The manuscript known as Horae ad usum Parisiensem originally belonged to John, Duke of Berry. It was made during the first decade of the 15th century.
It contains numerous marginalia illuminations, all intriguing, silly or absurd, that are heavily drawn from previous 14th century manuscripts. John’s mother, Bonne of Luxemburg, owned such a manuscript.
The Horae is a book of hours. Book of hours were devotional manuscripts containing a selection of prayers and religious texts for laymen.
John of Berry owned several books of hours. All of them were lavishly illuminated. However, none was as “vintage” as this one. Nevertheless, every frontispiece displays plenty of little bears and swans, which are emblematic animals to John of Berry.
The bear became Berry’s emblem following his years of captivity in England. It is a pun that plays on the homophony of bear and Ber-ry. Why did John of Berry also made the swan his emblem? It is clouded in mystery. However, we could argue that it reminds the famous Knight of the Swan who’s story is told in many tales and recorded in numerous medieval manuscripts.