Bedford Hours

Bedford Hours

Paris (France) — Written 1410-1415 Illuminated 1415-1420 Appended in 1423 and 1430

The Bedford Master's magnum opus: one of the most spectacularly illuminated manuscripts of all time

  1. Arguably one of the richest and most beautiful illuminated medieval manuscripts ever made

  2. With 1,288 miniatures from his hand, it is the Bedford Master's magnum opus

  3. Each page presents at least two breath-taking scenes with rich colors, gold, and silver

Bedford Hours

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Bedford Hours

The Bedford Hours is considered worldwide to be the richest and most beautiful illuminated manuscript of medieval book art. It was produced in the early 15th century in the renowned Parisian workshop of the Bedford Master, one of Europe’s most gifted medieval illuminators. The work gained its title through its close association with the Duke of Bedford, John of Lancaster. Each page of the comprehensive work presents as least one breath-taking pictorial scene in a splendid variety of colors as well as rich gold and silver adornment.

Bedford Hours

Among the many masterpieces of medieval illumination and book art, the book of hours of the so-called Bedford Master has special significance. It is considered to be the Middle Age’s richest book of hours and is one of the greatest treasures of the British Library in London. The book contains 587 pages of an absolutely luxurious abundance furnishings. Altogether, the codex contains 38 large-format miniatures richly embellished with gold and silver as well as 1250 fascinating, smaller miniature medallions. The handwritten text of the private prayer and devotional books was recorded in Latin and the enchanting pictures are accompanied by French explanatory notes in red and blue ink. The work is counted among the most influential and masterful medieval illuminated manuscripts in the world.

The Mysterious Bedford Master

For a long time, it was thought that the precious book of hours was commissioned by John I of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford (1389-1435) for his own use or for that of his wife. This assumption clarified the title of the work and also the maker’s name of convenience, the Bedford Master. Although the Bedford Master belonged to the highest rank of medieval illuminators worldwide, almost no sources regarding his life have survived. It is merely known that the Master worked in Paris from 1405 to 1465 as one of the most prominent illuminators of Europe. He personally completed virtually all of his stunning miniatures, which represent the artist’s greatest tour de force.

A Gift Worthy of a King

Today, the British Library, which houses the manuscript, has determined that the unbelievably precious and expensive book of hours was commissioned as a gift: on Christmas Eve 1430, Anne of Burgundy (1414-32), the wife of John, Duke of Bedford, presented this lavish bilingual book of hours to her nine-year-old nephew, King Henry VI (1421-71), the only person to ever rule as king of both England and France. At the time, Henry was residing with the Duke and Duchess at Rouen, awaiting his coronation as King of France. In the year 1423, the Duke of Bedford entered into a politically important marriage with Anne of Burgundy, daughter of the French Duke. However, the marriage of Anna and the Duke of Bedford was not recorded in historical sources as a mere marriage of convenience, but rather described as a genuine romantic relationship. Her death at a young age led to the end of the alliance between England and Burgundy, helping tip the Hundred Years’ War in favor of the French.

Innovate Book Adornment

The exceptionally comprehensive book of hours is furnished with a phenomenal 1,288 miniatures in splendid colors and opulent gold and silver adornment. Each page of the work presents at least one breath-taking and incomparable image. The miniatures, all of which depict important scenes from the Old- and New Testaments, revolutionized medieval illumination. The Bedford Master possessed an indescribably exact instinct for the realistic reproduction of nature, for perspectival representations, for open landscapes, and for architectural interrelationships. Also, his talent in the art of portraiture was unrivalled by his contemporary artist colleagues. His expressive, realistic images represent a highpoint of the art of illumination in the Middle Ages and exercised a strong influence on successive miniaturists across the world. The image of the story of the Tower of Babel set standards in particular and is famous to this day. These marvelous book illustrations will bestow a sense of reverent astonishment on every beholder.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Bedford-Stundenbuch
Stundenbuch des Herzogs von Bedford
The Hours of Anne of Burgundy and John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford
Size / Format
578 pages / 26.3 × 18.4 cm
Origin
France
Date
Written 1410-1415 Illuminated 1415-1420 Appended in 1423 and 1430
Style
Illustrations
5 full-page and 38 large-format miniatures, 3 historiated initials, approx. 1,250 border illustrations
Content
Calendar for the use of Paris, liturgy of the hours
Artist / School
Previous Owners
King Henry VI of England (r. 1422–1461)
Margaret of Anjou
King Henry II of France (r. 1547–1559)
Catherine de Medici
Robert Worsley
Edward Harley
Margaret Cavindish Harley
James Edwards
George Spencer-Churchill
John Totin

Available facsimile editions:
Bedford Hours – Ms. Add. 18850 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2006
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Bedford Hours

Noah’s Drunkenness

After the Flood, Noah unloads all the animals from the Ark, makes burnt offerings, and begins to settle the newly-cleansed earth. Among the things he did was plant the first vineyard and to create the first wine, and thus Noah became the first man to get drunk. This splendid miniature shows Noah, dressed in a blue tunic and a red hat, first pruning his vines and then lying on the ground with a wine skin. Meanwhile, the corpses of those drowned in the Flood float by in the water.

Bedford-Stundenbuch
Single Page

Bedford Hours

Tower of Babel

This is the most famous miniature in the world’s finest illuminated manuscript. There is much to be admired, from the refined garments, which hang naturally from the figures, to the wonderful use of perspective, to the idyllic landscape under a sky of stars rendered in gold. However, it is the details of the construction that are perhaps most interesting.

In the foreground, two masons are shaping the stone blocks with various kinds of hammers and chisels. One is using a square and compass – now famous as the symbol of Freemasonry – as he precisely checks the stone’s measurements. Nevertheless, this precise stonework is for naught because angels sent by god are confounding the work at the top of the tower, where the workmen, fall into fighting amongst themselves.

Bedford-Stundenbuch
Facsimile Editions

#1 Bedford-Stundenbuch

Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2006
Bedford Hours – Ms. Add. 18850 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Bedford Hours – Ms. Add. 18850 – British Library (London, United Kingdom) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2006
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Bound in red velvet and adorned with two golden claps, which are further embellished with fine engravings with the heraldic devises of the great English bibliophile Baron Harley. Hand-stitched binding with a two-colored headcap in yellow and green and pages with gilt edges made with brushed gold. It is delivered in an acrylic glass case that suitably protects and presents the Bedford Hours.
Commentary: 1 volume (244 pages) by Prof. Eberhard König and Jenny Stratford
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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