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Book of Hours Website with Annotations

Explore the website featuring the Book of Hours with page-by-page annotations from our curators. This site also offers the ability to zoom into pages and see the beautiful illustrations within The Book of Hours up-close.

The book of hours, the best seller of the late Middle Ages, was a private book used for daily devotions mainly by lay women and men. The text was adapted from the Psalter and the Breviary (the service book for the Divine Office). Its great popularity reflected people’s desire for a more direct and intimate relationship with God, without the mediation of clergy. In the 14th century, illustrated Books of Hours were commissioned by nobles and aristocrats and were produced by lay workshops headed by celebrated painters. By the 15th century, book dealers and lay workshops supplied the growing demand of affluent townspeople. A Book of Hours was more than a compendium of prayers and devotional images, however. It provided its owner with a luxury object that expressed social status, it sometimes humorous illustrations entertained the user, and it served as a family reader used by mothers to educate their daughters.

This book displays the luminous colors and rich details for which medieval books are famous. It contains 13 miniature paintings depicting the Life of the Virgin and Infancy of Christ, the Crucifixion, the torments of Hell, a fully illustrated calendar with Labors of the Months and Zodiac imagery, and 13 historiated initials.

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