The Printed Book of Hours from 1525 – A New Acquisition in Context

From 6 December onwards

With the book of hours printed on paper, the Museum Schnütgen has succeeded in acquiring a richly illustrated new object. This small treasure trove of images between two book covers is being shown for the first time in a special presentation, together with a manuscript book of hours and two other hand-coloured printed works. This context exemplarily illustrates the evolution from the hand-made manuscript to the printed book and the creative possibilities of printing.

From the Manuscript to the Printed Book

Books of hours written and coloured by hand on vellum, such as the example produced in Bruges or Ghent, were costly and unique. The colours used for the ornate decoration and pictorial representations were particularly expensive. Lavishly illustrated manuscripts were therefore a prized possession of princely collections. The printing press made this type of book for the daily prayer units, known as the canonical hours, affordable to a wider public.

The recently acquired book of hours was specifically designed as a purely printed work. Printed in two colours with red highlights, each page of the book is embellished with decorative motifs. The fifty-eight full-page and numerous smaller illustrations are executed as finely nuanced graphic works and stand out as independent images in black and white.

The editions printed on vellum were a luxurious variant. The single page from a book of hours is a striking example of this. The depiction of the miracle of Pentecost was printed and then coloured by an illuminator.

From Paris to Cologne

The new acquisition was printed in Paris in 1525 by Yolande Bonhomme. The widow of Thielman Kerver, she ran the printing and publishing house with great success for three decades after his death in 1522. For the 1525 edition, Yolande retained Kerver’s concept of combining old and new images but enhanced the book’s decoration by framing all the images and text pages.

The complex allegorical motif of Maria Immaculata, showing the Virgin Mary surrounded by attributes symbolising her beauty and purity, is one of the older images, which were already designed shortly after 1500.

This image also appears in the Cologne Missal. The missal was also printed in Paris in 1525 for the Cologne publishing house of the Birckman(n) brothers, however not by Kerver, but rather in the workshop of Wolfgang Hopyl. This example shows that special images and motifs did not remain in one printing workshop. Instead, they were often copied or used as printing plates by other workshops. In this way, a number of very interesting pictorial motifs that originated in Kerver’s workshop found their way to Cologne.

The book was acquired with the support of the Freundeskreis Museum Schnütgen (Friends of the Museum), who also made the restoration of the missal possible.


Adult ticket permanent collection: 6 €, concession: 3.50 €

Combo ticket Museum Schnütgen and Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum: 10 €, concession: 7 €
Group rate permanent collection (from 10 persons): 3.50 € per person


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