Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I


There are six known copies of this prayer book, which was printed on parchment in an edition of only ten copies at the behest of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459−1519) for knights of the Order of Saint George. Presented here is the Munich copy, which is thought to have been the emperor’s personal copy and which is distinguished by the colored line drawings in the margins of the leaves. The drawings are the work of the most important German artists from the time of Albrecht Dürer (1471−1528) and are among the most valuable book illustrations ever produced. Dürer (who executed the marginal drawings in the first ten gatherings) and Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472−1553) drew the illustrations for the Munich section of the prayer book, in which Christian pictorial concepts are lined with the mythological and the profane. The text begins: “A prayer to his own angel. God be merciful to me a sinner. And be you a guardian to me all the days of my life.” A second fragment, of 57 leaves, is in the Municipal Library at Besançon. This part of the work was illustrated by Hans Burgkmair the Elder (1473−1531), Hans Baldung Grien (died 1545), and several other artists. The “Prayer book gothic” type, derived from the Bohemian chancellery script of the late 15th century, together with the rulings, produce an archaic, manuscript-like effect. This copy was acquired in the late 16th century from Perrenot de Granvelle’s collection, probably by Duke Maximilian of Bavaria.

Last updated: August 28, 2015