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Book of Hours, in Dutch

  • Object:

    illuminated manuscript

  • Place of origin:

    Netherlands (made)
    Flanders (historical region) (made)
    Delft (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1440-1450 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ink, pigments and gold on parchment. Leather binding on wooden boards and linen cords.

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by George Reid in 1902.

  • Museum number:

    MSL/1902/1667 (Reid 32)

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10, case 3

This mid-15th-century manuscript is a book of hours, the most common devotional book used by laypeople in the late Middle Ages. Books of hours take their name from the fact that their core text, the Little Office of the Virgin, is divided into eight hours, from Matins to Compline, meant to be recited throughout the day and modelled on the Divine Office.
The miniatures, most likely painted in Delft, were executed on separate leaves, independently from the text, and then inserted in the appropriate places as part of the final assembly. This practice was quite common in the Low Countries throughout the 15th century, as it simplified and sped up production to meet an increasing demand for this type of books. While in France or England, the text of a book of hours was mostly in Latin, with the exception of a few prayers and introductory lines (rubrics, usually in red), numerous books of hours made in the Northern Low Countries were written in Dutch.
The restricted palette of the miniatures is characteristic of a workshop referred to as the ‘Masters of the Delft Grisailles’ and active ca. 1440-1460, probably in Delft. The figures are rendered in shades of grey against an ochre ground and blue sky, with details picked out in gold and colours. This workshop produced many copies of this set of images, probably using tracing to reproduce them; over fifteen other manuscripts have survived with this same cycle of images painted by closely related hands.

Physical description

Foliation: parchment. i (paper, ca. 1982) + 180 + ii (as f.i) ff.

Number of lines: 18 lines.

Language: Dutch and Latin.

Script: Netherlandish Gothic bookhand.

Textual content:
ff. 1r-12v: Calendar, with names of the months in Dutch and Latin.
ff. 14r-68v: Hours of the Virgin.
ff. 68v-109r: Hours of the Cross.
ff. 109r-132r: Penitential Psalms, with the litany (ff. 120r-130r) followed collects.
ff. 132r-147v: Devotional sequence with prayers for the sacrament and the Virgin Mary.
ff. 148r-155r: Devotional sequence of prayers to the Virgin.
ff. 157r-180v: Office of the Dead.

Decoration: 16 large miniatures (ff. 13v, 35r, 40v, 45r, 49v, 54v, 62v, 69r, 83v, 87v, 91v, 95v, 99v, 104v, 108v, 156v) with figures painted in grisaille, yellow grounds, blue skies and other highlights in colour and gold; partial stem borders at main divisions of text, with feathery scrolls and pen tracery around decorated initials. The miniatures appear to have been produced independently from the text.

Artist: The cycle of images was painted by a several hands usually referred to as the ‘Masters of the Delft Grisailles’ active between ca. 1440 and 1460.

Binding: 1982, England: rebound by Roger Powell. Sewn onto 5 linen cords using the original stations, onto shaped oak boards, replacing an earlier binding in brown calf.

Place of Origin

Netherlands (made)
Flanders (historical region) (made)
Delft (made)


ca. 1440-1450 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Ink, pigments and gold on parchment. Leather binding on wooden boards and linen cords.


Height: 180 mm, Width: 120 mm, Height: 106 mm Text block (Calendar, ff. 1r-12v), Width: 65 mm Text block (Calendar, ff. 1r-12v), Height: 100 mm Text block, Width: 65 mm Text block

Object history note

(1) Embossed stamp on each miniature, 'Wm Clark, Engineer. Licensed Auctioneer and Valuator. Dunfermline'.
(2) Collection of George Reid who may have bought it from William Clark. Bequeathed to the V&A in 1902.

Descriptive line

Manuscript, Book of Hours, Northern Low Countries (Delft?), c.1440-1450.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Hintzen, J.D. 'Noordnederlandsche Grisailles en de Meister der Liebesgärten'. Oudheidkundig Jaarboek, 2, 1922, p. 178.
Byvanck, A.W. and G.J. Hoogewerff. Noord-Nederlandsche miniaturen in handschriften der 14e, 15e en 16e eeuwen. The Hague, 1925, pp. 24-25, pls. 28, 29, 47, 48.
Schüler, I. Der Meister der Liebesgärten. Amsterdam, 1932, pp. 26, 51, no. 14.
Byvanck, A.W. La miniature dans les Pays-Bas septentrionaux. A. Haye (trad.). Paris, 1937, p. 74.
p. 381
Ker, N.R. Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries I. Oxford: 1967.
Fiero, G. 'Geertgen tot Sint James and the Dutch manuscript tradition'. Oud Holland, 96, 1982, p. 66, no. 4.
Renger, M. 'The Netherlandish Grisaille miniatures: some unexplored aspects'. Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch, 44, 1983, passim.
A.S. Korteweg (ed.) Kriezels, aubergines en takkenbossen. Randversiering in Noordnederlandse handschriften uit de vijftiende eeuw. Zutphen, 1992, p. 72.
p. 72
Watson, R. Illuminated manuscripts and their makers. An account based on the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. London, 2003.
vol. 1, pp. 266-271, cat. 45
Watson, R. Western Illuminated Manuscripts.Victoria and Albert Museum. A catalogue of works in the National Art Library from the eleventh to the early twentieth century, with a complete account of the George Reid Collection. London, 2011.

Labels and date

About 1440-50

Books of Hours became so popular in the late Middle Ages that ways to standardise their production were adopted. In this example, written in Dutch, the miniatures were painted on separate leaves which were inserted into the volume as part of the final assembly.

Northern Netherlands, possibly Delft
Ink on parchment, with pigment and gold
Given by George Reid
Museum no. MSL/1902/1667


Parchment; Ink; Pigments; Gold; Leather; Wood; Linen cord




National Art Library; Books; Medieval and renaissance; Manuscripts; Books of Hours

Production Type



National Art Library

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