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 tiny vellum leaf is from an early French Book of Hours. The decoration is typical of the scriptoria of Northern France in the second half of the 14th century. There are two large and three small initials painted in blue and red pen work with burnished gold leaf. The text is part of a mass for St Catherine, virgin and martyr.
Dampstains along the edges of the sheet and a small one just along the edge of the text.