Creations of startling beauty, lavishly illuminated with gold leaf and lapis lazuli and bound in ornamented covers,Books of Hours were laymen's prayerbooks based on psalters and the breviary that priests read from every day. They reached their greatest popularity in the 15th century, when owning one became a status symbol among the merchant classes as well as the royalty and nobility for whom they were originally designed.
If you are a noble or gentle medieval European re-enactor, you cannot really consider your persona complete without owning a Book of Hours. Unfortunately, a real one will set you back tens of thousands (or even millions) of dollars, and a commercially-available facsimile will either be incomplete or cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. So ... how can you get one without facing bankruptcy?
Facsimile Books of Hours and Psalters
A source of digitised complete Books of Hours and other manuscripts owned by various Swiss Universities and private collectors has recently become available (e-codices), and Golden Gryphon has obtained permission to create and sell facsimile copies of some of them.
I am delighted to offer these reproduction manuscripts at reasonable prices, starting at $30AUD for a plain-bound A6 book ($10 for the little Göttingen Modelbook). The facsimiles are high-resolution colour laser or Canon ink-jet prints on acid-free 80gsm paper*, hand-sewn and bound, with leather or rich cloth covers and metal clasps and bosses, glass cabochon jewels, or other appropriate decorations. More details of their construction can be found in Making a Reproduction Book. Please note that the ink-jet prints are not waterproof; you need to take care the book is not exposed to water. The laser prints are waterproof, but there is a surcharge to cover the extra running costs.
Some of the books are available in English as well as the original latin. I have used the text from the Hypertext Book of Hours, and incorporated miniatures and other decorations from the original manuscripts.
For those who prefer to bind the books themselves, I will also sell them completely unbound, as just the printed pages, or as a sewn but uncovered book block (contact me for prices).
Mailing costs for ONE book in Australia are $7.50/$16 (A6/A5). For buyers in Europe or North America, base airmail prices are about $18/$39 AUD A6/A5 for Europe and $16/$33 AUD A6/A5 for America. Registered or trackable airmail adds about $7-$10 AUD to these costs. Delivery usually takes about 7-10 working days. Sea mail halves the cost, but takes about 3 months.
* I use Reflex copy paper. Their website, www.reflex.com.au, states "
All Reflex papers are acid free. This ensures they meet the ISO 9706 Standard for Permanent Paper - and makes them ideal for scrapbooking and similar uses. The term acid free is typically applied to papers that have a pH that is neutral or alkaline, and is therefore not acidic. Ideally the papers also contain some additional alkalinity which protects against acid breakdown - this causes loss of strength and colour of the paper over time. "
These Are Not Museum-Quality Facsimiles
While I do the best I can, these reproduction books are not guaranteed to be perfectly accurate facsimiles of the originals. This is why the average book costs $50, not $500 or more. There may be a page or two missing or repeated; even though I do check the downloaded images, getting them into Word files is an error-prone process. I do check the Word files against the images, but Word has a mind of its own and will occasionally do odd things like transposing two images. Sometimes the printer may miss an image entirely when printing and I may not catch it. If you find an unexpected blank page, contact me and I'll send you a replacement page. If you find two pages firmly stuck together, don't pry them apart! They will be blank on the other sides--the printer will have grabbed two pages at once and I didn't notice till I'd bound the book. I generally slightly edit the images to brighten them and increase contrast, as some are dark and a bit grey-ish, and enhancing them makes details easier to see. If there are flyleaves with scribbled library notes or stamps, I will have left them out. The aim is to provide a book that feels as though you just got it from the workshop, or from its first or second careful owner.
You cannot rely on these books for precise measurements of page size and margin widths, as I may have increased the outer margins a little to avoid trimming bits off the images when the page edges are ploughed straight. Nor for exact colour values, though they will be close. The laser printer, for example, tends to enhance reds and yellows, no matter how hard I beat it with sticks. The page size will be close to the original, unless, for example, it is an A5 turned to an A6 or vice-versa. The original size is clearly shown in the descriptions below, and you will receive a paper copy of the dimensions and description with the book.
You can rely on relative measurements within the images themselves; I do not alter the composition of the images at all (with the exception of the borders in the Book of Hours That Never Quite Was, but this is a composite book, not a reproduction of any one extant manuscript). You can rely on the major colours -- red is always red, not orange or pink, for example. It may be a little brighter than the original, but that's it.
The Bespoke Book Project
If you are interested in reproductions of later period printed manuscripts, have a look at the Bespoke Book Project by Mistress Katherine Kerr of the Hermitage. This allows you to select a number of signatures from a range of topics, have them printed in an appropriate font, and bound together into a book. I am also happy to bind one of these books.
Lady Elizabeth Braythwayte's Book of Physick provides an example of how bespoke signatures can go together, with individal title pages separating out the various subject signatures. Upper book as bound by THL Isabell Winter; closed book bound by Mistress Sancha da Sylva.
The manuscripts available include several Books of Hours, two Psalters, a Bible, a Missal, and others: an illuminator's model book and a sketchbook. The best way to view the contents of the Books of Hours and Psalters is to follow the link next to the name, which leads to the images at e-codices. There you may see thumbnail overviews or examine individual pages in exquisite detail. (I have provided thumbnails for the contents of the other books.)
This is a delightful Book of Hours, with a lavishly illustrated calendar, many large miniatures, and delicate floral borders on all the text pages. The artwork is superior, with even the smaller versals beautifully executed. This Book of Hours would suit a late15th to early 16th century persona.
E-codices description: Parchment · 210 ff. · 16.9 x 12.8 cm · Paris / Tours · second quarter of the 15th century and around 1490.
