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Morning Prayers for the Office of the Holy Spirit, in a Book of Hours

Morning Prayers for the Office of the Holy Spirit, in a Book of Hours

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1260

Shelfmark: Egerton MS 1151

Item number: f.88v

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 Holy Spirit are short, consisting of only a hymn, an antiphon (a verse sung in response) and a short prayer: This page begins the hour of prime or beginning of the day, about 6 am, itself among the shorter hours recited during the day. The first letter of this book's hour of prime is historiated (bears a picture) with a man sitting up in bed, gesturing to the sun. This early book of hours is decorated with scenes of daily activities, usually coordinated with the time of the hour. This scheme differs from later books in which a standardised set of scenes are used. The eccentric creatures in the margins have nothing to do with the text but are typical of 13th-century manuscript decoration. They enrich and enliven the page, providing the reader with distractions to attempt alternatively to avoid or indulge in.

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