Book of Hours, c.1450

Scope and Content

Book of Hours. A calendar, in French, with the Hours of the Virgin, Holy Cross and Holy Spirit, seven Penitential Psalms, Litany, together with the Office for the Dead, and memorials of various saints. Illuminated capitals in blue, gold and pink, some with decorated margins, red, blue and black ink for text.

Administrative / Biographical History

During the late Middle Ages, the book of hours developed as a popular devotional text for the laity, who would recite the particular prayer for the hour of the day and time of year according to the ecclesiastical calendar. It evolved out of the monastic cycle of prayer which divided the day into eight segments, or 'hours': Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, Nones, Compline, and Vespers. The demand for a suitable book for private rather than communal devotion produced a smaller portable version with a less complicated liturgy to follow. It would begin with a calendar listing feast days, followed by the seven Penitential Psalms and other prayers, often included at the request of the owner. These books were usually owned by wealthy people and would often be richly illuminated, including miniatures of the Virgin Mary, Christ and saints at the start of each segment, to be used as an aid to prayer and spiritual contemplation. Such books were treasured by the families which owned them and so more books of hours are extant today than any other manuscript book, preserving some of the finest examples of medieval art to survive. A thriving business using professional scribes and artists developed to produce them, purchasers being able to choose from a range of texts and illustrations to create their own books of hours to satisfy their particular requirements.


Single item

Access Information

By appointment with the Keeper of Manuscripts. Access to records containing confidential information may be restricted.

Acquisition Information

Given to the library by Dr George Forbes, son to James David Forbes, in 1929.

Other Finding Aids

Individual Manuscripts and Small Collections database available as part of Manuscripts Database.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Blind tooled calf. Rebound 8 March 1982 by Rafe Fleming.
Binder’s notes pasted on last folio. Embossed 'Heures de la S. Vierge'.Vellum: 11.8x16.7cm.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Maia Sheridan, Archives Hub project archivist, based on material from the Manuscripts Database

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Keeper of Manuscripts. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Custodial History

f.i robert henry [demert?] a [halliny?]. Bookplate of James David Forbes and a note on f.i 'a former possessor of this work had the following memorandum: Avant 1297 manuscrits No 32'.




Fully described in N R Ker and A J Piper, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, Oxford, 1992, Vol.IV (Paisley to York) p.245.