A book of hours in Latin and French, written in the second quarter of the 15th century in Paris, but not illuminated until 1490 in Paris or perhaps in Tours by various artists who shared the work. Two miniatures as well as the decoration of the calendar and of the Office of the Dead are the work of an artist from the circle of the Maître François, a close collaborator of the Master of Jacques of Besançon, who honors Notre Dame in a veduta of the city of Paris (f. 93r). The luminous colors and the monumental forms of the other miniatures attest to the influence of Jean Bourdichon of Tours. This artist can probably be considered responsible for the Master of the “Chronique Scandaleuse,” who, during the creation of this manuscript, was still working under the guidance of Jean Bourdichon.
I think this is the single most beautiful and charming little Book of Hours I have ever seen. Every page is a gem, with goldwork and floral or landscape borders. This Book of Hours would suit a 16th century persona.
Note: At some point in its life this manuscript was heavily trimmed at its top and outer edges. I have given the reproduction a background parchment image in order to restore it to something closer to what its original proportions must have been. Because of the natural variation in parchment colour, this causes some of the pages appear to have a slightly differently coloured border.
E-codices description: Parchment · 179 ff. · 14.5 x 8.5 cm · Dijon · 1524.
A book of hours following the liturgical custom of Rome, with a calendar containing a selection of saints for Langres. The manuscript was illuminated and dated in 1524 by a Master of Bénigne Serre, who was known by the name of his client, a highly-ranked official of the King of Burgundy. The artist was a hitherto unknown illuminator from the circle of the “1520s The Hours Workshop,” which framed the miniatures with Renaissance architecture or added naturalistic flowers and animals to borders. This manuscript contains a number of unusual images, e.g., for the Lauds of the Office of the Virgin, the meeting of Joachim and Anna at the city gate of Jerusalem replaces the usual image of the Visitation. In the 18th century, the manuscript was owned by the family Bretagne of Dijon.
Every page in this book is a delight of colour and imagery. There simply are no plain or boring bits. A nice choice for a Tudor or Elizabethan persona.
E-codices description: Parchment · 107 + 8 + 8 ff. · 18.2 x 12.5 cm · Paris · about 1488
This book of hours was a present from the Parisian publisher Anthoine Vérard to the French King Charles VIII (1470-1498). The monarch was one of the most important figures for the French book trade from 1480 on. His collecting is inextricably linked with the luxurious printed materials of the bookseller and publisher Anthoine Vérard. Especially remarkable are the borders: the margins of all pages are decorated with a pictorial narrative of eight consecutive images showing events from the Old and New Testament. Also noteworthy is the didactic value of this book of hours, since each pair of images has a commentary of several explanatory verses in Middle French.
Although this is a relatively plain Book of Hours compared to the previous ones, the full-page miniatures are lovely and each page has delicate ivy or floral scrollwork in the borders. The ivy-filled 2-line versals are also particularly fine. This Book of Hours would suit a 15th century persona.
E-codices description: Parchment · 192 ff. · 20.7 x 14.0 cm · Paris · around 1410
This book of hours, addressed to a woman, contains an entry that can only be read in ultraviolet light (f. 27v) and that mentions a Jaquette de la Barre; she probably was part of the Parisian family of organ builders who, between 1401 and 1404, built the organ of Notre Dame. The miniatures were created around 1410 by a leading Parisian master, who can be identified as the Master of the Mazarin. Subsequently, borders were added to the manuscript, probably by a Provençal hand. Several scenes stand out from the conventional iconographic program: instead of the penance of David, there is the glory of Christ on Judgment Day (f. 101r); instead of the Mass for the dead, there is the Raising of Lazarus (f. 141r); also unusual is the depiction of the prayer of St. Jerome (f. 139v) in the full vestments of a cardinal.
Again, a plain calendar and very plain text pages, but quite a few lovely full-page miniatures with decorated facing pages. This Book of Hours would suit a mid-15th century or later persona.
E-codices description: Parchment · 181 ff. · 19.2 x 13.3 cm · between Tournai and The Hague · around 1440/50 · Latin, French
Two artists, active around 1440/50, contributed to the decorations of this book of hours: the older one, who created only the three miniatures on f. 13v, 105v and 140v, is part of the “Goldrankenstil,” while the younger one is characterized by greater physicality and more vibrant coloring because he was influenced by the innovations of the contemporary painting of the van Eyck brothers. This second artist is responsible for the completion of the Turin-Milan Hours in the year 1440 and also contributed to the Llangattock Book of hours. In 1813 the manuscript was given to the prioress of the Cloister of the Bernardine Sisters of Oudenaarde by the Prince of Broglie.
Richly-decorated calendar pages and full-page miniatures in the trompe l'oeil style and text pages with many decorated versals. A very beautiful manuscript, this Book of Hours would suit a late-15th century or later persona.
E-codices description: Parchment · 229 ff. · 14.2 x 10.4 cm · Flanders, probably Brügge · about 1500 · Latin, French, Flemish
A Book of Hours following the liturgical usage of Rome, richly illustrated with full-page miniatures, borders, and initials, written in cursive script (Bastarda), which can be dated to about 1500, with texts in Latin, French, and Flemish. The style of the miniatures, especially that of the naturalistic borders with flowers and insects, but also with complete scenes, seems typical of the Ghent-Bruges school.
This nice little book is obviously from the mid-1400s or slightly later, despite Davidson College's assertion that it was probably in existence 150 years before the printing press and that it dates from 1400. I contacted them about this; it took a while to get an answer and their information has not changed. I saved copies of the book before it was cleaned, and the resolution is only good for A6 or A7 format. It is only available in English; I have taken the decorative elements from the manuscript, which probably gets around the problem I'd have if I reproduced it as-is. I do hope they'll work out what they actually have at some stage, and include useful information such as its dimensions and where it was probably produced.
This manuscript is from the British Library's collection and is a richly-decorated earlier-style work with borders and bas-de-page figures and every page. Below is their catalogue description.
Book of Hours, Use of Sarum ('The Taymouth Hours')
England, S. E.? (London?)
