Thott 541 4°: Liber horarum





Thott 541 4°: Liber horarum

Parchment, 80 ff. (1 + II + 9×IV + 3), c. 25,5/26 × 17 cm; France, c. 1500

Thott 541 4° is a Book of Hours, the ordinary textual content of which is highlighted by an extraordinary approach to its illumination of a gifted artist

The modern foliation of the manuscript includes a flyleaf, once part of a bifolium, the first leaf of which has been used as a pastedown. In a similar way the last three leaves of the volume once formed a quire of two bifolia, the last leave of which has been used as a pastedown at the end of the volume. These leaves are all blank, with lines for layout on f. 178-180. The first real quire (f. 2-5) consists of two bifolia, the first leaf of which is blank. Ff. 3-5 contains a calendar, with two months in two columns on each page. The leaves from 6 to 77 are all gathered in quaternions. The height is slightly increased from the inner to the outer edge of the leaves

The volume contains 16 images with biblical motives. The first is painted on f. 6v, the last on f. 77r. The images in between are painted on both sides of ff. 14, 22, 30, 46, 53, 56 and 72. On all leaves between two paintings rhomb-shaped holes have been cut out, to the effect that two images are visible in all openings from f. 6v-7r to f. 76v-77r. On all pages the images or holes are framed by a rectangular ornamentation; this has been added also around the empty area of parchment on f. 6r and 77v

The manuscript is not dated, and it does not explicitly tell by whom and for whom it was produced. Recent scholarship has identified the painter as Jean Poyer (sometimes named Poyet), who was active in Tours from the 1460ies to his death at an unknown date before 1504. Poyer is considered to be the master of a series of other manuscript books and has assisted in the production of others, amongst them Thott 430 2° in the Royal Library

The book once belonged to Nicolas-Joseph Foucault (1643-1721) in Paris, whose ex-libris is pasted to the board. The last private owner of the manuscript was count Otto Thott (1703-1785) in Copenhagen. At his death, his collection of more than 4000 manuscripts was given to The Royal Library, in accordance with the will of the deceased. – In the letter pasted to f. 1r, addressed by J. N. Madvig, then librarian of the University Library, to the head of the Royal Library E. C. Werlauff, it is made clear that for several years ms. Thott 541 4° had mistakenly been incorporated in the UL as ms. Add. 272 4°. Madvig returned the manuscript with his letter of November 10, 1843

Bibl.: Catalogus Bibliothecæ Thottianæ, tom. VII, Hauniæ 1795, p. 408. – Chr. Bruun, De illuminerede Haandskrifter fra Middelalderen i Det Store Kongelige Bibliothek, København 1890, p. 166. – Ellen Jørgensen, Catalogus codicum Latinorum medii ævi Bibliothecæ Regiæ Hafniensis, København 1926, p. 224. – Gyllene Böcker. Illuminerade medeltida handskrifter i dansk och svensk ägo. Stockholm 1952, p. 86 no. 183 ("Rouen, c. 1500"). - F. Avril & N. Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France 1440-1520, Paris 1995, p. 307, 318. – R. S. Wieck, W. M. Voelkle & K. Michelle Hearne, The hours of Henry VIII. A Renaissance masterpiece by Jean Poyet, New York 2000, p. 37-39. - Mara Hofmann, Jean Poyer. Das Gesamtwerk, Turnhout 2004 (= Ars Nova, 7), p. 26-27, 98-100 & passim ("Tours, zwischen 1495/1500")

Erik Petersen