Mark Lamster | Essays

A Very Good Book

Anyone who sees fit to pontificate on the status and future of the book should be legally obligated to see the Met's exhibition of the Limbourg brothers' Belles Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry. This magnificent illustrated manuscript is in an unbound state (it will shortly be reconstructed), allowing a rare chance to see its pages in entirety.

The Heures is a celebration of many things. The Christian faith. The act of devotion. The duke's patronage. The art of illustration. But also, and perhaps most pertinently these days, it is a celebration of the book. The extraordinary artistry of the Limbourgs' is a testament to the precious value of the book as an object. Books, also, have an unusually strong presence as subjects in the (uncommon) iconography of the Belles Heures. Saints Jerome and Catherine, both known for their scholarly erudition, are featured prominently, often reading and surrounded by books.

In the image of the Adoration above at left, note how books are given pride of place in a temple structure. On the right, monks read during what appears to be a funeral mass. I don't know what the future of the medium holds, but a little of the reverence demonstrated so beautifully in these pages would be much appreciated.

Posted in: Arts + Culture

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