2nd quarter of the 14th century
Latin and French
Sandler 1986 identifies the artist as that of Glasgow, University Library MS Hunter 231, made for Roger of Waltham (d. c. 1336), canon of St. Paul's, London.
The style and subject, especially the many bas-de-page narratives ranging from romance and fabliau to biblical and hagiographic material, are closely connected to two important manuscripts thought to have been illuminated in London: Egerton 2781 (the 'Neville of Hornby Hours') and Royal 10 E IV (the 'Smithfield Decretals').
24 calendar roundels, in colours and gold (ff. 1-6v). 24 large and smaller miniatures, in colours and gold (ff. 7, 16v, 18, 33, 59v, 60, 71, 89 [historiated initial], 94v, 98v, 112v, 118, 118v, 119, 120v, 121v, 122v, 123v, 124v, 125v, 126, 139, 150v, 151). All pages with full foliate borders and bas-de-page scenes and grotesque decoration, in colours and gold. Large and smaller decorated foliate initials, in colours and gold. Small initials and line-fillers in gold on red and blue grounds.
Parchment · I + 187 + II ff. · 13.5 x 9.5 cm · Workshop located
in the west of France, maybe in Nantes (France, Loire-Atlantique) · third
quarter of the 15th century
This book of hours in the Parisian fashion is richly
illuminated and was made for the diocese of Nantes in the third quarter of
the 15th century. It was owned by the Petau family during the 17th
century. In 1720 it was purchased by Ami Lullin of Geneva and donated to
the Bibliothèque de Genève.
The Book of Hours That Never Quite Was
As I started the project of printing Books of Hours I browsed the Internet to see what might be available, and soon realised there were a great many book images from the mid-1400s out there, some in surprisingly high resolution. In fact, I thought, there may well be enough for the complete illumination program of a whole Book of Hours. And thus was born a Book of Hours that never actually existed. With the calendar from one source and the miniatures and borders from many others, we have a perfectly plausible volume which was obviously worked on by a number of different artists over a period of forty years or so. So -- illumination by the Google Master, and English translation (the Hypertext Book of Hours) by the Master of the Run-On Sentence -- some are more than two pages . Creating it was a lot of effort, but also a lot of fun. It's format is A5, a very common size, and it is availble in English only.
This book has several fine miniatures, historiated initials, and coloured versals. It would suit a persona from the mid 15th century onwards.
E-codices description: Parchment · 152 ff. · 20 x 14.3 cm · Paris · around 1390/1405 · Latin
The manuscript contains a psalter for use in Evreux, episcopal city and preferred residence
of the kings of Navarre.This is a liturgical book which contains the calendar, the litany
and the Office of the Dead, that is, the most important texts of a Book of Hours.
The illumination is the work of an artist who was active in Paris around 1400 and who
depicts elegant figures in a picturesque landscape, still on a gold background,
while his color palette is already that of the 15th century. This hand is to be
attributed to the workshop of the Parisian Josephus-Master. At least two miniatures – the jester miniature (f. 44r) and the miniature of the Office of the Dead (f. 131r) – are attributed to the pseudo-Jacquemart.
This amazing psalter is a riot of colour and gold. Grotesques and monks, angels and laymen adorn the borders, while almost every page has one or two historiated initials with gold backgrounds. Never let anyone tell you the Middle Ages were dull and boring! Suitable for a mid-14th century persona onwards.
E-codices description: Parchment ·108 ff. · 17.7 x 13.5 cm · Naples · middle of the 14th century · Latin
This incomplete liturgical psalter was made between 1335 and 1350 in Naples. The unusual decorations are the work of the artist Christoforo Orimina. Because the manuscript contains three different coats of arms, the original owner (a member of the Angevin court in Naples) can not be definitively named. After changing hands many times during the 19th and 20th centuries, the manuscript was acquired in 1968 by the owner of the collection "Comites Latentes" ("Hidden Friends") held by the Bibliothèque de Genève.
You can probably tell I'm rather enthusiastic about this book. It is truly stunning. I offer it perfect-bound as A4 only, which is about 3/4 size. The details of the decoration are just too fine to reduce to a smaller size.
2 volumes (311 sheets and 293 sheets); 26.5 x 37.5 centimeters; latin. Note this is not a complete bible; it is the Old Testament up to and including Ezekiel. The other volumes have, alas, been lost to us.
The magnificent Bible of Borso d'Este represents the zenith of Ferrarese miniature painting and one of the highpoints of Italian Renaissance manuscript illumination. It was commissioned by Borso d'Este (1413-71), the first duke of Ferrara, who intended it as a demonstration of the splendor of the House of Este, which at the time was competing with Florence and the court of the Medici for international status. The manuscript was completed between 1455 and 1461, the same time that Johann Gutenberg was producing the first printed Bible from moveable type.
The Bible consists of two folio volumes of more than 1,000 individual illuminations. The leaves are all richly illuminated, with painted vignettes that portray scenes from the Bible, historical events, the Estense coat of arms, and views of nature. The beginning of each of the books of the Bible is decorated with an elaborate architectural border and richly colored designs. The illuminations are by a team of artists led by Taddeo Crivelli and Franco dei Russi that also included Girolamo da Cremona, Marco dell'Avogadro, and Giorgio d'Alemagna. The text was written in a fine Renaissance hand by the Bolognese scribe Pietro Paolo Marone. In 1598, following the transfer of Ferrara to papal control, the Estense family abandoned Ferrara for its new seat of ducal power in Modena, taking with them their paintings, sculptures, and books.
The Bible remained in Modena until 1859, when the city became part of the new Kingdom of Italy. Francesco V d'Austria-Este fled to Vienna, taking with him many family possessions, including the Bible. In 1923, the industrialist Giovanni Treccani degli Alfieri acquired the Bible from a Parisian antiquarian bookseller. As a sign of respect for the Republic of Italy, he returned the Bible to the Biblioteca Estense in Modena. In the second half of the 18th century a new binding was made. The Bible was crudely trimmed and part of its decoration was lost from the upper and outer margins. The binding was again replaced in 1961.
