A superfluously adorned Parisian book of hours marking the transition from hand-illuminated manuscripts to printed books

Great Hours of Rouen

France — 1503

Great Hours of Rouen

Great Hours of Rouen

France — 1503

  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)
Alternative Titles:
  • In Rhetoricam ad Herennium Commentaria
  • Grandes Horas de Rouen
  • Grandes Heures de Rouen
  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology
Short Description

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.

Codicology
Alternative Titles
In Rhetoricam ad Herennium Commentaria
Grandes Horas de Rouen
Grandes Heures de Rouen
Size / Format
212 pages / 22.5 × 16.5 cm
Origin
France
Date
1503
1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Great Hours of Rouen“

Grandes Horas de Rouen Facsimile

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Grandes Horas de Rouen Facsimile

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Orbis Mediaevalis – Madrid
Limited Edition
505 copies
More Information
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.
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