Ad vesperas

Desmond Chute, ‘St Dominic’
Wood engraving from Horae beatae Virginis Mariae: juxta ritum sacri ordinis praedicatorum
Ditchling [England]: Typographia S. Dominici, 1923
Syn.4.91.59(11), p. 47

The St Dominic’s Press operated by Hilary Pepler at Ditchling produced booklets, calendars, and other materials illustrated by Gill and others including David Jones, all of which expressed their religious, political and artistic beliefs. Pepler used a Stanhope handpress, and the labour involved in its operation meant that for most items the number of copies printed was kept below five hundred.

Many of the works were intended in part for the artists’ own use. As Dominican tertiaries they were committed to praying together three or four times a day. They did so in a small chapel at Ditchling, where they recited the ‘hours’ of the so-called ‘Little Office’ in the form promulgated by the Dominican Order. Prime was celebrated at 6 a.m. The day ended with Compline.

The Horae beatae Virginis Mariae iuxta ritum sacri ordinis praedicatorum (Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the Rite of the Holy Order of Preachers) was published by the St Dominic’s Press in 1923 on hand-made Batchelor paper with wood engravings by Gill and Desmond Chute. The book was intended for use by Dominican novices as well as by the guild members, and 220 copies were printed.

Vespers (Evening Prayer) include a hymn to St Dominic, who is here illustrated in a wood engravng by Desmond Chute. The saint holds a lily, a symbol of purity, and an open book, which represents the preacher’s mission to communicate the Gospel. The letters O.P.N. alongside the figure of the saint, stand for ‘Ora pro nobis’ (Pray for us).

The hymn may be translated as: ‘Mighty Father, holy St Dominic, take us under your protection at the hour of our death, and ever look kindly upon us here. The mouth of the just man will utter wisdom, and his tongue will give the verdict.’

Every effort has been made to contact the estate of Desmond Chute before reproduction of this image. A representative of the estate is invited to contact the exhibition organisers.

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