The Genius of Drawing

Our catalogue 77 has just been published. For further information please visit our online shop or contact us directly.


In 2013, a heretofore undescribed Parisian book of hours surfaced: it is closely connected with the Valois court of France and the Limbourg brothers from Nijmegen who worked first for the Philip the Bold of Burgundy and then illuminated the Belles Heures in New York and the Très Riches Heures in Chantilly for Jean de Berry and may have been the best Western painters working in the first two decades of the 15th century. The unfinished manuscript contains thirty pages with images left in the state of drawings. In part, they are so splendidly executed as if they were intended to remain uncoloured. The best and most fitting explanation – meticulously elaborated in the text of our monograph “The Genius of Drawing” – for this unfinished state as well as the incredible quality of the pictures is that the book was a commission on behalf of the Duke Jean de Berry destined for a present to his nephew Louis d’Orléans and his wife Valentina Visconti: Louis was killed in November 1407, Valentina died a year after in December 1408.


As masterpieces of the International Gothic around 1400 they shed light on the genius of drawing in a time of the greatest change in art between the Middle Ages and the first attempts toward the Renaissance. They are early witnesses of the fascination Northern artists had with the new discovery of nature in Italian art in the generation just before 1400, and they belong to the very best works which paved the way to the revolutionary development of the Netherlandish primitives from the 1420s onwards who were to astound the Western world with a new liveliness of figures in panoramas of landscape and architecture.


The manuscript’s sensational features are the quality of the drawings, the invention of images, and the power of representation. As a masterpiece by one of the three Limbourg brothers this heretofore completely unknown book of hours enriches in an unexpected way our knowledge of the art of the Limbourg brothers in those years when, in several campaigns between 1404 and 1408, they illuminated the Belles Heures. The Limbourg of Saint Jerome responsible for this project was not forced to contend with borders prepared against his intentions. The small format inspired his astonishing virtuosity. The interpretation proposed here, that the manuscript was planned by Jean de Berry to be a present for his nephew Louis d’Orléans and after his assassination in 1407 was still destined for Louis’ widow Valentina Visconti, unterlines the historical importance of the manuscript.


Above all we may surmise concerning the artist, the patron, and those for whom this manuscript may have been created, the mere existence of this grand book of hours is a triumph of the art of drawing. Its miraculous survival and reappearance has an enormous impact on art history as told today, as it rewrites the story of the Limbourgs, the most famous painters of medieval miniatures.


Perfection in Black and White

Our catalogue 75 can be easily ordered online.

Our antiquarian bookshop set out to accomplish a giant task - and succeeded after 17 years. We own the largest collection of printed & richly illustrated Horae made in Paris between 1487 and 1586. The Bibermühle possesses 375 marvelous exemplars - as many as the holdings of the two largest European collections combined - among them some of the most beautifully illuminated copies known. Others, like our book of hours of king Louis XII, were made for outstanding people of their time. 


Following our three-volume catalogue published in 2003, we will now release the second part, scheduled to appear in 2014/15. Six volumes and 3000 pages, carefully edited and lavishly illustrated, will now complete our catalogue series of outstanding scientific importance. Such an extensive collection is not only rich in remarkable works of art. Numerous rarissima (188) and unique exemplars (94) allow us to revise scholarly opinions that were established a century ago. 


Starting with the earliest known French printed book of hours with border decorations, made in Paris in 1487, the first edition printed in an antiqua type on March 15, 1500, and three exemplars of Vérard's Grandes Heures Royales made between 1488-90, passing by Vostre's, Vérard's and Hardouin's masterpieces made in the first decade of the 16th century and ending with Tory's magnificent Renaissance prints and late gems of extraordinary format, we have collected everything that the connoisseur and scholar could wish for.


To discover and appreciate the beauty and diversity of the early French printed book, based on the most suitable medium, was not only the device leading our work, but is also what we wish for the reader and collector.