A spread from the lavishly illustrated Book of Hours attributed to the Master of the Monypenny Breviary, sold by Christie’s for £1.35m.

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Thought to have been produced in Bourges c.1490, it may have been made for Marie de Balsac, first wife of the noted bibliophile, Louis Malet de Graville, Admiral of France (1438-1516).

Known as the Almanac Book of Hours, it is a work of outstanding iconographic variety, its exceptional border cycles including weeping eyes for the Passion, the planetary deities, the liberal arts, 15 signs of Doomsday and a Dance of Death featuring the illuminator himself.

Some leaves are missing and others later replacements, but the manuscript’s decoration and illumination includes four historiated initials, full borders on every text page, some 400 border miniatures, 26 small miniatures and a dozen full-page miniatures in architectural frames incorporating text.

Given to Mary Stuart


Bid to £250,000 at Christie’s was a 16th century prayer book once owned by Mary Queen of Scots.

Also part of this varied summer sale on July 29 was an illuminated manuscript on vellum that was originally produced for Louise de Bourbon-Vendôme, who spent her entire life at the Abbey of Fontevraud and became its prioress in 1534. At some time in the late 1550s, however, the manuscript was given by her to a grand-niece, Mary Stuart.

Bearing Mary’s inscription and anagrammatic motto, Va Tu Meriteras, along with her monogram, it is illuminated and decorated with a cycle of 40 miniatures by the Master of François de Rohan, one of the more prominent artists working for the court of Francis I.

It is likely that Mary took the prayer book with her when she returned to Scotland in 1561 and it was certainly in England in the late 18th or early 19th century, when it was re-bound by Edwards of Halifax and acquired their trademark painted illumination and decoration under translucent vellum treatment.

In 1775 the prayer book passed to the Hale family of Alderley in Gloucestershire, but came to auction from an American collection.

Though some of the pages have been tightly cropped, as the illustration below shows, it realised £250,000.