A book of hours was a private devotional book, a compilation of prayers and biblical texts to be read at the eight ‘hours’ of the liturgical day beginning with Matins and Lauds in the very early morning and proceeding from Prime (about 6:00 AM) through Terce, Sext, Nones, Vespers, and Compline.
Each book of hours is unique, but by the fourteenth century a structure had evolved which provided for certain cycles of hours, one in celebration of the Virgin Mary, one recalling the passion of Jesus, and one on the Holy Spirit. This particular book of hours contains all three of these cycles and follows the traditional pattern in other ways as well, beginning with a Calendar and starting with the actual text with passages from each of the gospels and with the two traditional prayers to the Virgin.
An illumination on a particular subject marks each new part of a cycle as it moves through the day. In the Hours of the Virgin cycle, for example the Annunciation to the Virgin is the subject associated with Matins just as the Visitation is associated with Lauds, the Nativity with Prime, the Annunciation to the Shepherds with Terce, the Adoration of the Magi with Sext, the Presentation in the Temple with Nones, the Flight into Eygpt with Vespers, and the Coronation of the Virgin with Compline.
All the lines in the manuscript are lightly ruled in red to ensure an even appearance, Each short devotional passage begins with an illuminated letter; decorative illuminated bars fill out incomplete lines. The marks over words indicate letters with have been omitted.