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Book of Hours for Sarum Use and Gallican Psalter with Canticles (Pembroke Hours)

Artist/maker unknown, Netherlandish

Probably made in Bruges, Belgium, Europe
Additions from England, Europe

c. 1465-1470, with additions c. 1550-1565

Illuminated manuscript on vellum

Book: 12 1/16 × 8 7/8 × 2 3/4 inches (30.6 × 22.5 × 7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Philip S. Collins Collection, gift of Mrs. Philip S. Collins in memory of her husband, 1945

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This book is called "The Pembroke Hours" after the first Earl of Pembroke, who commissioned it. Books of Hours contain prayers associated with daily use. This one is unusual in also including the psalms.

Additional information:
  • PublicationLeaves of Gold: Manuscript Illumination from Philadelphia Collections

    The full-page miniature introducing the Psalter section in this combined Book of Hours-Psalter portrays Esdras (or Ezra) bent on his literary labors. Wearing an exotic headdress of the type frequently used to identify figures of the Old Testament (and possibly also referring to his status as a priest of the Old Law), Esdras is shown writing in an open book placed on his lap. He writes apparently from memory, not consulting any of the finely bound books or scrolls on a table at the back of his chamber. A conflagration of books in the foreground refers to the books of "the law of the Lord that had been burned" and which Esdras is in the act of renewing. The flames and the transparent smoke that arise from the fire add a touch of realism to the scene and also suggest its momentary nature.

    This manuscript, known as the Pembroke Hours, is extraordinary in all respects. It is one of the largest and most elaborately illustrated books of private devotion produced in the Low Countries during the fifteenth century for export to England. Singular in some of its contents, in its cycles of illustration, and in its sheer complexity, it must have been a commission of uncommon importance. The miniature displayed here introduces the second major text in the manuscript, a fully illustrated Psalter.

    Although wealthy English patrons of this period showed a certain partiality for combined Books of Hours and Psalters, this is the only known example of a fully illustrated Psalter made either in or for England or the Low Countries during the fifteenth century. The ten full-page miniatures and 174 column miniatures that illustrate the psalms and canticles do not appear to derive from any familiar Psalter model. They illustrate the tituli (short titles), written in red, that preface each of the psalms and canticles, providing a running commentary on the historical and allegorical significance of the psalms. The miniature and titulus accompanying the first psalm exemplify the ways these prefatory elements can inflect understanding. The titulus for Psalm I states, "This Psalm was written by Esdras when he renewed the law of the Lord that had been burned." The heading refers to the purported author of the biblical Book of Esdras, a priest and doctor of the law (also known by his Hebrew name, Ezra) as well as a famous scribe, student, and teacher of the Law of Moses. Jewish tradition credited Esdras with rewriting the law, in part from memory, after enemies had burned the holy books. This constitutes the subject of both the full-page miniature that faces the beginning of the Psalter and the column miniature just above the titulus to Psalm I. The probable inspiration for the link between Psalm I and Esdras is the second verse of the psalm: "But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night."

    The depiction that prefaces Psalm 97 is equally unusual (Christ's Advent illustrating Psalm 97, fols. 171V-172). The titulus states that the psalm refers to the coming of Christ, and an exceedingly uncommon portrayal of the theme of Christ's Advent1. From God the Father, shown bust-length in a golden aperture in the sky, the soul of Christ, portrayed as a small baby (a homunculus), descends on golden rays toward a landscape peopled at the right with a group of twelve men (presumably representing prophets of the Old Law or the twelve tribes of Israel) and at the left with a group of naked men imprisoned in a dungeon built into a hillock. Set before a cityscape that probably depicts the holy city of Jerusalem, the miniature vividly pictures those who await Christ's coming.

    Significantly, the series of tituli found in this manuscript differs from those encountered thus far in any other traditions.2 The unusual depiction of Esdras that prefaces Psalm I is the only known example of a large-scale portrayal of Esdras, rather than King David, as a frontispiece to a Psalter, and it is the only known depiction of Esdras to show the burning books of the law, a detail that derives ultimately from the apocryphal book of 4 Esdras.3 The cycle of illustration was likely conceived when the Psalter was commissioned. Considering the originality of the pictorial cycle and the complexity of its subject matter, it seems probable that it would have been planned in consultation with a theological adviser, such as a chaplain.

    Another of the unusual elements of this manuscript, and one that likely would have required the participation of a schooled author, is the text of its calendar. It does not consist of a simple list of saints' names and feasts but instead is a continuous metrical poem of 365 Latin verses into which saints' names and feasts are occasionally integrated (the names and feasts are written in gold or red, while the rest of the poem is written in black). This is the only known example of a Latin metrical text of this kind in a calendar of the late Middle Ages. Metrical calendar texts do occasionally appear in English manuscripts of the tenth and eleventh centuries,4 and the example in the Pembroke Hours-Psalter may represent a unique late medieval revival of this tradition, albeit in a redaction that is unknown in any of the early examples.

