The Book of Hours of Besançon is a magnum opus from the workshop of Jean Colombe with a miniature gracing every single page. Beginning with a calendar in French, narrow images featuring the zodiac signs and labors of the month inhabit the side margins. The remainder of the book features the standard collection of texts comprising a Book of Hours in Latin.
Starting with the Gospel pericopes, full-page miniatures regularly announce the beginning of a new text to form a sum of twelve full-page miniatures. Teeming with miniatures painted in vivid colors and highlighted with gold, this codex was undoubtedly a prestige object conceived for a high-ranking patron.
Framed simple red borders, marginal miniatures span the height of the text block on every page and feature an extensive Old Testament pictorial cycle. At the Hours of the Cross, the focus briefly switches course into a Passion cycle before returning to the Old Testament.
At the end of the book, the Suffrages exhibit (at first glance) a marked focus on St. Peter, which may provide a clue to the original commission. While the remainder of the manuscripts appears to be solely the work of Jean Colombe and his assistants, it seems that another artistic personality was responsible for the Suffrages.
Although the copious miniatures steal the show, the fine bâtarde adds elegance to the text and it is used in the scroll captions explaining the subjects of the miniatures. Rubricated in carmine red, many of the prayers are abbreviated. Nonetheless, the text is decorously ornamented by abundant gold initials and line-fillers on blue and red grounds.
Little is known about the patronage and early ownership of this book. An inscription on fol. 13r with an ex-libris of the Benedictine priory of Saint-Désiré at Lons-le-Saunier starts the trail in the late 17th century. Further research will likely reveal more about the enterprising owner.