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 is a lovely, tiny vellum leaf from a Book of Hours created in Flanders around 1430. The book was so small, it must have been the property of a lady who carried it in her purse. The recto has a superb large initial "M" in blue, red, white and burnished gold leaf, with the margins filled with vines, leaves and fruit. The text is from Job 10:8-12, and translates as:
Your hands have made me and formed me all around, and, in this way, do you suddenly throw me away?
Remember, I ask you, that you have fashioned me like clay, and you will reduce me to dust.
Have you not extracted me like milk and curdled me like cheese?
You have clothed me with skin and flesh. You have put me together with bones and nerves.
You have assigned to me life and mercy, and your visitation has preserved my spirit.