New Testament in English
Leather cover with "gold" filigree penwork. The front and back are the same. A different cover design can be requested if desired.
This bible uses the wording of the King James version of the New Testament in an appropriate, but readable, font set in the framework of the beautiful mid-15th century illumination. Like the latin version, it is A4 perfect-bound.
To make this edition, I first made a copy of all the source images. I then went through them with an image editor, making a cut-and-paste collection of the chapter heading numbers in one Word file, and a nice range of each of the 4-line coloured initials that head up the chapters (you can see one in the first image of the pages above) in a second file. A third file got the miniature scenes, big decorated initials, and the images at the end and beginning of each book.
Next step was to go through all the images again, choosing a nice even little section from the blank edge of each page and using it to fill in the text areas of the two columns. There is enough variation in the colour of the the parchment pages (from different hides and outer or inner side of the hide--the inner side is usually a bit whiter) that I could not use the same filler piece for all the pages.
I then edited the Explicit/Incipit images--the book beginning/end images--to have the correct book names on them (in latin), and likewise some of the book names in the page headings. I stopped after the Gospels--it was just too much work.
Each book of the New Testament was placed in a separate file, carefully formatted with the correct column widths and margins. The little chapter numbers were pasted in from file number one, the 4-line initials from file two, and both sized to fit the available space. Next the Incipits, extra illustrations and big fancy letters were positioned in the text, and each file adjusted to have an even number of pages (necessary for it to print correcly double-sided. Trust me.).
Finally, each page image was added to the master Word file, sized appropriately, and carefully centered. Then I sat back and said "Never Again, I Must Have Been Mad."
The five volumes of the monumental feast missal of the Salzburg basilica, now in the Bavarian State Library, is among the most lavishly ornate, and probably the most costly, medieval missals in the world. Commissioned by the Salzburg Prince-Archbishop Bernhard of Rohr (1418-87, reigned 1466-82), an art lover and bibliophile, the manuscript was completed by 1494 under the rule of his successors. It contains 22 liturgical texts for the most important religious feasts to be celebrated in the Salzburg basilica. In the late 1450s, the Salzburg painter Ulrich Schreier began work on the magnificent miniatures, but soon after he had started Berthold Furtmeyr (circa 1435/40-circa 1501) was commissioned to continue. Furtmeyr decorated the volumes with splendid miniatures, and the missal is considered his mature artistic masterpiece. The extent of the work and the division of its 680 leaves into five volumes testify to the extraordinary demands of the commission. Written in large textura script, each volume is 38 centimeters tall and 28 centimeters wide, convenient to handle and at the same time impressive. Each volume contains liturgical texts and brightly colored illuminations. The first volume includes the three holy masses: the birth of Christ on December 25th, the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ on January 1st, and the feast of Epiphany on January 6th. The second volume contains liturgies for the Purification of the Virgin, the Annunciation, the Deposition of Saint Rupert, Holy Thursday, Easter, and the Ascension.
This is offered as a perfect-bound A4 book, as I cannot print any larger (three-quarter size). The volumes may be ordered separately or bound together. (If you would prefer it as A5, contact me.)
Description from The Gutenberg Project: The Göttingen Model Book dates from the mid-15th century and originally belonged to a monastery. The manuscript arrived in Goettingen in 1770 with the bequest of the library of Johann Friedrich Armand von Uffenbach.
It is a painting book for the drawing of leaves, initials and patterned backgrounds in different color combinations; even the composition of the colors is described in detail. The book decorations described in this manuscript can be found in the earliest period of printing in several Gutenberg Bibles, including the Göttingen copy of the B42.
Not only a visual comparison of the forms and colors, but also microfotographic tests have proven that even the layering of the colors corresponds exactly to the instructions in the manuscript.
With its precise instructions on how to design and intensify colors, the Model Book also played an important role in researching the techniques involved in medieval book illumination - a joint project carried out in Goettingen under the sponsorship of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Volkswagen Foundation.
This manuscript is available in latin or English, or both bound together in the same simple leather folder with hand-spun silk cord. It is a little smaller than A5.
I have collected as many pages as I could find on the Internet from this workbook, which is of great interest to scribes for the insight it gives into Schriber's methods, as well as its beauty. It have produced it in A6 format, as this is all the resolution of the images is sufficient for, but I suspect it was actually about A5. It is bound in a simple leather folder with hand-spun silk cord. Below are some descrpitions from the Internet.
The Illuminated Sketchbook of Stephan Schriber (1494) Selected pages from the Spätgotisches Musterbuch des Stephan Schriber belonging to a 15th century monk working in South-West Germany, where ideas and layouts for illuminated manuscripts were tried out and skills developed. It was dedicated to Count Eberhard of Württemberg.
The parchment manuscript appears to be a manual of templates and/or a practice book containing partially completed sketches, painted and calligraphed initals, stylised floral decorative motifs, plant foliage tendrils, fantastic beast border drolleries, together with some illumination work.
Books for Sale
These are books I currently have on hand and ready to go.
A5 is roughly half US letter, A6 is half A5 turned on its side, and A7 half again likewise.
A5 = 21 x 14.8 cm or 8.7 x 5.8 inches, A6 = 14.8 x 10.5 cm or 8.7 x 4.1 inches, and A7 = 10.5 x 7.4 cm or 4.1 x 2.9 inches.
The actual books, of course, refuse to abide by these precise measurements, since trimming the page edges and adding the covers both affect their size, and medieval book producers made their books whatever size they pleased.
MS Lat. 33, late 1400s, A6, latin
Brown leather with gold lnes, based on original cover
Codex 108, 1410, Hours of Paris, A5
Tooled brown leather cover, strap with hand-made brass clasp.
