Orison deuote de le vierge marie, incipit, “He tres douce dame uierge marie mere de ihesu crist le vray dieu …[perhaps a longer version of Sonet, 1956, no. 755]”; 

ff. 215v-219, [Prayer to be said on a voyage, in prison, or in battle], Chy commence vne mont bonne orison et especiale qui on doit dire por lui ou por aultrui qui est ales en aucun voyage ou en prison ou en bataille. Il doit ens nommer le personne pour qui on le dist, incipit, “Biaus tres dous dieu ihesu crist en lonneur des tres dous loy ens dont vous fustes …”; f. 217, incipit, “Aouree soies tu sainte crois ou rechut mort …”; f. 218, incipit, “De celle faite benichon soies tu huy benis dont …”; 

ff. 219-227, Chy sensient le loenge de glorieuse vierge marie, incipit, “Glorieuse vierge Royne/ Et qui per la vertu diuine/ … [Hymn to the Virgin, 46 sixtains, Sonet, 1956, no. 695, listing many witnesses]”; 

ff. 227-236, [Prayer to be said before an image of the Virgin or at an altar], Chy commenche tres deuot seruiche et tres agreable a la tres douce uierge …. Et le doit on dire cascun iour duotetement a genous deuant son ymage …, incipit, “O tres souueraine et tres sainte uierge marie. Royne du chiel …”; O dame tres glorieuse comme tu soies tres humble …” [27 sections; f. 228 was left blank (no interruption in the text), undoubtedly for an image, now missing; traces of glue and sewing holes probably for a protective silk cover remain; f. 228v, blank]; 

ff. 236-238, [Prayer to be said before Communion], Diste cest orison que saint augustin fist cascun iour …, incipit, “En le presence de uo char et uo sant et de vo precieuls corps Ihesu crist …” [similar to Sonet, 1956, no. 587];

ff. 238-246v, Chy apres commence le requeste que saints augustins faisait …, incipit, “Sire dieus ihesu crist qui venistes …”; 

ff. 246v-249v, Chy apres commence une glorieuse orison de le vierge marie …, incipit, “A vous vierge marie mere a no sauueur ihesu crist vien …”;

ff. 249v-253, Aultre orison de nostre dame, incipit, “Ie te prie dame sainte marie mere de dieu plaine de pite …” [French translation of the Obsecro te; Sonet, 1956, no. 846];

ff. 253-254, Sensient les vii vers saint bernard, incipit, “Illumina oculos meos … [Ps. 12:4-5]; Oratio, incipit, “Omnipotens sempiterne deus qui ezechie regi .. michi indigne famule tue …”;

Seven verses of St. Bernard; Chevalier, RH, 192-1921, no. 27912; this was a very popular text, found in devotional books of many types, including Books of Hours. It is sometime preceded by a rubric explaining how St. Bernard tricked the Devil to reveal the seven special verses in the Psalms that would ensure that anyone who recited them daily would not die in sin; the concluding prayer uses feminine forms.

ff. 254-258v, Orison de nostre signeur, incipit, “Mon tres dous dieu et mon tres dous pere ihesu crist. Roy de tout le monde …”;

ff. 258v-260, Saint iherome nous tesmoigne que tout chil qui diront …, incipit, “Ave ihesus tres debonnaire/ … [Sonet, 1956, no. 124, 48 octosyllables in couplets; six witnesses cited in Jonas, Online Resources]”;

f. 260rv, Orison de nostre dame, incipit, Glorieuse vierge marie/ Qui portas le dous fruit de vie/ … [similar to Sonet, 1956, no. 684, listing two manuscripts; one additional manuscript witness  in Jonas, Online Resources]”; 

ff. 260v-261, Orison de saint anthoine, incipit, “Saint anthoine ie te suplie/ Deffiens nous de le maladie/ … [Sonet, 1956, no. 1813, listing one manuscript witness]”; 

f. 261rv, De saint anthoine, incipit, “Anthoine vrais amis de dieu …”;

f. 261v-263, [Prayer to the Virgin in verse, mentioning St.-Omer], Orison de nostre dame, incipit, “O tres glorieuse pucelle, mere de dieu fille et ancelle/ A ce iour duy en saint omer, mon orison en ta capelle …”; 

f. 263rv, Orison a nostre dame, incipit, “Flours de vierges ie te salue/ Qui enfantas par te value/…”;

