Les Tres Riches Heures Du Duc De Berry (1416)

This week’s Random Book of the Week was a beautiful bargain find at one of the legendary basement sales at Any Amount of Books in Charing Cross Road. These basement sales tend to turn London bibliophiles into madder versions of their already mad bibliophile selves. I once got chatting to a very old man who, as he cuddled his newly acquired shedload of books, looked at me with wide open, panicked eyes and exclaimed: ‘I CAN’T STOP BUYING BOOKS. MY WIFE IS GOING TO KILL ME’. I could not offer any words of comfort because I knew I was in trouble too. Follow the Any Amount of Books crew on Twitter and get yourself down to one of these bibliophile paradises if you can.

Anyway, Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry is a book of hours – a collection of prayers to be said at the canonical hours – that was created for John, Duke of Berry, between 1412-1416.  Apparently, Johnboy was both a bibliophile (#heunderstoodourstruggle) and extravagant (#richb*stard), so it is no wonder that Les Tres Riches Heures was one of the most lavish late medieval manuscripts created. The book became more widely appreciated in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and is the most famous surviving example of French Gothic manuscript illustration.

This edition includes the calendar images – an illustration for each month of the year, showing images from medieval life, from the toffs enjoying plentiful nosh, to the peasants labouring in the fields even when they are up the duff (see below – plus ca change, mes amies, plus ca change…). The detail is exquisite and I can’t quite do it justice here with my dodgy camera phone. But I hope you get the idea and are able to check these beautiful illustrations out for yourself.


January. I’m enjoying the one green stocking, one white stocking fashion statement going on here. Could be Dalston on a Saturday night in many ways.
February. Cute medieval sheep. I am quite sure that things didn’t end well for them.
September. Spot the pregnant lady, bloke eating on the job, and a 15th century French moony (possibly).

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