Hours and Psalter of Elizabeth de Bohun, Countess of Northampton

Collection ID





Hours ca. 1330–1335; Psalter ca. 1340






Ink on Vellum


i + 177 leaves; 12 1/8 × 8 3/4 × 3 in. (30.8 × 22.2 × 7.6 cm)

Exhibit Location

On View in The History of the Bible, Translating the Bible

This pair of beautiful 14th century manuscripts that are now bound together belonged to Elizabeth de Bohun, Countess of Northampton (1313–1356). Based on the heraldry present in the manuscripts, she commissioned the Book of Hours while married to her first husband, Sir Edmund Mortimer (d. 1331), and the Psalter while married to her second husband, William de Bohun (d. 1360), first Earl of Northampton and Constable of England. Although there are many similarities in style between the two manuscripts, there are some important differences. The large illuminated initials in the Hours mostly contain floral designs while there are several large historiated initials in the Psalter. The Hours begins with a scene of the annunciation, and the Psalter with the tree of Jesse.

Commissioned by Elizabeth Baddlesmere (1313–1356), the wife of Sir Edmund Mortimer (d. 1331) and later William de Bohun (d. 1360). [1] Acquired by the Clifton family, until 1450; Donated in 1450 to the Dominican Priory in Norwich, until Henry VIII dissolved it in 1538. [2] Acquired by E. Wyndham, Esq. [3] Acquired by John Jacob Astor III (1822–1890); [4] Inherited by William Waldorf Astor (1848–1919); By descent in the Astor family until 1966; Deposited by the Trustees of the Astor estate at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, until 1988; Purchased at Sotheby’s auction in June 1988 by Bernard Quaritch; [5] Purchased by Ladislaus von Hoffmann in 1988; Privately purchased in 2013 by the Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Donated in 2015 to Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC.

Notes: [1] The Hours contains the prayer “Anima Christi” on folio 33v and states that Pope John XXII composed it in in the fourteenth year of his pontificate (1330.) On folio 26r of the Hours, the coats of arms of Mortimers and Baddlesmeres appear at the bottom of the page. Both sets of arms appear at the top of folio 53r, the Beatus page that begins the Psalter. Two sets of arms of the Bohun family appear at the bottom of the same page. [2] A fifteenth century Latin inscription on the flyleaf of the manuscript records that Lady Joan Clifton, the widow of Sir John Clifton bequeathed the manuscript to the priory. John Clifton’s name was added to the calendar for August 27. Another addition in the calendar is the name of George Briggs of Salle on October 13. Briggs was the executor of John Clifton’s will, and a descendant, Thomas Briggs, was the prior of the abbey at the time of dissolution and may have kept the manuscript after the dissolution. Someone recorded the consecration of John Hopton (d. 1558), a former Dominican, as the bishop of Norwich in the calendar for October. Hopton was consecrated in 1554 during the reign of Mary I. [3] A slip of paper was found inside the binding when the manuscript’s spine was being conserved in 1988. It said that James Martin rebound it in 1824 for Wyndham. Martin replaced a binding from 1511. [4] Astor likely acquired it from Bernard Quaritch, since it is listed retrospectively in Quaritch’s “A General Catalogue of Books,” II, 1887, pages 1337–1338, no. 13440. In December 1883, Astor loaned it to an exhibition in New York to raise funds for the building of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The number 1209, its exhibit number, is pasted near the bottom of fol. 52v, which indicates that the exhibit featured the Beatus initial on the facing page. Emma Lazarus composed her poem “The New Colossus” for the exhibit. [5] A preview of the Sotheby’s sale of items from the Astor estate appeared in the Chicago Tribune on June 15, 1988. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1988-06-15/entertainment/8801080419_1_psalter-manuscripts-british-library. The New York Times reported on June 24 that it sold to Bernard Quaritch, a London dealer. http://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/arts/auctions.html.

Selected References:

Steve Green, Jackie Green, and Bill High, “This Dangerous Book” (Harper Collins, 2017).

Lynda Dennison, “The Fitzwarin Psalter and its Allies: a Reappraisal," in “England in the Fourteenth Century,” ed. W. M. Ormrod (Boydell Press, 1986), 42–66.

Lucy Freeman Sandler, “Gothic Manuscripts 1285–1385.”( H. Miller, 1986).

J. J. G. Alexander and C. M. Kauffmann, "English Illuminated Manuscripts 700-1500." (Brussels exhibition catalog, 1973), 98–99, plate 32.

Museum of the Bible Publications:

Ellie Claire® Gift and Paper Expressions, “The Illuminated Psalms Journal” (Worthy Publishing Group in association with Museum of the Bible, 2017).

Ellie Claire® Gift and Paper Expressions, “The Illustrated Word: An Illuminated Bible Coloring Journal”( Worthy Publishing Group in association with Museum of the Bible, 2017).

Karen York, ed., “The Bible Illuminated.” (Worthy Publishing, 2017).

David Trobisch, Jennifer Atwood, Jonathan Kirkpatrick, and Rory P. Crowley, “Verbum Domini II: God’s Word Goes Out to the Nations.” (Museum of the Bible and Abilene Christian University Press. 2012), 101–104.

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