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Blog post from Sunday, 5 April, 2015

Book of Hours, Bourges, c. 1480

The name ‘book of hours’ was given to a book of private devotions used throughout the Catholic Church from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. Such a work usually contained a selection of short prayers and devotions prefaced by a liturgical calendar. Both before and after the discovery of printing these prayerbooks were often beautifully illuminated.

The pages in this French medieval manuscript, one of several in the collections of the State Library of New South Wales, are finely decorated throughout with varied and delicately illuminated borders. Gold and green foliage, red berries, blue, crimson and white flowers and fruit are lavishly depicted. Woven into the borders are the initials of the nobleman for whom the manuscript was made, his shield and his motto, 'Je quiers mon mieulx’.

The manuscript has twenty-six large and twelve small double miniatures thought to be either the work of Jean Colombe of Bourges (illustrator of the Tres riches heures du duc de Berry) or one of the Colombe’s school. The calandar of months shows the double miniatures with an appropriate labour depicted for each month at one side and the sign of the zodiac at the other.

The twenty-six miniatures show subjects ranging from the Annunciation, the Nativity, and the Adoration of the Magi, to the Crowning with Thorns and the Via Dolorosa. There are episodes from the lives of many saints - the Evangelists, Saint Anne and Saint Sebastian, Catherine and Lawrence.

Find out more about rare books and special collections, and manuscript collections at the State Library of New South Wales. Here you can explore our discover collections documenting the experiences and achievements of the first settlement in Australia.