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Book of Hours (Use of Sarum), second half of the 15th century

Identifier: MS 40
f. 40v, detail
f. 40v, detail

Scope and Contents

Book of Hours in Latin from the 15th century following the Use of Sarum. It was probably written for use in the diocese of Lincoln, but the illumination is French, and possibly the hand also (see local saints in the Kalendar for the connection with Lincoln).

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

The Lincoln connection is to be inferred from the feast of Saint Hugh (17 November) being in red and having its Octave noted, and also from the Translation of Saint Hugh on 6 October. The Saints Guthlac (11 April), Ossitha (7 October), and Pelagia (8 October) are also consistent with a Lincoln connection. Saint Paulinus (10 October), on the other hand, belongs to York, and does not occur usually in Lincoln book. Taken with the rest, which include other names found at York, it suggests the extreme north of the diocese.

The Kalendar also contains a foreign element, for example Saint Gertrude (Saint Gertrude of Nivelles, abbess and mystic; 17 March), Saint John Hermit (possibly Saint John the Syrian, who fled to Italy to avoid Monophysite persecution; 19 March), Saint Willibrord (born in Northumbria; 7 November). Although Saint David, the Visitation, Transfiguration, the Holy Name, and Saint Winifred (from Wales) are absent, Saint Chad (Saint Chad of Mercia; 2 March), the Translation of Saint Etheldreda (Princess of East Anglia, queen of Northumbria, and founder of the monaster of Ely, Cambridgeshire; 17 October), and Saint Frideswide (Mercian princess, founder of a monastery which then became Christ Church, Oxford; 19 October) are present. Saint Valentine Bishop is specified.

The entry Edwardi virginis ('Edward the Virgin'; 18 March) probably indicates Saint Edward the Martyr, King of England from 975 to 978. Balbini Episcopi (Balbinus Bishop; 31 March) seems to be a mistake for Balbinae virginis (Balbina the Virgin). Johannis ante portam latinam ('Saint John before the Latin Gate', the same name of a church in Rome which was allegedly build near the spot of Saint John's attempted martyrdom; 13 May), the Octave day, is perhaps a mistake. This day was kept with an Octave in the German towns of Meissen and Schwerin. Saint Leufrid (Saint Leutfridus of La-Croix; 21 June) occurs at Durham, Exeter, Winchester, and York; Saint Grimbald, (Benedectine monk, abbot of Winchester; 7 July), at Exeter, Winchester, and York. The celbration of Saint Margaret Virgin (Saint Margaret of Antioch) on 13 July instead of on 20 July is common in German rites, but not elsewhere. Saint Filibert (abbot of Jumièges; 20 August), occurs at Winchester, Saint Albans, Sherborne, and in France; Saint Evortius (Bishop of Orleans; 7 September) occurs at Exeter and York. Saint Mellonius (supposed to be a native of Great Britain, Bishop of Rouen; 22 October), appears chiefly in French books. Saint Germanus (Bishop of Capua; 30 October), is found at Exeter, Worcester, and York.

Fifteen Os: start on f. 7r. These fifteen prayers often appear in late Medieval Books of Hours. They all begin with the exclamation O (hence their name) and are attributed to Saint Bridget of Sweden, although almost certainly they were not written by her. They are introduced by the rubricated words Incipiunt quindecim orationes and begin with O Domine Ihesu Christe aeterna dulcedo te amantium iubilus. After each prayer a Pater Noster and Ave Maria would be recited.

Memoriae (or Suffrages): start on f. 14r (two folios are missing). 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 Trinity (ff. 14r-15v), Saint John the Evangelist (f. 18), Saint Christopher (f. 19), Saint George (f. 20), Saint Anna (f. 21), Saint Margaret (f. 22), Saint Catherine (f. 23r), Saint Barbara (f. 24).