    The cycle of calendar illustrations relates the manuscript to broader traditions of Flemish illumination. The twenty-four roundels of the Labors of the Months and Sign of the Zodiac in the calendar belong to a pictorial recension that appears in a group of Books of Hours made in Bruges in the second and third quarters of the fifteenth century. François Avril has identified the source of this cycle in the calendar illustrations of the "Saint-Maur Hours," a Parisian manuscript of the early fifteenth century attributed to the Boucicaut Master.5 As the Flemish works replicate only the figures of the Saint-Maur Hours, setting them against different backgrounds, it appears that the Flemish illuminators had access to a set of model drawings of these figures rather than to the manuscript itself. The Flemish manuscripts that depend on this set of models include works made for use in Bruges as well as those made for export to England and other locales.

    The Pembroke Hours-Psalter belongs to a distinct subgroup among Books of Hours produced in Flanders for export to England during the third quarter of the fifteenth century. The three books in this group known to us are larger in size than most of the Books of Hours produced in the Low Countries for English patrons.6 In addition to having similar border decoration and stylistically related miniatures (painted by different collaborators), all three books share the same type of three-line initials, apparently unique to this group. They consist of pink or blue letter with white tracery on gold fields, enclosing, respectively, blue or red fields decorated with flowers, birds and other animals, or figures in yellow-gold pen work. Even within this group of elaborately illustrated and decorated books, the Pembroke Hours-Psalter stands out for the high quality and great number of its illustrations.

    The miniatures of the Pembroke Hours-Psalter were produced by at least a half-dozen painters. It is a measure of the importance of this commission that the manuscript includes a series of large and small miniatures in the vivid, painterly style of the Master of Anthony of Burgundy, who is not otherwise known to have contributed miniatures to any Books of Hours produced for export to England. His oeuvre consists primarily of large-scale books of decidedly courtly content and character.7 The miniatures in his style occur exclusively in the portion of the book containing the Psalter and a series of eleven column miniatures in one of its gatherings.8

    Most of the remaining miniatures are by illuminators who worked in colorful linear styles related to the work of Willem Vrelant, a leading illuminator in Bruges during the third quarter of the fifteenth century.9 The styles of the two major Vrelantesque painters in the Hours-Psalter can be contrasted in the openings that preface each of the eight Hours of the Virgin (Carrying of the Cross and Nativity from the Hours of the Virgin, fols. 68V-69). The half-page miniatures of the Infancy of Christ on the rectos of the openings are by a painter closely related to Vrelant: his compositions are uncluttered and geometrically structured and are dominated by relatively large, firmly outlined figures. The painter of the full-page miniatures of the Passion on the facing versos has a lighter palette (with abundant use of yellow tones), more complex and dynamic compositions, and more elongated figures.10

    Despite its uncommon richness, complexity, and many singular features, the Pembroke Hours-Psalter contains no evidence that points unequivocally to its patron. In the mid-sixteenth century it belonged to Sir William Herbert, first Earl of Pembroke of the second creation (c. 1501-570), who added twenty folios of prayers at the beginning of the book and sixteen at the end, including depictions of his coat of arms and emblems (with the Order of the Garter, conferred on him in 1548) and a large miniature showing him at prayer (fol. 2v). The calendar of the manuscript contains a series of neatly written marginal annotations recording the dates of the births or deaths of prominent noble adherents of the House of York and of victories won by the Yorkists in their battles with the Lancastrians during the War of the Roses (the dates range from 1446 to 1476). Inasmuch as the grandfather of the above-mentioned Earl of Pembroke, who was likewise named William Herbert and was Earl of Pembroke of the first creation, was a partisan of Edward IV and the Yorkist party in the War of the Roses (he was captured in battle and executed by the Lancastrians in 1469), the suggestion has been put forward that the book was made for the first Sir William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and passed by descent to his grandson.11 Debra Taylor Cashion, from Leaves of Gold, Manuscript Illumination from Philadelphia Collections (2001), pp. 60-64.

