King Henry's Prayer Book

King Henry's Prayer Book – The Folio Society – BL Royal MS 2A XVI – British Library (London, United Kingdom)

London (United Kindgom) β€” Ca. 1540–1541

Furnished with his handwritten notes: the magnificent prayer book of King Henry VIII of England with wonderful trompe-l'oeil miniatures

  1. The royal prayer book by the French miniaturist Jean Mallard is lavishly adorned in the Trompe-l'oeil technique

  2. The gorgeous miniatures have a continuous, unmitigated reference to King Henry VIII, who appears several times

  3. Additional priceless idiosyncrasies include countless handwritten notes by the King in the margins

King Henry's Prayer Book

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
King Henry's Prayer Book

The private prayer book of King Henry VIII of England is one of the most beautiful and intimate objects associated with his person. A work by the French miniaturist Jean Mallard, the payer book’s 360 pages are lavishly adorned. The gorgeous miniatures have a continuous, unmitigated reference to the King, who even appears himself several times! Additional priceless idiosyncrasies include countless handwritten notes by the King on the margins of the text pages that can still be read! These demonstrate the significance that the gorgeous manuscript had for Henry VIII as a private religious devotional book and journal.

King Henry's Prayer Book

The private prayer book of King Henry VIII of England is one of the most beautiful and intimate objects associated with his person. A work by the French miniaturist Jean Mallard, the payer book’s 360 pages are lavishly adorned. The gorgeous miniatures have a continuous, unmitigated reference to the King, who even appears himself several times! Additional priceless idiosyncrasies include countless handwritten notes by the King on the margins of the text pages that can still be read! These demonstrate the significance that the gorgeous manuscript had for Henry VIII as a private religious devotional book and journal.

A French Work of Art for the English King

The elegant prayer book of King Henry VIII is stored today in the British Library in London. The manuscript is a special treasure from the King’s private library. The prayer book, originating 1540–1541, is a work by the significant French master Jean Mallard. Mallard was employed, inter alia, by the French King Francois I. At the behest of the English King, he created a true gem of a private prayer book, which glimmers with seven miniatures and gorgeously-designed pages of text. The prayer book was made uniquely and exclusively for the English King and has direct references to his person.

Henry VIII as the Biblical King David

The miniatures on the altogether 360 parchment pages amaze with their masterful execution. Mallard presents himself here as a master of the Trompe-l`oeil technique whenever he imitates a wood frame or a small arrangement of fruit. Adorned with ornamental garlands, these frames contain scenes with biblical content or depictions of Henry VIII himself. One miniature shows the King in a splendid palatial room – his bedchamber – sitting on a stool and intently reading the book of hours. An additional depiction can be found with Henry VIII playing the harp, an allusion to King David, with whom Henry sits in a row. A particularly beautiful miniature finally shows Henry VIII in the battle of David versus Goliath: Henry as a small David fights against the huge Goliath with the gestalt of Pope Paul III, who had excommunicated the English King.

A Glimpse into the Innermost Thoughts of the King

The gorgeous pages of text were in no way subordinate to the miniature pages in King Henry’s Prayer Book, but rather were designed with just as much effort. Gloriously colorful and varied initials adorn the texts: An additional idiosyncrasy makes the prayer book a unique artifact: over 100 handwritten notes in the margins. These are private annotations and records by the King, who made notes while he read. They grant an insight into the innermost thoughts of the King, who apparently concerned himself thoroughly with the Psalms and religious thoughts of the prayer book.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Gebetbuch KΓΆnig Heinrichs VIII.
Psalter of Henry VIII
Psalter Heinrichs VIII.
Size / Format
360 pages / 20.5 Γ— 14.0 cm
Date
Ca. 1540–1541
Language
Script
Humanistic
Illustrations
8 miniatures and hundreds of colored initials
Content
Psalms, prayers, and various other biblical texts with over 100 handwritten notes in the margins and a dedicatory letter by Mallard
Patron
King Henry VIII of England (1491–1547)
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Old Royal Library
King George II of Great Britain (1683–1760)

Available facsimile editions:
King Henry's Prayer Book – The Folio Society – BL Royal MS 2A XVI – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
The Folio Society – London, 2009
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

King Henry's Prayer Book

David vs. Goliath

One of the most famous miniatures in this manuscript is a 16th century propaganda piece from the English Reformation: it shows King Henry VIII as the biblical David facing off against Goliath, who represents Pope Paul III. The Pope who excommunicated the English King is dressed in a splendid Grecian cuirass and greaves that glimmer with gold leaf. He looks distractedly at the tip of his massive pike as Henry/David, dressed as a 16th century prince, prepares to deliver a fatal blow.

King Henry's Prayer Book – The Folio Society – BL Royal MS 2A XVI – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Single Page

King Henry's Prayer Book

Patron Portrait

King Henry VIII of England is depicted here as King David reading in his bed chamber, an allusion also made in the dedicatory letter by Jean Mallard, the artist responsible for this Renaissance masterpiece. Like David, Henry VIII was an accomplished musician and there were certainly other parallels between the two, e.g. the story of Bathsheba.

This miniature makes wonderful use of perspective, particularly the design of the red-green-black floor tiles and the columns leading to a door to the outside. Henry is seated in a splendid blue chair, richly dressed in a thick coat with cloth of gold sleeves. He looks up from his book to gaze at the beholder, exhibiting his impressive calves, for which he was famous.

King Henry's Prayer Book – The Folio Society – BL Royal MS 2A XVI – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Facsimile Editions

#1 King Henry's Prayer Book

The Folio Society – London, 2009

Publisher: The Folio Society – London, 2009
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: True to the original binding with red velvet over wooden boards, brass clasps and corner pieces. Gilded page edges.
Commentary: 1 volume (96 pages) by James P. Carley
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€)
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