Book of Hours

"The nativity" and "Saint James"

French & Latin. Horae ad usum Romanum. [Paris: Jean Du Pré or Chablis: Jean Le Rouge] for Antoine Vérard, 2 Sept. 1485. PML 129974; ChL1447C. 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.

This is the earliest illustrated book of hours printed in France and also the first known publication of Antoine Vérard, who would go on to produce many other editions of this perennial bestseller. It is possible that he published earlier editions that have disappeared entirely, but this one has all the marks of a pioneering venture in its tentative typography and archaic woodcuts (the origins of which have yet to be established). Following his example, other printers and booksellers would develop new and more sophisticated styles of decorating and illustrating this devotional text, which had been a staple of the Paris book trade even before the invention of printing, but which would reach an entirely new reading public in consequence of the publishing innovations evident in this sole surviving copy, unknown to bibliographical scholarship until 1966.


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