Archaeological Journal/Volume 1/Notices of New Publications: The Illuminated Calendar and Home Diary for 1845

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2828051Archaeological Journal, Volume 1 — Notices of New Publications: The Illuminated Calendar and Home Diary for 18451845Thomas Wright (1810-1877)

Notices of New publications.

The Illuminated Calendar and Home Diary for 1845, copied from the Hours of Anne of Brittany. 4to. London, Longman and Co.

This charming volume is the most successful attempt that has yet been made to reproduce at a moderate expense the rich colouring and effect of the elaborate miniatures which enrich the illuminated manuscripts of the latter half of the fifteenth century. Most of those who have visited the manuscript department of the Bibliothèque Royale at Paris have seen and admired the "Hours of Anne of Brittany," with its numerous embellishments, which may be considered the finest examples that exist of the brilliant school of artists who at that period (it was executed about the year 1499) devoted their talents to this lucrative branch of art. These illuminations consist of a series of subjects connected with each month of the calendar, with borders, Sec, also bearing reference to the season; a considerable number of pictures of sacred subjects; and many other ornamental devices and letters. The subjects of the borders, which are gorgeously rich, are flowers, with various kinds of insects. The volume before us contains the whole of the calendar, with its miniatures and borders. They are partly printed in colours, by Mr. Owen Jones (whose artistical skill in this department is so justly celebrated), and partly coloured by the hand by Mr. Humphries; and by means of both processes the resemblance of the copies to the original is surprising. Twenty years ago no one would have believed it possible to produce such a volume at five times the price, so great is the perfection and facility to which the processes necessary for its production have now been brought. In the part occupied in the manuscript by writing, the editor of the copy has inserted the more useful entries of a calendar for the year 1845, so as to render the ornaments of the past applicable to the present. It forms an elegant and appropriate Christmas gift, and will help not a little to make our countrymen and countrywomen conversant with arts and manners as they existed in former days. We rejoice to see that the publishers intend to issue similar volumes in succeeding years; we hope it may be a profitable enterprize.

We will not undertake to describe the numerous borders of gold and colours, with beautiful and accurate drawings of the flowers peculiar to each season, and hosts of butterflies, moths, beetles, caterpillars, &c. contained in this illuminated calendar. The miniatures of the months are not only attractive as finished pictures, but they comprise faithful delineations of the buildings and costumes of the age to which they belong. The month of January is illustrated by a charming little landscape covered with snow, in the foreground of which a weather-beaten traveller is seen arriving at the place of his destination; an open gallery in the house he is about to enter leads us to conclude that he will be received with the festive entertainment which has always characterized the commencement of the year. February introduces us to the interior of a house in which a portly bon-vivant is enjoying the pleasures of the table beside a glowing fire, whilst an upper compartment of the picture shews us the dreary season without. In March we have the first operations of the countryman, the loppping of trees, while the wife of the labourer is seen gathering the sticks for fire-wood; in the distance a strong castle, with a party of armed knights issuing from its gate, perhaps to indicate that at this period they began to ride forth after tournaments and adventures. April is the month of flowers, and we are presented with a lady (the 'chatelaine' of the fortress seen in the background) in her garden, occupied in making garlands, while her maidens are gathering flowers. In the merry month which follows, we have a singular May-pole, with two youths in front of the picture bringing home their "May," whilst others are seen in the distance marching in procession with their branches. The miniature of the month of June is a charming picture of mowing, executed with so much delicacy that we even distinguish the flowers and weeds among the grass; the back-ground being occupied by a village, and a pretty church in an elevated position in the middle of it. In July we have reaping, with another village and church. In August we have the winnowing of the grain: the back-ground exhibits one of those châteaux or hotels of which we still see many remains in France and Flanders, but of which we have none, and perhaps never had any, in England. The transition from the feudal castle to the gentleman's mansion appears to have been more sudden and abrupt in this country than on the continent. The illumination of the month of September exhibits the process of the vintage, men pressing out the juice of the grapes by treading them in large tubs, bare-footed and bare-legged. In October people are occupied in sowing the earth, and the back-ground is occupied by a pretty landscape, with farmers' houses, and a pond of water with swans. November was the season of fattening pigs, the flesh of which was one of the great articles of food among our forefathers. The swineherds are here represented leading them to the woods to feed on acorns. In the back-ground we have another château. December winds up the series; the pigs are being killed preparatory to the approaching festivities of Christmas and a new year; and the upper compartment again gives us a glimpse of steeples and roofs covered with snow.

This is the general series of subjects which appears in the old illuminated calendars, but varying considerably in the manner in which they are treated, and in the style of execution. A few calendars of different dates, selected with taste, and published during as many successive years, will form a series of volumes beautifully illustrative of the manners and condition of different periods of medieval history. t. w.