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Morning Prayers of the Hours of the Virgin, in a Book of Hours

Morning Prayers of the Hours of the Virgin, in a Book of Hours

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1260

Shelfmark: Egerton MS 1151

Item number: f.38r

Length: 16

Width: 10.2

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Early books of hours have types of pictures and decoration which tend not to appear in ones made later on, after the programme of subject matter for pictures and decoration became established. This book of hours includes unusual pictures and texts, such as the Hours of the Holy Spirit and of the Passion, which were exceptional in a prayerbook of the mid-13th century. Some of the texts were recommended in contemporary treatises for the devotions of anchoresses, suggesting that it was made originally for such a religious woman. Its calendar of saints' feasts include many that were associated with the West Midlands. The Hours of the Virgin was a gathering of Psalms and other biblical texts. It had been part of the prayerbook used by monks but became the core of the Book of Hours. The Hours of the Virgin provided prayers to be said at certain hours of the day. This is the prayer for prime, to be said early in the morning. The first letter of the prayer is 'historiated' (bears a picture) with a scene of a man, who seems to be standing on the roof of a church beside a steeple. He raises his hands to the sky with stars and sun to depict morning and the hour of prime. The architecture and the starry sky create rich patterns typical of 13th-century decoration. The page is further enlivened by the goings-on in the upper margin: a centaur hunting a rabbit, watched by a green parrot and a strange biped creature.

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