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 vellum leaf is from an early Breviary written in northern France or Flanders. The text is written in a single column (21 lines) in a clear Gothic book hand in black and red ink. There are four large initials in red, blue, white, and burnished gold, with a decorative border extending into the margins, including a fish at top on the recto.
There is light toning and soiling and some small holes caused by the oxidation of the black pigment.