Piecing Together the Puzzle of the Hungerford Hours
Cataloguing a manuscript often demands a little detective work, and even more so when the original book is no longer intact. An important 14th-century English Book of Hours has provided a particularly intriguing project of reconstitution. Produced around the year 1330, the Hungerford Hours now exists in a fragmentary form, with leaves scattered around the world in both private and public collections.
A historiated initial 'D'(eus) of the Resurrection of Christ, depicting Christ with stigmata holding a cross and an angel in colours and gold, from ‘The Hungerford Hours’, E. England (?Lincoln or Ely), c. 1330, Add MS 62106, f. 1r
The Hungerford Hours is one of a handful of surviving English Books of Hours produced between the 13th and mid-14th centuries. Other English examples from this period are the De Brailes Hours, the Neville of Hornby Hours, the Harley Hours, the Egerton Hours, and the Taymouth Hours. These books of private devotion are principally formed of a series of eight short services to be read at different times of the day and night, modelled on the Divine Office. The first item is usually a calendar, detailing the religious feasts and saints’ days of each month. Other content includes extracts from the Gospels, Hours in honour of the Cross and the Holy Spirit, the Seven Penitential Psalms, the Office of the Dead, and prayers to the Virgin, the Holy Trinity and different saints.
Miniature of the Annunciation, with the Virgin reading, from the 'Neville of Hornby Hours', England, S. E. (?London), 2nd quarter of the 14th century, Egerton MS 2781, f. 71r
The British Library holds eight leaves from the now dismembered Hungerford Hours: six from the Calendar (Add MS 61887), a leaf from the hour of None in the Hours of the Virgin (Add MS 62106), and a leaf from the Litany (Add MS 72707). These leaves are now available to consult in full on our Digitised Manuscripts website.
Calendar page for November, with roundels depicting the slaughter of a lamb and Sagittarius, from ‘The Hungerford Hours’, E. England (?Lincoln or Ely), c. 1330, Add MS 61887, f. 6r
The Calendar provides many clues to the history of the book. Its origin has been located to the dioceses of Lincoln or Ely because of the inclusion of the feast days of St Guthlac of Croyland (f. 2v), and Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln (b. 1135, d. 1200) (f. 6r) (who features in this blog post).
Detail of the feast day of St Guthlac on the calendar page for April, Add MS 61887, f. 3r
The book is named after the 15th-century owner of the manuscript, Robert Hungerford, 2nd Baron Hungerford (b. c. 1400, d. 1459), whose obit is added to the Calendar on f. 3r.
Detail of the obit of Robert Hungerford, 2nd Baron Hungerford (b. c. 1400, d. 1459), added to the calendar page for May, Add MS 61887, f. 3r
Part of our research into the Hungerford Hours has involved revising the list of identified leaves compiled by M. A. Michaels (‘Destruction, Reconstruction and Invention’ (1990)). Since the publication of his article, a number of leaves have been sold at auction. The British Library acquired Add MS 72707 and two further leaves entered university libraries in the USA: Stanford University Library and the Lilly Library, Indiana University. The leaf held by the Lilly Library bears the probable arms of the Pattishall family, who held land in the East Midlands. Robert Hungerford's sister was married to a descendant of John Pattishall, the possible 14th-century owner of the book, which offers a potential explanation for how it entered the hands of the Hungerford family in the 15th century.
A leaf from the Litany, from ‘The Hungerford Hours’, E. England (?Lincoln or Ely), c. 1330, Add MS 72707, f. 1r
There still remains much work to do on the post-medieval provenance of this manuscript and deciphering when it was dismembered. We will keep you updated as we continue to work on the puzzle of the Hungerford Hours and do let us know if you have any insights to share on its intriguing history!
Janet Backhouse, ‘An English Calendar circa 1330’, in Fine Books and Book Collecting, ed. by Christopher de Hamel and Richard A. Linenthal (Leamington Spa: James Hall, 1981), pp. 8-10.
M. A. Michael, ‘Destruction, Reconstruction and Invention: The Hungerford Hours and English Manuscript Illumination of the Early Fourteenth Century’, in English Manuscript Studies 1100-1700, Volume 2, ed. by P. Beal and J. Griffiths (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), pp. 33-108.
Christopher de Hamel, Gilding the Lilly: A Hundred Medieval and Illuminated Manuscripts in the Lilly Library (Bloomington, IN: Lilly Library 2010), p. 97.
- Hannah Morcos