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 very rare and unusual vellum leaf from a Dutch Book of Hours. The border on the verso is illuminated in a sophisticated fountain-style array of acanthus leaves in red, green and dark blue. This decoration is often found in books illuminated by the Masters of the Haarlem Bible; these masters took their name from a three-volume bible made for the Knights of St. John in Haarlem, Holland. The text is from the Book of Hours translated into Dutch, probably by Geert Groote. Most medieval books were written in Latin, the language of the church. Geert Groote, the father of the Devotio Moderna, or Broederschap des Gemenen Levens as his movement was called in Dutch, was a great advocate of the vernacular in religious books.