Book of Hours

A book of hours is a Christian devotional book that contains psalms, prayers, and sometimes gospels. Popular in the medieval period, books of hours varied on what they contained. Many books of hours were tailored to suit the specific interest of the patron that commissioned the production of the manuscript. Frequently the patrons of these illuminated books of hours were women. For the first part of this reference guide there will be resources that provide information on book of hours and their relationships with woman patrons. For the second part of this reference guide there will be an array of illuminated manuscripts from the 11th century to the 15th century that are considered to be books of hours. The books that we will be observing in this guide belonged to powerful women who were important in their own communities. As we go through these books, keep in mind that many of these manuscripts show the social class of the women who commissioned them.

Resources that Look at the Relationship of Women And Books of Hours.

1. Susan Groag Bell. "Medieval Women Book Owners: Arbiters of Lay Piety and Ambassadors of Culture." The University of Chicago Press 7, No. 4 (1982): 742-768.

This article discusses woman as agents of cultural change during the Middle Ages through their patronage of religious works.

2. Stein, Wendy A. “The Book of Hours: A Medieval Bestseller.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

This essay deliberates on the emergence of book of hours in the Middle Ages and breaks down what type of hours were made during this time. It also discusses patrons and their relationship with these devotional books.

3. Virginia Reinburg. "For the Use of Women: Women and Books of Hours." Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal 4, (2009): 235- 240.

This article examines the special meaning that book of hours had for women, specifically women from noble and royal households.

4. Laura Light, Anne Winston-Allen, and Sandra Louise Hindman. Women and the Book: In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance . New York: Les Enluminures, 2015.

This book discusses the ownership of books and women in the middle ages.

5. Jenny Adams and Nancy Mason Bradbury. "Introduction: Medieval Women and Their Objects." In Medieval Women and Their Objects. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2017.

This article considers the intersection of objects and women. Discusses how books of hours were thought of as "women's objects".

General Information on Books of Hours during the Middle Ages

1. Definition and general background on books of hours.

2. How these books were produced.

3. Examples of medieval books of hours.

Book of Hours from the 11th Century to the 15th Century

Reference: This Book of Hours is from the second quarter of the 11th Century. It once belonged to Saint Margaret of Scotland (1045 – 1093).1 Flipping through this manuscript the viewer can observe how decorated the illuminations are. In this particular image we have Saint Mark displayed. Observe the color and lining of his robes, the detailed way his robes descends to the ground. Great effort and artistry were put into the illuminations that appear in this manuscript. To have this type of detailing displays the wealth that Saint Margaret was entitled to as an English Princess and Scottish Queen.2 This manuscript is held at the Bodleian Libraries which is located on the campus of the University of Oxford. To view more pages of this manuscript please click on the reference link.

Reference: This book of hours is from the 12th century and it is believed that it once belonged to the Duchess of Saxony Matilda (1156 - 1189), daughter to King Henry II and Queen Eleanor.3 Although it is a rather small book of hours the manuscript is done with great detail. The use of gold leaf is visible, displaying that the patron was able to afford the finer things. This book is now held at The Walters Art Museum. For more information on this manuscript please follow the reference link.

Reference:This book of hours is from the 13th century and belonged to Saint Hedwig von Andechs and later came into the possession of Saint Agnes of Bohemia also known as Agnes of Prague (1211-1282). Although Saint Hedwig is known for her piety she did come from a rich and powerful family.4 Looking at this particular page one can observe that there is a great amount of gold leaf used for this imagery. This manuscript is held at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. For more information on this manuscript please click on the reference link.

Reference: This book of hours is from the 14th century and it once belonged to the Bonne of Luxembourg, the Duchess of Normandy(1315 - 1349).5 Observing the illuminations provided within this manuscript one can see that there is a range of colors used for the illustrations. Blue, red, grey, and most importantly gold can be observed on these opening pages. These type of colors would have required the use of expensive dyes and would have required the patron to be very wealthy. Taking this into account we can determine how powerful the Bonne of Luxembourg was. This manuscript is held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. For more information on this manuscript please click on the reference link.

Reference: This book of hours is from the 15th century and it belonged to Yolande of Aragon (1384 - 1442).6 Yolande was queen consort of Naples, Duchess of Anjou, Countess of Provence, and regent of Provence.7 Notice how each corner of this page is filled with color. The dyes that were used for this manuscript are tempura based, which was rather expensive during this time. To have such a decorative book of hours would have been pricey, but this manuscript portrays the lavish lifestyle that the queen consort was use to. This manuscript is held at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, France. For more information on this manuscript please click on the reference link.



2 Ibid.





7 Ibid.