Time to buy a beautiful manuscript: A Book of Hours could sell for $325,000

Later this week, Heritage is having one of its rare books and manuscripts sales with a stunning range of beautiful texts which any bibliophile would be treasure on their shelves.

They are presenting a great offering of major literature for all ages (including a deep selection of inscribed and/or signed first editions from Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Steinbeck) and a considerable grouping of rare early American imprints, two of which come directly from the descendants of George Washington.

There is also a wonderful selection of religious works, an outstanding group of incunables and early printed books, a large collection of Old Master prints, major works by Piranesi and Audubon, a substantial additional assortment of natural history books and prints, a Kelmscott Chaucer, and many other rare titles.

We may look into one or two of these in more detail before the sale, but the likely top lot is a superb example of the Book of Hours (a devotional book popular in the Middle Ages) created by Jean Pichore and Jean Poyet.

Book of Hours
The lavishly decorated Book of Hours

A work of manuscript on parchment in Latin, on octavo pages (6.5 x 4.25 inches), the book consists in 205 leaves, four of which are blank, with two medieval flyleaves.

The book is bound in full seventeenth-century red velvet under elaborate northern European silver-gilt pierced covers with highly detailed motifs of birds, vases, and other subjects.

A superb example, this was crafted for a nobleman from Toul, possibly someone from the Aubéry de Frawenberg family. The beautiful binding was added to the manuscript, which was then called: French Missal - very Perfect & Curious, 1443, Royal Arms.

Book of Hours illumination
Book of Hours illumination

Sometime before 1884, American ambassador to Rome, Viscount William Waldorf Astor (1848-1919, ambassador 1882-1885), bought it for the huge sum of £420. Although this was an enormous price in its day, Astor could afford it, as he was the wealthiest man in America.

The huge price indicates the great value of this manuscript which should make an excellent investment. This week, the work is expected to bring $325,000 or more in Heritage's auction which takes place in New York from April 7-9, with internet bidding available ahead of the time.

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