Hours of the Virgin: start on f. 27r. In this manuscript, they are combined with the Hours of the Cross and Hours of the Compassion of the Virgin. They are introduced by the rubricated words Incipiunt hore beate marie virginis secundum usum sarum and are divided in: Matins (ff. 27r-33v), Laudes (ff. 34r-47v; recited upon rising together with 'Matins'), Prime (ff. 48r-52v; the first hour, around 6 A.M.), Terce (ff. 53r-36v; the third hour, around 9 A.M.), Sext (ff. 37r-60v; the sixth hour, around noon), None (ff. 61r-64v; the ninth hour, around 3 P.M.), Vespers (ff. 65r-70r; evening), Compline (ff. 71r-76v; recited before retiring to bed).

Further Memoriae are contained within the Laus: Holy Spirit (ff. 40v-41r), Holy Cross (f. 41r-41v), Saint Michael Archangel (ff. 41v-42r), Saint John the Baptist (f. 42r), Saint Peter and Paul (f. 42r-42v), Saint Andrew (ff. 42v-43r), Saint Lawrence (ff. 43r-43), Saint Stephen (f. 43v), Saint Thomas of Canterbury (ff. 43v-44r), Saint Nicholas (ff. 44r-44v), Saint Maria Magdalena (ff. 44v-45r), Saint Catherine (f. 45r), Saint Margaret (f. 45r-45v), All Saints (ff. 45v-46r), Peace (f. 46r).

The prayer Salve Regina (ff. 74v-75r), followed by a series of versicles and other prayers, concludes the Hours of the Virigin.

Salve Regina: starts on f. 77r. Each word or short expression of the prayer is followed by four rhyming verses. It is introduced by the rubricated words Has videas laudes qui sacra virgine gaudes. Et venerando piam studeas laudare mariam virginis intacte cum veneris ante figuram. Pretereundo cave ne sileatur ave. Invenies veniam sic salutando mariam.

O intemerata: starts on f. 81r. This is a special prayer dedicated to the Virgin Mary, beginning with the words O intemerata ('Oh immaculate Virgin'). It is normally present in Book of Hours.

Obsecro te: starts on f. 82v. This is a special prayer dedicated to the Virgin Mary, beginning with the words Obsecro te ('I beseech you'). It is normally present in Book of Hours.

Stabat Mater: starts on ff. 85r. Another prayer dedicated to the Virgin which had been incorporated into the liturgy by the end of the 15th century. In this mnuscripts, it has been added by a 17th century hand with the rubricated heading Planctus Beatae Mariae Virginis.

The Seven Joys of Our Lady:: start on f. 86r. This set of prayers (usually fifteen, but sometimes only five, seven or nine) often accompanies Books of Hours. It celebrates happy moments of the life of Mary and it begins with the prayer Virgo templum trinitatis. It is introduced by the rubricated words Quicumque hec septem gaudia in honore beate marie virginis semel in die dixerit centum dies indulgetiarum obtinebit a domino [...] clemente qui hec septem gaudia proprio stilo composint.

Prayers of devotion to the Cross and Passion of Christ: start on f. 89r. This group of prayers all refer to aspects of the Passion of Christ or address some of its witnesses (in particular, the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist). They include: a prayer to the Imago Christi (Omnibus consideratis paradisus voluptatis es Ihesu piissime;,f. 89r); one to the Holy Cross (Triumphale lignum crucis, f. 89v); one to Christ's head crowned with the Crown of Thorns (Ave caput inclinatum, f. 90r); a set of prayers to the Five Wounds of Christ (Salve vulnus dexterae manus, Ave tu sinistra Christi, O fons ave paradisi, Salve vulnus dextri pedis, Levi pedis perforati, ff. 90r-91v); a prayer to the Virgin Mary (O Maria plasma nati qui vidisti Ihesu pati, f. 92r); one to Saint John the Evangelist (O Johannes Evangelista tu sacrarii sacrista, f. 92r); a series of short invocations; the prayer Omnipotens sempiterne Deus qui unigenitum filium tuum (ff. 92v-93r); the prayer composed by the Venerable Bede on the seven last words of Christ (Domine Ihesu Christe qui septem verba die ultima vitae tuae, precedend by the rubricated words Incipit oratio venerabilis Bede presbiteri de qua fertur qui cotidie et devote flexeris genibus eam dicens nec dyabolus ei nocere poterat nec sine confessione morietur. et per triginta dies ante obitum suum videbit gloriosam virginem mariam in auxilium sibi preparatam. Oratio septem verborum domini nostri Jhesu Christi pendentis in cruce, ff. 93r-93v, incomplete).

