A Book of Hours from Renaissance Lyon, with miniatures by a Master of Ceremonies

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 18/52

http://openn.library.upenn.edu/Data/0007/lehigh_codex_018/data/web/9146_0030_web.jpg Book of Hours, Use of Rome, Bethlehem, PA, Lehigh University, Linderman Library, Codex 18, fol. 1r (large miniature of the Arrest of Christ and bas-de-page vignette showing Judas Receiving the Thirty Pieces of Silver)

Among the trove of great manuscripts from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, are several richly illuminated Books of Hours. One of these, Lehigh Codex 18, is particularly interesting because of the distinctive style of its elaborate miniatures, which indicate that the book was produced in France, likely in Lyon, in the second decade of the sixteenth century. As the thirteen large miniatures are particularly charming (and totally unpublished!), it seems appropriate to display them in their entirety for the reader. These miniatures are surrounded by rather inventive two-level all’antica architectural frames painted in shell gold (gold powder mixed into a binding medium, as opposed to gold leaf), with the three lines of intervening text transformed into illusionistic scrolls or banderoles. The miniature of the Arrest of Christ, shown above, is the first of this type within the book. It follows the vignette-illustrated calendar and introduces the Passion According to Saint John. Next come the miniatures traditionally found in the Hours of the Virgin.

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Lehigh Codex 18, fols. 21r (large miniature of the Annunciation and bas-de-page vignette showing Musician Angels) and 33v (large miniature of the Visitation with a Handmaiden and bas-de-page vignette showing Joseph and Mary traveling with a Handmaiden)

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Lehigh Codex 18, fols. 41v (large miniature of the Nativity and bas-de-page vignette showing Traveling Shepherds) and 45r (large miniature of the Annunciation to the Shepherds and bas-de-page vignette showing Two Shepherds Speaking)

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Lehigh Codex 18, fols. 50v (large miniature of the Presentation in the Temple and bas-de-page vignette showing Two Prophets) and 53v (large miniature of the Flight into Egypt and bas-de-page vignette showing the Miracle of the Wheat Field)

Lehigh Codex 18, fol. 59r (large miniature of the Coronation of the Virgin and bas-de-page vignette showing Musician Angels)

We then have the two habitual miniatures for the Hours of the Cross and Hours of the Holy Spirit.

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Lehigh Codex 18, fols. 71r (large miniature of the Carrying of the Cross and bas-de-page vignette showing the Flagellation) and 74r (large miniature of Pentecost and bas-de-page vignette showing Saint John the Evangelist and the Virgin Meet a Group of Men)

A striking miniature of Bathsheba illustrates the Penitential Psalms.

Lehigh Codex 18, fol. 77r (large miniature of David and Bathsheba with an Attendant and bas-de-page vignette showing David and Bathsheba with Onlookers)

The “Three Living and Three Dead” iconography prefaces the Office of the Dead.

Lehigh Codex 18, fol. 91r (large miniature of the Three Living and Three Dead and bas-de-page vignette showing the Raising of Lazarus)

Finally, the first suffrage, dedicated to the Trinity, is illustrated with a somewhat unusual depiction of an isomorphic God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, surmounted by a shared, lobed crown.

Lehigh Codex 18, fol. 123v (large miniature with isomorphic Trinity Holding an Orb and bas-de-page vignette showing Musical Angels)

Who painted these minute masterpieces from the early sixteenth century? While we might not be able to identify the person by name conclusively, the artist’s hand is identifiable in a large corpus of illuminated manuscripts. The miniatures in our book are practically identical in style to those of the so-called Master of the Entry of Francis I, the anonymous illuminator so-named after a manuscript now in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, and which contains fascinating illustrations of temporary “tableaux vivants” set-up by the citizens of Lyon throughout the city to greet the French King in July of 1515 as he embarked on his first military campaign to Italy (Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 86.4 Extrav.).1 These ephemeral civic displays were an important part of late Medieval and Renaissance ceremonial culture, and high-ranking artists were often called upon to assist in planning and organization.2 The artist was active in the city of Lyon from about 1485 to 1515. While he remains anonymous, Elizabeth Burin suggested that he may be identifiable with the documented scribe and illuminator Antoine Pingaud.3 Tania Lévy, on the other hand, posited that he might be one and the same with the glass painter Jean Ramel.4 To-date, some twenty-five manuscripts containing his work have been identified, including thirteen books of hours. Miniatures in a further Book of Hours, currently with Les Enluminures, may be by members of his workshop. The Lehigh manuscript represents a new and exciting addition to this substantial body of work.

Wolfebüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 86.4 Extrav., fols. 7v–8r (double full-page miniature showing La Nef du Cerf-Volant)

To get to know the artist’s style, it is best to look first at his eponymous manuscript. The most memorable image from the Wolfenbüttel codex extends across two pages and shows a magnificent “Ship of State” in the waters of the Rhone, an allegory for Francis’ reign. On the left, Charles III of Bourbon is astride the winged stag with his flaming sword, leading the warship, which is in turn commanded by the young king from the forecastle.5 Riding as passengers are the Queen, Claude of France, and her sister Renée. Steering the ship from the poop deck is the Marshal of France, Jean Jaquez. A divine putto, Zephyr, fills the sails with a bellows from the crow’s nest. Obviously, this remarkable image is highly specific and doesn’t lend itself easily to stylistic comparison. But other images within the book allow for a closer comparison to the somewhat more commonplace iconographies found within the Lehigh Book of Hours.

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Cod. Guelf. 86.4 Extrav., fols. 11v (full-page miniature showing Le Clos de France) and 18r (full-page miniature showing Le Baptème de Clovis)

A detailed comparison of our image of the Trinity with the blessing God the Father from folio 18r of the Wolfenbüttel manuscript, for example, shows an identical approach the facial construction, with straight eyebrows, a long vertical stroke to shade the right side of the nose, askance eyes, beards underscored by a black line on one side only, etc…. Note the identical design of the emanating gold rays as well. Clearly, we are dealing with the same painter, perhaps only a few years apart.

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Lehigh Codex 18, fol. 123v (detail), and Cod. Guelf. 86.4 Extrav., fol. 18r (detail)

Another stylistic comparison, this time with a Book of Hours by the Master of the Entry of Francis I today in San Marino (Huntington Library, HM 1181), shows marked similarities between the two Annunciations. While they do not follow exactly the same model (our manuscript shows a kneeling rather than sitting Virgin Mary), the similarities are indisputable, right down to the colors of the floor tiles, the textiles of the canopy, the gold highlights on the virgin’s robe, the angel Gabriel’s brocade, and the view through to the green space beyond. Note also how the stylish frame in the San Marino Annunciation echoes elements from several of the frames in the Lehigh book, albeit in a different combination.

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Lehigh Codex 18, fol. 21r, and San Marino, Huntington Library, HM 1181, fol. 17r

Though we know much about the artist’s œuvre, if not his name, Lehigh Codex 18 provides no secure evidence as to the identity of its original owner. Though the book’s much more recent red velvet binding is decorated with elaborate filigree mounts incorporating the niello arms of the great Italian scholar, poet, and prelate Cardinal Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), these are likely a spurious nineteenth-century addition. Thus, the manuscript and its miniatures provide a good illustration of how patient art-historical connoisseurship and stylistic analysis can often help us understand a context that is all but unrecoverable through other means.

