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 nice vellum manuscript from a French Book of Hours, in the style of a Rouen scriptorium. Written in brown and red ink, the leaf has four large initials in red and blue and burnished gold leaf. Beginning with the large initial "E" on verso the text reads:
Exaudi nos deus salutaris noster et apostolorum tuorum petri et pauli et aliorum apostolorum nos tuere presidijs quorum donasti fideles esse doctrinis. Oratio. Omnes sancti tui quesumus domine nos ubique adiuuent ut dum eorum merita recolimus patrocinia senciamus
This text translates as:
Graciously hear us, O Lord, our Saviour, and protect us with the fortress of your apostles, by whose teachings you have granted them to be faithful. All your saints, we beseech Thee, Lord, help us so that while we commemorate their merits, we may feel their patronage.