London Hours of William Lord Hastings

London Hours of William Lord Hastings – Thames and Hudson – Add MS 54782 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)

Ghent or Bruges (Belgium) — Ca. 1480

Flowers that look like you could pick them yourself, realistic figures in 28 full-page miniatures and insects that seem as if they are about to take off: a masterpiece of the Ghent-Bruges school

  1. Remarkably naturalistic and artful in design, the miniatures and historiated frames attest to the last great flowering of illumination

  2. The manuscript may have originally been commissioned as a gift for King Edward IV (1442–83) or the Prince of Wales, Edward V

  3. It is named after former owner, William Hastings (ca. 1431–83), a leading English nobleman and patron of the arts

London Hours of William Lord Hastings

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
London Hours of William Lord Hastings

William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings was simultaneously one of the richest and most powerful noblemen in late-15th century England as well as one of the leading art patrons of his time. Although more famous for the role he played in the service of King Edward IV during the Wars of the Roses, he also commissioned and collected illuminated manuscripts, mostly from the refined Ghent-Bruges school of painting. This magnificent book of hours originated in the Low Countries ca. 1480 from the hand of a single talented master whose identity continues to be debated. It is adorned with 28 full-page miniatures, 4 half-page miniatures, 5 historiated borders, and large red-blue-gold foliate initials of the highest quality from the last great flowering of book art in the Late Middle Ages.

London Hours of William Lord Hastings

Although better known for his role as one of the leading noblemen in the Kingdom of England during the Wars of the Roses, William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings (ca. 1431–83) was also a prolific patron of the arts who commissioned works by some of the most gifted contemporary illuminators. William Caxton (ca. 1422 – ca. 1491) dedicated his 1481 translation of The Mirror of the World to the Baron of Hastings, which attests to the fact that his political influence and wealth was matched by his enthusiasm for learning and the arts. Created ca. 1480 in the Low Countries, this splendid book of hours is a wonderful specimen of the Ghent-Bruges school whose homogeneity and refinement suggests that it is the work of a single artist.

Hastings and the Wars of the Roses

William Hastings was an English nobleman, member of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and a loyal supporter if the House of York during the Wars of the Roses. He was a close confidant of King Edward IV (1442–83), whom he served as Lord Chamberlain, Chamberlain of the Exchequer, and Lieutenant of Calais. As such, he was one of the richest and most powerful men in England at the time of Edward’s death, but this was not enough to save him from accusations of treason by Edward’s brother, the Duke of Gloucester, who eventually succeeded him as Richard III. As a strong defender of the young Edward V and his brother – the so-called “princes in the Tower” – William likely posed too great a threat to the infamous Richard’s royal aspirations and was thus executed on trumped-up charges a month before he seized the throne.

The Ghent-Bruges School

Between the 1470’s and the mid-16th century, the last great flowering of medieval book art occurred in the Low Countries and has come to be known as the “Ghent-Bruges school” after the two principal cities where manuscript production occurred. The wealthiest and most sophisticated members of the aristocracy, including many royals, patronized the early Netherlandish masters. Despite being named after William Hastings, he does not appear to be the original patron of the work because his coat of arms has been painted over that of another. Research indicates that the manuscript may have originally been made for King Edward IV or for his son Edward V when he was still Prince of Wales.

The Work of a Single Master

This fine specimen contains 28 full-page miniatures and 4 half-page miniatures with full borders and faced by a text page with full border with foliate rinceaux and naturalistic flowers, insects and birds set against gilded or colored backgrounds (7 of the full-page miniatures are now lost). It is additionally adorned by 5 historiated borders and numerous foliate initials in red, blue, and gold. The completeness of the decorative scheme suggests that it is the work of a single, albeit very talented hand. Candidates include the Master of the Older Prayerbook of Maximilian I, the Master of 1499, or Alexander Bening (d. 1519), whose more famous son Simon (ca. 1483 – 1561) would go on to reuse several of his compositions.


Alternative Titles
Londoner Stundenbuch von William of Hastings
Hastings Hours
Size / Format
600 pages / 16.5 × 12.0 cm
Ca. 1480
28 full-page miniatures; 4 half-page miniatures
Previous Owners
Edward IV / Edward V
William Hastings
Charles William Dyson Perrins
Frieda Dyson Perrins

Available facsimile editions:
Facsimile Editions

#1 The Hastings Hours

Commentary: 1 volume by Derek Howard Turner
Language: English
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: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
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