Shepherds Purses: manuscript - Bedford Hours

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The Bedford Hours (British Library Additional MS 18850) are a product of a Parisian workshop (despite the English associations) ca. 1430. This workshop produced a number of similar works (including the De Levis Hours and Vienna Hours) that show evidence of having been produced from pattern-books, with some scenes repeated in extremely similar form across several manuscripts. This raises the question of how such pattern-books were developed and circulated. If an illustration of a shepherd with a Shepherds Purse is promulgated through multiple manuscripts via a pattern-book, what concrete "reality" can it be taken to represent with regard to the time and place those manuscripts were created? How long did pattern-books remain in circulation? How far might they travel? To what extent did individual artists elaborate them from their own knowledge as opposed to perhaps copying details they were not personally familiar with?

There are three scenes involving shepherds in the Bedford Hours:

Noah building the ark

marginal illustration

Annunciation to the Shepherds


Backhouse, Janet. 1990. The Bedford Hours. The British Library, London. f. 15b, f. 65, f. 70b

Basing, Patricia. 1990. Trades and Crafts in Medieval Manuscripts. New Ansterdam Books, New York. plate 6