The Sobieski Hours….

……. exquisite detailed scenes … illuminated text that will not only visually delight but will gratify with their intricate compositions and ‘stories’……. and an enigma as to who commissioned the work; and for whom intended

Click here to receive an illustrated brochure and full details about how to acquire a copy of the facsimile edition of the Sobieski Hours

Written in Latin, the 234 vellum folios were created after 1420. There are sixty full page miniatures and more than 400 illustrated scenes. Each one is exquisitely painted with a wealth of detail in the landscapes, architecture, people and animals depicted. Every text page is adorned with ornate borders.

The combined work of three masters

Given the detail on every folio and the great number of miniatures in the Sobieski Hours, meant not only that the manuscript was created and worked on over an extended period of time; but also that the leading artist, the Bedford Master could not have single-handedly painted them all. As principal artist he was supported by talented collaborators, two of whom have been identified - The Fastolf Master (active 1440-50 in Rouen), and the Master of the Munich Golden Legend (active 1440-50 in northern France).

The Sobieski Hours

The Bedford Master’s distinctiveness lies in his captivating treatment of narrative and in the way the miniatures are arranged into a harmonious and visually pleasing whole.

The Master’s naturalistic scenes are depicted in extraordinary detail and reveal that we have entered the Renaissance era….. flowing robes, realistic postures, figures in motion, eloquent faces…. Intricate compositions have foregrounds, middle grounds and backgrounds. Earlier illuminated manuscripts were never anything like this.


For whom, however, was this remarkable book of hours originally intended? It was thought that Margaret of Burgundy, the oldest sister of Philip the Good, was the first to own the manuscript, suggesting that it was a wedding gift upon her marriage to Arthur III, Duke of Brittany. In the volume of commentary accompanying the facsimile edition, the Bedford specialist Jenny Stratford introduces new research that sheds light on the provenance of the Sobieski Hours

In the seventeenth century, the Sobieski Hours was treasured at the court of the Polish king, John III ­Sobieski. His great grandson, Henry Benedict ­Stuart, Cardinal York, who died in 1807, bequeathed the Sobieski Hours to the Prince Regent, the future King George IV. The Sobieski Hours is one of the greatest treasures of the Royal Library at Windsor, which was created in the 1830s at the instigation of King William IV.


By kind permission of The Royal Collection, a perfect facsimile of the Sobieski Hours has been created. The Sobieski Hours posed special problems to the lithographer to recapture with absolute precision the softly glowing colours that are characteristic of the Master’s work. A further difficulty was matching exactly the rich gold leaf, shell gold and silver decoration on every page. In this superlative facsimile one can distinguish, with absolute clarity, between these three materials and easily appreciate the fine chiselling of the gold. 

Only when every page has been examined and approved by the experts at the Royal Library and the craftsmen at the Swiss printers are the pages trimmed to match the original and the individual gatherings sewn by hand to form the gilt-edged contents binding.


A precise copy has been made to the luxurious 18th red velvet binding of the original with gold corner-pieces and clasps on fore-edge, oval plaques on binding with crowned JRP (Johannes Rex Poloniorum, John King of Poland) monogram in centre.

The book will be presented in an acrylic case for protection and is accompanied by a new commentary volume by the scholar Dr Jennifer Stratford, FRHistS, FSA, who has worked for many years on the Bedford Master.

Click here to receive an illustrated brochure and full details about how to acquire a copy of the facsimile edition of the Sobieski Hours

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