(1) Written at Saint-Omer to judge by the liturgical content and the prayer on f.261v, apparently for a couple from the Sainte-Aldegonde and Rabodengues families, with their heraldic shields painted in two borders: 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?) (f.204r; as in the Armorial de l’Europe et de la Toison d’or, Paris, Bibl. de l’Arsenal, ms. 4790, f.74r), and d’hermine, à une croix de gueules chargée de cinq quintefeuilles d’or (Sainte-Aldegonde; f.83r; as in the Psalter of Gilbert de Sainte-Aldegonde, see M. Gil and L. Nys, Saint-Omer gothique, 2004, fig.35); the Sainte-Aldegonde family were prominent citizens of Saint-Omer in the 15th century; in the prayers to at the beginning (ff.13r-27r) St Aldegonde is first among the female saints (f.23r). (2) Imprints of about a dozen pilgrim badges, formerly sewn onto front flyleaf. (3) Private collection, France.
Full Calendar, in French (f.1r), including ‘Saint Omer en fleurs’ (8 June), ‘St Omer evesque’ (9 Sept.), St Denis (to whom a church in Saint-Omer is dedicated), and St Bertin (to whom the abbey on the outskirts of the town is dedicated) (5 Sept.), all in red; an account of the Mass of St Gregory in French (f.13r), followed by a long series of prayers, mostly to saints, many in French (f.13r), including a ‘Memore de Sainte Audegonde’ (‘… ora pro nobis beata patrona Aldegondis …’); Hours of the Cross (f.31r) of the Spirit (f.35r) and of the Virgin, with Matins (f.41r), Lauds (f.51r), Prime (f.60r), Terce (f.65r), Sext (f.68r), None (f.71r), Vespers (f.74r), and Compline (f.79r); Penitential Psalms (f.83r) and Litany (f.92v); Hours of the Trinity (f.97r); Hours of the Cross, in French (f.120r); prayers in French on the size of the Nails and of the Wound in Christ’s side (f.122v); Office of the Dead, Use apparently a variant of Therouanne (in which diocese St-Omer lies) (f.124r); Commendation of Souls (f.157r); a long rubric in French detailing indulgences (f.177r) followed by prayers including the Fifteen Os and ‘Obsecro te’; prayers in French: ‘O intemerata. Treschertaine esperanche …’ (f.188r), Les XXV douleurs (f.194v), Les V turbations (f.200r), and Les V goyes [sic] (f.203r) of the Virgin, Les XV goyes (f.204r) and Les VII requestes a nostre signeur (f.209r), prayers to the Virgin, Christ, and saints, one of them beginning ‘O tres glorieuse pucelle, Mere de dieu fille et ancelle, A ce iour’duy en Saint Omer, Mon orison en ta capelle …’ (f.261v); the ‘Salve regina’ (f. 272r), 15 Gradual Psalms (f.276r), and other prayers in French in Latin, e.g. ‘Chest le prologue de tres chertaine esperanche …’ (f.283r), ‘Matines de la Crois’ (f.286r) and other devotions in French, some in rhyming verse.
In outward appearance this volume looks more like a squat, fat, Breviary than a normal Book of Hours. It seems that the original patrons wanted a prayerbook that was a compendium of all available devotions: apparently some core texts were written first, with 16 lines per page (ff.31r–122r: Hours of the Cross, Spirit, Virgin, Penitential Psalms, Hours of the Trinity, and of the Cross in French); to these were added the calendar and numerous further devotions, mostly in French, written by more than one scribe, with 17 lines per page (ff.1r-30v and 124r–331v).
The miniatures are painted on the versos of otherwise blank leaves in a style similar to the Masters of the Gold Scrolls, active in Bruges c.1415–55. They are thus probably examples (surprisingly uncommon) of a trade in single miniatures that is well attested in documentary sources. Today we tend to think of typical Books of Hours as having miniatures, but the majority of Psalters and Book of Hours in 15th-century St-Omer apparently did not (see Saint-Omer gothique, p.134). The subjects of the miniatures are: (1) Annunciation (f.40v), (2) Visitation (f.50v), (3) Annunciation to the Shepherds (f.64v), (4) David in Penitence (f.82v), (5) Christ in Gethsemane (f.119v), (6) Funeral service (f.123v), (7) Angels carrying souls to heaven (f.156v), (8) Last Judgement (f.208v). In addition, 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, each with explanatory texts in French, each beginning: ‘Chest chy le longueur et le largueur’ and continuing either ‘des claus qui furent frappe es mains et es pies de nostre signieur Ihesu Crist …’ or ‘de la plaie du coste Ihesu Crist …’.
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