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 Tours/Rouen around 1430. The book was so small, it must have been the property of a lady who carried it in her purse. This leaf is part of a calendar for the month of November and details the number of days and moons, followed by the saint's days (with the more important ones written in red). The large initials KL for kalender and the A initials (for Sundays) are beautifully illuminated in red, blue and burnished gold leaf, with vines and leaves in the margins.