Santiago de Compostela, Biblioteca Universitaria de Santiago de Compostela, MS 609 (Res.1)

Ferdinand I Book of Hours Facsimile Edition

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A rare example of a Visigothic manuscript made for royal use, the deluxe Book of Hours of Ferdinand I bears remarkable witness to artistic and religious transition in the kingdom of León. Commissioned in 1055 for King Ferdinand I of León by his wife, Queen Sancha, the prayer book combines the Old Spanish Psalter and Canticles, the Latin calendar and litanies, and the Carolingian tradition of private devotional prayer. Lavishly endowed with hundreds of gold initials and seven fully decorated pages, of which four are on purple ground, this unequivocally royal manuscript reinforces Ferdinand’s own imperial ambition while serving as a reminder of the crucial role of noble women in introducing Romanesque forms and the Roman rite into the Visigothic tradition.

The core of the Book of Hours consists of a Psalter, Canticles, litanies, and prayers. A calendar and transcriptions of letters from Florus of Lyons, St. Jerome, and Alcuin form the prefatory material, and a Leonese royal obituary followed by nocturnal offices with musical notations form the final section. Written in Latin by Petrus and illuminated by Fructosus, named in the colophon, this manuscript was made in a monastic center in the north of the Iberian Peninsula.

An Imported Imperial Tradition

On every page, the Book of Hours of Ferdinand I proclaims its royal status. Its full-page decorations consist of an Alpha and Omega frontispiece, in gold on purple ground; an ex-libris made up of purple and gold geometric shapes; a dedication miniature embellished with gold and purple; a display page of gold writing upon bands of blue and purple; a Beatus Vir initial of gold interlace with purple infill; an obituary written in gold on purple ground; and the colophon page written in gold upon a background of dense purple and gold interlace.

Hundreds of interlace and figure initials are enriched with gold and purple. Fructosus skillfully incorporated traditional Mozarabic techniques into the imported Romanesque aesthetic, all the while visually reinforcing the Carolingian and Ottonian imperial associations throughout this royal book.

Visigothic Writing in Purple and Gold

Petrus the scribe wrote in an elegant Visigothic bookhand with Carolingian influence, in a single column of twenty-two to thirty-four unbroken lines per page. The prefatory material and the offices were each executed by different scribes.

The obituary, the colophon, and the Incipit to the Psalter all feature gold display lettering, while the names of Ferdinand I and Sancha in the ex-libris are in silver. Each psalm opens with an initial decorated with gold interlace or human and animal figures, followed by the title in red. Verse initials in gold complete the decoration of the text.

The History of a Royal Manuscript

Produced in the Kingdom of León, possibly in the monastery of Sahagún, the Book of Hours of Ferdinand I arrived to the University of Santiago from the Benedictine monastery of San Martín Pinario after the ecclesiastical confiscations for 1835.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Ferdinand I Book of Hours": Libro de Horas de Fernando I de León facsimile edition, published by Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 1995

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Manuscript book description compiled by Sasha Gorjeltchan.
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Libro de Horas de Fernando I de León

Madrid: Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 1995

  • Commentary (Spanish) by Diaz Y Diaz, Manuel C.; Moralejo, Serafín; Pardo Gómez, M. Virtudes; García Piñeiro, María A.
  • Limited Edition: 420 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Ferdinand I Book of Hours: 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 edition issued on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela.


Full leather with clasps.

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