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, as well as vines and leaves in the margins on recto. The leaf includes part of Psalm 148, and beginning with the large initial "L" on recto translates as:
Praise the Lord from the heavens. Praise him on the heights.
Praise him, all his Angels. Praise him, all his hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon. Praise him, all stars and light.
Praise him, heavens of the heavens.
And let all the waters that are above the heavens praise the name of the Lord.
For he spoke, and they became. He commanded, and they were created.