Altshausen, Herzogliches Haus Württemberg

Altshausen Hours of Mary, Queen of Scots Facsimile Edition

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The Altshausen Hours of Mary, Queen of Scots is one of the smallest book of hours known, and one of the most beautiful examples of Northern Renaissance illumination from the center-west of France. The codex was written and illuminated in the first quarter of the sixteenth century in the town of Tours. With its fourteen beautifully illuminated full-page miniatures and more than 1300 golden initials, the Altshausen Hours of Mary, Queen of Scots is a superb example of the marvelous production of the School of Rouen.

The codex, created between 1510 and 1515, takes its name from Mary Stuart (1542-1587), Queen of Scots, who inherited it following her husband's death.

Illuminated Miniatures Framed by Foliate Borders

The iconography and decoration of the manuscript are stunningly made. Every page contains twenty-one lines of text, which features countless golden initials on colored background, and framed foliate bar borders in paneled form, with sprouting flowers and insects.

The border decoration contains beautifully depicted dolphins and elaborated candelabra-like structures. The manuscript presents fourteen miniatures depicted using the gold paintbrush technique in a context of landscape or detailed interior.

Alternatively, the borders are often decorated with dolphins and candelabras. The miniatures depict popular episodes from the life of Christ, ranging from the birth of the Savior in the stable to his death on the cross.

Commissioned by Francis I, King of France

Among the smallest prayer books known to date, the book of hours of Mary Stuart was commissioned by Francis I to his future wife, Princess Claude, daughter of Anne of Brittany. Queen of Scotland and France, Mary Stuart inherited it upon her marriage with Francis II, grandson of Claude.

The manuscript was subsequently transmitted among high lineage princesses, who traveled in Scotland, England, and France. In 1837, Marie d'Orléans brought it to Württemberg on the occasion of her wedding to Alexander, Duke of Württemberg.

A Beautiful Example of Humanistic Script

The script of the Altshausen Hours of Mary, Queen of Scots is an example of fifteenth-century humanistic script (littera humanistica rotunda). Handsomely simple in its appearance, it was favored in contrast to the Gothic script. In an attempt to restore clarity, the littera humanistica antiqua or rotunda features fewer abbreviations, but several ligatures, and descenders do not extend below the baseline (ex. long s).

Binding description

Unfortunately, the Livre d’heures de Maria Stuart lost its original binding. The current binding is a Parisian work in the style of Frosset's workshop from the time around 1625. The binding features, two silver clasps attached to soft brown leather featuring gold tooling in à la fanfare style.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Altshausen Hours of Mary, Queen of Scots": Livre d'heures Maria Stuart facsimile edition, published by Facsimilia Art & Edition Ebert KG, 1988

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Manuscript book description compiled by the publisher.
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Livre d'heures Maria Stuart

Darmstadt: Facsimilia Art & Edition Ebert KG, 1988

  • Commentary (English, French, German) by Decker-Hauff, Hansmartin; König, Eberhard; Dickman Orth, Myra; Rathofer, Johannes
  • Limited Edition: 980 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Altshausen Hours of Mary, Queen of Scots: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

Facsimile published in co-edition with Deuschle & Stemmle.

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