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 tiny vellum leaf from an Italian Book of Hours. It is illuminated with a very nice blue initial with very elaborate red penwork in the margin. Other initials are in blue, red and gold. The text is in a humanistic bookhand in black/brown ink with the rubrics in red. It is from the Hours of the Virgin, Matins, Psalms 8.
A translation of the Latin text on the recto, the 4th line from the bottom: O Lord, our Lord: how marvelous is thy name in the whole earth. For thy magnificence is lifted up: above the heavens. Out of the mouth of infants and sucklings thou hast perfected praise be-cause of thine enemies: that thou mayest destroy the enemy, and revenger. For I shall behold thy heavens the works of thy fingers: the moon and the stars, which thou hast founded. What is man, that thou art mindful of him: or the son of man, [that thou dost visit him?]