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 The Book of Hours

The Books of Hours originated during the fifteenth century. They are beautiful illuminated manuscripts intended for Lords and Ladies. The books were designed to illuminate the Holy Word of God and teachings of Christ and assist with daily prayer and meditation.  The pages overflow with ornate script and richly embellished borders and miniature paintings.  They frequently contained the liturgical hours of the day, prayers, and psalms. The manuscript quickly became a status symbol and all ladies of the aristocracy were expected to own at least one.  According to Medieval historian, Julia De Wolf Addison, "Perhaps more than any books executed in the better period, after the decline had begun, were the Books of Hours, containing the numerous daily devotions which form part of the ritual of the Roman Church. Every Page  well appointed lady was supposed to own a copy, and there is a little verse by Eustache Deschamps, a poet of the time of Charles V., in which a woman is supposed to be romancing about the various treasures she would like to possess. She says:


"Hours of Our Lady should be mine,
Fitting for a noble dame,
Of lofty lineage and name;
Wrought most cunningly and quaint,
In gold and richest azure paint.
Rare covering of cloth of gold
Full daintily it shall enfold,
Or, open to the view exposed,
Two golden clasps to keep it closed."

In Medieval times book illumination materials were extremely costly, and included ground up precious stones and gold and silver leaf. The labour involved was tremendous and illustrated manuscripts often took years and sometimes decades to complete. Only the rich and powerful could afford to purchase such masterpieces. The best illuminators, such as the Limbourg Brothers, were celebrities, highly sought after. They received sumptuous gifts and money from their royal patrons. Amazingly the vivid and dazzling colors have not changed with time.

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