Quilting a “Book of Hours”

Suzanne Marshall
"Book of Hours" - This handmade quilt sewn by celebrated local quilter Suzanne Marshall was inspired by illustrations in a book held in Special Collections at Central Library.

Nearly two years ago, international award-winning local quilter Suzanne Marshall visited Special Collections to view and study a Book of Hours prayer book printed in 1504. She was joined by her husband, Garland, who helped take snapshots of the complex ornamentation which lies inside the pages of the small text. Recently, I was thrilled to see, in person, this stunning HANDMADE quilt inspired by its illustrations!

Book of Hours were popular Christian devotional books in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, both before and after the advent of the printing press. They are often highly illustrated. This particular Book of Hours was printed by one of the most productive and prominent early Parisian printers, Thielman Kerver. He was known as the bookseller located at St. Michael's Bridge, at the sign of the unicorn. The unicorn refers to the double unicorn printer's "device," or mark, that Kerver printed on the title page of his publications beginning in 1497.

Book of Hours title page
Book of Hours title page, 1504. Thielman Kerver's double unicorn printer's mark

Kerver's Book of Hours was printed on vellum, or calf skin, and features colorful hand-illuminated initials throughout. Clearly, every effort was made by the printer to match the beauty of earlier written manuscripts. Every page boasts unusual and eye-catching woodcut illustrations of fantastic beasts and imaginary creatures, many of which captured Suzanne's attention.

Book of Hours, 1504
Illustrations from the Book of Hours, 1504

This quilt and other equally magnificent pieces created by Suzanne are presently on display across the street from Central Library at Art Saint Louis Gallery & Catalyst Coffee Bar, 1223 Pine Street in the historic Park Pacific Building. The Art St. Louis summer exhibit, "Honor Awards 2017," features 50 works by award-winning regional artists and includes mixed media, paintings, photography, printmaking… and handmade quilts! It runs through July 20th.

St. Louis Public Library currently holds two beautifully illustrated books about the craft of quilt-making written by Suzanne Marshall.

Adventure & Appliqué

Quilts From Concept to Contest

Thielmen Kerver's printer’s ‘device’ carved on Central Library
Thielmen Kerver's printer’s ‘device’ carved into a decorative shield on the granite facade of  Central Library
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