Book of hours (London, 1545)

London: Richard Grafton, 6 September 1545

Not all images printed in multiple colours by masking impressions of the keyblock with customised frisket sheets involved double-printed areas. In some cases, this technique was used to highlight crucial visual information.

The English Reformation, led by Henry VIII, caused great social, political and religious turmoil in the 1530s and 1540s. He became the head of church and state in 1534, severing ties to the Roman Catholic Church to lead the newly formed, protestant Church of England; in 1543, less than 18 months before this book was published, he restricted the reading of the Bible to nobility and clerics. Given the politicisation of religion and the danger of being associated with the ‘wrong’ religious beliefs in this period of upheaval, it is understandable that a printer would want to emphasise a devotional text’s legality and royal approval; this secured his livelihood and possibly his life. This Latin Book of Hours was safe, as it was authorised by Henry VIII, who also supervised its preparation and provided the foreword. By cutting both frisket sheets (for red and black) in a certain way, the printer emphasised its royal seal of approval by printing in the most important and identifiable element of the heraldry of Henry VIII, his escutcheon (shield) in red ink.

Rit.e.254.2, title page