Books of Devotion: A Tour of the Hours at Utah State University: Printed Book of Hours, Use of Rome
The Book of Hours: use of Rome, is an impressively preserved, early printed Book of Hours from the beginning of the sixteenth century. With a full vellum binding and tooled imprint, Rosarium Beatae Virginis Mariae (or Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary), this particular Book of Hours lived a life its printer could have never anticipated.
Coming off the press of the Venetian printer Jacobus Pentius de Leuco, it is filled with impressive wood-cut engravings by the artist Ugo da Carpi, illustrating the life of Christ and prominently featuring his mother Mary. Even more captivating than the impressive handiwork and skill of this book though, are the inked in details added after its production.
In the tradition of its manuscript predecessors, its intent was to serve as a tool in the personal worship of some devout layperson of the 16th century. Printed just prior to the Protestant Reformation, this book wears the scars of the theological turmoil which characterized one of the most explosive periods in the history of Christianity. Displayed here, and throughout the text, selected lines are deliberately censored out, very likely a result of the newly developed critical perspective towards the long established Roman Catholic canon of God’s word.
In its text of the Mass to the Virgin, every reference to Mary is blotted out. Although the ink used for blotting out words has faded considerably, it is still not possible to read the blotted out text. By comparing it to surviving texts of the same litany, however, we are able to see how selectively the censoring was done. Filling in the gaps with the text from the Sarum Missal, we can see that Mary was deliberately removed from her own mass by taking out the phrases, “Spirit and kind comforter of orphans,” “First born of Mary, virgin mother,” “To the glory of Mary,” “Sanctifying Mary,” and “Crowning Mary.” When these phrases are removed, the remaining text is simply the conventional “Gloria in excelsis” said in mass. So, looking at these alterations in the kindest light, we may draw the conclusion that this book’s owner simply had no need to ever say the mass to Mary, even on the designated days devoted to her by the liturgical calendar. In the harshest light, we may conclude that the owner of this book held deep beliefs in opposition to the high reverence of Mary and the prayers offered to her in the Catholic tradition.
Illustrations were an essential feature to the Book of Hours. Just as there were typically expected texts in the Book of Hours, there were also typically expected images. In fact, these patterns were so regular that they provided a specific biblical scene to each hour of devotion. The Hours of the Virgin also has its own set of images. In chronological order, starting with Matins, the following illustrations appear in each hour: The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Nativity, The Angel’s Announcement of Christ’s Nativity to the Shepherds, The Adoration of the Magi, The Presentation in the Temple, The Flight into Egypt or the Massacre of the Innocents, and The Coronation of the Virgin. The Book of Hours under examination here exhibits these illustrations as expected. The artist Ugo da Carpi was a renowned woodcut engraver known for his work on altarpieces, as well as in printing. Though not much is known about him, one can draw a number of conclusions by looking at the detail of his work. His engravings were sophisticated in skill, even exhibiting a command of the new art of perspective. The artist was also bold enough to break with tradition by inserting his monogram into many of the engravings.
The popularity of Books of Hours persisted into and beyond the age of the printing press. In fact, with the help of the printing press, the sixteenth century saw the widest diffusion of these books to date. Those who had been unable or unwilling to pay the price for the luxury product were now able to access these cheaper productions on paper. In the beginning, printed Books of Hours differed from their handmade counterparts only in matters of material and technique. For the most part, the printed Books of Hours were made to resemble the older manuscripts in every way.
Page Written by: Emily Farnsworth
Edited By: Elisabeth Cropper and Branson Roskelly