ff. 263v-267v, Orison de nostre dame deuote, incipit, “Tres souueraine et excellente/ dame des angle et des chieux/… [Sonet, 1956, no. 2259, listing two manuscripts]”;

ff. 268-269v, Chest une exemple ou naracion a bien ester et a bien vivre affin dauoir en remembrance la passion de nostre signeur ihesu crist, incpit, “Ji fu iadis vns homs qui grant deuocion auoit a penser a la suffrance de nostre signeur ihesu crist. Especialement a celle prophezie qui …”;

ff. 270-272, Vray est que dieus nostre bon …, incipit, “Li premiere verite si est sire iay pechie ossy contre vostre volente … [Rézeau, 1986, R-1198]”; Agnus dei tres notable don que fait per grant deuotion le pape per bonne ordenance. De bame cresme et cire balance per mistere saintefiie … [Sonet, 1956, no. 46]”;

ff. 272-275, Salue regina misericordie, incipit, “Salue mater et regina miserantis gratie stella lucis …; Salue salus …; Salue que laxare …; Salue rosa uirginales …: f. 273v, Salue margarita bona pre electa ceteres.  Aduocatrix et patrona desolati generis …; O Clemens, Salue clemens …; O pia, Salue stella pietatis …; Salue florum flos maria …”;

ff. 275-277, incipit, “Ave maria qui dira souuient de cuer …”;

ff. 276-277v, [Fifteen Gradual Psalms, Psalms 119-133; the first twelve cues only], Les xv sealmes nostre dame, incipit, “Ad dominum cum tribularer …”;

ff. 277v-279, Orison de nostre dame, incipit, “Uierge pucelle precieuse/ sur toutes autres gracieuse/ …”;

ff. 279-281, incipit, “La personne qui se ueult requeillier. Et les vanne pensees euite. Per les quelles …”; ff. 280, incipit, “Regardes comment iheus est on gardin et prie dieu le pere/…” [seven verses all beginning, “Regardes comment Iheus”];

ff. 281-282, Hymne du saint esprit, incipit, “Ueni creator spiritus … [Chevalier, RH, no. 21204]”; Contre le tonnoi, incipit, “Omnipotens sempiterne deus parce metuentibus …”;

ff. 282-283, De nostre dame, incipit, “Ie suy deuers uous benue vierge amoure marie  …”;

ff. 283-285, Chest le prologue de tres chertaine esperanche, incipit, “Chy apres sensieut les pardons que ottria li papes innocens et donna c iours de pardon …”; ff. 283v, Chy apres sont contennues les ix paroles qui iesus crist li …, incipit “Une creature desira a sauoir de nostre seigneur …”;

ff. 286-294v, Matines de la croix, incipit, “Ihesus qui est la sapience … [… heures de la saincte vraye croix, Sonet-Sinclair, 1956 and 1978, no. 976, listing four manuscripts]”;

ff. 295-304v, incipit, “Haulte royne tresoriere/ De souueraine dignite/ Couronnee en haulte cayere/ …”;

ff. 304v-309, incipit, “O diuine preciosite/ Marie sainte purete/ … [Sonet, 1956, no. 1331, numerous manuscripts]”;

f. 309rv, incipit, “Nespoir chertain en corage qui doute/ Ne ris en yoeuls qui font de larmes plaints/ …”; De la saint lerme ihesus, incipit, “Spiritu et turbauit …”; incipit, “Deus cuius unigenitus assumpte …”;

f. 310, Memore de sainte barbe … [Suffrage of St. Barbara; f. 310v, blank];

f. 311rv, Orison a dire an matin et au soir, incipit, “Mon tres dous dieu et tres piteuls pere par quel grace …”;

f. 312rv, Dites miles aue marias si quil soi …, incipit, “Adonay domine deus magne et mirabilis … [cf. Duffy, 2006, p. 92 in English]”;

ff. 312v-317, Sensieuent les vii heures du iour, incipit, “Uierge royaux [sic] digne et sacre/ Dignement ou chiel precree/ Et sainte auant que nee ossy/ … [Sonet, 1956, no. 2334]”;

ff. 317-319v, De le sainte trinite. Orison, incipit, “O glorieuse trinite/ Pere regnans en maieste/ …”;

