It is a beautiful Book of Hours from the second half of the 16th century, sober and perfectly leather bound with nerves by the bookbinder Tessier in Amiens, whose name appears clearly at the bottom of the spine.
The book has 189 vellum pages, each one measures 140 x 100 mm. The first page reads: "Le jardinet de l’ame tres bien omé cultivé des plusieurs belles et prouffitables oraisons", which means that there is a special mention of the rich ornamentation of the book.
Illustrations of unparalleled worth
On the title reverse there is a beautiful heraldic emblem, with an inscription in which is possible to read Amiens, although it is a little worn. Throughout the book, there are several illustrations signed by the painter AB Normand: on page 13, the Virgin and the Child; on 26, the Birth; on 26v, the Annunciation; St. Christopher crossing the river with baby Jesus on his shoulder, on 32; the virgin of Puy of 1519 on 73; on 85, St. Dominice and St. Ulfia; Mary Magdalene, only miniature in grey shades, on 97; on 117, St. Francis; on 125, St. Nicolasa, who would be beatified in 1740 and canonized in 1807; and on 157, St. Fermin, who was consecrated by the Bishop of Tolousse and built a temple in Amiens, converting many pagans to Christianity and finally receiving martyrdom.
There are other unsigned illustrations: on page 12v, St. Abraham hermit; on 20, crucified Jesus Christ held by his father; on 20v, St. Mary of Egypt; on 28v, St. Gertrudis; St. Katherine, on 32v; and St. Aubin, on 74. The artist also stamps his signature on the ornamentation of the beautiful page 105.
The colors as a decorative element
This worthy manuscript is written in black and red ink. The red one is used especially used for the headings of the prayers in order to highlight them.
The precious colouring bursts can be found in the decoration text in the numerous capital initials as well as in the sumptuously decorated margins.
The decoration of the type box's framing is extremely varied, and includes vegetal and fruit elements of multiple colours (pages 2, 7v, 25v, 92, 99), fantastic animals and goblins (pages 16, 22, 24, 27v, 33, 146), beautiful fishes of impressive realism (pages 22v and 168), conches (page 16), architectonic elements, human figures (women, musicians, men reading, etc. on pages 13v, 24, 70v, 165) and saints. Because of this rich variety, it is difficult to choose one decoration which stands out in beauty.
Of great interest are also the small size illustrations used to fill in the blank spaces on pages 7v, 25v, 72, 80, 140, 166 and 168. From the very same section it is worth mentioning the portrait on page 171, which might correspond to the author himself.
The Marian thematic
Finally, in this wonderful Book of Hours we cannot overlook an office of the Virgin mass which includes the prayers of the Lord’s prayer and the Creed, a hagiography, (pages 33v-72), a prayer to the Virgin to say in front of the Cross, prayers of sadness, the Virgin’s pain and mercy, Mary’s spiritual jewels, Saint Andrew’s prayer to the Virgin and another by Saint John of Damascus to St. Michael the Archangel, a short prayer to one’s own angel, with others addressed to different saints. Other prayers are said to cure disease, to be recited when passing by a cemetery, to improve weather or to protect against storm, etc.
As can be seen, the variety of prayers is very wide and the Marian thematic is constant. An attentive study allows us to confirm that the Norman painter executes this new Book of Hours by bringing together the hagiography and the prayers of the "Jardinet de l’Âme", to which he adds some prayers to the memory of his parents, Nicolás Casimir Normand and Catherine Faroux, already deceased (page 156) and makes, according to the preferences of his time, a new pictoric version of the patron saints of the French city of Amiens.
Because of all this featuries, it can be undoubtedly claimed that this is a book of significant beauty and personality, of great brightness and formal elaboration.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Garden of soul - Le Jardinet de l'Ame": El Jardín del Alma - Le Jardinet de l'Ame facsimile edition, published by Siloé, arte y bibliofilia, 2010