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11 July 2013


Henri Bouchot & Anton Einsle:
Printing had been established about twenty years in Paris when Philip Pigouchet, printer and engraver on wood, began to exercise his trade for himself or on account of other publishers. Formerly bookseller in the University, he transported his presses to the Rue de la Harpe, and took for his mark the curious figure here reproduced. At this moment a true shopkeeper, Simon Vostre conceived the idea of launching forth Books of Hours, until then disdained in France, and of publishing them in fine editions with figures, borders, ornaments, large separate plates, and all the resources of typography. The attempts made at Venice and Naples between 1473 and 1476 warranted the enterprise.

Entering into partnership with Pigouchet, the two were able on the 17th of April, 1488, to publish the Heures a L' Usaige de Rome, octavo, with varied ornaments and figures. The operation having succeeded beyond their hopes, thanks to the combination of the subjects of the borders, subjects that could be turned about in all manner of ways so as to obtain the greatest variety. Simon Vostre applied to the work, and ordered new cuts to augment the number of his decorations...

According to his wants, Simon Vostre designed new series of ornaments. Among them were histories of the saints, biblical figures, even caricatures directed against Churchmen, after the manner of the old sculptors, who thought that sin was rendered more horrible in the garb of a monk.

Honorés sont saiges et sots,
Augustins, carmes et bigots,

says the legend. Then there were the Dance of Death and sibyls, allying sacred with profane, even the trades, all forming a medley of little figures in the margins, in the borders, nestled among acanthus leaves, distorted men, fantastic animals, and saints piously praying. The Middle Ages live again in these bright and charming books, so French in their origin, yet withal imbued with good sense and a tolerant spirit...

Pigouchet and Simon Vostre emanated the art of book illustration in France; they worked together for eighteen years, in steady collaboration, and, as far as we know, without a cloud. When Vostre started in business in 1488 he lived in the Rue Neuve Notre Dame, at the sign of St. Jean l'Evangeliste, and in 1520 he was still there, having published more than three hundred editions of the Hours for the use of the several cities.
Below are page images of a Portuguese language Book of Hours for the Use of Rome published by Simon Vostre around 1500. The book is now owned by the Library of Congress:

























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