Books of remembrance

Books of Hours were personal objects. They were often small enough to be carried on the body, whether in a small satchel, or on a belt, or in the sleeve of a tunic. Simply carrying the book was a kind of devotion, and the book was also instantly ready to hand to aid piety. Names of the dead within a family, known as ‘obits’, were added to the Calendar. Books of Hours could thus be considered memorial objects, which preserved memories of the deceased. Their function in remembering the dead was also made literal by the custom of bequeathing a favourite book of hours to a favourite relative after death, or to a godchild, friend, servant, or chaplain. This book was produced around 1490 in Bruges, probably for use by an owner in the diocese of Lincoln. It contains supplementary rhymed prayers customised by the scribe for a wealthy owner: ‘And god shalbe god/ When goolde ys goon’. The opening here shows an illumination of the instruments of Christ’s passion alongside the depiction of bodies emerging from tombs at the last judgement. It accompanies the seven penitential psalms, part of the liturgy of the dead. Object and text coalesce in the creation of social memory. In opposition, a later reader, after the Reformation, has scrubbed out the word ‘pape’ and crossed through the feast of St Thomas Becket. BC

Horae (c. 1490 Bruges)

CUL: MS Dd.6.1, fo. 84v

Further Reading

Eamon Duffy, Marking the Hours: English People and their Prayers, 1240-1570 (New Haven and London, 2006), pp. 116-18.

Extended captions