Hours of Henry VIII

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Morgan Library Hours of Hnrey VIII
Calendar page for May Hours of Henry VIII Illuminated by Jean Poyer France, Tours, ca. 1500 Morgan Library MS. H.8

The Hours of Henry VIII is a book of hours currently in The Pierpont Morgan Library where it is known as MS. H.8. The illumination in this book of hours are the work of Jean Poyer, and were created in Tours, France c. 1500. The manuscript consists of 200 leaves of vellum and is 256 x 180 mm (10.07 x 7.08 inches). The illuminations include 55 full-page illuminations. A single leaf of MS. H.8 with a miniature of the Virgin and Child is currently in the Musée du Louvre, Paris. The verso of this leaf contains the final stanzas of the Stabat Mater.

The contents of MS. H8 are fairly typical of a book of hours, as is the order; the Calendar, Gospel Lessons, the Hours of the Virgin, the Hours of the Cross, the Hours of the Holy Spirit, Penitential Psalms and Litany, the Office of the Dead, and Suffrages, with a few fairly standard additional prayers that appear to have been added by different scribes to suit the personal tastes of various owners as the MS. was transferred between owners.

Each calendar page opens with an illumination of a typical labor of the  the month at the top, followed by the actual calendar. The borders of the calendar (on three sides) feature the saints of the month, with a medallion at the center of the bottom border showing the astrological symbol. The prayers in MS. H.8 follow the use of Rome. The calendar is largely Franciscan, with some minor modifications. The script is Bastarda, with the text in a single column of 17 lines.

It is exceedingly unlikely that the manuscript was owned by Henry VIII of England, despite an Eighteenth century anecdote suggestion that it was. The Morgan Library also owns the Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne, MS M.50 which was also illuminated by Jen Poyer. It was commissioned by Anne de Bretagne and produced in Tours, France, ca. 1492—95, before MS. H.8 the Hours of Henry VIII.

Morgan MS. H8 was purchased by Dannie and Hettie Heineman and donated to the the Morgan with the rest of their collection via the Heineman Foundation in 1977. The Morgan Library published a limited edition printed facsimile of the MS. in 2001 for a mere $92,000.00. The facsimile was accompanied by a book about the MS. The Hours of Henry VIII: A Renaissance Masterpiece by Roger S. Wieck, shown at left, which is still available from various retailers.

The entire manuscript has been digitized, and is available online via The Pierpont Morgan Library Hours of Henry VIII.

January from The Hours of Henry VIII

February from The Hours of Henry VIII

March from The Hours of Henry VIII