The Royal Library

The Royal Library

Italy/France — Late 15th Century

Three of the most beautiful books of hours of the Middle Ages: the personal prayer book of Pope Benedict XIV, the masterly book of hours for Archduchess Barbara of Austria and the impressive gem of Anna Sforza

  1. A treasure consisting of three of the most beautiful works of the Middle Ages

  2. Books of hours for a pope, for an archduchess and an Italian noblewoman

  3. Impressive golden miniatures, fine initials and masterful compositions

The Royal Library

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
The Royal Library

The Royal Library brings together three of the finest works of medieval illumination. Among them is the Prayer Book of the wise and learned Pope Benedict XIV, created in the 15th century by an unknown Flemish master and decorated with an extremely magnificent calendrical. In addition, the library still contains the precious Office of the Virgin Mary of Barbara of Austria, Austrian Archduchess and, as wife of Alfonsso II d'Este, Duchess of Ferrara, who used this treasure as a private devotional book. The third work is the impressive Office of the Virgin Mary of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este and presents itself as a beautiful testimony of Milanese book illumination around 1500. The history of the manuscript is closely linked to the tragic life of Anna Sforza, the first wife of Ippolito's brother Alfonso d'Este. 12 Large-format miniatures and countless imaginative ornamental initials adorn this private devotional book, which beautifully displays the artistry of the Milanese court painter Francesco Binaso, commissioned by the Este cardinal.


Alternative Titles
Die Königliche Bibliothek
La Biblioteca Reale
Size / Format
278 pages 332 pages 156 pages / 24.0 × 14.0 cm 17.5 × 12.0 cm 19.5 × 13.0 cm
Late 15th Century
Littera bastarda Gothic Textura
Many fullpage miniatures
Ippolito I d'Este (1479–1520), cardinal and archbishop of Milan
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Archduchess Barbara of Austria (1539–1572)

Available facsimile editions:
La Biblioteca Reale
Imago – Bologna, 2019
Limited Edition: 225 copies
Facsimile Editions
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Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis of Maria Antonietta of Savoy – Imago – JB. II. 34 – Archivio di Stato di Torino - Museo dell'Archivio di Corte (Turin, Italy)
Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis of Maria Antonietta of Savoy
Italy – Second half of the 15th century

A book of hours with a multitude of Italian saints for the Spanish infanta: the Flemish school of Willem Vrelant in a splendid manuscript for the daughter of King Philip V of Spain

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Hours of the Master of Guillebert de Mets – Imago – ms. 1138 – Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna (Bologna, Italy)
Hours of the Master of Guillebert de Mets
Ghent (Belgium) – Ca. 1430–1440

A lovingly realistic view in lively colors of the story of Jesus, Mary, and St. Barbara: an extremely charming masterpiece of 15th century Flemish illumination created for the court of Duke Philip the Good in Burgundy

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