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Book of Hours (Hours of the Virgin and of Saint Ninian), 15th century

Identifier: MS 42/ff. 7r-130r
f. 7r: Start of the Book of Hours
f. 7r: Start of the Book of Hours

Scope and Contents

This section of MS 42 is a 15th-century Book of Hours. Books of Hours, as private devotional texts, were very personal medieval books. This particualar text contains the unusual Hours of Saint Ninian. Saint Ninian as a historical figure is shrouded in mystery. He perhaps lived in the 5th-6th centuries, in Whithorn in south-west Scotland. While the historical figure of Ninian is vague, the chief medieval account comes from the 12th century, and in this Saint Ninian travelled to Rome, converted Picts to Christianity, and built a church at Whithorn. The association with the Scottish Saint Ninian connects this particular 15th century Book of Hours with medieval Scotland.

A Rev. E. S. Dewick possessed a Book of Hours containing the same 'Service of Saint Ninian', the only variation being in the Collect. That manuscript has Deus qui populos pictorum, which occurs also in British Library Add. MS. 39761. The Edinburgh University Library manuscript has D.J. C.filii del vivi qui beato niniano praedilecto confessori tuo. The Aberdeen Breviary has a variation of the former, beginning, Deus qui hodiernam diem beati niniani.

The book does not seem to have been written for a woman, but two special prayers are inserted, both in late 15th century hands, one on f. 62r, for a lady called Beatrice, another on f. 75v, for famula tita Victoria.


  1. f. 7r: Fifteen Oes
  2. f. 16r: Hours of the Virgin 'Secundum Usum Anglic' (Saint Ninian and Saint Bride have been added to the Memoriae at Lauds)
  3. f. 62r: Prayer. D. J. C. fili Dei vivi miserere mei Beatricis (inserted)
  4. f. 63r: Salve Virgo and Salve Regina combined
  5. f. 67r: Prose of the Virgin. Ave gloriosa virginum regina (inserted)
  6. f. 68r: Obsecro te
  7. f. 71r: Prose. Gaude cui Symeon senex prophetavit (inserted)
  8. f. 71v: Suffrage of S. Appollonia (inserted)
  9. f. 73r: Hours of Saint Ninian
  10. f. 75v: Prayers. Domine Deus omnipotens . . . Da michi famule tue Victoria ; Domine Jhesu Christe fili Dei vivi qui pendens in cruce (inserted)
  11. f. 76r: Suffrage of S. Peter and Prose. Crux bona crux digna (inserted)
  12. f. 77r: Prayer of Bede on the Seven Words
  13. f. 80r: Penitential Psalms
  14. f. 91r: Gradual Psalms
  15. f. 93v: Litany
  16. f. 102r: Service of the Dead
  17. f. 128v: Rubric to prayer, in Scots verse
  18. f. 130r: Commendation of Souls

A Gothic hand with laterally compressed letters. The insertions (noted as they occur in the Contents) are by various Scottish hands.


The illumination consists of:

Verse initials: alternately blue and red and gold and black filigree.

Psalm initials: two line, burnished gold on grounds of blue and lake.

sectional initials: five line, floriated in blue, lake, vermilion, and green, on grounds of burnished gold and colour, combined with full borders.

Line-endings: blue and gold scroll.

Borders: surrounding the miniatures and enclosing the first page of each section. These last seem to be imitations both of French and English work of the 15th century. The broad bands of conventional foliage or pleated spiral design are English in type, while the feathery branch work of gold ivy-leaf or roundel combined with flowers and fruit seem as typically French.

None of the work is of the best quality, and it resembles the hybrid work of Scottish books of the period.


