Between 1361 and 1384 a group of Augustinian friars created the de Bohun manuscripts at Pleshey Castle. The story about the patrons, the friars and the eleven books is told in a new book
Illuminators & Patrons in Fourteenth-Century England: The Psalter & Hours of Humphrey de Bohun and the Manuscripts of the Bohun Family.
By Lucy Freeman Sandler
The British Library Publishing Division 2014
The Bohun Psalter and Hours (c.1361-73) is one of a series of splendidly illuminated devotional books made in a very distinctive style during the second half of the 14th century for the Bohun family, Earls of Hereford.
The Bohuns are known to have employed John de Teye, an Augustinian friar, as their personal illuminator at their Essex castle of Pleshey. The manuscript was begun for a Humphrey de Bohun, probably vastly wealthy 7th Earl (d.1373), father of Mary de Bohun (d.1394), wife of the future Henry IV and mother of Henry V. It is believed the Earl employed two or more illuminators to work on the manuscript in his own castle at Pleshey, Essex.
The manuscript contains eight large historiated initials subdivided into four compartments, each with a narrative subject.
Above is shown the sequence of the Three Maries at the Sepulchre. To the left of this initial are scenes depicting the death, funeral and catafalque of a knight: his effigy lies on a carved tomb decorated with the arms of the Fitzalans, Earls of Arundel, who made several marriage alliances with the Bohuns. Also there is a vignette showing two men who put treasure into a chest (conceivably a reference to Edmund, Earl of Arundel, executed in 1326 and his treasure seized by order of Queen Isabella).
Recently (2014) a richly illustrated study of this treasure in the British Library, was published. The interaction between the Bohun patron and the Bohun artists is a major focus of the book. Along with a detailed commentary on the manuscript’s more than 300 pictorial subjects from the books of Kings of the Old Testament, the Gospel of Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles, the book includes revised versions of twelve essays originally published between 2002 and 2011 linking the British Library manuscript with others illustrated by the same artists for members of the Bohun family in the second half of the fourteenth century. All in all the group of manuscripts encompass elven volumes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lucy Freeman Sandler is Helen Gould Sheppard Professor of Art History emerita at New York University. Among her numerous publications on fourteenth-century English illuminated manuscripts is the standard survey, Gothic Manuscripts 1285-1385 (London, 1986).