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Lehigh Codex 18, upper and lower covers with filigree mounts and niello arms of Cardinal Pietro Bembo


The Early History of the Lewis Psalter

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 17/52

Gallican Psalter with Canticles, Litany, and Prayers (he Lewis Psalter), Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 85, fols. 1v–2r (historiated initial B with King David Playing the Harp and King David Slaying Goliath; blank page with later prayer to Saint Martial)

One of the glorious treasures of Philadelphia is the so-called Lewis Psalter (Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 185), produced in Paris in the first half of the thirteenth century, likely between around 1225 and 1230. Digitizing and cataloguing this sumptuous book anew was a real thrill, made much easier by the existence of Elizabeth A. Peterson’s excellent Ph.D. dissertation which describes the content all 150 of the manuscript’s historiated Psalm initials (the manuscript is in fact one of only eight surviving French manuscripts from the period to include illustrations for every psalm).1

Unlike some of its better-documented sister manuscripts, however, very little is known about the original user(s) and subsequent owners of the Lewis Psalter. Some later inscriptions within the book might help provide a clue as to where the book was prior to its reappearance in the nineteenth century in the collection of Henry Gee Barnard of Yorkshire (1789–1858). To begin with, an inscription on folio 2r, previously described as a prayer to Saint Martial, written in a what looks like a late-sixteenth-century cursive hand, reads:

Sanctus Martialis discipulus Chri[sti] virgo.

Crux enim domini armatura v[est]ra invicta contra satanam galea / custodiens caput. Lorica protegens pectus, clipeus tela maligni / repellens; gladius iniquitatem et angelicas insidias p[ervers]sae potestat[is] / sibi propinquare sinens nullo modo. Hoc solo signa celestis victoria / data est nobis et per crucem baptisma sanctificatum est

or, translated roughly into English:

Saint Martial, virgin disciple of Christ

The Cross of our Lord is the invincible armor against Satan: a helmet protecting the head, chainmail protecting the chest, a shield repelling evil darts, a sword warding off all approach of iniquity and of the perverse power of evil angels. This, the only sign of celestial victory, is given to us and is blessed by the baptism of the Cross.

This is an image of fol. 2r from Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 185, Lewis Psalter (Paris, France, 1220 - 1245).
Lewis E 85, fol. 2r (with detail of inscription of prayer to Saint Martial)

This unusual text is not in fact a prayer to Saint Martial, the venerated third-century Bishop of Limoges known as the “Apostle of Aquitaine,” but instead an excerpt from Saint Martial’s apocryphal letter to the people of Bordeaux. The text of this letter is preserved in a twelfth-century manuscript from Limoges now at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (ms. lat. 5296A), with the passage discussing the cross appearing on folio 38v. Of course, our early anotator might have been familiar with this passage through another source. The text was widely available in print by the early seventeenth century at the latest.

Vita sancti Martialis, discipuli Christi: authore Aureliano, successore illius atque discipulo. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. lat. 5296A, fol. 38v (Saint Martial’s letter to the people of Bordeaux, with detail of excerpt concerning the Cross)

Another note, on folio 32r of the psalter, is written in the same hand: “Psalmodia, carmen est celeste: et eos a quibus colitur sedulo, ex hominibus in angelos transfigurat,” or, “the recitation of the Psalms is a heavenly song, and transforms those who carefully recite them from men into angels.” The author of the short fragment of text is Louis de Blois (1506–1566), an influential sixteenth-century Flemish Benedictine mystic. The rather lofty phrase stems from one of de Blois’ best known works, the Sacellum animae fidelis or Sanctuary of the Faithful Soul (Louis of Blois, Sacellum animae fidelis, 1575, p. 333).

Perhaps the presence of this quote alongside the excerpt from Saint Martial will one day help clarify this great manuscript’s obscure early history. In any event, it would seem to confirm the manuscript’s presence in a Benedictine institution in the sixteenth century. Given these two pieces of evidence, might we imagine that the book was among the possessions of the Benedictine Monastery of Saint Martial in Limoges, dissolved in the wake of the French Revolution? Raymond Gaucelm, whose abbacy lasted from 1225 to 1245, was known to have been responsible for enriching the foundation’s treasury considerably2 as well as embarking on ambitious renovation campaigns, and his dates would accord perfectly with those assigned to the Lewis Psalter. Could he have been responsible for commissioning the Psalter, or at least bringing it from Paris to the Limousin? Given the fragility of the evidence, this remains merely a hypothetical, though tantalizing, suggestion. More research into Saint Martial’s early library inventories, which do survive, might provide more information.

