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 buttery vellum leaf is from a small book of hours with text written in brown ink and illuminated initials in red, blue and burnished gold. Two of the initials on verso have additional pen work in the margins. The text is from Psalm 41, and beginning with the first illuminated initial on recto, translates in part as:
My tears have been any bread day and night, whilst it is said to me daily: Where is thy God?
These things I remembered, and poured out my soul in me: for I shall go over into the place of the wonderful tabernacle, even to the house of God: With the voice of joy and praise; the noise of one feasting.
Why art thou sad, O my soul? and why dost thou trouble me? Hope in God, for I will still give praise to him: the salvation of my countenance,
and my God. My soul is troubled within myself: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan and Hermoniim, from the little hill.