A prayer book once owned by Mary, Queen of Scots is to be auctioned by Christie’s in July. The Scotsman, appropriately, brings the news.

Photo: Christie’s. © JPI Media

The small book contains forty miniatures “painted with the utmost subtlety by the Master of François de Rohan, one of the most sought-after artists of the court of King Francis I (r. 1515-1547)” as Fine Books & Collections puts it.

Mary was given the book by her great auntie, Louise de Bourbon, Abbess of Fontevraud at some time between 1558 and 1561 when Mary was already Queen of France.

Photo: Christie’s. © JPI Media

The Queen inscribed the book “Puis que voules qu’issi me ramentoive en vos prieres et devotes oraisons / Je vous requiers premier qu’il vous soviene quele part avés en mes affections”. [As you hereby keep me (?) in your devout prayers, I ask you first to remember what part you have in my affections]. ‘Va Tu meriteras’* her sort of ID motto, is followed by the monogram “MФ” (the initial M of Mary and Greek Ф for her husband Francis II).

The book is expected to fetch between £250,000 and £350,000. This is a lot of money of course, but pales into insignificance when compared to the amounts paid for artworks.  Why is it that Jeff Koons can get $91 million for Rabbit, while this unique little book inscribed by MQoS is only worth one two-hundredth of that? You can see that there’s only one Rabbit or Demoiselles d’Avignon, whereas books are printed in their thousands. But this one isn’t one of a print run; it’s a one-off manuscript with forty pictures by an important artist, and it’s inscribed by the world’s number one romantic crush. Supply it ain’t: Must be demand. I guess the money folks haven’t gotten around to boasting about their books: should we be surprised? We should probably be grateful that the silly money isn’t looking at books, so that someone sensible can still afford them.


* Mary would use this anagrammatic label to sign poems and other writings. It’s an anagram of “Sa vertu m’atire”, I am drawn by His virtue.