Book of Hours of Lorenzo de’ Medici

Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Ms. Ashburnham 1874


+39 333 9860 410

Illuminated Facsimiles

Book of Hours of Lorenzo de’ Medici

Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Ms. Ashburnham 1874

ALTERNATIVE TITLES – Libro d’Ore di Lorenzo de’ Medici – Livre d’Heures de Laurent le Magnifique – Libro de Horas de Lorenzo el Magnífico – Stundenbuch des Lorenzo der Prächtige.
PHYSICAL FEATURES – Codex on parchment, size 153 x 101 mm, 472 pages, gilt and gauffered edges.
BINDING – The manuscript retains its original 15th-century binding: velvet-covered boards, boss and cornerpieces with set gemstones, heart-shaped black niello clasps, gilded silver straps with set lapis lazuli.
ORIGIN – Italy (Florence).
CHRONOLOGY – 15th century (before 1488).
PATRONAGE – The Lorenzo de’ Medici Book of Hours was not a prayer book used by Lorenzo the Magnificent. Why then is it called that way? First of all because he commissioned it. But actually the main reason is that the manuscript was recorded in the inventory of Lorenzo’s assets drawn up on his death. Indeed, the powerful lord of Florence commissioned three luxurious «libriccini» (petite books) for devotional use, as a gift to be given to his daughters on the occasion of their wedding. This should have been the gift for Luisa (promised to Giovanni di Pierfrancesco Medici, known as il Popolano), who however died before celebrating the wedding. Therefore Lorenzo de’ Medici kept the codex with him and it was later registered in his inventory assets as Lorenzo de’ Medici Book of Hours. The other two books of hours commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent for his daughters have been identified in the Ms. 16 of the Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor (which was given to his daughter Maddalena, married to Franceschetto Chybo) and in the Ms. lat. 23639 of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek of Monaco (which was given to his daughter Lucrezia, who married Jacopo Salviati).
SUBSEQUENT OWNERS – There are no traces of the manuscript from the end of the 15th century to the mid-17th century. In the 17th century it reached Belgium and entered the collection of Ferdinand de Merode (1633-1679), who affixed his ex libris onto the f. 1v. Subsequently the codex was bought by Count Charles d’Hane de Steenhuyse of Leeuwerghen (1787-1858). The Count’s collection was then bought at an auction by the bibliophile Guglielmo Libri (1809-1869), who after a few years sold his entire (and immense) collection to Bertram Ashburnham, 4th Earl of Ashburnham (b. 1797, d. 1878). The precious book of hours finally found a steady home when the Italian State bought the collection of Guglielmo Libri from Bertram Ashburnham, 5th Earl of Ashburnham (b. 1840, d. 1913).
PRESENT LOCATION – The manuscript is currently kept in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana of Florence, marked with the signature Ms. Ashburnham 1874.
GENRE – Christianity, Private devotional books.
CONTENT – A book of hours is a collection of prayers for the use of the laity: its core is constituted by the Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis (the Office of the Virgin Mary) which – being articulated in the seven canonical hours – gives its name to the volume. The Ms. Ashburnham 1874 opens with the Calendar (ff. 1v-12r), followed by the Office of the Dead, the Penitential Psalms, some litanies and orations, the Major Office of the Cross and the Minor Office of the Cross.
SCRIPT – Littera antiqua.
SCRIBE – Antonio Sinibaldi (1443-1504). Sinibaldi’s works for the Medici family was extensive and his professional career reached its peak between 1484 and 1490. Following the fall of the Medici in 1494 it began his professional decline: the mourner Simone Filipepi wrote that he died «in grandissima calamità e miseria» (in great calamity and misery).
DECORATION – The manuscript has 9 full-page miniatures with decorated borders. It also counts historiated initials and figurative initials. The Calendar (ff. 1r-12v) is illustrated with decorated initials and small framed figures, within simplified or summarily depicted interiors and landscapes.
ILLUMINATORS – The complex decorative apparatus is attributed to the workshops of Francesco Rosselli (1448-1513) and Gherardo di Giovanni di Miniato, also known as del Fora (1445-1497). In fifteenth-century Florence, Rosselli was considered as much as his master – Francesco di Antonio del Chierico – and contemporary miniaturists such as Monte di Giovanni or Mariano del Buono. On the Ms. Ashburnham 1874, as in many other works by him, he worked together with his mysterious Collaborator – e.g. we can find his intervention in the small figures depicted in the Calendar (ff. 1r-12v). Gherardo di Giovanni was an artist devoted not only to miniatures but also to mosaics and painting. He often worked alongside his brother Monte and together they handled an atelier near Piazza San Pulinari. Gherardo also had contacts with Poliziano and – according to Giorgio Vasari – he attracted the attention of the Lawrence the Magnificent because of his «cervello soffistico» (sophisticated brain).
STYLE – Renaissance.

Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles

il Magnifico


Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document – The facsimile reproduces as close as possible the physical characteristics of the original document, with the aim to substitute it in the scientific research and in the libraries of the bibliophile collectors. Trimming and composition of the leaves reproduce the profile and structure of the original document. The binding corresponds to that of the original document as it appears at the present moment.
PublisherFranco Cosimo Panini Editore (Modena, 2005).
Series – Biblioteca Impossibile.
Limited edition – Limited edition of 980 numbered and certified copies.
Certificate of authenticity – The authenticity certificate printed on the colophon bears the copy number.
Binding – Handmade binding by Legatoria Rivani.
Commentary – Italian language commentary volume, size 21 x 15 cm, blue velvet binding with gilded impressions, colour photos, 295 pages. Preface and essays by: Arduini, Franca; Acidini Luchinat, Cristina; Di Domenico, Adriana; Liscia Bemporad, Dora; Regnicoli, Laura. ISBN 88-8290-784-8.
Slipcase – The facsimile and the commentary volume are issued in an elegant double-compartment slipcase in blue velvet with the Medici coat of arms above.

Copyright photos: Illuminated Facsimiles

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Franco Cosimo Panini Editore