An Investigation into a French Fifteenth-Century Book of Hours
M.A. Thesis, Louisiana State University, August, (2005)
A Books of Hours refers to a personal prayer book that was used by the laity, rather than the clergy. The laity’s version of these texts is often accompanied by enchanting illuminations. Although the text and subject matter of the images within each codex remain similar, no two Books of Hours are alike. In the Middle Ages the popularity of Books of Hours was such that today they form the largest extant category of illuminated manuscripts. This thesis concentrates on one particular manuscript: a yet uncatalogued Book of Hours that is currently within the collection of Louisiana State University’s Hill Memorial Library. Although a large amount of scholarship exists in which Books of Hours are discussed in general, most of this work tends to focus on the more ornately illuminated manuscripts, and/or manuscripts which have since been attributed to named artists. However, many extant codices, including the Book of Hours owned by Louisiana State University, do not fall in these two categories. Examples of tests and methods that can be used to extrapolate information pertaining to Books of Hours can be found in various books and articles in the body of scholarly literature, though not all together in one source. Since no in-depth discussion of the Louisiana State University’s Book of Hours exists, the thesis is the first detailed investigation devoted to it. The context within which Books of Hours were made is discussed, followed by a description of each section of this particular codex. Investigations of the provenance combined with various tests and stylistic analysis led this writer to conclude that the manuscript is probably of Parisian origin dating from circa 1450 to 1475 and was made on speculation rather than commissioned. As such, the LSU Hours is a wonderful example of a typical French fifteenth-century manuscript. It is hoped that the methodology presented here would be helpful to others investigation late medieval Books of Hours.