Linking fragments of the Chester Beatty Hours


[sine loco], codices restituti

General Information

Title Reconstruction Chester Beatty Hours
Material Parchment
Place of Origin Paris, France
Date of Origin 1408

Original Condition

Page Height 175 – 185 mm
Page Width 122 – 126 mm
Height of Written Area 81 – 83 mm
Number of Columns 1
Number of Lines 15
Ruling ruled in brown ink

187 leaves, later foliation (from at least 1929) in pencil

Current Condition

Dimensions 125 x 180 mm

Book Decoration and Musical Notation

Persons: The design of the miniatures and the borders traditionally have been linked to the Boucicaut Master (named after his Book of Hours for Jean II Le Meingre Boucicaut (1366-1421), Marshal of France), active in Paris between 1400-1430, and now are also the Mazarine Master (named after the Book of Hours in the Bibliothèque Mazarine, MS 469), active in Paris during the first two decades of the 15th century. The output of both workshops is stylistically similar, although the Mazarine Master is distinguished from the Boucicaut Master by his more graceful figures, the variety of his patterned and gilded backgrounds and the softer modelling of drapery. The subject matter, general design and format of the miniatures and the borders of the Book of Hours are closely related to Bodleian Library MS Douce 144 and Walters Art Museum MS 265 suggesting that they were produced in the same workshop.

The darkening along the edges of the leaves and paint loss occurred from water damage, the result of a hail storm in August 1846 that flooded the basement of John Boykett Jarman's London home where his rare books were stored. Jarman contracted the services of London painter Caleb Wing (d. 1875) to 'restore' miniatures and borders spoiled by the water damage. According to conservator Libby Melzer, the over-painting of the four miniatures of these leaves appears mostly consistent with the style and palette of the original illumination.



The earliest documented record of the manuscript dates to the description in the sale catalogue of the collection of John Boykett Jarman (1782-1864), auctioned by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, 13-14 June 1864.

After Jarman's death his collection was sold by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge 13-14 June 1864. The auction catalogue description (lot 47) states that the Book of Hours was "undoubtedly the Prayer Book of the King of France" because its binding displayed his arms. Publisher Edward Arnold (1857-1942), the highest bidder, bought it for the sum of £13 15s. The Arnold collection was subsequently auctioned by Sotheby's on 6th May 1929 (lot 240). Foliation in pencil, in the upper right corner (recto) dates at least from 1929, when the manuscript was part of the Edward Arnold sale.

In September 1929 Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968) purchased the Book of Hours from the bookseller Chaundy, Oxford. Beatty dismembered it and mounted many of the 28 leaves holding miniatures. He kept some for his collection, gifted three to Princeton university in 1931 and sold six through Sotheby's 22 March 1932 (lots 322-327). After his death the remaining leaves were sold by Sotheby's 24 June 1969 (lots  58A-58K). The bulk of the leaves were purchased by English book dealers Alan G. Thomas and Folio Fine Art Ltd.


The manuscript is one of the few securely dated Books of Hours. The date 1408 is  given in the colophon (f. 158v) now held in the Chester Beatty Library. Previously, the colophon was part of the Arcana Collection auctioned by Christie's 7 July 2010 (Part I, lot 22). The scribe has written 'Factum est anno mo cccco viijo quo ceciderunt pontes parisius' - 'made in the year 1408, when the bridges of Paris toppled'. This is a reference to the severe winter of 1407/08 when the Seine River flooded and three of the city’s main bridges (the Petit Pont, the Grand Pont and the Pont Neuf) collapsed and were washed away.

Christopher de Hamel noted the similarity of this inscription and one found in the Bodleian Library Book of Hours MS Douce 144. The date 1408 (anno mº ccccº viiiº) is written in a later hand on the end leaf of the Gospel Lessons, a bifolium held by the University of Melbourne.