ALTERNATIVE TITLES – Libro d’Ore di Modena – Libro d’Ore del Maestro di Modena – Master of Modena Hours – Modena Book of Hours – Livre d’Heures de Modène – Libro de Horas del Maestro de Módena – Modena-Stundenbuch – Stundenbuch von Modena.
PHYSICAL FEATURES – Codex on parchment, size 210 x 150 mm, 272 folios (544 pages), gilt and gauffered edges.
BINDING – Crimson silk satin binding, with frames embroidered decorating the perimeter of the boards through vegetable motifs. A round medallion, surrounded by intertwined flowers and ribbons, is placed in the middle of the boards: the face of the Virgin Mary is depicted on the front of the manuscript, whereas a coat of arms is depicted on the back. Spine decorated with a naturalistic foliate design embroidery, arranged over five horizontal spaces. In 2005 the binding underwent restoration. The issue about binding manufacture and dating is still a debated topic today. The only certain fact is that the current binding was made after the codex manufacturing (even if a first woven covering was already made in 1391). Furthermore, the central roundels were only sewn onto the binding long after their creation. The coat of arms on the back board seems to correspond to that of the Bembo family of Venice: this circumstance would date the current binding to the 16th century at the latest.
ORIGIN – The manuscript was produced in Italy, more specifically in a Lombard circle. This provenance is also attested by the selection of saints and blesseds that it was decided to depict (Saint Ambrose of Milan, for example, appears in more than one miniature).
DATING – End of the 14th century (1390). In this regards it is useful the information at f. 59v «Incipit offitium de spiritu sancto. Anno domini millesimo trecentessimo nono […]».
PATRONAGE – The patron of the Modena Book of Hours was a noble from Milan, Balzarino da Pusterla (1340-1407): he was an esteemed court man close to Gian Galeazzo Visconti (1351-1402) and then to his son Giovanni Maria Visconti (1388-1412). The name of Balzarino (simply with the initial B or as “balzarrinus”) appears several times in the text and his portrait with joined hands is inserted in an inhabited initial on f. 71v. The golden coat of arms with the black eagle of the Pusterlas was depicted on the bottom of the f. 13r, at the beginning the Office of the Virgin: but in a later period it was covered by another coat of arms that is probably attributable to the Bembo family of Venice.
SUBSEQUENT OWNERS – The manuscript underwent several changes of ownership. The coat of arms embroidered on the back board (to be compared with the one on f. 13r), testifies the probable belonging to the Bembo family (15th-16th century). In the 18th century the codex entered the collection of the Marquis Tommaso Obizzi del Catajo (1750-1802): his ex libris is applied to the rear flyleaf. Upon the Marquis’s death, his collection of over 300 codices was transferred by testamentary succession to the Duke of Modena Francis IV (1779-1846), and in 1817 it became part of the House of Este library.
CURRENT LOCATION – The manuscript is currently kept in the Biblioteca Estense Universitaria of Modena, marked with the number 842 and the classification α.R.7.3 within the catalogue of Latin manuscripts.
GENRE – Christianity, Private devotional books.
CONTENT – Books of hours were a popular feature of medieval Christianity. They were a compendium of prayers and devotional texts for the use of the laity. The heart of these books was the Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis (Office of the Virgin), frequently accompanied by other texts. As it often happened in the books of hours and other devotional books, in the Modena Book of Hours the liturgical Calendar (ff. 1r-12v) precedes devotional texts: it was consulted by the faithful to remember the principal feasts of the Church and which days of the year were dedicated to the worship of saints. The Calendar and the Office of the Virgin are followed by: the Office of the Holy Spirit, the Penitential Psalms, the Litany of the Saints, some other prayers, the Pericopes of the Gospels, the Office of the Passion and the Office of the Dead, other 28 prayers for the saints depicted in the full-page miniatures. The manuscript also contains some texts to celebrate the Mass: which means that Balzarino intended using it (and having it admired) in church as well. A perpetual calendar and a computus for calculating Easter have been inserted at the end of the codex (ff. 255r-272v). At f. 267r Anselmo Rozio, consistorial lawyer, declares to be in Tivoli and that he drawn up the computus in July 1390, while the plague was raging in Rome.
LANGUAGE – Latin.
SCRIPT – Rotunda blackletter.
DECORATION – The codex includes 28 full-page miniatures dedicated to the festivities of the liturgical year and to some saints (ff. 226v-254v). Episodes mostly from the New Testament are depicted in 21 large historiated initials, often enriched by plant-related friezes frames that embellish the entire perimeter of the page. Different kinds of initials follow one another throughout the pages of the manuscript: decorated initials at the incipit of each paragraph, calligraphic initials in blue or gold at the beginning of sentences and at the incipit of minor sections, rubricated initials in red.
ARTIST – Tomasino da Vimercate, often mentioned as the Master of the Modena Book of Hours. He trained in the workshop of Giovannino de’ Grassi and was very prolific in Milan in the decades around the turn of the 1400s. Tomasino also took part, albeit in a completely secondary way, in the creation of some miniatures of the Visconti Book of Hours.
STYLE – Gothic.
EXTERNAL LINKS – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (digitized manuscript).
Data sheet: Illuminated Facsimiles
officiolo; uffiziolo; Sant’Ambrogio
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.
Publisher – Il Bulino edizioni d’arte (Modena, 2008).
Series – Ars Illuminandi.
Limited edition – Limited edition of 499 numbered and certified copies.
Authenticity certificate – The authenticity certificate is applied on the rear pastedown and contains the copy number and Roberto Bini’s signature for Il Bulino edizioni d’arte.
Printing – Offset printing, with use of stochastic or frequency modulation screening.
Binding – Silk binding, embroidered with decorative motifs along the spine and on the boards. The face of Virgin Mary and a coat of arms are embroidered on the front and back boards, respectively.
Commentary – Italian language commentary volume, size 24 x 17 cm, 127 pages, colour photos throughout the text. Preface and essays by: Aghemo, Aurelio; Di Pietro Lombardi, Paola; Zanichelli, Giuseppa Z.; Ricci, Milena; Milano, Ernesto; Bini, Roberto; Lusvarghi, Angela; Micheletti, Ivana. ISBN – 88-86251-73-4.
Slipcase – Rotating Plexiglas display stand.
ISBN – 88-86251-65-3.
Copyright photos: Illuminated Facsimiles, Il Bulino edizioni d’arte