ff. 319v-323v, De sainte anne. Orsison, incipit, “Pour reparer le fourfait/ Quorent fait/ … [cf. Anonymous Rondeaux listed in Jonas]”;

ff. 323v-326v, [Suffrages of Saints Anne, Mary Magdalene, and Margaret], Memore de Sainte Anne …; f. 325, Encore de sainte anne, A., incipit, “Benedicata et uenerabilis es beata anna …”; f. 325v, Memore de sainte Magdalene …; f. 326, Memore de sainte margrite …”;

ff. 327-330, Oratio de nostre dame, incipit, “Royne des chieus glorieuse/ fille et mere precieuse … [Sonet, 1956, no. 1793, many manuscripts]”;

f. 330rv, De nostre seigneur, incipit, “Biau pere roy de maieste/ En pechie ay lonc temps este/ …”;

f. 330v-331v, De saint pierre, incipit, “Mon seignieur saint pierre lapostle/ la clef de paradis est vostre/ …”;

Books of Hours have been called “Archives of prayer” (Reinburg, 2012); that is certainly an apt description of this book–to such an extent that is difficult to know what to call this amazingly compendious collection of texts and images for private devotion.  All the expected texts for a Book of Hours are present (calendar, Hours of the Virgin, Cross, and Holy Spirit, Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany, Office of the Dead), Suffrages of the Saints, the prayers, O intemerata and Obsecro te) with the exception of the Gospel Pericopes.  These core texts are extensively supplemented by other devotions, most of which are in French, a feature that is particularly striking in a book like this one from the first half of the fifteenth century.  Some of these vernacular prayers are well-known, but many have not been identified in the standard repertories (Sonet, 1956, supplemented by Sinclair, 1987 and 1978, and Rézeau, 1986).  This “archive of prayer,” promises to be a treasure chest for scholars.

Relatively large in its outer dimensions and very lengthy with 331 folios, this is strikingly different than a typical Book of Hours, which rarely include more than 200 folios, and are usually even shorter.  At a glance, this bulky volume would never be identified as a Book of Hours; indeed, observed closed it most resembles a Breviary.  Illuminated with vivid, assured images by an artist from one of the most important artistic groups of the second quarter of the fifteenth century, the Masters of the Gold Scrolls, it has come down to us in beautiful condition, still in its original size (many pages include prickings, and the edges of its leaves are decorated with gold), and in its original blind-stamped binding. 


The miniatures are all painted on the versos of single leaves, most of which are blank on the recto.  It was not uncommon for owners of Books of Hours to add images painted on single leaves to enhance their Books of Hours, which in some cases may have originally been without miniatures (Rudy, Piety in Pieces, 2016). Here, however, certainly in one case and likely in two, the scribe completed the text from the preceding leaf on the recto of a single leaf with a miniature, proving that these leaves were planned insertions into these quires from the outset (see f. 50, the conclusion of Matins; and f. 78v, where Vespers of the Hours of the Virgin ends imperfectly, and therefore likely once concluded on the recto of the inserted single leaf with a miniature on the verso, now missing).  This theory is reinforced by the visual harmony observable throughout this very long volume.  Although numerous scribal hands can be identified, and there is a slight change of format from 17 to 16 lines (and then back to 17), the layout, type of script, and most definitely the decoration are harmonious throughout.  None of the numerous prayers here are informal additions to the volume; they were planned from the outset.

The large miniatures are in the style of the large group of artists known as the Masters of the Gold Scrolls, active in the Southern Netherlands c. 1415-1455; the full borders surrounding the miniatures of very fine spiraling black vine stem sprinkled with polished gold ivy leaves, flowers, leaves, and occasionally delicate acanthus leaves, and those surrounding the facing text pages, which begin in each case with matching illuminated initials, are clearly done by the same  hand.  This must be a very unusual example of a manuscript compiled by scribes that had, ready at hand, a series of miniatures on single leaves that they counted on including in their quires before they copied the text; the text was then copied, and finally the minor initials and secondary illumination were completed.

The subjects of the eight large miniatures are:

f. 40v, [Hours of the Virgin, Matins], Annunciation;

f. 50v, [Hours of the Virgin, Lauds], Visitation;

f. 64v, [Hours of the Virgin, Terce], Annunciation to the Shepherds;

f. 82v, [Penitential Psalms], David kneeling in prayer; (f. 83, facing border, coat of arms, see Provenace above);

f. 119v, [Prayer on Christ’s Agony on the Cross in French], Agony in the Garden [facing f. 120, which begins with an illuminated initial, but lacks a border];

f. 123v, [Office of the Dead], Funeral Service;

f. 156v, [Funeral service], Angels carrying souls to heaven;

f. 208v, [Fifteen Requests], Last Judgement.

