The Visual Culture of Fifteenth-Century England

  • Colin Richmond
Part of the Problems in Focus book series (PFS)


Liverpool Cathedral MS 6 is a tiny and unusual book: it is of the hours of the guardian angel and no bigger than three inches by two. It was made in England in the second half of the fifteenth century. It has one illustration: of a kneeling woman, presumably the donor, presenting a book, presumably this book, to a queen, presumably Elizabeth Woodville. If one is to believe that the initial letters of a sixteen-line poem addressed to ‘a Lady souereyne princess’, which opens the book, spell her name, the donor is Elizabeth [a] Timraw. Elizabeth is presumed to have written the book as well as the poem, the presumption must also be that she has painted the picture, as she writes in the poems: the book ‘shulde have bene moche more illumynid withe pleasure Ande if I had tyme’. Not money, we should note. The book is not striking because it was written and illuminated by a woman, but because Elizabeth was an English woman and her book is an English book. To see it, as I recently saw it at the exhibition of ‘Medieval Manuscripts on Merseyside’ in Liverpool, surrounded by books made in the Low Countries, France, Italy, even Germany, is to be made immediately aware of how bad a book it is. I mean: how poor in quality of production. This is particularly true of the single illustration.


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
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    I am deeply grateful to Mr John Lunn of Dunstable for taking me to Luton Museum to show me the two registers and for discussing them with me. Both deserves to be far more widely known.Google Scholar
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    The extremes are marked in the life of his father. In 1456 at Coventry Richard Woodville, Lord Rivers, watched the tableaux and pageants with Queen Margaret of Anjou and drank a glass of rosewater, which cost the mayor two shillings. Thirteen years later, his own daughter having become queen, he was beheaded on Gosford Green at Coventry: did he, or anyone else, remember the days of wine and rosewater? See M. D. Harris (ed.), The Coventry Leet Book, Part II (EETS, 1908), pp. 292, 346.Google Scholar
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© Colin Richmond 1995

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  • Colin Richmond

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