The Getty Center
Date: Thursday, February 26, 2015
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Museum Lecture Hall
Past Event

The Book of Hours was the laity's prayer book in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and often used as a tool for learning how to read as well as how to pray. Virginia Reinburg discusses how those fortunate enough to own Books of Hours often turned it into a collection of favorite prayers, images, pilgrim souvenirs, and family lore.

The Book of Hours was the best-selling book in France, England, and other parts of western Europe, from the late 14th century until the eve of the Reformation in the early 16th century. It was such an object of desire that it was often the only book owned by people who owned books. But why was a Latin prayer book a bestseller in an age of low literacy and uneven knowledge of Latin? For many book owners, a Book of Hours was a prized art object—a status symbol, or desired only for its beautiful images. But the question of "why a Latin prayer book" deserves further investigation. We get closer to an answer by recognizing that the Book of Hours was a book of many uses: it was an emblematic family possession, a primer for literacy, and an archive of prayers that families and individuals collected over the years.

Virginia Reinburg is associate professor of history at Boston College. Her research centers on religious life in early modern France. She recently published French Books of Hours: Making an Archive of Prayer, c. 1400-1600, a monograph on books of hours and practices of prayer. She is now working on pilgrimage, sacred landscapes, and the bonds linking religion, place, and nature in France from 1450–1750.

Complements the exhibition Give and Ye Shall Receive: Gift Giving in the Middle Ages

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