Codex 108: Book of Hours from Paris, 1410, A5, latin
Bronze-coloured metal corners, filigree central boss, and large bronze clasps. Old-rose velveteen cover.
Codex 104 : Book of hours of the Ladies of Oudenaarde, 1440/50, A5, latin
Harvest gold velveteen cover with bronze fiigree corners and central boss, topaz and emeral cabochons.
Mailing costs for ONE book in Australia are $7.50/$16 (A6/A5). For buyers in UK/Europe or North America, base airmail prices are about $18/$39 AUD A6/A5 for UK/Europe and $16/$33 AUD A6/A5 for America. Registered or trackable airmail adds about $7-$10 AUD to these costs. Delivery usually takes about 7-10 working days.
I accept direct deposit, bank cheques, or personal cheques within Australia only, and PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org from anywhere. Please see my Payment & Postage page for the full details.
Ordering a Custom Book
There are three steps to ordering a custom book: first, you choose themanuscript and size, next the cover material and colour, and finally, any decorations. At each step your choices are added to your shopping cart. After you've completed all three steps, go to checkout to send me the order. Do not pay at this point! There will be no shipping cost included yet; I will contact you to let you know the shipping and how long your order will take (typically about a week unless I have a backlog). If you wish to order more than one book, please enter all the details for each book before going to the next, so I can tell which details belong with which book.
1. Manuscript and Size
This section sets the base price for your book and shows the sizes and languages available. This price is only for the printed and sewn book block with pasteboard covers; you need to choose at least a cover style as well.
A5 is roughly half US letter, A6 is half A5, and A7 half again.
A5 = 21 x 14.8 cm or 8.7 x 5.8 inches, A6 = 14.8 x 10.5 cm or 8.7 x 4.1 inches, and A7 = 10.5 x 7.4 cm or 4.1 x 2.9 inches.
The actual books, of course, refuse to abide by these precise measurements, since trimming the page edges and adding the covers both affect their size, and medieval book producers made their books whatever size they pleased.
Codex 101: Book of Hours from Paris, 1490
Codex. 103: Book of Hours of Bénigne Serre, 1524, latin
Codex 108: Book of Hours from Paris, 1410, latin
Codex 111 : Book of Hours of Charles VIII ,1488, latin
Codex 104 : Book of Hours of the Ladies of Oudenaarde,1440/50, latin
Codex A28 : Neuchâtel Book of Hours, 1500, latin
The Bullard Hours, English
Codex A28 : The Taymouth Hours, 1350, latin
Ms Lat. 33, late 1400s, latin
The Book of Hours That Never Quite Was, English
Psalter with Calendar, Litany, and Office of the Dead, 1400, latin
Comites Latentes 15: Liturgical Psalter, 1335, latin
The English New Testament Version of the d'Este Bible, A4
Salzburg Missal, Vols 1 & 2, late 1400s, latin, A4
The Göttingen Modelbook, A6
The Sketchbook of Stephan Schriber, A6
2. Print Type
I now have
a colour laser printer. This means I can offer waterproof books, but as the running costs are much higher than for my inkjet, I need to charge extra.
Please choose leather OR velveteen OR brocade, and don't forget to check the square box for one of them!
(Note: the Göttingen Modelbook and Schriber's Sketchbook are special cases and are normally only sold in a black or dark brown leather slipcover, depending on what I have on hand. Contact me if you'd like a different cover for them.)
Cover decoration is a complicated choice unless you would like a very plain design, and doing fancy interactive software to let you build a cover plan piece by piece is, alas, beyond my abilities. So what I have here is images of a whole bunch of cover designs to give you ideas about what can be done, and available bosses, corners, jewels, clasps, etc. to choose from, plus some nice pictures of existing medieval book covers to inspire you.
Once you have chosen the bits and pieces for your cover and entered a description of how you'd like them arranged, I'll do a simple cut-and-paste mockup and e-mail it to you for approval, and we can refine it from there.
Starting with treasure bindings in the 800s (yes, I can make a Fimo ivory panel, but it'll cost ), we move from fabulous jewels to plain bindings with solid or filigree corners and bosses or tooled leather, to gilded leather, Elizabethan embroidery, and finally to plain wooden covers again for antiphonals, which are a bit of a special case. (Note: I can't do the embroidered covers, they take an enormous amount of time. They're included 'cause they're so pretty.)
If you wish for a close reproduction of one of these, or of another cover you have found, please e-mail me. I can do the jewlled treasure bindings in flat 23ct gold leaf with cabochons for about $50; 3-D modelling gilded is ... well, more expensive .
2. Jeweled lower cover of the Lindau Gospels , c. 880, Court School of Charles the Bald, 350 x 275 mm
3. Ivory plaque, probably from a book cover, Reims, late 800s
4. Small Bernward Gospel front cover - second half 1100s
5. T'Oros Roslin Gospels 1262
7. Book on Roman laws, 1300s
8. Dante's Commedia, Italian, late 1300s
9. Bible, Nurenburg, 1478
10. Psalter, red velvet, c. 1400
13. Paper, 1400s
15. Book of Hours, Paris, 1408-10
16. Antiphonal Oettingen-Wallenstein c1450
17. Conolly Hours mid-1400s
18, Thomas a Kempis Imitacion de Cristo 1494
19. Gregorian chants c 1500
20. Book of Hours, France, 1524 NOTE: this design is expensive ($35) as it takes hours to do.
21. Elizabeth I embroidered cover, late 1500s
22. Embroidered Elizabethan cover on velvet. The bible of Queen Elizabeth I, 1583
24. Late 1600s Antiphonal
These are all books that I have made and covered. Some of them are from pretty early in my teach-yourself-bookbinding career and edges and decorations may be a bit uneven. I have also changed my glue so that it no longer marks the covers. My headbands are now quite respectable, and are made of silk thread that I have spun and dyed myself.
