Book of Hours of James IV

Book of Hours of James IV Facsimile Edition

Ghent-Bruges (Belgium) — 1503–1513

A Flemish masterpiece by Gerard Horenbout and the famous Maximilian Master: the wedding gift from the Scottish king to his wife

  1. A wedding present from the King of Scotland to his bride, Margaret Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII (1457–1509)

  2. Created in collaboration with the best Flemish artists, including Gerard Horenbout (about 1465 - about 1541) and the Maximilian Master

  3. A masterpiece of the Ghent-Bruges School decorated with 65 luminous miniatures

Book of Hours of James IV

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Book of Hours of James IV

By the Late Middle Ages, books of hours became common wedding presents among the great noble houses of Europe. The marriage between James IV of Scotland and Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England, was just such a political marriage. The Book of Hours of James IV was probably a wedding present to his English bride. The manuscript is a wonderful specimen of the Ghent-Bruges school of illumination and features an astounding 3,487 miniatures. This is a book of hours of tremendous historical and art-historical value.

The Book of Hours of James IV

The medieval book of hours was a very personalized type of book and is best exemplified in the prayer book of James IV and his wife Margaret Tudor. The wedding of the Scottish king and the daughter of the English sovereign Henry VII – a political dream of many who hoped for durable peace between the two countries – was celebrated in 1513 at Holyrood. The so-called Book of Hours of James IV probably constitutes the wedding gift of the groom to his bride. Whoever commissioned this work had entrusted one of the leading illuminator’s workshops with the production of his present.

65 Miniatures by Masters of Illumination

The design and layout of the manuscript is from the hands of several artists of the Ghent-Bruges school, among them are famous names of Flemish book painting: Gerald Horenbout, court painter Margaret of Austria, General Governor of the Netherlands, and the so-called Maximilian Master. Their style is identifiable due to the perfect execution and the extremely imaginative and elaborate decoration of the page borders. The calendar conveys a distant atmospheric effect through 12 sensational half-page landscape illustrations. The days of the months are arranged in pairs placed on opposing pages. Both writing and text are framed in Gothic tracery architecture and form a harmonious composition. The patrons’ portraits depicting King James himself and his wife Margaret Tudor give reference to the original owners of the manuscript.

Unbelievable Richness of Detail

The prayer book is illustrated by 65 full-page miniatures which mark the chapter beginnings or are dispersed throughout the text. The rich and detailed decoration makes them unique examples of their kind. Both miniature and text pages are framed with borders showing blossoms, rinceaux and tiny creatures in a stunningly naturalistic style. The Prayer Book of James IV owes its outstanding significance not only to its position in history but also to its high art-historic value. It ranks among the most important works ever made in a workshop of the Gent-Bruges school where Flemish illumination flourished and ultimately blossomed. Of the 3,487 miniatures (72 of them full-page) 59 illustrate the essential and secondary texts, which are arranged under 10 headings: the calendar, extracts from the four Gospels, Hours of the Holy Ghost, Mass of Our Lady, Hours of Our Lady, Hours of the Passion of Jesus Christ, Office for the Dead, Penitential Psalms, various prayers and Intercession of the Saints. The other miniatures illustrate the large number of additional themes. We find an abundance of borders with traditional acanthus garlands, flowers, fruit, human figures, birds and small animals, as well as a large number of decorated capital letters (87 large, 181 medium and 2,964 small) , with a variety of decorations including burnished gold. The Gothic lettering of the written text is in black and red ink.


Alternative Titles
Gebetbuch Jakobs IV. von Schottland
Hours of James IV of Scotland
Prayer Book of James IV and Queen Margaret
Size / Format
494 pages / 20.0 × 14.5 cm
Bastard Secretary
65 miniatures including 19 full-page miniatures, 14 half-page miniatures in the calendar section with zodiac symbols, two historiated initials, nine historiated borders. All the pages, even those with text, have decorative borders and rich gold ornaments.
Liturgy of the Hours
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Margaret Tudor (1489–1541)
Mary Tudor (1496–1533), Queen of France
Emperor Leopold I (1640–1705)
Hapsburg Library, Vienna

Available facsimile editions:
Book of Hours of James IV – Codex 1897 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria) Facsimile Edition
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1987
Limited Edition: 700 copies
Detail Picture

Book of Hours of James IV

Saint Margaret and the Dragon

According to the Golden Legend, Margaret was a native of Antioch who committed her virginity to God despite the objections of her father, a pagan priest. After refusing to denounce Christianity and marry the governor of the Roman Diocese of the East, she was tortured. Margaret was then swallowed by a dragon, but her faith and the cross she carried irritated the dragon’s innards. Embedded in the text, this miniature shows St. Margaret emerging unharmed from the devilish beast.

Gebetbuch Jakobs IV. von Schottland
Single Page

Book of Hours of James IV

David and Bathsheba

This masterful miniature by Gerard Horenbout manages to sum up the famous story from the Old Testament in a primary scene and its surrounding frame. In the frame’s upper left corner, we see the young King David watching from a window as a naked Bathsheba bathes in the lower left corner. She is attended by her ladies in waiting, dressed in the contemporary style of the Spanish court and holding various luxury goods, such as a hand mirror.

Skipping over the scheming and subsequent divine punishment of David, we see the King kneeling in penance inside the walls of a Gothic castle in the primary miniature. David has laid his crown and signature lyre on the ground. He looks to God for forgiveness, depicted wearing a papal tiara and holding the globe.

Gebetbuch Jakobs IV. von Schottland
Facsimile Editions

#1 Gebetbuch Jakobs IV. von Schottland

Limited Edition: 700 copies
Binding: Red velvet
Commentary: 1 volume (78 pages) by Franz Unterkircher
Language: German

The commentary volume provides a comprehensive explanation of the miniatures and expertly guides the reader through the historic and art historic background of the era of King James IV.
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. All folios are cut according to the original.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
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