Book of Hours (Use of Rome)

Item date: late 15th century
Grant Value: £3,565
Item cost: £10,185
Item date acquired: 2016
Item institution: Durham University Library
Town/City: Durham

Written by a single hand in a typically Italian Rotunda script of preternatural regularity, the elegance of which is enhanced by still-wide margins, this late 15th century Book of Hours (Use of Rome) is a handsome and engaging volume.  Though robbed of the incipits for Matins and the Hours of the Cross, it preserves large decorated initials plus elaborate border ornament at all the other major textual divisions, plus countless smaller decorated initials throughout. The style of the artwork points to northern Italy, an origin supported by the emphasis given to St Ambrose of Milan in the calendar, whose red-letter days are otherwise limited to universal feasts. The excision of two folios apart, the volume is in excellent condition, displaying minimal signs of use; it had clearly been treasured by all its previous owners, including the Robert Chambers whose book-plate is the only overt evidence for provenance.

An invaluable addition to our holdings, within three days of arriving in Durham it had already featured in a display class, highlighting its importance here as an excellent example of Italian script, decoration and book production, and as a fascinating complement to our other devotional books and horae, almost all of which are from north of the Alps.  It thus greatly enhances our ability to explore contrasts and comparisons in book-making and devotional culture between the north and the south of Europe at the interface of the Gothic and Renaissance periods. The manuscript is now catalogued as DUL Add. 2037.