The Broken Book II: From a Book of Hours to a Book of Bits
In 2010, Christie’s sold a beautiful, de luxe Book of Hours that had been made in Northern France in about 1460. It was listed here. The book went under the hammer for £25,000 + auction fees and was sold to a trade buyer. Christie’s description demonstrated the significance of the book. It’s important for all kinds of reasons: its artistic qualities are outstanding, as so many extant Books of Hours demonstrate. Foliate decoration embellished with gold leaf enhanced multiple pages; the regularity of the script suggested an accomplished and experienced scribe. Written into the last opening is a set of unpublished fifteenth-century French prayers. Seventeen full-page illuminations will have provided meditative image-space for users of the book.
Thus, notwithstanding the guesstimated 10,600 surviving Books of Hours, it is a unique and rich witness to private devotional book production at the apogee of the manuscript age. Moreover, in the nineteenth century, when so many antiquarians meddled with manuscripts in ways that varied from vandalistic to fetishistic, this manuscript seems to have been touched up by none other than Caleb William Wing, a famous intervener, who worked for well-known book collectors, such as John Boykett Jarman. Thus, this manuscript, significantly, has quite a bit of its post-facture history and provenance intact, and is a fascinating case study of a book’s life.