After a shocking disappearance of 6 months I have returned. And what’s more I have returned with a lot of new books.
Firstly a useless book I came across in my favourite bookstore in town a while ago titled Rijks: Masters of the Golden Age
This glorious book is a homage to seventeenth century Dutch Golden Age painting. It consists of high quality pictures of the Dutch masters but then includes versions in their original size. As a result the original sized paintings often don’t fit on the pages and therefore highlight a detail. And there are even particular zoomed in versions of some paintings. The book is not trying to do anything but allow you to study the paintings up close and personal The book itself is meant to be an artwork. It is a useless object and I love it. Especially now that I have a found a new display cabinet and I can show it in full glory.
However this is not as much fun as the buying of Meeting with Remarkable Manuscripts. This book is do the same thing as the previous, but with a greater sense of humour. Christopher de Hamel (the worlds leading expert on medieval books) in his book attempts to introduce us into his world by taking us to the greatest libraries in the world and step by step tell us of what he encounters in some of the most famous books in the world. With typical British humour he tells us about his encounter with the Irish showing him the book of Kells, the French not really wanting to show him the Hours of the Duc de Berry and the Americans really not wanting to let him in at all in order to see the Morgan Library. With typical English humour he takes us on a journey of discovery and excitement as we encounter some of the most famous manuscripts in the world. And what’s even better, he randomly showed up in my town and so he signed my copy for me.
(I can’t read his handwriting either)
And last but not least a facsimile of the early fifteenth century Book of Hours of the Duke of Berry, one of the most famous examples of French Gothic style illumination. One of the books Christopher de Hamel visits in Paris. A facsimile is never as interesting as the original, but it is nevertheless wonderful to be able to flip through the pages and imagine yourself in a medieval world. Since my main passion is spirituality and religion (with Mystical Christianity being my particular area of interest) I must include a religious book here.
A book of hours is a prayer book designed for lay people to be able to pray the canonical hours (vespers, compline, terce. etc. what monks would pray) Unlike what is commonly believed, books of hours are the most common medieval manuscript surviving to this day, not bibles. Books of hours became popular in the later middle ages when lay people were looking for more active devotional life independent from the monasteries. The idea of personal devotion to God grew and books of hours such as these became a traditional wedding gift for woman in European society. They copied the Benedictine prayer books known as ‘Breviaries’ but were highly simplified.
This very luxury edition was commissioned by the Duke of Berry (famous for being a huge bibliophile himself) as a wedding gift for his future sister in law, the queen of France.
One day I will own an actual medieval manuscript and I won’t have to start tell you about imitation knock off’s anymore. Until then, enjoy what I do have.