"[Illuminated Leaf]", Anon.
Subject: Medieval Manuscripts
Period: 1470 (circa)
Color: Hand Color
3.9 x 5.2 inches
9.9 x 13.2 cm
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.
This decorative leaf is from a Dutch Book of Hours, written in Haarlem, which gave its name to Harlem in New York. Most Books of Hours were in Latin at the time, and it is believed that this one was translated into Dutch by Geert Grote, who thought that even commoners should be able to read religion books. Geert Groote was an important member of the Brothers of the Common Life, a reform movement in the Netherlands in the 14th century that sought to bring worship and the basic teachings of the Bible to laymen. From then on most Dutch Books of Hours were written in Dutch. This sheet of high-quality vellum is decorated with one small initial in blue and one rubric in red. Starting at the large initial on verso, the text reads:
O almachtich ewich god die de drie coninghen gheleit heves tot dijnre crebbe. Op dat si di mit offerhanden souden aenbeden en heveste se weder om doen keren tot horen lande sonder hinder en scade.
This translates as:
O almighty eternal God, who led the three kings to your cradle. So they might adore you with their offerings and has led them back to their countries without hindrance or damage.