Canones horopteri

This is the only known manuscript illumination by Holbein. The animal and foliate forms of the letter E recall his designs for woodcut letters as well as for jewelry and metalwork. The illumination decorates the beginning of a manual for using an astronomical instrument (the horopterum) to determine the times of sunrise and sunset. The author was the royal astronomer Nicholas Kratzer, whose portrait Holbein painted in 1528 (now at the Louvre, Paris). Kratzer dedicated this manuscript to King Henry VIII, who was keenly interested in scientific pursuits, and likely presented it to the king as a New Year’s gift.

Nicholas Kratzer (1487–1550)
Canones horopteri, 1528–29
Written by Pieter Meghen (1466/67–1540)
Illuminated by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543)
Manuscript on parchment
The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford; MS. Bodl. 504, fol. 1r