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 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 includes 8 initials in red, blue and burnished gold. The leaf includes the end of Psalm 24, and beginning with the large initial "O" translates as:
My eyes are ever towards the Lord: for he shall pluck my feet out of the snare.
Look thou upon me, and have mercy on me; for I am alone and poor.
The troubles of my heart are multiplied: deliver me from my necessities.
See my abjection and my labour; and forgive me all my sins.
Consider my enemies for they are multiplied, and have hated me with an unjust hatred.
Keep thou my soul, and deliver me: I shall not be ashamed, for I have hoped in thee.
The innocent and the upright have adhered to me: because I have waited on thee.
Deliver Israel, O God, from all his tribulations.
Light toning and soiling and a bit of fading of the ink.