On f. 122v, there is a life-size drawing of one of the nails from the Crucifixion, and a diagram showing the size of the wound in Christ’s side, with explanatory texts and an accompanying prayer in French.

Nine 5-line white-patterned blue or pink illuminated initials, infilled with scrolling flowers or other motifs on polished gold, on polished gold grounds and with full borders; these are identical in style to the pages facing the eight full-page initials, and it is possible, indeed even likely, that they were once preceded by miniatures, also on single leaves:

f. 31 [Hours of the Cross], full border only;

f. 35 [Hours of the Holy Spirit], full border only;

f. 60, [Hours of the Virgin, Prime], full border only;

f. 68, [Hours of the Virgin, Sext], full border only (slightly stained in top gutter);

f. 71, [Hours of the Virgin, None], full border only, slightly stained top gutter

f. 74, [Hours of the Virgin, Vespers], full border only, slightly stained top gutter

f. 79, [Hours of the Virgin, Compline], full border only, very slightly stained top gutter

f. 97, [Hours of the Trinity], full border only, slightly stained and smudged upper margin;

f. 204, [Fifteen Joys], full border only, with coat of arms in the margin (see Provenance above).

Two folios, now blank, originally included pasted-on images; see ff. 123 and 228.

The artist responsible for these delightful miniatures was one of the Masters of the Gold Scrolls, the leading illuminators in Bruges from around 1415 to 1455.  First coined by F. Winkler in 1925, the Masters of the Gold Scrolls is now thought to refer to a style practiced by a group of artists, not to a single hand, active between about 1415 and 1455 mainly, but not exclusively, in Bruges (see the recent assessment, [Exhibition], Brussels and Paris, 2011, pp. 140-147).  By 2016, Gregory Clark had identified 140 manuscripts, almost all Books of Hours, in the style of the Gold Scrolls Masters, illustrating their immense popularity in the second quarter of the fifteenth (Clark, 2016).

Named for the dominant use of delicate liquid gold scrolls on flat, often brownish-red or -pink, grounds in the backgrounds of many of the miniatures, the style is also characterized by the presentation of figures with soft oval doll-like faces, the nose, mouth, and eyes summarily treated.  In our manuscript, the artist has departed from this convention, and the faces of the figures are drawn with definite strokes, lending them some expression.  He painted women’s hair with the typical bright yellow strands on brown.  Our master’s backgrounds use gold rays and gold tear drops on the characteristic dark-reddish background, rather than the feathery scroll work found in other manuscripts.  Figures are drawn with supple, unbroken lines, and make stereotyped gestures. The palette is bright, featuring green, blue, red, and orange.  In the earliest years there is a manuscript begun by the Boucicaut Master and finished by the Gold Scrolls Masters, the Hours of Joseph Bonaparte (Paris, BnF, MS. lat. 10538), and at the same time in some of the early production there is also the influence of the “ars nova” or pre-Eyckian artists, such as the Master of the Beaufort Saints.  The hypothesis that Vrelant actually took over the “workshop” of the Gold Scrolls Masters when he arrived in Bruges has been advanced; certainly the refined Vrelant of the 1450s owes much to the Gold Scrolls painters of the 1430s and 1440s; indeed, his style grows directly out of theirs.


As-Vijvers, A. M. W. and A. S. Korteweg, eds. Splendour of the Burgundian Netherlands, Utrecht, Zwolle, The Hague, 2018.

Bousmanne, B. and T. Delcourt, eds. Miniatures flamandes, 1404-1482, Paris and Brussels, 2011.

[Exhibition]. Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, and Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Miniatures flamandes 1404-1482, eds. Bernard Bousmanne and Thierry Delcourt, Brussels and Paris, 2011, pp. 140-142.

Cardon, Bert. “The Illustrations and the Gold Scrolls Group, Typologische Tafeleren uit het Leven van Jesus [Typological scenes from the Life of Christ]: A Manuscript from the Gold Scrolls Group (Bruges, c. 1440) in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, MS. Morgan 649,” Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts from the Low Countries, i, ed. M. Smeyers, Leuven, 1985, pp. 119-204.

