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 beautifully decorated vellum leaf from a French Book of Hours. The text is written in a regular gothic book hand, in brown/black ink with the rubrics in red ink. The simple decoration includes large initials in blue, red and burnished gold leaf, each with pen work extending into the margins. There are also line fillers in red and blue. The text includes Psalm 31 beginning with the large initial "B" on recto and translates as:
Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
Because I was silent my bones grew old; whilst I cried out all the day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: I am turned in my anguish, whilst the thorn is fastened.
I have acknowledged my sin to thee, and my injustice I have not concealed.
I said I will confess against myself my injustice to the Lord: and thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sin.
For this shall every one that is holy pray to thee in a seasonable time.
And yet in a flood of many waters, they shall not come nigh unto him.