  1. Fol. 15 v. 'Matins'. Annunciation. Under a canopy the Virgin kneels by desk, Gabriel kneels facing her on the left side with scroll, 'Ave . . . tecum', a lily pot between them, head and shoulders of Deity, nimbed and rayed, with orb, in blue cloud above. Lake and gold chequer ground, floor of scarlet tiles.
  2. Fol. 44 v. 'Terce'. Same background. Angel and shepherds. Three shepherds feed their sheep on a green oasis among sandy hills, flying angels seen against red and gold chequer ground, with scroll, 'Gloria . . . Deo' above.
  3. Fol. 54 v. 'Evensong'. Presentation. Apsidal building. Virgin, followed by Anastasia with doves, presents the Child, naked, cross-nimbed, to the high priest behind the altar. A second priest is with him. The altar has a red frontal with two small gold apparels, and is covered by a white linen cloth which comes a few inches over the edge. An outline cross is embroidered in the middle. No attempt is made to represent Christian vestments, and the adaptation to circular form is an attempt to represent an altar of the old covenant.
  4. Fol. 62 v. 'Salve Virgo'. Virgin and Child, throned on a pink stone wall in a flowery meadow, three winged angels, two of whom present golden chalices, kneeling. One angel is represented in a scarlet garment with openings at the side like a bishop's chimere, through which the arms project, vested in the close white sleeves of a rochet or alb. The Virgin is crowned, the Child cross-nimbed, and a halo of starry rays surrounds their heads. Scarlet background.
  5. Fol. 67 v. 'Obsecro te'. Descent from the cross. Lake and gold chequer ground. Virgin seated on a scarlet cushion at the foot of the cross, Christ upon her knees. S. John supports His head, and a winged angel is seen behind. The Virgin's feet are upon the rainbow and the orb.
  6. Fol. 72 v. 'Hours of S. Ninian.' Lake and gold chequer ground. S.Ninian vested as a bishop, in amice with blue apparel, full alb, red dalmatic, blue chasuble lined with green, with a thin gold-shaped orphrey and a high, pointed mitre. In his R. hand he holds a large book with clasps, the back being in his hand, the foreedge uppermost. The hand is fettered with a massive chain of ten links. In his L. hand he holds a gold crosier with a small knop, from which rises an exceptionally large head, which divides, after the first turn, into two volutes, the one curved to the R. within the circle of the head, the other to the L. outside it. The head is crocketed. On the saint's R. kneels a layman in a blue robe with a large black purse hanging from his girdle, and on his R. shoulder a small red hat to which is attached a long red scarf or liripipe, the longer end of which rests on the ground. On his L. the kneeling figure of a winged angel holds up an object like a golden chalice.
  7. Fol. 76 v. 'Prayer of Bede'. Same background. Image of Pity. Our Lord rising from the empty tomb but represented as undergoing His Passion, supported by angels and surrounded by all the instruments of the Passion.
  8. Fol. 79 v. 'Penitential Psalms'. Judgment. Same background. Our Lord in glory, throned on rainbow, wearing a green robe, showing the five wounds, and with a rayed nimbus, His feet resting on the orb. A seraph with a trumpet is represented on either side, bearing the scrolls, 'Surgite vos mortui' and 'Venite ad judicium'. The Virgin and S. John kneel on either side below, and four figures are seen rising from graves.
  9. Fol. 90 v. 'Gradual Psalms'. Same background. Virgin, nimbed, ascends the steps of the temple reading. Joachim and Anna follow her at a distance. The temple is represented as a conventional church, built of ashlar masonry, with plain square-headed windows, a low-pitched roof, with a small cross in the gable and a deep buttress at one side. The gable end is almost entirely occupied by a large plain elliptical-headed doorway, through which can be seen part of an altar, vested in a pink frontal with a short golden apparel near one side, hanging from beneath the linen cloth which slightly overhangs the edge, occupying about the space of a frontlet. A green riddel curtain hangs from a rod at the north end of the altar.
  10. Fol. 101 v. 'Service of the Dead'. The centre of the picture is occupied by the coffin, which is covered by a blue herse-cloth, powdered with a conventional ornament which may be intended for flowers or stars. It has a long white fringe and a small white cross on the top in the middle. Around it are four lighted candles of twisted yellow wax in brass candlesticks, the only one fully shown having iron tripod feet. In the foreground two mourners in black cloaks, hoods, and veils are seated on a bench which is covered with a green cloth. In the background to the R. is a large wooden desk, over the middle of which is loosely thrown a plain pink desk-cloth. A large choir book is open on the desk, and three clerks, in surplices or albs and copes, are represented as singing the service from it. The copes are pink, green, and blue respectively. They have no orphreys, are made of thin material, which hangs in large folds, are fastened by small gold morses, and have large hoods which extend from the morses round the shoulders behind. The form of the copes is that of the black choir cope (' cappa nigra '), rather than of the rich silk cope (' cappa serica '), of the period. Or they may be described as being like the copes shown in 13th century illuminations. The rest of the background on the L. side is occupied by an altar, vested in a red frontal, powdered with gold spots, having two gold orphreys or apparels hanging from beneath the linen cloth which falls over the edge of the altar in front to about the same depth as the frontlet, and is embroidered with a somewhat large outline cross with a short stem, shown in the centre of the mensa. Behind the altar rises a low reredos, taking the form of a ' table ' or picture within a rectangular frame and containing small gold figures of saints. From each end of the reredos projects a brass rod turned up at the end, from which a green riddel curtain is suspended by laced cords.
  11. Fol. 129 v. 'Commendation of Souls'. Same background. In the centre of the picture two angels, represented as winged half-length figures, bear up a sheet by the four corners, containing three souls, who are represented as young, sexless beings. Above, in the heaven, the Deity is seen in a blue cloud of cherubim.


  • Creation: 15th century

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to all. The manuscripts can be consulted in the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Main Library.


124 folios

Custodial History

The general appearance of this book, the kind and quality of the illumination, together with the occurrence of the unusual Hours of Saint Ninian, suggest that it is a Scottish book.

Foliation and number of lines to a page

ff. 123, 16 lines to a page.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379