Prayers at Mass (incomplete beginning): start on f. 96r. A series of invocations to Christ beginning with the words Ave. The first invocation that we find in the manuscript begins with the words Ave domine Ihesu Christe lumen celi principium mundi gaudium nostrum angelorum panis rex et sponsus virginitatis. The rubric on f. 96v (Ad sacrosantum sacramentum) indicates that these prayers were recited at the moment of the Holy Communion.

Penitential Psalms: start on f. 98r. 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).

Gradual Psalms: start on f. 105r. This is the name given to fifteen Psalms (119-133) which all begin with the Hebrew words for 'Song of Ascent'.

Litany: starts on f. 111r. 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.

Office of the Dead: starts on f. 118r. 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.

Commendations of Souls: start on f. 147r. A collection of Psalms. A later hand has left marginal annotations in pencil and paper slips have been added to supply further readings.

Psalms of the Passion: starts on f. 159r. It contains the Psalms from 21 to 30:6.

Psalter of Saint Jerome: starts on f. 169r. A collection of verses from the Psalms, allegedly put together by Saint Jerome, mostly with a penitential character. It is preceded by a long rubric (ff. 167v-168r) which begins with the words Beatus vero iheronimus in hoc modo psalterium istud disposuit sicut angelus domini docuit eum per spritum sanctum, and by the prayer (f. 168r-168v) beginning Suscipere digneris domine deus omnipotens istos psalmos.

Prayers: Gaude flore virginali (ff. 180v-181r) and Gaude virgo mater Christi (ff. 179v-180r). The order of the folios should be 178, 180, 179, 181.


The script is Gothic of a good type, possibly by a French handn.


The illumination is certainly by a French hand. It may have been executed by a Frenchman in England or in France for an English owner.
The ornament consists of initials, borders, and miniatures within initials. Verse initials are alternately blue and gold, with very line red and blue penwork. Psalm and Collect initials are interesting, the letters being burnished gold on square grounds of blue and lake, their centres filled with fine pen drawings of human heads, flowers, birds, etc., in gold on a dark lake ground.
Initials of sections occupy six lines, and are either historiated or floriated in blue, lake, and green on a gold ground. In addition the sections are marked by complete borders of feathery branch work, combined with acanthus foliage, animals, birds, or wild flowers in natural colours.
The minitarues are either in roundels enclosed by plain gold bands, illustrating the Kalendar, or within initials.

Miniatures (Kalendar)

  1. January (f. 1r) – Man warming himself at fire in room with latticed windows.
  2. February (f. 1v) – Pruning trees.
  3. March (f. 2r) – Pruning trees (?).
  4. April (f. 2v) – Man bearing green branch.
  5. May (f. 3r) and June (f. 3v) – Missing.
  6. July (f. 4r) – Corn harvest.
  7. August (f. 4v) – Threshing with flail.
  8. September (f. 5r) – Treading grapes.
  9. October (f. 5v) – Sowing.
  10. November (f. 6r) – Feeding swine with acorns.
  11. December (f. 6v) – Killing pig.

Historiated Initials:

