This magnificent manuscript was made in France and adapted for John, Duke of Bedford, and to celebrate his marriage to Anne of Burgundy, daughter of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Seven years after later, on Christmas Eve, 1430, Anne gave the manuscript as a present to her husband's young nephew, Henry VI, who had been proclaimed king in 1422 when not yet nine months old. John, as a younger brother of Henry V ruled as Regent for his nephew.

It is a book of hours, and includes a sequence of eight short services intended for recitation at intervals during each day. These follow the same pattern as those in religious communities and have the same names: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline.

This manuscript is exceptional for the extent of its illustration, with approximately 1,250 marginal roundels. It is one of the most lavishly illustrated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. It is written in Latin and French on vellum.

In the first image displayed here we can see the building of the Tower of Babel after the Great Flood, events recorded in the book of Genesis. According to the biblical account the people built the tower in an attempt to reach the heavens, God punishing their actions by creating different languages and ensuring they were unable to understand each other. 

Other images featured here include one of Noah's Ark after the Flood, and one of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and his realisation that he will be crucified.

The artist has represented these predetermined events with vivid and meticulous detail in the sky above, like a vision.

See more of the Bedford Hours on Turning the Pages™ and Digitised Manuscripts.

Full title:
Book of Hours (the 'Bedford Hours')
c. 1410–1430 , France
Manuscript / Parchment Codex / Illuminated manuscript
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 18850

Full catalogue details

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Illuminated manuscripts

Article by:
The British Library

Wonder at these amazing hand-painted books of past ages and marvel at the vibrant colours used – these are works of art that were made for kings and queens, monasteries, bishops and counts.

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