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.
Magnificent vellum leaf from a Book of Hours. The recto is literally filled with fine decoration all the way to the edge of the leaf. There is a striking, large initial "D" in gold leaf, outlined in mauve and white and filled in with blue, red and green leaves. The margins are densely painted with leaves and flowers and at the bottom are two delightful drolleries: a wolf (or a fox) with a basket on his back from which a goose tries to escape; and a human body with a birdlike head. The text is from the Hours of the Virgin, Sextis, written in a Gothic book hand and includes Psalm 122 and 123. Verso contains several illuminated initials. There is a small hole in the vellum that the scribe wrote around on both sides.
Top margin has been trimmed for binding with a slight loss of the painting. Verso shows some oxidation of color from other side.