  1. The Holy Spirit (f. 40v) – On a scarlet ground, the Dove rayed, with cross-nimbus in which are two nails.
  2. The Holy Cross (f. 41r) – Crucifixion.
  3. Saint Michael (f. 41v) – The saint, scarlet-winged, in armour, stands upon a dragon, transfixing it with sword.
  4. Saints Peter and Paul (f. 42r) – Two saints with sword and keys.
  5. Saint Andrew (f. 42v) – Saint with cross and book.
  6. Saint Laurence (f. 43r) – Vested as a deacon in alb, amice with blue apparel, dalmatic with short sleeves and narrow gold orphrey and scarlet maniple shown by mistake on right instead of left wrist. He carries a book of the Gospels in his right hand, a gridiron in his left.
  7. Saint Stephen (f. 43v) – Vested exactly as Saint Laurence, with three stones in his hand.
  8. Saint Nicholas (f. 44r) – Vested as a bishop in alb, red, close-sleeved dalmatic, blue cope embroidered with gold, no orphrey, with gold morse and white mitre, a crosier in his left hand, his right hand blessing the three children.
  9. All Saints (f. 44v) – Ten nimbed saints, one with papal tiara.
  10. Pro Pace (f. 45r) – Interior of a church, showing an altar with the figure of a layman (possibly the owner) kneeling near the north side. The altar is Tested in a red frontal embroidered with gold and a green frontlet from which hang two short apparels, one near each end of the altar. The mensa is covered with a linen cloth. A blue panel, the exact length of the altar, and about the same height, powdered with gold stars within a gold line running round the edge and possibly representing an embroidered textile upper frontal, takes the place of the reredos. Red riddels or curtains hang close to each end of the altar from brass rods projecting one at either side of the reredos. Standing on the altar immediately in front of the reredos is a large crucifix, which rises not only above the reredos but above two small windows in the east wall behind, being, like the figure of the layman in the foreground, entirely out of proportion to the altar. Both figures were presumably drawn of large size to enable the artist to show them in sufficient detail in a small miniature. The altar stands on a wooden footpace, on which rests the layman's hat.
  11. Matins of the Cross (f. 46v) – The betrayal.
  12. Prime of the Cross (f. 51v) – Christ before Pilate.
  13. Sext of the Cross (f. 59r) – Christ bearing the cross.
  14. None of the Cross (f. 63r) – Crucifixion.
  15. Vespers of the Cross (f. 68v) – The descent from the cross.
  16. Compline of the Cross (f. 74r) – The entombment.
  17. Ad Crucem Christi (f. 89v) – Three empty crosses on a green mound.
  18. Ad Caput Christi (f. 90r) – Head and shoulders of Christ with crown of thorns and cross-nimbus.
  19. Prayers to the Five Wounds (ff. 90r-91v) – Initials containing the hands, the Five Wounds, and the feet of Christ.
  20. Gaude Flore Virginali (f. 180v) – Virgin and Child.


  • Creation: second half of the 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.


1 bound MS volume

Custodial History

This is an English book, probably written for use in the diocese of Lincoln (see the saints listed in the Kalendar for this connection), but the illumination is French, and possibly the hand also. The erasure from the Kalendar of the name of Saint Thomas of Canterbury and of his suffrage from the Lauds (ff. 43v-44r) shows that the book was in England in the early part of the 16th century, as the cult of Thomas of Canterbury was a particular target of the Reformation: Henry VIII proclaimed him a traitor rather than a martyr and ordered the suppressions of all his images in 1538. The pencil additions, which include the names of Saint Donan (monk at Iona and founder of a monastery on the island of Eigg, Scotland; martyr) and Saint Giles, show British connections, but are by quite a modern hand.

There is record of a marriage on 20 April, A.D. 1559 hora x Crystofar Ken and ladye E. Belwyth ma. Certain additions with headings in French have been inserted on paper slips apparently in the 17th or 18th century. The same hand has inserted the Stabat Mater and reinserted Saint Thomas of Canterbury in the Kalendar; this scribe may possibly be the owner of the initials A. G. on f. 1r.

Previous reference

Laing 16.

Physical Facet

Material: Vellum

Binding: Modern blue morocco, lettered Horae B. Mariae Virginis in Usum Sarum M.S. Saec. XV ('Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the Use of Sarum, manuscript 15th century'). Damaged spine.

Collation: a6, b8, c4 (+2 blank leaves of paper), e8-h8 (+1 paper leaf), i8-y8, z6, A5 (leaves misplaced) = 181.


14.29 cm x 13.97 cm


Secundo folio: text [me]moriam harum.

Foliation and number of lines to a page: ff. 181, 20 lines to a page.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
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