Memento mori

A book could itself act as a reminder of mortality. This Book of Hours, printed on vellum, is illustrated with 28 full-page wood or metal cuts, all of which have been illuminated. The printer, Pierre Le Rouge ‘libraire du roy’, worked in Paris from around 1485 and died in 1493. During this decade, printers competed in the production of luxury Book of Hours with the market in manuscript illuminated Books of Hours, still dominant in the 1480s. The artist, Jean du Pré, collaborated with Le Rouge to produce some of the most beautifully illuminated printed books in Paris. The opening here, the verso of an inserted leaf at the front, records the ownership of this Hours in 1565 by Jeanne Pettré living at Nancy, who was given the book by her aunt: ‘Ces heures sont á Ieanne Pettre par don que luy on a faict sa Tante Damoyselle Hilleiry de faulx, Vesue de feu Hugues des moynes A Nancy Le .7. Iuillet 1565.’ (‘These Hours belong to Ieanne Pettre, given to her by her aunt, lady Hilleiry de Faulx, widow of Hugues des Moynes’, at Nancy, 7 July, 1565’). Below this inscription in Latin and French there is a memento mori in the form of a colour drawing of a skull (it is repeated on another page (fo. 4v) of the manuscript). It was later owned in the nineteenth century by a Mr Naylor of Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire. BC

Hore beate marie virginis ad vsum ecclesie romane (Paris: Pierre le Rouge, 1491).

CUL: Inc.5.D.1.19[2530], verso of inserted leaf

Further Reading

Virginia Reinburg, French Books of Hours: Making an Archive of Prayer, c.1400-1600 (Cambridge, 2012).

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