Yesterday The New York Times reported that an upcoming exhibit at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City will feature “framed 15th-century pages that staff members tore out of old books.” As reporter Eve M. Kahn explains, it wasn’t willful destruction of a literary work but rather that staffers “dismantled the bindings for the good of the illuminated parchment pages.”

The colorful and ornate pages are from The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, an illustrated prayer book commissioned by the Dutch royal around 1440. In the 1850s, the manuscript was taken apart by a French book dealer who then shuffled and re-bound the pages into two parts and sold them to different buyers. The deception endured for more than a century until The Morgan acquired the books in the 1960s. The pages had since been re-bound in a single volume in their original order, but that binding was removed to better preserve them.  

Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleeves” opens April 22nd and runs through May 2nd. The display features 93 of the 157 surviving pages. 

[“Mouth of Hell” image courtesy of The Morgan/Faksimile Verlag Luzern]