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 is one large initial in red and blue ink on verso, with a decorative border extending into the margins. The text is from Psalm 83, and beginning with the large initial "Q" on verso, the text translates as:
How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of host!
my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God.
For the sparrow hath found herself a house, and the turtle a nest for herself where she may lay her young ones: Thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God.
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord: they shall praise thee for ever and ever.
Blessed is the man whose help is from thee: in his heart he hath disposed to ascend by steps,
in the vale of tears, in the place which be hath set.
For the lawgiver shall give a blessing, they shall go from virtue to virtue: the God of gods shall be seen in Sion.
There is toning and soiling and some small holes caused by the oxidation of the black ink.