This is an image of fol. 32r from Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 185, Lewis Psalter (Paris, France, 1220 - 1245).

Lewis E 85, fol. 32r (with detail of inscription with extract from Louis de Blois)

Finally, there is additional evidence to suggest that the Lewis Psalter was used liturgically early in its life, a finding that makes it more likely to have been housed within a monastic institution, rather than having been owned by a high-ranking aristocrat. Written in a different fifteenth- or sixteenth-century hand, a prayer simply entitled “Oratio” on fol. 191v, not previously identified, in fact consists of the Collects for the fifth and seventh Sundays after Trinity. The final word, misinterpreted as the proper name “J. Credor,” is simply the incipit of the Credo:

This is an image of fol. 191v from Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 185, Lewis Psalter (Paris, France, 1220 - 1245).
Lewis E 85, fol. 191v (with detail of inscription with Collects for the fifth and seventh Sundays after Trinity)

While by no means conclusive, we can hope that the identification and transcription of these later additions might help shed light on the history of this wonderful book.


Vigilance and Prudence (and stickers): Books from the Brölemann Collection

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 16/52

Book of Hours for the Use of Rome (Hours of Étienne Thirion), Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1945‑65‑14, inside front cover (with Arthur Brölemann bookplate) and Book of Hours for the Use of Rome (Victorines d’Auxy Hours), Philadelphia Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1945–65–15, inside front cover (with Arthur Brölemann bookplate)

The motley assortment of bookplates, pencil-written price-codes, ballpoint pen descriptions, and, yes, stickers (or rather adhesive labels) that frequently populate the endpapers of many Medieval manuscripts in North American collections may seem extrinsic to the content of a book’s original text and illustrations. Yet there is an elite subset of manuscript scholars specializing in research on the later provenance of medieval codices that has devoted particular attention to such details. Often, their research can help us reconstruct the trajectory of a book that is otherwise lacking in historic ownership information.

Over the past two weeks, we examined the newly-named Hours of Étienne Thirion from the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1945–65–14), both for the fascinating imprints left in the book by an early owner’s eyeglasses, and for the identity of the book’s original owner and the artist commissioned to paint its miniatures. As is well known, the book came to the PMA through the generosity of Mary Shell Collins, who donated this and seventeen other Medieval manuscripts to the museum in memory of her husband, Philip S. Collins, in 1945.1 All but three of the books from the Collins collection are Books of Hours, making it an especially rich trove for this genre.

But who owned these books prior to their acquisition by Collins? The answer is easily provided by the armorial bookplates present in both books illustrated above, as well as a third PMA Book of Hours likely made in Provence (1945–65–8). These are the bookplates of Arthur Brölemann (1826–1904), president of the Tribunal de Commerce of the French city of Lyon and an ardent bibliophile. His Latin motto, “Vigilentia et Prudentia,” could just as well be a maxim for the modern provenance researcher! Arthur had acquired over 4,000 volumes by descent from his grandfather, Henri-Auguste Brölemann (1775–1854), who had formed his own collection between 1824 and his death in 1854.

Philadelphia Museum of Art Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs 1945‑65‑14, Book of Hours, Use of Rome (Hours of Étienne Thirion; formerly the Champion‑Minard Hours), Inside front cover   Philadelphia Museum of Art Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs 1945‑65‑15, Book of Hours, Use of Rome (Victorines‑d'Auxy Hours), Inside front cover
PMA, 1945‑65‑14 and PMA, 1945–65–15, details of two different variants of the Henri-Auguste Bölemann labels

But how do we know for certain that the books first belonged not just to Arthur but also to Henri-Auguste? As it happens, the distinctive blue-edged octagonal number labels found in the lower left-hand corner of the inside front cover of each of these books can be identified thanks to a fascinating blog post by Peter Kidd. As Peter showed, these stickers (which exist in four variants) have handwritten numbers that refer to their position within Henri-Auguste’s collection, as well as price codes that remain to be deciphered. The “A” number refers to the book’s order within what was apparently a handwritten catalogue. A rare printed catalogue of Arthur’s collection, published in 1897 (and available on Gallica), provides a concordance of these “A” numbers as well as a further set of “B” numbers from another early catalogue. And indeed, a “B” number can be found written in pencil (probably by Arthur) on the bookplate of the Victorines d’Auxy Hours. These numbers allow us to locate each book within the 1897 publication with ease (and in fact, in the Étienne Thirion Hours, the 1897 catalogue number is written at the bottom of the bookplate too).


