"Saint James," woodcut in Catholic Church
Book of Hours. French & Latin.
Horae ad usum Romanum
[Paris: Jean Du Pré or Chablis: Jean Le Rouge] for Antoine Vérard, 2 Sept. 1485
Purchased as the gift of the B. H. Breslauer Foundation and on the B. H. Breslauer Foundation Fund, the Curt F. Bühler Fund, the Lathrop C. Harper Fund, and the Gordon N. Ray Fund, 2007
A Book of Hours is a personal version reproducing the "hours" or "offices" of prayer common to medieval monastic life. This copy is the earliest illustrated Book of Hours printed in France as well as the first known publication of Antoine Vérard, who produced many subsequent editions of this perennial best seller. It is possible that there were earlier editions, but this one has all the marks of a pioneering venture in its tentative typography and archaic woodcuts (the origins of which are still undetermined). Following Vérard's example, other printers and booksellers developed new, more sophisticated styles of decorating and illustrating this devotional text, which was a staple of the Paris book trade even before the invention of printing.