Clark, G. “Mass production: The Masters of the Gold Scrolls,” in Splendour of the Burgundian Netherlands, A. M. W. As-Vijvers and A. S. Korteweg, eds., Utrecht, Zwolle, The Hague, 2018, pp. 96-109.

Dogaer, Georges. Flemish Miniature Painting in the 15th and 16th Centuries, Amsterdam, 1987, pp. 27-31.

Derville, Alain. Saint-Omer: des origines au début du XIVe siècle. [Villeneuve-d'Ascq]: Presses Univ. de Lille, 1995.

Duffy, Eamon. Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers 1240-1570, New Haven and London, 2006.

Gejrot, Claes. “The Fifteen Oes: Latin and Vernacular Versions. With an Edition of the Latin Text”, in Bridget Morris and Veronica O’Mara, eds., The Translation of the Works of St Birgitta of Sweden into the Medieval European Vernaculars, The Medieval Translator 7, Turnhout, 2000, pp. 213-238.

Gil, Marc, and Ludovic Nys. Saint-Omer gothique, Les arts figuratifs à Saint-Omer à la fin du Moyen Âge 1250-1550: peinture, vitrail, sculpture, arts du livre, Valenciennes, 2004.

Montag, Ulrich. Das Werk der heiligen Birgitta von Schweden in oberdeutscher Überlieferung. Texte und Untersuchungen, Münchener Texte und Untersuchungen 18, Munich, 1968.

Ottosen, Knud. The Responsories and Versicles of the Latin Office of the Dead, Aarhus, 1993.

Reinburg, Virginia. French Books of Hours: Making an Archive of Prayer, c. 1400-1600, Cambridge and New York, 2012.

Rézeau, Pierre. Répertoire d'incipit des prières françaises à la fin du Moyen Age: addenda et corrigenda aux répertoires de Sonet et Sinclair, nouveaux incipit, Geneva, 1986.

Rudy, Kathryn. Piety in Pieces: How Medieval Readers Customized their Manuscripts, Cambridge, 2016, especially part III, “Changes that required rebinding.

Online, Open Book Publishers,

Rudy, Kathryn. Postcards on Parchment: The Social Lives of Medieval Books, New Haven, 2015.

Rudy, Kathryn. “Sewing the Body of Christ: Eucharist Wafer Souvenirs Stitched into Fifteenth-Century Manuscripts, primarily in the Netherlands,” Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art 8:1 (Winter 2016), DOI: 10.5092/jhna.2016.8.1.1

Sinclair, Keith Val. Prières en ancien français: additions et corrections aux articles 1-2374 du Répertoire de Sonet: supplement, Townsville, 1987.

Sinclair, Keith Val. Prières en ancien français: nouvelles références, renseignements complémentaires, indications bibliographiques, corrections et tables des articles du Répertoire de Sonet, Hamden, Conn., 1978.

Smeyers, Maurits.  Flemish Miniatures from the 8th to the mid-16th Century.  The Medieval World in Parchment, Louvain, 1999.

Sonet, Jean. Répertoire d'incipit de prières en ancien français, Geneva, 1956. 

van Asperen, H. (2009). Pelgrimstekens op Perkament: Originele en afgebeelde bedevaartssouvenirs in religieuze boeken (ca. 1450 – ca. 1530). Nijmegen: Stichting Nijmeegse Kunsthistorische Studies.

Winkler, Friedrich. Die flämische Buchmalerei des XV.und XVI. Jahrhunderts, Leipzig, 1925 (repr. Amsterdam, 1978), pp. 25–7.  

Online Resources

Hours of the Virgin, Use of St.-Omer (Diocese of Théruanne)

Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, MS 4790, Armorial de l'Europe et de la Toison d'or, fifteenth century 

Comité d’Histoire du Haut-Pays. Catalogue des actes et mentions concernant l’histoire du Pays de Lumbres  de 648 à 1515, Etat du 16 janvier 2011 (listing documents mentioning Jean de Sainte-Aldegonde, son of Marie de Samettes? d. 1453?), and his brother Jacques (or Pierre) de Sainte-Aldegonde, seigneur de Rabodenghes)

Jonas: Répertoire des textes et manuscrits médiévaux en langue d'oc et d'oïl

BOH 175

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