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MS 37: Book of Hours (Use of Rome), 15th century

Identifier: MS 37

Scope and Contents

Book of Hours in Latin and French from the 15th century, of Northern French or Flemish origin. The Use is that of Rome. In so far as the Kalendar is distinctive, it points to Saint Omer (see the local saints reported).

Kalendar: starts on f. 1r. Contains commemorations of Saints and Martyr, and other festivities (the most important are written in red).

8 June: Saint Omer en fleurs (also known as Saint Audomar, bishop of Thérouanne; probably the celebration of his translation; in red); 25 June: Saint Eloy (Saint Eligius of Noyon; in red); 25 August: Saint Louis Roy de France (Saint Louis IX; in red); 5 September: Saint Bertin Abbé (Saint Bertin Abbot, entrusted with the evangelisation of the area of the Pas-de-Calais by Saint Omer; in red); 9 September: Saint Omer Evesque (Saint Omer [or Audomar] Bishop; in red); 9 October: Saint Denis (first bishop of Paris; in red); 1 December: Sain Eloy (Saint Elgius of Noyon; in red); 14 December: Saint Nichase (Saint Nicasius or Rheims, bishop and founder of the first cathedral in Rheims; in red).

Hours of the Cross: start on f. 8r. They are divided in: Matins (ff. 8r-8v), Prime (ff. 8v-9v; the first hour, around 6 A.M.), Terce (ff. 9v-10r; the third hour, around 9 A.M.), Sext (ff. 10r-11r; the sixth hour, around noon), None (ff. 11r-11v; the ninth hour, around 3 P.M.), Vespers (ff. 11v-12v; evening), Compline (ff. 12v-13v; recited before retiring to bed).

Sequences of the Gospel Lessons: start on f. 13v. A series of passages from the Gospels. The readings are not arranged according to the liturgy, but in chronological order, so that the events of the life of Christ are narrated in their correct chronological sequence. They do not normally include stories from the Passion. This manuscripts includes two readings: John 1:1-14 (ff. 13v-14v) and Luke 1:26-39 (ff. 14v-15v; the rubricator mistankely reports this passage as if from Matthew).

Hours of the Holy Spirit: start on f. 16r. They are divided in: Matins (ff. 16r-16v), Prime (ff. 16v-17r), Terce (ff. 17r-17v), Sext (ff. 17v-18r), None (ff. 18r-18v), Vespers (ff. 18v-19r), Compline (ff. 19r-19v).

Hours of the Virgin: start on f. 20v. They follow the Use of Rome and are divided in: Matins (ff. 21r-29r), Laudes (ff. 31r-40r; recited upon rising together with 'Matins'), Prime (ff. 42r-45v), Terce (ff. 47r-49v), Sext (ff. 51r-53v), None (ff. 56r-57v), Vespers (ff. 59r-64v), Compline (ff. 66r-70v).

Penitential Psalms: start on f. 72r. These seven Psalms (6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, and 142) are particularly connected to King David, who allegedly composed them as an atonement for his sins (David therefore is normally represented at the beginning, as in this case).

Litany: starts on f. 82r. It consists in the hypnotic invocation of a list of saints; each invocation is followed by the answer Ora pro nobis (with the plural variation Orate when more than one saint is invoked). The list begins with Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison ('Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy'). It is followed by prayers.

Not really distinctive, but includes Saint Louis among the Confessors (Saint Louis IX, King of France), and Saint Gertrude among the Virgins (Saint Gertrude the Elder, founder of a convent near Douai, Northern France).

Office of the Dead: starts on f. 88r. This office was intended as an intercession on behalf of the dead, in order to help them to reduce their term in Purgatory. A series of readings for this office are taken from the Book of Job and the sufferings of Job became an allegory for the trials endured by the penitent souls in Purgatory.

The Five Joys of Our Lady: ff. 111r-111v. This set of prayers (usually fifteen, but sometimes only five, seven or nine) prayer often accompanies Books of Hours. It celebrates happy moments of the life of Mary and it begins with the prayer Ave cuius conceptio.

Memoriae (or Suffrages): start on f. 112r. Each one of them is dedicated to a Saint or Martyr and consists of three short utterances (antiphon, versicle, response) and a longer prayer which normally contains details of the life of the Saint to whom each particular Memoria is dedicated. In this manuscript we find: Saint John the Baptist (f. 112r-112v), Saint Peter (f. 112v-113r), Michael Archangel (ff. 113r), Saint James (f. 113v-114r), Saint Nicholas (f. 114r-115v), Saint Christopher (f. 114v-115r), Saint Sebastian (f. 115r-116r), Saint Barbara (f. 116r-117v).

O intemerata (feminine form): starts on f. 117r. This is special prayer dedicated to the Virgin Mary, beginning with the words O intemerata ('O immaculate Virgin'). It is normally present in Books of Hours.

Obsecro te (masculine form): starts on f. 119r. This is special prayer dedicated to the Virgin Mary, beginning with the words Obsecro te ('I beseech you'). It is normally present in Books of Hours.


Written in a fair pointed hand common in Flemish manuscripts of the latter part of the 15th century.


The ornamentation consists of burnished gold initials on lake and blue grounds, blue, lake, and gold rectangular line-endings, larger floriated initials, and eight miniatures with full borders composed of feathery branch work, flowers, fruit, and acanthus scrolls.

Blank leaves have been inserted for several miniatures which have been lost (miniatures are missing at Compline, Hours of the Cross, Penitential Psalms, The Five Joys of Our Lady).

List of illustrations

  1. Matins of the Virgin (f. 20v) – Annunciation. Shield inserted in border.
  2. Lauds (f. 30v) – Visitation.
  3. Prime (f. 41v) – Nativity. Some fine diaper in background.
  4. Terce (f. 46v) – Angel and Shepherds.
  5. Sext (f. 50v) – Adoration of the Magi.
  6. None (f. 54v) – The Presentation.
  7. Vespers (f. 58v) – The Flight.
  8. Service of the Dead (f. 87v) – The Raising of Lazarus. Christ, cross-nimbed with orb, one disciple with him, the three Maries with Mary Magdalene in front, Lazarus rising from the grave. Fine diaper background.


  • Creation: 15th century

Language of Materials

Latin and French.

Conditions Governing Access

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


1 bound MS volume

Custodial History

The spelling of certain words indicate a northern provenance: for example, Franchois and Mikiel.

The arms inserted in the border on f. 20r, and repeated within the initial on f. 119r, can be described as on a field argent, 9 choughs sable, but it is unidentified. It must belong to a possessor of the book, but whether to the original owner is doubtful. The feminine form in the prayer O intemerata (f. 117r) seems to indicate that it was written for a lady.

Previous reference


Physical Facet

Material: Vellum

Binding: Black velvet, entitled Les Heures de la Croix ('The Hours of the Cross').

Collation: a6, b9 (+1 blank), c9 (+5), d9 (+6), e9 (+8), f10 (+4+8), g10 (+2+6), h9 (+3 blank), i8, k9 (+8), l8, m8, n6, o8, p4 = 122.


20.64 cm x 15.24 cm


Secundo folio: text, [adju]vandum me festina.

Foliation and number of lines to a page: ff. 122, 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
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Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
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