Ms. Codex 1056: Illuminated Book of Hours

On June 1, Curator Dot Porter brought out Ms. Codex 1056, an illuminated book of hours written in Rouen, France. It was written ca. 1475, although the binding – leather over board – is slightly newer, dating from the early 16th century. Saint Barbara is on the front cover, John the Baptist is on the back.

We know Ms. Codex 1056 was written in Rouen because of several distinctive details. First, the miniature that opens the Gospel readings is a single scene including all four evangelists – John with the eagle, Matthew with the angel, Mark with the lion, and Luke with the bull. In other book of hours traditions, the evangelists each have their own miniatures. Rouen is the only tradition where the four are presented together.

Ms. Codex 1056, The Evangelists, f. 14r

It is usual for calendars to include miniatures of both the “labors of the month” and zodiac signs specific to each month, but as Lisa Fagin Davis has explored on Twitter, it appears that the replacement of the usual zodiac signs in the calendar with biblical scenes in Ms. Codex 1056 is also specific to Rouen.

We also know Ms. Codex 1056 was written for a woman, because of the woman featured in the owner’s portrait in the Lamentation scene, alongside the deceased Christ and the Virgin Mary.

Ms. Codex 1056, Lamentation with owner’s portrait, f. 114r

You can get up close and personal with Ms. Codex 1056 in the Coffee With A Codex recording, which you can find here.

You can also read the record in Franklin, which links out to digitized copies:

Ms. Codex 1056 on Franklin

We host Coffee With A Codex every Wednesday at 12pm EDT / 5pm BST on Zoom. For a schedule three weeks ahead, visit our main page here.

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