Not all of these decorations are guaranteed to be available; it depends on exactly what I can source. Small solid pearls are generally real fresh-water ones, while large ones and half-pearls are imitation. All "jewels" are fake (what do you expect for $50? ), but most are Swarovski crystal. Likewise none of the metal fittings are actually real gold, silver, or bronze (see previous note). All gold paint is Winsor & Newton gold gouache, sealed so it will not rub off.
More samples will be added as I produce them.
1. Old-rose velveteen with bright-gold fittings, A5
2. Harvest yellow velveteen with bronze fittings and a large oval topaz cabochon, A5
3. Blue velveteen with bling, bling, bling, and more bling, A5
4. Black suede leather with bright-gold fittings, with clear and sapphire cabochons, A5
5. Blue suede leather with bright-gold fittings and amethyst cabochons, A5
6. Red cross-and-rose brocade with antique gold fittings and ruby and clear cabochons, A6
7. Slate-blue velveteen with silver fittings, sapphire oval cabochon and pearls, A6
8. Black suede leather with bright-gold fittings and pearls, A6
9. Black smooth leather with gold paint and bright-gold fittings, A6
10. Moss-green velveteen with antique gold fittings and emerald cabochons, A5
11. Smooth brown leather with gold paint design, A6 NOTE: this design is expensive ($35) as it takes hours to do.
12. Smooth red leather with gold paint designs and gilded page edges, A5
13. Brown pigskin with bronze corner pieces and large bronze clasp, A6
14. Gold and white brocade with gold cord trim, antique gold corner bosses and flower-shape centre boss with amethyst glass cabochon, A7
15. Blue leather with silver corner bosses and centre boss and a sapphire glass cabochon. This cover features inscribed lines in a diamond pattern. A6
16. White leather with gold sunburst centre boss and corner protectors and ruby glass cabochons, A6
17. Black suede leather with gold starburst centre boss and gold filigree corner pieces with small bosses, A5
18. Dark brown leather with diamond-pattern tooling, broinze corner protectors, and a bronze centre boss similar to No. 9 in the medieval examples (1478), A5
19. Pigskin leather with bronze startburst centre boss and corners similar to No. 18 in the medieval examples (1494), A5
20. Brown leather cover with hot tooling and stamped designs.
21. Dark blue leather with gold gouache decoration, A4.
22. Dark red leather with gold gouache decoration, A4.
23. Royal blue velveteen with gold filigree corners, flower centre boss, and blue glass cabochons, A5
If you'd like to order a cover just like one of the above, go to the comments box and fill in your request there, along with any changes you'd like. Don't forget to include the number of the example cover. Then press the Add to Cart button to save the comments, and go to the checkout to send me the order (remember -- don't pay at this point!). The price you'll be shown won't be the final price, because it won't include the cover material or decorations, but these should only add $10-$20 to the base price. I'll e-mail you back with a final price, including what the shipping will be when I know where you're from.
If you'd rather design your own cover, fill in the appropriate bits in the next sections to choose bosses, corners, clasps, jewels, and any other decorations. Please note that although they are not shown I can also source small or medium gold or silver crucifixes for about $0.40 each. And, I can make things .
Click images to enlarge
All bosses come in silver or antique gold, but only the ones listed as bright gold or bronze are available in those colours. For example, you may choose number 2 in silver or antique gold as well as bright gold, but not in bronze, and number 1 can also be antique gold or silver, but not bright gold.
Center bosses 9,10,12, and 13 can have the little domes shown in the picture set in their centres if desired. Just mention it in the comments section, there's no charge.
All corner bosses only come in the colours you see in the photo.
All corners come in silver or antique gold, but only the ones listed as bright gold or bronze are available in those colours. For example, you may choose number 1 in silver or antique gold as well as bright gold, but not in bronze, and number 2 can also be antique gold or silver, but not bright gold.
Little bosses and filigree decorations
The filigree decorations come in silver or antique gold as well as bright gold. The bosses are only available in the colours shown.
All of these little decorations are $0.05 each.
If you are ordering a book cover like Sample 9, which has little stars and bosses all over it, don't bother trying to work out how many you need. I'll do that and let you know.
Gilded Page Edges
I can gild the eges of the pages if you wish. This is done with gold gouache, costs $4, and looks like this (ignore the endpapers, they were not one of my successes):
Straps and clasps
Straps are made of the cover material and are usually about 1cm wide. Clasp choices are limited at the moment, but I hope to source more soon. The shell clasp can be mounted to sit on the front cover, or at the lower edge of the side; the large clasp is front-mount only. The end of the strap is glued into a slit in the cover material. The hinged clasp is mounted on the front and fastens over a pin at the lower edge of the cover.
There is a second narrower strap style which is typical of earlier books. This has a little bead (I use a glass- or pearl-headed pin) mounted on the edge of the back cover and the strap, which starts on the edge of the front cover, has a little ring to hook over the bead. These are listed first in the Clasp Style list below.
The large round clasps are 3cm diameter, not 4cm as in the illustration. They are only suitable for front cover mounting. Bead-and-strap clasps only go on the side.
Here's a medieval side clasp with a plain catch plate mounted on rhe lower cover edge, in the same way the shell clasp can be.
I am learning to make brass clasps in more period style. Photos will appear as soon as they are good enough.
Oh yes, more bling! Bring it on! We have cabochon jewels, mostly Swarovski crystal, some glass. They're all shiny and pretty and I can't tell which are which. They come in five colours: diamond (clear), ruby (red), emerald (green), topaz (yellow), sapphire (blue) and amethyst (light purple). Most are round, some oval, some square, and some teardrop. They range in size from large ovals suitable for the middle of a centre boss to teensy-tiny ones suitable for putting in the middle of the little bosses like No. 7 above. The teardrops just fit perfectly on centre boss No. 7. We also have pearls: large round (fake), small round and small oval (both real freshwater), and half-pearls from 2-10mm (fake),
Not all colours are available in all sizes at any one time; it depends on what I can source. For example, there are no large or exra-large square stones. You order what you want and I'll tell you if I can get it. Look at the sample covers to get an idea of the size of the stones.
