Books of Hours
The book of hours, the most beloved type of medieval manuscript, is a specially-designed prayer book for personal use both in private and in public masses based upon the “offices” or official prayers that were to be said at different intervals of the day – hence the name.
These were typically made for laypersons in artists’ workshops rather than monastic scriptoria, and as such the actual wording of the prayers contained in them can vary widely from region to region. Most were small enough that they could be carried on one’s person, like the Hours of Jeanne D’Evreux and were decorated in such a way that they were also fashion accessories. As such, they were highly personalized and usually featured a dedication page with their escutcheon and might even be portrayed in one or more miniatures in the text.
Some of the first big-name artists like the Limbourg Brothers, Simon Bening, and Gerard Horenbout emerged as a result of this popularity, although some of the greatest masters remain anonymous, known only by their names of convenience. The personalized book of hours is a useful window into the lives and perceptions of some of the most important figures of the Middle Ages.