Book of Hours: Description of Contents (1)   

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A Book of Hours begins with a Calendar. The calendar was a guide to the use of the book. It was referred to, rather than read. In this case, the calendar pages are fairly simple and practical, as can be seen from the picture below, which has the second half of November on the left and the first half of  December on the right. The Latin numbers at the left of the page are called "Golden Numbers", which were used to calculate the date of Easter and other festivals whose date was determined by the moon. The repeated series of letters (from "a" to "g") represents the seven days of the week (which of course would change from year to year). Each month begins with the illuminated letters "KL" ("Kalends") , and states how many days there were in the month. (The illuminated "KL" for January has been cut out of this Book of Hours.) December, for example, begins with "December habet dies xxxi" ("December has 31 days"). Days are recorded according to the festivals celebrating the saints. Less important celebrations are marked in black, and

the more important festivals are marked in red. This is the origin of the expression "red-letter day," meaning a very important fixture or event.
    Depending on exactly which saints are listed in the calendar, it is possible to determine the area in which a Book of Hours was intended to be used and (sometimes) the area in which it was written. This Book of Hours was use of Angers, and probably written in or near Rouen, in France.

    The first Hour of the Virgin (Matins) begins as shown in the picture on the left. Like the rest of the Hours, it begins with a versicle (in this case, "Domine labia mea aperies" - "Lord, thou shalt open my lips"), followed by a response("Et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam" - "And my mouth shall sing thy praise"). These words are the standard beginning to the Hours of the Virgin in all Books of Hours.

    These details from the border to this page show a curious dwarf-like figure and a game bird. Such figures were common in

Books of Hours, but their precise meaning is, in many cases, still a mystery.

    The remaining seven Hours are introduced by a specially illuminated page, like this, which is the start of Sext: