Book of Hours
: General Information


This book is a 15th century religious manuscript. Such books took months, even years to complete, and were used as prayer books. Like most Books of Hours, this one is in Latin. Books of Hours vary from region to region. This one is use of Angers (i.e., intended for use in and around Angers). It was written in France, probably near Rouen, circa 1490. It has 138 leaves and contains two miniature paintings. Here is an enlarged detail of one of the two paintings, depicting the biblical scene called the Annunciation, in which the archangel announces to Mary that she will be the mother of Christ:

This book was entirely produced by hand. Printed books of hours were beginning to be  produced at about the time that this book was composed, but this is a manuscript book. These books were not made of paper; each page is made from a type of scraped calfskin, called vellum, and is much stronger and longer-lasting than ordinary paper.

The script is a variety of Gothic, known as Textus Quadratus, or square-foot Gothic. Below are two examples of the fine Gothic handwriting, both with beautifully illuminated capital letters and, in one case, a decorated border:

As these pictures show, each page was produced with painstaking care and detail. But what was the purpose of these beautifully crafted books? They were used as guides to prayer. The large letter 'D' in the picture above, right, is the first letter of 'Deus' (i.e., 'God'), and the picture to its left shows prayers addressed to the saints. Saint Ambrose and Saint Gregory are among the saints included in this section.

These Books of Hours were tremendously popular. Merchants, traders, wealthy professionals and members of the nobility - almost everyone who could afford one possessed one. As Professor Edith Kirsch, of Colorado College, puts it: 'We know, given their good survival rate, that Books of Hours must have had the combined popularity of Danielle Steel and Stephen King'. However, the process of making these books was expensive, and beyond the reach of many people. To meet the popular demand for books like this, around the time that this book was produced, printed books of hours were starting to appear. One of the great printers of books of hours was Gilles Hardouyn.


Links and e-mail

*The remaining pages of this web site give a much more detailed account of this Book of Hours. To continue viewing, click here.
*To learn more about Books of Hours and Medieval manuscripts in general, go to the Manuscript Studies
web site, which offers not only a rich vein of information, but also dozens of links to other sites, making it an ideal gateway to further research.
*To find out more about religious manuscripts, take a look at the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library
*This Book of Hours came to me (somewhat circuitously) from Ron Lieberman
*Anyone who wishes to discuss the subject of rare books and manuscripts generally is welcome to e-mail me at


Link to Aquinas Manuscript