Prices: tiny round or square (1-2mm), $0.10 each. Small (3mm), $0.15 each. Medium (4-5mm) and teardrops, $0.20 each. Large (6-10mm), $0.30 each. Extra-large (over 10mm), $0.40 each. Humongous, ask me. Pearls, large or freshwater, $0.05 each, half-pearls, $0.02 each.
Lines, tooling, special instructions, and how it should all look
You now have manuscript, cover, and decoration all chosen. You may wish to have some gilding or tooled lines (nothing too complicated!) on the cover, and you need to let me know how you'd like it put together. For example: "The big red cabochon goes in the middle of the centre boss, and the little clear ones directly on the cover spaced evenly around the centre boss. The little red cabochons go in the centre of the corner pieces. I'd like two fine gold lines around the entire edge of both front and back covers, about 3mm apart, with the corner bosses just inside these lines. On the spine, a single gold line all around the edge, with double lines where the cords are."
Enter your instructions in the Comments box below, and proceed to the checkout. I will email you when I receive your order. Remember, do not pay yet. Your total is to give you a ballpark figure at this stage, with no postage or costs for extras like lines.
The first step in creating a new manuscript is to download the page images. This is pretty straightforward, but very tedious. Click on next page, wait for it to load. Right click, Save As, save. Do it again. And again. For all 215 pages <yawn>. The pages tend to have unmanageable names such as "ms0128-lat_hi-res_p012.jpg", so I get to write a little script to give them shorter ones ("012.jpg"). Just as well I used to be a programmer!
Once all the pages are saved, they need to be edited. So--into PhotoImpact (the poor man's Photoshop, and much easier to use), 20 pages at a time. At this point I make sure the page image is a proper rectangle, using distortion or perspective tools; since the original manuscripts are books, the page images can be slightly skewed if the book could not be opened perfectly flat without damaging it. I then trim away any background from the image, and perhaps bits of edge damage or darkening. Finally, I usually enhance the image in some way, typically brightening and increasing the contrast a bit so that it will look good when printed.
So I now have all the images, cleaned up and sensibly named, ready to be made into a book. For this I use Word 2017 (having muttered and cursed at my old version of Word and finally bought a newer one). I then proceed to make a series of files named "sig01" through to "sig18" or so, depending on how big the book is, each containing 24 pages. This gives me six-sheet signatures. Eight-sheet signatures were a bit more usual for real medieval books, but I have found six easier to manage for sewing and putting the books together, particularly for rounding the spines evenly. Also, it's less paper and ink wasted if the printer stuffs up totally.
As I create the Word files I pick a nice blank page from the images as a background for the other pages and to provide front and back flyleaves if the book itself does not have sufficient. I need at least one blank page front and back to glue to the cover boards, and I also like to have a blank page before the text starts. Few manuscripts are exactly A5 or A6 and some have been badly cropped over time, and I like to have the parchment image extend as far as possible towards the edges so I don't remove any of the real image when I'm ploughing the page edges, hence the background image.
Printing the Pages
The master copy is ready. I can print! If it's a laser print, this is not a major production unless toner runs out. However, the inkjet is a different story.
The first step is to fill all the ink tanks and print a check pattern to see that everything is working properly. This in itself can be quite a production as anyone who's worked with an inkjet printer well knows. Mine is a Canon. It's a nice printer, but it has its moments. After cleaning the print heads, re-cleaning the print heads, cursing the print heads, taking the print heads out and washing them and doing it all again, printing can commence.
All works well for three pages, then the yellow stops. Or the blue, or--but you get the idea. Back to previous paragraph. And when by some miracle everything is working perfectly, on the first page of printing the second sides, the printer grabs two pieces of paper at once and you have to reprint the whole damn signature.
But after an entire afternoon of poking, prodding, and cursing, I actually have an entire manuscript printed, the signatures folded and in their correct order. After initial nightmares of trying to keep things in order, I have now learned to fold the signatures as they finish printing, stack them up in order, and weight them with something so they cannot get pushed into disarray.
Stitching the Signatures
Before I start sewing I ususally leave the book being pressed for a few days to get it all as nice and flat as possible. I use a little old anvil for a weight, as it's both heavy and compact.
Now that I have the signatures flattened, I can make the holes for sewing. I began doing this using an awl, but it wasn't very easy to get the signatures aligned nicely, so I shifted to the other period method of making cuts in the back of the signatures. For this, I clamp them between two pieces of wood leaving about 4mm of the spine edge exposed, then cut across with a nice sharp kitchen knife. I usually make five cuts for an A5 book, and three or four for an A6; both were common in period.
Ready to cut
Tools laid out
First three cuts
Now it's time to thread up the bent needle and begin to sew. It's difficult to sew the signatures together with a straight needle, and fortunately it's quite easy to bend a sewing needle over a candle flame using two pairs of pliers. I recommend bending it to a full right angle as you're less likely to stab yourself with it (the point isn't where you'd normally expect it to be when sewing).
Although it would be more authentic to sew the book on a sewing frame, I haven't yet made one. This is mostly because I don't sew the signatures onto a pair of cords in the typical period manner, but simply sew them together using link stitches. I then sew tape across the spine in several places, pulling the middle of the tape into a cylinder to simulate the effect of cords and produce the proper ridges on the spine. Why not cords? Cords don't lie flat the way tape does, and thus will not work properly with the way I make the cover boards.
Needle under previous stitches, ready to pull out
Back through the same hole
Ploughing the Page Edges
Home-made press & plane-blade plough
My improvised ploughing press, while far, far cheaper than a commercial one, has its problems. Even with the press lying flat on a bench, it is difficult to get the bottom edge of the book block completely flat, and to keep everything in place while the wing nuts are tightened. I keep forgetting to place a piece of cardboard behind the book so the last few pages don't try to dig into the groove worn in the back board. It is also hard to keep the knife edge perfectly flat.
