Book of Hours were prayer books designed for the laity, but modeled on the Divine Office, a cycle of daily devotions, prayers and readings, performed by members of religious orders and the clergy. Its central text is the Hours of the Virgin. There are eight hours (times for prayer ): Matins, Lauds. Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. During the Middle Ages, the leaves making up a Book of Hours were written by hand on expensive parchment and beautifully illuminated with jewel-like pigments and gold leaf. These illuminated manuscripts combined the collaborative efforts of an array of highly skilled craftspeople; requiring the joint labors of the parchmenter, professional scribes to write the text in Gothic script, artists to illuminate the pages with decorations, and masterful binders to complete the process.
A fine leaf from an early printed Book of Hours. The earliest printers were trained in the manuscript tradition and incorporated the conventions of historiated initials and illustrations into their early work. This example combines the printed text and surrounding metalcut illustrations with hand painted initials. The verso contains a large illustration of the Holy Family's Flight into Egypt. The two smaller pictures to the right depict Jesus and Thomas in the story of John 20: 27. Psalm 109 is continued on the verso with illustrations of Mark with the lion and the Assumption of Jesus and Elia
The bottom illustrations are soiled from the turning of pages, else very good.