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Hours of the Virgin, in a Psalter

Hours of the Virgin, in a Psalter

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1210

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 157

Item number: f.159v

Length: 29.1

Width: 19

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Used as a prayerbook as well as a book of hymns for church services, the psalter in the later middle ages was often produced with a calendar and additional prayers. Eventually it was combined with an abridged version of the breviary, the prayerbook used by monks, to form the special lay prayerbook, the book of hours. This psalter represents an important stage in this development as it took place in England. It is one of the earliest psalters to include the Hours of the Virgin, a special set of devotions taken from the breviary. Also it is the earliest of a line of richly decorated psalters which were probably made at Oxford, in the workshops by lay scribes and artists, an industry which grew out of book production for the university. The Hours of the Virgin were produced by an artist and scribe less skilled than the team who created most of the book. This page has the beginning of the Hours of the Virgin. The modest initial contrasts with the splendid pictures in the psalter, and the lower level of skill is evident in the picture of a woman who holds up an unfurled scroll, the ancient form of book. Pigments used by this artist also are not the rich colours seen earlier in the book, although gold is still applied to the initials.

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