MS0027 Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis. Latin ms., England, ca. 1450

119 leaves (14.7 x 10.5 cm). Very pointed Gothic script. 18 lines. Gatherings mostly of 8. Text in Latin: Prayer for Henry VI, Calendar, Psalms, Litany, Hours of the Virgin, Office of the Dead, Hours of the Cross, Prayers. Several decorated borders and initials, one historiated. Binding: brown pigskin, 19th c.

The standard English style of illumination practiced during the fifteenth century is readily distinguishable from its counterparts on the continent. The surging, rhythmic leaf patterns, sharply pointed initials, and explosive vine ornament are as aggressive as the Gothic book hand of the text. The broad tones of pastel, the softly modeled, voluminous foliage, the spherical, lobed forms and golden discs are typical of English work from the 1440's onward. The potential subtlety of this otherwise forceful style is apparent in the delicate rendering of a cleric's head emerging from the soft leaf patterns of an initial painted in monochromatic tones of rose (45v). The first leaf done in a contemporary, though different, hand refers to King Henry VI (†1463), Henry VII (reigned 1485-1509), and the English "sweating sickness" that struck in the 1480's. Furthermore, the calendar includes notations of deaths in the Paston, Berney, and Mumford families -- one referring to the death of Margaret Paston whose will, according to an enclosed letter form the British Records Office, was written in 1482. Margaret's husband John Paston was legal counsel to Henry VII. Hence the manuscript was likely in use by the last two decades of the century. A close association between the Pastons and Bromholm priory, Norfolk, suggests this as an early and possibly original provenance for the manuscript.

Provenance: Paston Family, Norfolk

View PDF of Manuscript

Segment of BBC documentary Medieval Lives about Margaret Paston: