of hours and worth

I just touched a book that is 524 years old.

It is a Book of Hours from France, 01480, enscribed and illuminated with verdigris and lapis and goldleaf on vellum.

Its value is estimated at $150,000, but it is truly priceless.

Yes, I cried.

Edited to add: How did it feel? It felt … miraculous. The text is printed in both French and Latin in intricate calligraphy. The illustrations are fantastic. A grad student was explaining to me that the illustrations were a bit primitive because the scribes had no concept of perspective yet, but they were delicate and reverent in a way that just doesn’t seem to exist anymore. A fascinating trivia note is that the skies in the illustrations are always depicted as light blue, like in Italian Renaissance paintings, so there must have been some Italian art influence in France at that time. (I’m sure an art historian could go into more detail, but that’s the brief overview I got.) Also, if you looked closely enough, you could see the hair follicles in the outer skin side of the vellum.

This volume is part of my library’s special collection, which includes several antiphonaries from Italy around the same time period. If you’re in the area, you can stop by my library and see the Book of Hours and the antiphonaries in glass cases. You may also view Willamette University’s Book of Hours online. I hope to get ours online like this someday.

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Published by Halsted M. Bernard

An ever-molting black swan. Reader, writer, library director, over-enunciator. Listening + Unlearning. Opinions are my own. She/her. #BlackLivesMatter