As we can see from the entry in the 1897 catalogue on the right for the Victorines d’Auxy Hours, “B. 71” is included at the bottom, but not the “A 122” number seen on the octagonal label. However, an additional piece of evidence is given in the catalogue entry, namely that the book was part of the famed Yéménitz collection. This is a reference to Nicolas Yemeniz (1783–1871), another great bibliophile based in Lyon. Thus, we now have an additional, earlier piece of provenance information for this book, all thanks to our understanding of a sticker!

All three Brölemann books now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art were sold by Henri-Auguste’s great-granddaughter Blanche Bontoux (Mme. Étienne Mallet according to the nomenclature of the day), on May 4 and 5, 1926, at Sotheby’s London. From there, they were acquired by various booksellers and eventually offered to Collins.

Introducing the Hours of Étienne Thirion, hyperopic Receiver General of Montréal

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 15/52

Book of Hours for the Use of Rome (here identified as the Hours of Étienne Thirion), Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1945‑65‑14, fols. 25v–26r (end of the “Ave cuius conceptio” prayer and beginning of the Hours of the Virgin; owner kneeling in prayer before the Annunciation)

Last week, we examined the fascinating imprints left by eyeglasses in this Book of Hours from the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA 1945-65-14). Today, we’ll take a closer look at the identity of the book’s first owner, and the artist he commissioned to paint the book’s miniatures.

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1945‑65‑14, details of fol. 1r and lower pastedown (catalog clipping from Sotheby’s, London, May 4–5 1926; handwritten 20th-century notes with erroneous identification of heraldry)

When the book was described in the auction catalogue of the Étienne Mallet collection (Sotheby’s, London, May 4-5, 1926, lot 55; catalog clipping on folio 1r), and around the same time on the lower pastedown, it was noted that it displayed the arms of a certain “N. Champion d’Auxerre” or “d’Avalon,” and of “Minard,” the latter interpretation probably based on a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century inscription found on folio 3r.

1945‑65‑14, fols. 3r and 12r (with coats-of-arms erroneously identified as “Champion,” gules, a warrior carnation/or armed with a club and a shield; and “Mignard,” sable a cat sejant argent)

This suspect ownership information was repeated when the book was gifted to the PMA as part of the Philip S. Collins Collection,1 and again shortly thereafter in the supplement to the de Ricci census.2 Also noted in the 1926 auction and subsequently repeated was the presence of a finely written Latin inscription of a certain Stephano Thyrion on folio 2r, thought to be that of a later owner (“Iste heure pertinent Stephano Thyrion Receptore de monte regali”).

1945‑65‑14, fol. 2r and detail (inscription of Étienne Thirion: “Iste heure pertinent Stephano Thyrion Receptore de monte regali”)

Curious about the identity of this “Stephano Thyrion,” and not able to find any Champion or Minard heraldry comparable to that found in the book in any of the regular reference sources, I began to delve further into his name, which seemed to be a Latinization of the French Étienne Thirion. Indeed, some searching through La noblesse aux états de Bourgogne de 1350 à 1789, a nineteenth-century dictionary of Burgundian nobility (for the book’s miniatures appear to have been painted in Dijon–more on that below), reveals a certain Étienne Thirion II, whose father, likewise named Étienne, was “procureur” of Montréal (Monte Regali in Latin) in 1539. A procureur was a kind of public prosecutor or receiver general that can be equated with the Latin “receptore” title found in the inscription. The historic town of Montréal is located about eighty kilometers west of Dijon, today in the Yonne department. The collegiate church in that town contains choir stalls dating from 1522, vividly carved in a style that matches the miniatures of the Book of Hours. One can imagine Étienne coming close to these, when using his book at Mass, and remarking on his own good taste.