My first try at a cutting implement was a circular blade with a wooden doorknob glued to its top surface. It cut beautifully, but the cut edge slowly crept upwards as the ploughing progressed, no matter what I did. I now know this is a result of the shape of the cutting edge, which is a chevron in cross-section. Any blade which is not flat on its lower edge will make the cut creep up. My next try was a much thinner utility knife blade, the sort where you snap off segments as it dulls, but of course it had the same problem. Thanks to a suggestion by Helen Schultz, a most splendid book binder, I now use the blade from a dinky little old wood plane, which was no use at all for its intended purpose, but works perfectly as a book plough.
It also had not occurred to me just how much mess ploughing the edges creates. There is paper everywhere! Then I realised that most of the manuscripts I was working with have a couple of hundred leaves. Trimming bits off head, tail, and fore edge creates appoximately 600 thin strips of paper. No wonder it's from one end of the house to the other...
Once the pages are trimmed, I sew the endbands. There are several good tutorials on YouTube of how to do this, but I must confess I'm still not very good at it. I began by using a thin strip of cardboard as the endband support, but now use a short length of waxed light cord as I find I can control it better. The thread for the bands is my own hand-spun silk, dyed with natural period dyes. I usually do two-colour bands, though I sometimes use single-colour raw tussah silk (beige). The protruding ends of the cord are cut close and a dab of glue applied to the very end so the thread doesn't work loose.
What glue do I use? It has varied--I have made my own bookbinders' flour-and-water paste, which works nicely for pasting the cover boards, cover, and flyleaves, but I mostly use ordinary white PVA glue as it's cheap and convenient. So if you are ordering a book and want it done with the more authentic paste, just let me know and I'll cook up a batch.
Attaching the Boards
Before the cover boards can be put on, the spine needs to be glued and rounded. First, linen tapes must be sewn across the spine to attach the boards to. The proper period method would be to sew the signatures to tapes or cords as they are sewn together, as mentioned above, but I don't want the tapes to lie flat across the spine and cannot easily attach cord to my covers. This is because my covers are not actually wooden boards, but two pieces of heavy cardboard. I can assure you the card is much easier to use than wood! I use two to five tapes, depending on the size of the book and the effect I wish to create.
The tapes are sewn across the spine and the sewing thread is pulled up hard so the tape forms a solid cylinder, simulating the effect of cord on the spine. The tape ends are then glued flat between the two card pieces and weighted while the glue dries. The end result of all this once the cover is on is a reasonable approximation to a period binding without too much labour, allowing me to keep my prices down. An added benefit of the cardboard is that it allows me to impress lines into the leather cover quite easily without having to use hot tooling. I actually use a small brass letter-opener from my old family home, which works very nicely.
Endband and rounded spine
Tapes made of linen strips, cylindrical across the spine
Back to gluing and rounding the spine, which happens after the tapes are sewn on (or it's well-nigh impossible to get a needle under the link stitches--this is experience speaking). Glue is applied to the spine and rubbed in well so the backs of the signatures are held together and there are no gaps exposing the link stitches and tapes when the book is opened. I normally use PVA glue for this, as it is stronger and more flexible than traditional book paste.
After the glue is on I wait till it is almost dry (no longer sticky but still cold), then flex the pages and hit the spine with a hammer in the manner illustrated by YouTube gurus. Then having failed yet again to make that work as desired, I squish each side of the spine hard against the benchtop, poke and prod it, wield the hammer in interesting ways, and weight it to dry. At this point I should glue mull (stiffened muslin) over the spine to also be attached to the boards, but I don't. So There.
Tapes glued to boards, weighted with my little anvil
Cover open, showing how the tapes go between the two board pieces
Covering the Book
For the books' outer covers, I cut a rectangle of fabric or leather the size of the cover, plus the width of the spine, with a suitable overlap, generally 2-3 cm (about an inch). The closed book is placed carefully on the underside of the cover, I glue the top board, and firmly pull the cover material up around the spine and over the board, making sure there are no wrinkles. Possible wrinkles are why I pull the cover up and over rather than just placing the glued board down on the cover material. Once the top cover is dry, the book is turned over and the other board and spine glued. It's important to only glue the spine in the middle up to the tapes at each end, otherwise the cover cannot be turned under across it. I then pull the rest of the cover up and over the the spine and board, pressing firmly on the spine and again making sure there are no wrinkles.
Once the cover is all dry, I open the book up and trim the cover material at the corners so it will fold neatly. Then I glue along the lower edge of the cover and fold it over, tucking it under the spine and pressing down firmly. When the glue is dry, the same thing is done for the upper edge, and then the two side edges. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially if the cover is leather. Things have to be pulled, pushed, and coerced into sitting properly, and I have to try to keep any glue from getting on the cover, especially if it's fabric--it's very hard to get glue out of velveteen. I will often just do the edges of half the cover at a time and then glue that flyleaf down and wait for it to dry before doing the other half.
When all three edges of the cover material are folded over and the corners coaxed into the best alignment that can be managed, I glue the flyleaves down. It's important to work quickly and not get the paper too wet, as otherwise it may tear. This is an advantage proper period vellum has over paper; vellum is tough and hard to tear. Period paper was likewise tougher than moden paper, as it had a high linen rag content. The flyleaf must be lowered carefully and quickly smoothed to avoid wrinkles. Sometimes all my efforts fail, the flyleaf tears, and I need to glue in a separate leaf to fix this. Thus if your flyleaves look a bit thicker than one sheet, don't try prising the extra sheet up; I guarantee you'll be sorry .
When everything is dry, I can do any cover decoration.
J.A. Szirmai, The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding