In depth

Books of Hours

What is a Book of Hours?
Use of Books of Hours was widespread in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, above all In France and the Low Countries. These books consist in collections of psalms and prayers (Offices) to be recited at canonical times of the day: matins, lauds, prime, tierce, sext and nones, vespers and compline.
For private use (on the part of members of the upper classes), these works were generally embellished with many illuminated figures, opening with a Calendar.
Between the late Middle Ages and early sixteenth century, these codices – with their bindings designed by highly accomplished artists and craftsmen that remind one of a casket of jewels – were considered true status symbols.

Books of Hours of great beauty were also produced in Italy. We have, for example, the Books of Hours that Lorenzo de’ Medici gave to his daughters on the occasion of their weddings.

“Pocketbook” codices

Since time immemorial, Man has committed his thoughts and recorded his actions on the smallest of pages. One example is the clay tablets of the Sumerians and Babylonians.
In ages closer to our own times, portable manuscripts were made available to travellers, to be hung from the belt or from the cord of the monk’s habit, or were made for the use of ladies (e.g. the Morgan Library’s Book of Hours of Claude of France, which is no larger than the palm of ones hand, or the tiny codex, housed in the British Library in London, with its portrait of Henry VIII, which the unfortunate Ann Boleyn gave to her maid of honour immediately before facing her executioner, in 1536).

Il Libro d’Ore di Lorenzo de' Medici
Il Libro d’Ore di Lorenzo de’ Medici

Il Libro d’Ore Durazzo
Il Libro d’Ore Durazzo

Il Libro d’Ore Ghislieri
Il Libro d’Ore Ghislieri

Il Libro d'Ore di Claudia di Francia
Il Libro d’Ore di Claudia di Francia

Libro dei Salmi di Anna Bolena
Libro dei Salmi di Anna Bolena