Great Hours of Rouen

Great Hours of Rouen – Orbis Mediaevalis – Ms. Leber 155 – Bibliothèque Jacques Villon (Rouen, France)

France — 1503

At the transition from manuscript to printed book: Antoine Vérard's magnificent Parisian book of hours with miniatures and exuberant decoration on every page

  1. Antoine Vérard (active 1485–1512) was a publisher, bookmaker, and bookseller in Paris

  2. His workshop produced both illuminated manuscripts and printed books, often combining techniques

  3. No space is spared in the manuscript, even text pages feature rich ornamental frames

Great Hours of Rouen

Ms. Leber 155 Bibliothèque Jacques Villon (Rouen, France)
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Great Hours of Rouen

The Great Hours of Rouen is not only one of the greatest masterpieces to come out of the Parisian workshop of Antoine Vérard, but is considered to be one of the most perfect printed works of its time. Printed on vellum in the early 16th century, every page is richly illuminated and even text pages are surrounded by frames with small miniatures and floral ornamentation. It is a supreme achievement in the history of book production that combines the art of hand-illuminated manuscripts with the new technology of printing. Aside from the typical texts of a book of hours, there are also pages dedicated to astrology, which was en vogue at the time, including a depiction of the so-called Zodiac Man.

Great Hours of Rouen

Antoine Vérard (active 1485–1512) ran a highly successful Parisian workshop that both calligraphed and illuminated luxurious manuscripts as well as printing books with colored woodcuts. Special editions for wealthy patrons could be printed on parchment and then lavishly illuminated to create unique jewels of books art. Printed at the beginning of the 16th century, the Great Hours of Rouen, named after its repository in the Municipal Library of Rouen, is undoubtedly one of the finest masterpieces created by the famous French publisher, bookmaker, and bookseller.

The Transition from Manuscript to Printed Book

Vérard’s career marks the turning point between illuminated manuscripts and printed books. He combined the two techniques by printing cheaper works on paper illustrated with woodcuts and then creating luxury, hand-illuminated versions on vellum for a wealthy clientele consisting of the nobility and the emerging bourgeois class. In either case, an elegant Gothic script was used. Both Charles VIII of France (1470—98) and Henry VII of England (1457-1509) are counted among Vérard’s illustrious customers. Even the less-expensive prints from his workshop could easily be mistaken for illuminated manuscripts made by hand and the ornamental woodcuts created there were rented out to various publishers for their use. Vérard's printer's mark consists of two eagles on a starred base supporting a red heart bearing the three letters AVR.

Stunning Woodcuts

No space is spared in the Great Hours of Rouenevery text page is surrounded by woodcut engravings and every section is preceded by a primary miniature scene, e.g. the Annunciation (f.15r), the Meeting of St. Joachim and St. Anne and the Visitation (f.19r), the Circumcision (f.34v) St. James the Apostle (f.52v), St. George (f.106v), among others. The tremendous popularity of astrology at the time means that it includes an engraving of the Zodiac Man, a common representation of how the position of celestial bodies has effects on specific parts of the body. The frames also incorporate ornamental floral motifs with acanthus leaves in light blue, red or gold. Hand-painted initials precede the printed texts and some are particularly large and ornate. Altogether, this rich image program makes this book of hours one of the most perfect printed works of its time.


Alternative Titles
In Rhetoricam ad Herennium Commentaria
Grandes Horas de Rouen
Grandes Heures de Rouen
Size / Format
212 pages / 22.5 × 16.5 cm

Available facsimile editions:
Great Hours of Rouen – Orbis Mediaevalis – Ms. Leber 155 – Bibliothèque Jacques Villon (Rouen, France)
Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2015
Limited Edition: 505 copies
Detail Picture

Great Hours of Rouen

St. George and the Dragon

Mounted on a white steed, dressed in golden plate armor, and holding a silver shield with a red cross, St. George drives his lance into the mouth of the dragon, which had been terrorizing the citizens of Silene, Libya. The king’s daughter, who had been chosen by lot as a sacrifice, stands nearby crowned and wearing a red dress while her parents watch from a tower situated on the city wall. St. George was regarded in the Middle Ages as not only a patron saint of warriors, but a model of chivalry as well.

Great Hours of Rouen – Orbis Mediaevalis – Ms. Leber 155 – Bibliothèque Jacques Villon (Rouen, France)
Single Page

Great Hours of Rouen

Zodiac Man

Astrology was extremely popular in Renaissance Europe and depictions of the so-called Zodiac Man represents the correlation between the stars, as represented by signs of the zodiac, and various parts of the human body. The premise was based on the observation of the tides, and it was theorized that the fluids of the body, blood in particular, would be similarly affected.

A jester dressed in blue is depicted squatting between the legs of the Zodiac Man, who is surrounded by four additional figures of men and animals including a lion, hawk, lamb, and pig. While angels and a pope are depicted in the right margin, the bas-de-page scene shows a group of boys who are playing together in what looks like a game of tag.

Great Hours of Rouen – Orbis Mediaevalis – Ms. Leber 155 – Bibliothèque Jacques Villon (Rouen, France)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Grandes Horas de Rouen

Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2015

Publisher: Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid, 2015
Limited Edition: 505 copies
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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
You might also be interested in:
Book of Hours of Besançon – Orbis Mediaevalis – Ms. 0148 – Bibliothèque municipale (Besançon, France)
Book of Hours of Besançon
France – Ca. 1480–1485

Jean Colombe and the Golden Age of French illumination on every page: an exuberantly illuminated prayer book for private devotion by the masterful hand of the great genius painter

Experience More
Book of Hours of Rouen – Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Illuminated 42 – Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal (Lisboa, Portugal)
Book of Hours of Rouen
Rouen (France) – Ca. 1480

An artistic interplay of light and space in golden splendor: the masterpiece of the style-defining Échevinage Master of Rouen with 29 full-page miniatures and stunning borders on almost every page

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection