The Salisbury Book of Hours

J.P. Harthan describes The Salisbury Book of Hours; compiled in Rouen about 1425, the prayer-book owes its name to one of the best English commanders in France.

Books of hours today form the largest category of illuminated manuscripts that survives from the later Middle Ages. Their purpose was to provide layfolk with personal prayer-books independent of the official service books of the Church, from which, nevertheless, the principal texts were taken. The most important text was the Hours or Office of the Virgin Mary, comprising the various hymns, psalms and other devotions recited at the canonical hours of the Church’s day.

Produced in the workshops of lay artists, Books of Hours were free from clerical control and could be embellished as lavishly as the owner was willing to afford. In addition to their primary function, they served also as valued status symbols indicating the position, wealth and taste of the owner. The grander examples, particularly the Très Riches Heures and others made for John, Duke of Berry, brother of King Charles V of France, shortly before and after 1400, represent the ultimate luxury of the genre. In less scintillating specimens the decorative element may yield in interest to the personal associations with a first or early owner.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.