Four leaves from a Book of Hours, about 1470. Museum no. 9015A

Four leaves from a Book of Hours, about 1470. Museum no. 9015A

Four leaves from a Book of Hours
France
About 1470
Museum no. 9015A, 9015B, 9015C, 9015D (clockwise from the top left corner)

These four pages are from a French book of hours of about 1470-80. Books of hours were prayer books, not for monks or priests, but for ordinary people. They were produced in great numbers in lay workshops. They are small and often highly decorated and were intended for reading in the home.

The owner of a book of hours was meant to stop eight times a day and read the appropriate text just as those in monastic orders would do. The central text in a book of hours was the Hours of the Virgin, comprising prayers and psalms intended to be used in honour of the Virgin Mary at particular hours of the day (Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline).These four pages show clockwise from the top left corner:

  • The Annunciation to the Shepherds (9015A) from Terce, which is the prayer said at approximately 9 am
  • The Adoration of the Magi (9015B) from Sext, which is the prayer said at approximately 12 noon
  • The Coronation of the Virgin (9015C) from Compline, which is the prayer said at approximately 6 pm
  • The Raising of Lazarus (9015D) from the Office of the Dead, which is a long section, generally towards the end of the book, intended to be said around the bier of a dead person. It is said daily as a reminder of one's own mortality.

Pictures or miniatures which appear at the beginning of the text guided the thoughts of the user. The border decoration of acanthus sprays in blue and brushed gold, and flowers, berries and gold dots on string stems, are in a conventional style probably executed by junior illuminators. They probably worked on contract to the illuminator or bookseller who had taken the order from the customer.

Those buying books of hours could specify the inclusion of prayers to saints for whom they had a particular attachment.

 

This print can be found in Print Room Box 11a.