Original Research

The early printed Books of Hours in the Grey Collection in Cape Town: evidence of an information revolution

F C Steyn
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 10, No 1 | a24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v10i1.24 | © 2014 F C Steyn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 February 2016 | Published: 30 November 2014

About the author(s)

F C Steyn, Department of Visual Arts, Art History and Musicology, University of South Africa, South Africa

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Printed books of hours, the best-seller of the late medieval trade in books, provide evidence of an information revolution equal to that occasioned by the Internet today. The Grey Collection of the National Library in Cape Town possesses eight books of hours, printed between 1498 and 1530, and they are almost completely unknown. Yet these valuable incunabula, all of them printed on vellum with hand-painted initials, and some of them with hand-painted miniatures, are of importance to anybody interested in books, the history of the book, the dissemination of information, the art of the late 15th to the early 16th centuries and early printing. They are also religious books, and of value to people interested in that discipline. The books are therefore eminently suitable as subjects for transdisciplinary research through which the subjects of history, sociology, art and religion can be drawn together. Two of these books, printed by Thielman Kerver in Paris, are discussed in detail in this article. The books are especially remarkable for their many illustrations that include pictures around the borders of each page as well as full-page illustrations. The pictures are neither metal cuts nor woodcuts, as were usual in that period, but relief prints. The most important part of the texts is a sequence of prayers to the Virgin Mary. Soon after these books were printed , in 1571, Pope Pius V prohibited the use of all existing books of hours.


Book of hours; incunabula; printing; Grey Collection; Virgin Mary


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