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French Books of Hours
Making an Archive of Prayer, c.1400–1600


  • Date Published: November 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107460065

£ 23.99

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About the Authors
  • The Book of Hours was a 'best-seller' in medieval and early modern Europe, the era's most commonly produced and owned book. This interdisciplinary study explores its increasing popularity and prestige, offering a full account of the Book of Hours as a book - how it was acquired, how it was read to guide prayer and teach literacy and what it meant to its owners as a personal possession. Based on the study of over 500 manuscripts and printed books from France, Virginia Reinburg combines a social history of the Book of Hours with an ethnography of prayer. Approaching the practice of prayer as both speech and ritual, she argues that a central part of the Book of Hours' appeal for lay people was its role as a bridge between the liturgy and the home. Reinburg describes how the Book of Hours shaped religious practice through the ways in which it was used.

    • Combines a social history of the Book of Hours with an ethnography of prayer
    • This account of prayer as speech and rite fills a gap in our understanding of religious life
    • Shows how the Book of Hours reflects the varied ways people prayed at the close of the Middle Ages and during the sixteenth century
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is an admirable book, an original and valuable contribution to the literature on the Book of Hours, and beyond that, to the understanding of late medieval religion in general.' Eamon Duffy, University of Cambridge

    'Professor Reinburg offers penetrating and deeply informed readings of hundreds of French and Latin Books of Hours, manuscript and printed. A joy to read, this is a magisterial study of prayer, the one form of devotion open to all, in the period when devotion was challenged and rethought.' Lee Palmer Wandel, University of Wisconsin, Madison

    'Virginia Reinburg's wonderful book is a testament to her total dedication to an object which for two centuries offered a fascinating means of communicating with the sacred. Through its sensitivity and its intelligence it will stand as an important touchstone in our understanding of the phenomenology of the religious imagination, the social and linguistic history of the book, and the religious anthropology of the late Middle Ages and the early modern period.' Denis Crouzet, University of Paris-Sorbonne and Director of the Roland Mousnier Centre

    'Reinburg treats the Book of Hours in an innovative light, illustrating the rich variety of these medieval bestsellers and showing the many ways medieval and early modern people read these books, the multivocality of their prayer, the interaction between collective and individual engagement with the texts, and the multiple practical usages of the books for both devotion and literacy. Given its wideranging conclusions about the evolving nature of prayer, this book will be useful to medieval and early modern scholars in a number of fields, including religion, literature, art history, and history. Reinburg's book should prove accessible to advanced undergraduates and useful to those broadly interested in the history of spirituality, emotion, and prayer, especially as regards the emergence of individual devotion.' Jenny C. Bledsoe, Hortulus

    '… the editors have assembled contributions that are sparkling with ideas and new perspectives, as well as presenting a vast amount of new information. This publication will be a necessary point of reference for many years to come.' Rowan Watson, AMARC Newsletter

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107460065
    • length: 312 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.42kg
    • contains: 39 b/w illus. 2 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. A Social History of the Book of Hours: Prologue to Part I
    1. Culture and commerce
    2. Owners and their books
    3. Prayer book and primer
    Part II. An Ethnography of Prayer: Prologue to Part II
    4. Words and rites
    5. A fragment of a religion
    6. Prayer to the Virgin Mary

  • Author

    Virginia Reinburg, Boston College, Massachusetts
    Virginia Reinburg is an Associate Professor of History at Boston College, Massachusetts.

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