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Readers opening up the Book of Hours of Marguerite d’Orléans will see the entire late mediaeval world spread out before them. The unexpected variety of scenes from everyday life and the brilliant, warm colours are immediately enchanting. Set at regular intervals, forty-one miniatures of the highest artistic quality ornament the 210 pages. In addition there are twenty-four calendar medallions framed in gold, and forty-two historicized borders, featuring a panorama of the fifteenth century in its many different facets.” [1]. What can I add to this summary of the enchanting manuscript in the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris? [2].

Maguerite d’Orleans was born in 1406 and the granddaughter of King Charles V of France. In 1426 she married Richard, Duke of Brittany. Their joint coats-of-arms and their monogram (“R&M”) are dispersed of this manuscript, which was illuminated by a Breton illuminator around 1430. “The forty-one miniatures of scenes from the New Testament and the images of the saints are among some of the most beautiful of the epoch. The surrounding borders make the book of hours one of the most unique testimonies to feudal life around 1430. First of all, scenes from the Old Testament do not appear in medieval guise. Instead, the illuminator’s imagination never fails to portray the most diverse facets of mediaeval life in an interesting manner: knights prove themselves in tournaments and in battle; pilgrims travel to Santiago de Compostela; grapes are grown on trellises; birds caught and deer hunted; wheat is harvested and ships are unloaded in the harbour” [1]. The Book of Hours was was made for her so that she might practice her devotion on a daily basis. She obtained a declaration from the Cardinal of Estouteville that sheltered her liberty and that of her daughters as they moved among the convents and religious monasteries of northern France. She finally retired to the Abbey at Guiche, order of Sainte Claire near Blois, where she died in 1466 [3].

The first snails appear on folio 23r, where in both lower corners one is located. The heads of the animals are turned away from the reader’s point of view. The shells are in the usual style for this period, with slightly over two whorls and a widening last whorl; irregularly growth striae are shown on the shell, and the aperture is relatively large (‘classical style’). One specimen is dextral, one sinistral.

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Folio 25r shows a snail in the right hand border. It is a dextral specimen, the shell having over 3 whorls, and the animal is figured with two large and two small tentacles. The specimen is whitish and shown without traces of sculpture.
This snail is in a different and unusual style. Has this possibly to do with the fact that “[i]n the 1450s Marguerite d’Orléans had her book of hours updated according to the taste of the times. Etienne Sauderat, from the circle of the Bedford Master, added decorative elements to different borders.” [1]?

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Folio 31r has two snails among grapes in the right hand border. These two specimens are also dextral, with over 3 whorls and a thickened apertural lip. Both animals are shown turned away from the viewer’s perspective, showing two larger, upright  tentacles, and one smaller tentacle directed downwards. Quite naturalistically. They are likely modelled after a Helix species, possibly H. pomatia (L., 1758).

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On folio 75r, also multiple snails are present, all dextral. In the lower left-hand corner one is whitish (‘classical style’); two brownish ones are seen from above and clearly have more whorls, they may thus have been drawn with the Helix type in mind. The brownish specimen in the right hand corner is again in ‘classical style’.

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On folio 82r a whitish dextral snail is seen in the right-hand border. The shell is of the ‘Helix type’, the animal looks somewhat stylised, with two tentacles and an eye-spot.

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Multiple snails are present on folio 89r. Both dextral specimens are of the ‘classical style’. However, one is figured from the side, showing an elongated shell, with the animal upright, its two tentacles with distinct knobs. The second specimen is seen in ‘2D squashed mode’.

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Snails do re-appear on folio 137r, where one sinistral specimen is in ‘classical style’.

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Finally, on folio 167r, there is another ‘classical style’ example, this time as dextral specimen.

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Notes:
[1] http://www.quaternio.ch/en/the-book-of-hours-of-marguerite-dorleans.
[2] BNF, Ms. Latin 1156B, 210 ff. Permalink: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b52502614h.
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret,_Countess_of_Vertus.

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