CEEH Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica

Luces del norte. Manuscritos iluminados franceses y flamencos de la Biblioteca Nacional de España


Samuel Gras under the direction of Javier Docampo Capilla


504 pages; 330 color illustrations; hardcover with chrome; 21 x 24 cm


Spanish; published by CEEH and BNE; 2021





The Biblioteca Nacional de España (BNE) houses a collection of 156 French and Flemish illuminated manuscripts from the ninth to the sixteenth centuries which are of huge historical and artistic interest. This book, the result of the systematic cataloguing of these holdings by specialist Samuel Gras, provides a thorough codicological description of the manuscripts and a wealth of new information about the attribution of the miniatures and the provenance and dating of the manuscripts. The research has made it possible to clarify the reasons why these manuscripts – some from the French court or brought from Sicily by the viceroys of Naples – found their way into major Spanish collections and to establish the involvement of a few prestigious workshops of which no extant examples were known until now. Prominent among the works studied are several eleventh-century codices, the collection of thirteenth-century Parisian bibles, some copies of the Roman de la Rose, legal manuscripts from southern France and a group of fifteenth-century books of hours.

Although various authors had mentioned these manuscripts, an in-depth study in the light of the latest knowledge of French and Flemish medieval painting had not yet been carried out taking into account the new information on the geographical distribution of the workshops and the identification of the miniaturists. This catalogue raisonné – which has given rise to an exhibition at the BNE curated by Gras and Javier Docampo, former head of the institution’s Department of Manuscripts, Incunables and Rare Books – explores the extremely rich and beautiful collection in great detail through its text and illustrations. 

Samuel Gras, who holds a PhD in Medieval Art History from the University of Lille, has been assistant lecturer at the University of Lille and has been awarded scholarships in Spain, the United States and the Netherlands. He is the author of many studies on painting and miniatures in the Middle Ages as well as on artistic transfers between France, Flanders, Italy and Spain (fourteenth−sixteenth centuries) and manuscript collecting. As a scientific collaborator at the Biblioteca Nacional de España he has helped start up the Proyecto Codex, which sets out to study the institution’s entire holdings of illuminated manuscripts. In this connection he has worked on the Hours of Charles V and has edited the proceedings of the international conference HispaNord / Proyecto Codex together with Anne-Marie Legaré.

Javier Docampo Capilla (1962–2020) held a degree in Art History from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid and was a member of the Cuerpo Facultativo de Bibliotecas. He worked in the Section of Drawings and Prints at the Biblioteca Nacional, at the Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha, and as head of the Library, Archives and Documentation Department at the Museo Nacional del Prado. He was in charge of the Department of Manuscripts, Incunabula and Rare Books at the Biblioteca Nacional de España. His research was centred on book arts (miniatures, engraving and binding), on which he curated exhibitions such as El documento pintado (2000), Bibliotheca Artis. Tesoros de la Biblioteca del Museo del Prado (2010) and La Biblioteca del Greco (2014), all at the Museo del Prado.