    1. For examples of other tituli that identify Psalm 97 as a reference to Christ's Advent, see Pierre Salmon, Les "Tituli psalmorum" des manuscrits latins (Rome and Vatican City: Abbaye Saint Jérome, 1959), pp. 128, 144, 170.
    2. See Salmon, Les "Tituli psalmorum," and Elizabeth Anne Peterson, "Accidents and Adaptations in Transmission among Fully-Illustrated French Psalters in the Thirteenth Century," Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, vol. 50 (1987), pp. 375-84. We are indebted to Dr. Peterson for generously commenting on the contents of the series of tituli in the Pembroke Hours-Psalter.
    3. See 4 Esdras (designated as 2 Esdras in the Apocrypha) 14.21-22: "For thy law is burnt, therefore no man knoweth the things that are done of thee, or the works that shall begin. But if I have found grace before thee, send the holy ghost into me, and I shall write all that hath been done in the world since the beginning, which were written in thy law."
    4. For the tradition, which was kindly called to our attention by François Avril, see Michael Lapidge, "A Tenth-Century Metrical Calendar from Ramset," Revue Bénédictine, vol. 94 (1984), pp. 326-69, and Patrick McGurk, "The Metrical Calendar of Hampson: A New Edition," Analecta Bollandiana: Revue critique d'hagiographie, vol. 104, nos. 1-2 (1986), pp. 79-125.
    5. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS nouv. acq. Lat. 3107. Avril's observation is published in the introduction he wrote to a set of color postcards (on sale at the library in Tours) of the calendar pages of one of the Flemish manuscripts that belong to the recension: "Heures à l'usage de Rome" (Tours, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS 218) [Tours, 1989].
    6. The other two manuscripts are Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 153, and Rio de Janeiro, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 50.1.1. For the first, see Alain Arnould et al., Splendours of Flanders, exh. cat. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 128-29, no. 40. For the second, see Paolo Herkenhoff [and Pedro Oswaldo Cruz], Biblioteca National: A história de uma coleção (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Salamandra, 1996), pp. 26-28 (where it is erroneously dated 1378 and assigned to an Italian painter, Spino Spinelli, on the basis of a false colophon on folio 196v).
    7. For the Master of Anthony of Burgundy, who is named after a copy of Valerius Maximus in Breslau that was produced for Anthony of Burgundy, the bastard son of Philip the Good, see Smital, Das schwarze Gebetbuch des Herzogs Galeazzo Maria Sforza, pp. 44-81. For the attribution of the same group of works to Philippe de Mazerolles, which is still controversial (hence our preference for the anonymous name), see Georges Dogaer, Flemish Miniature Painting in the 15th and 16th Centuries (Amsterdam: B.M. Israël, 1987) pp. 121-24; and for the problem, see Otto Pächt and Dagmar Thoss, Die iluminierten Handschriften und Inkunabeln der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, vol. 7, Flämische Schule II (Vienna: Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1990), pp. 33-34. As is apparent from stylistic variations in the manuscripts ascribed to the Master of Anthony of Burgundy, including the Pembroke Hours-Psalter (see note 8), more than one painter worked in the manner denoted by this name.
    8. The miniatures in this style of the Master of Anthony of Burgundy appear to be the work of two or three painters. The artist responsible for the miniature of Esdras commencing the Psalter also contributed the full-page miniatures on folios 142v, 161v, and 171v (all framed with plain gold fillets); they are close in style to miniatures ascribed to the Master of Anthony of Burgundy in two disparate copies of parts of Raoul la Fevre, Receuil des histoires de Troye, in Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale Albert Ier, MSS 9262 and 9263; for which see Frédéric Lyna, Les Principaux Manuscrits à peintures de la Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, vol. 3, ed. Christiane Pantens (Brussels: Bibliothèque Royale Albert Ier, 1989), pp. 128-32, nos. 275-76, pls. 41-42. The full-page miniatures on folios 133v and 151v are by a second hand. This artist's miniatures, which have frames made of gold and painted fillets, contain smaller figures executed in a more precise and linear style, and the leaves with his miniatures also include illustrated marginal roundels. In the latter feature they recall some elements of the one other Book of Hours that has the "Black Prayerbook of Galeazzo Maria Szorza" (Vienna: Österreichisches Nationalbibliothek, Cod. 1856), for which see Smital, Das schwarze Gebetbuch des Herzogs Galeazzo Maria Sforza, and Jenni and Thoss, Das schwarze Gebetbuch. The column miniatures on folios 128, 128v, 129, 130, 130v, 131v, 134v, 135, 135v, and 136 appear to be either by the second of these two hands or by a third extension below the lower edge of the text column that includes figures painted by one of the Vrelantesque miniaturists.
    9. See Barnard Bousmanne, "Item a Guillaume Wyelant aussi enlumineur": Willem Vrleant, un aspect de l'enluminure dans les Pays-Bas méridionaux sous le mécénat des dubs de Bourgogne Phlippe le Bon et Charles le Téméraire (Brussels: Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique; Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1997).
    10. In addition to the eight full-page miniatures of the Passion cycle (fols. 27v, 31v, 51v, 55v, 58v, 61v, 64v, 68v), this painter also contributed the full-page miniatures on folios 73v, 83v, 101v, 120v, and 186v. A third Vrelantesque painter, who employs relatively short figures and deep colors, contributed the sixty-two historiated initials that follow Lauds of the Virgin. The remaining Vrelantesque miniatures seem to me to be the work of at least three additional painters: one for the twenty-four roundels of the Occupations of the Months and Signs of the Zodiac in the calendar; another for the full-page miniatures on folios 124v and 181v and the column miniatures on folios 118v-140v, 143 through the end of the original part of the book; and a third for the miniatures on folios 110-117.
    11. One of the three-line decorated initials in the manuscript contains the English royal coat of arms (fol. 207). The coat of arms is not large enough nor is it in a sufficiently prominent position to propose that the book was commissioned by a royal patron. It may signify only that the patron of the book wished to be identified as a supporter of the crown. It is worth noting, however, that the only other manuscript thus far known to have been commissioned by the Sir William Herbert (died 1469) who has been proposed as a patron of the Pembroke Hours-Psalter was apparently made for presentation to an English king; see the copy of John Lydgate's Troy Book in London, British Library, MS Royal 18.D.II, included in Kathleen L. Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts, 1390-1490, A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles, vol. 6 (London: Harvey Miller, 1996), vol. 2, pp. 282-85, no. 102.