Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bedford-style Book of Hours

John on Patmos (HM 1100)

"(Gospel of John), in a square compartment above 5 lines of text, John on Patmos with his eagle holding one end of the scroll, and the devil stealing his inkwell; the acanthus leaves of the outer border in lush, dense foliage form the U-shape frame, and are surrounded by an ivy design of thin, swirling pink or blue branches"

Annunciation to the shepherds (HM 1100)

Annunciation to the shepherds

Burial in a Churchyard (HM 1100)

Burial in a Churchyard

Calendar showing first part of August with monthly occupation and zodiac sign. (HM 1100)

Calendar showing first part of August with monthly occupation and zodiac sign

Annunciation (HM 1100)


Luke shown painting a picture of the Virgin (HM 1100)

Luke shown painting a picture of the Virgin

Calendar showing first part of May with monthly occupation and zodiac sign. (HM 1100)

Calendar showing first part of May with monthly occupation and zodiac sign

Coronation of the Virgin (HM 1100)

Coronation of the Virgin

God the Father (HM 1100)

God the Father

Text, 1- and 2-line decorated initials, and marginal miniatures of St. George killing the dragon and St. Martin cutting his cloak (HM 1100)

Text, 1- and 2-line decorated initials, and marginal miniatures of
St. George killing the dragon and St. Martin cutting his cloak.

This is a 15th century parchment Book of Hours manuscript produced in France in the style of the workshop/scriptorium of the Master of the Duke of Bedford. The manuscript (Huntington HM 1100) can be viewed in two webpages of thumbnails, hosted by the Digital Scriptorium. The images above have been slightly cropped - click through for quite large versions - but the host site has very large images available.
"Scholars named the Bedford Master for his work in two manuscripts commissioned by John, Duke of Bedford, while the duke served as regent for Henry VI of England between 1422 and 1435. Of the illuminators active in his workshop, scholars have named the most talented the Chief Associate of the Bedford Master.

The title master implies an artisan who has his own unique style and runs his own workshop or can hire himself out as an independent worker; associate usually refers to a painter in a workshop whose style closely follows the master's style but who also has his own characteristic way of painting. The Chief Associate of the Bedford Master has a style characterized by soft modeling of both flesh and drapery, a fondness for pale colors, and the liberal use of shell gold to highlight forms."

The Guide To Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Huntington Library provides an overview of the HM 1100 manuscript

The actual Bedford Book of Hours is owned by the British Library. This is the point at which I usually hold my tongue, muttering under my breath about the BL's total waste of money on creating the Turning The Pages gimmickry* for a very small number of their precious works, while leaving masterpieces such as the Bedford Book of Hours languishing on a shelf undigitised. For an institution that owns a great swath of the world's document culture, it sure seems to lag behind in terms of %-availability online. Commercial reality I suppose.
Nevertheless, some images from this exquisite work are available, from the Faksimile Verlag site. I can't quite work out the price but on past indications I would expect one of their sumptuous facsimile productions to be north of $10,000. Maybe a long way north.

There's an interesting politico-cultural thread for exegesis in comparing the relatively free and open digitisation attitude in the States -vs- the seemingly grudging, less-is-best and user pays mentality of UK institutions (yes, a great big generalisation, I know). You would think, on first blush, given their respective capitalism -vs- socialism tendencies (and that's another one), that it would be the other way around.

Other things....
  • For anyone not aware, the BibliOdyssey Book, based on this here website, was published by FUEL Design about eighteen months ago and is still available I believe. It will never go out of date. Or style. [announcement; Edutopia; 3 Quarks Daily]
  • Giornale Nuovo has been elevated to the pantheon of history sites where it belongs.
  • Resource Shelf has an overview of the Europeana portal. (I've hardly looked .. yet). Will there be much overlap with the World Digital Library or will this shake out as a regional alignment? Who knows.
  • Google Labs has launched Similar Images (does what it says) [See googlesystems blog]. I've personally found TinEye to be fairly useful. Google seems to use the grunt of their database size (keywords, tagging and the like) to associate similar pictures, whereas TinEye has much more of an image-recognition functionality. Finding specific images on the web can be a very difficult task. If anyone ever wants help to find something - within the wide types of visual material seen on this blog - they are always welcome to ask me:. If it's easy to easy-ish, it's free, otherwise we can discuss a fee.
  • Things I like get posted to the shared feeds or saved at delicious (and sometimes both).


Kittybriton said...

I have to agree with you about the British Library; they have such huge resources available, it seems positively miserly that they should not make more available in digital form. But as you say, that may be due to commercial pressures. I'm not sure if it is still the case, but I remember for a while, museums which had been free venues were obliged to charge entrance.

Karla said...

The palette is really unusually pastel. Or... well, not exactly pastel, but low-saturation. Toned-down. Kind of makes me think of gouache in a way, except I tend to think of gouache as good for matte muddy colors.

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