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. Four of the initials have additional pen work in the margins. The text includes part of Psalm 41, and beginning at the top on recto translates as:
In the daytime the Lord hath commanded his mercy; and a canticle to him in the night. With me is prayer to the God of my life.
I will say to God: Thou art my support. Why hast thou forgotten me? and why go I mourning, whilst my enemy afflicteth me?
Whilst my bones are broken, my enemies who trouble me have reproached me; Whilst they say to me day be day: Where is thy God?
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why dost thou disquiet me? Hope thou in God, for I will still give praise to him: the salvation of my countenance, and my God.