How can we be sure that this Étienne Thirion I was the man depicted in the book, and not just the early owner who inscribed its first folio? Crucially, the entry in La noblesse aux états de Bourgogne provides the heraldry of this family: “De… à un guerrier de carnation armé d’une masse et d’un bouclier.” (“Of… [unknown background color], a warrior carnation armed with a club and a shield”). While the fields in the coats-of-arms in our book are most definitely red and the color of the warrior gold and not carnation, this description is sufficiently close, and the presence of a warrior with a club and shield sufficiently unusual, to be able to identify the original owner of the book definitively as Étienne Thirion I, depicted kneeling in prayer with a book in the handsome miniature on folio 25v. Thirion’s coat-of-arms is depicted no less than three times in the manuscript: alone accompanying his portrait on folio 25v, hanging from a tree alongside that of his wife on the armorial frontispiece on folio 3r, and impaled with those of his wife on folio 12r. His wife’s identity remains a mystery, but her heraldry (sable a cat sejant argent) does not seem to be that of the Minard family as earlier descriptions of the manuscript had indicated. Perhaps a ailurophile heraldist will be able to find the answer.

As we already mentioned, the style of the manuscript’s decoration suggests that it was produced in Burgundy, likely Dijon, where in the early sixteenth century a rather scruffy, busy painterly style predominated.3 The presence on folio 3v of an almanac for twenty years beginning in 1518 confirms a date of production on or shortly before that year.

   The martyrdom of St John; with the saint being tortured in a vat of boiling oil on the right and the Roman emperor Domitian sitting on his throne on the left and Latin text in letterpress on the verso. One impression of the 1511 Latin edition of a series of 15 woodcuts. c.1496-7 Woodcut
1945‑65‑14, fol. 11v (full-page miniature showing the Martyrdom of Saint John the Evangelist) and Albrecht Dürer, Martyrdom of Saint John the Evangelist, 1496–97, London, British Museum, E,3.130

While the style of the book’s decoration and miniatures is somewhat rough, the overall effect is not without interest. The fanciful all’antica-style architectural frames are rendered in a thin wash of gold, with definition provided by highlights of reddish orange. Most eye-catching are the full-page miniatures of the Martyrdom of Saint John the Evangelist, the composition of which is based on Albrecht Dürer’s Apocalypse woodcut print from 1496–97, and the Office of the Dead, which shows a group of Franciscan (?) monks and nuns and a man and woman mourning a naked dead body laid on a table.

1945‑65‑14, fols. 68v-69r (full-page miniature showing the Mourning over a Dead Body; beginning of the Office of the Dead)

The artist at work in the Book of Hours seems to be identifiable with the anonymous illuminator who decorated the Hours of Bénigne Serre (1482–1552), dated to 1524 and now in a private collection in Switzerland but fully digitized thanks to the work of the e-Codices project.4 Serre was the son of a Dijon merchant, and was from a similar background as Thirion, having risen through the ranks of local administration to obtain a barony and a seigneury around the time he commissioned his Book of Hours. Though the PMA manuscript is considerably larger and less richly illuminated, the two Books of Hours share some remarkable similarities. Compare, for example, the playful putti and bas-de-page vignettes in both books’ Annunciation pages, or the climbing putti and spiral columns likewise shared across both manuscripts. Thus, in addition to being a convenient resting-place for Thirion’s eyeglasses (we suspect), this Book of Hours also serves as a precious new element in our understanding of sixteenth-century book illumination in the Burgundian capital.5

1945‑65‑14, fol. 26r; Book of hours of Bénigne Serre, 1524, Utopia, armarium codicum bibliophilorum (private collection, Switzerland), Cod. 103, fol. 33v

1945‑65‑14, fol. 11v; Book of hours of Bénigne Serre, 1524, Utopia, armarium codicum bibliophilorum (private collection, Switzerland), Cod. 103, fol. 26v