Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
Manuscript Illuminations

Marginalia. Best of Horae ad usum Parisiensem (“Grandes Heures du duc de Berry”)

  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Book of Hours. Livre d'Heures. Berry. Marginalia. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.

The manuscript known as Horae ad usum Parisiensem originally belonged to John, Duke of Berry. It was made during the first decade of the 15th century.

It contains numerous marginalia illuminations, all intriguing, silly or absurd, that are heavily drawn from previous 14th century manuscripts. John’s mother, Bonne of Luxemburg, owned such a manuscript.

The Horae is a book of hours. Book of hours were devotional manuscripts containing a selection of prayers and religious texts for laymen.

John of Berry owned several books of hours. All of them were lavishly illuminated. However, none was as “vintage” as this one. Nevertheless, every frontispiece displays plenty of little bears and swans, which are emblematic animals to John of Berry.

The bear became Berry’s emblem following his years of captivity in England. It is a pun that plays on the homophony of bear and Ber-ry. Why did John of Berry also made the swan his emblem? It is clouded in mystery. However, we could argue that it reminds the famous Knight of the Swan who’s story is told in many tales and recorded in numerous medieval manuscripts.

Manuscript Illuminations

What is a “Frontispiece” in a Medieval Manuscript?

Illuminated manuscript. Frontispiece. Running Title. Coat of arms. Presentation miniature. Pen-flourished initial. Lettrine. Enluminure. Manuscrit enluminé. Frontispice. Titre courant. Rubrique. Rubric.
Genève, BM, fr. 77, f. 9r

A frontispiece in a medieval manuscript is a fully illuminated folio that is found at the beginning of the text it contains.

It is worth noting that lavishly illuminated manuscripts count several frontispieces. In that case they are found at the beginning of every main section of the text.


A frontispiece usually displays a full or a three-quarter border that is often filled with an abstract floral pattern. It can contain a running title (1), hybrid creatures (2), a coat of arms (3) seldom accompanied by a motto written in a label, and parodic scenes (4).

Many French and Flemish frontispieces also exhibit a sizable miniature. In this case, we’re faced with a prefatory cycle including four miniatures. The first one is what we call a presentation miniature (5) for it depicts the author handing his work to the lord who ordered it. The last three miniatures of the prefatory cycles depicts various scenes of the upcoming narrative. Presentation miniatures are typical in opening frontispieces and have often been subverted to include hints of the work itself.  

A frontispiece is only complete if it also displays the very first lines of the text. It often begins with a red caption, or rubric (6) and exhibits wonderful pen-flourished initials, or lettrines (7).