Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers, 1240-1570

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In this richly illustrated book, religious historian Eamon Duffy discusses the Book of Hours, unquestionably the most intimate and most widely used book of the later Middle Ages. He examines surviving copies of the personal prayer books which were used for private, domestic devotions, and in which people commonly left traces of their lives.  Manuscript prayers, biographical jottings, affectionate messages, autographs, and pious paste-ins often crowd the margins, flyleaves, and blank spaces of such books. From these sometimes clumsy jottings, viewed by generations of librarians and art historians as blemishes at best, vandalism at worst, Duffy teases out precious clues to the private thoughts and public contexts of their owners, and insights into the times in which they lived and prayed. His analysis has a special relevance for the history of women, since women feature very prominently among the identifiable owners and users of the medieval Book of Hours.

Books of Hours range from lavish illuminated manuscripts worth a king’s ransom to mass-produced and sparsely illustrated volumes costing a few shillings or pence. Some include customized prayers and pictures requested by the purchaser, and others, handed down from one family member to another, bear the often poignant traces of a family’s history over several generations. Duffy places these volumes in the context of religious and social change, above all the Reformation, discusses their significance to Catholics and Protestants, and describes the controversy they inspired under successive Tudor regimes. He looks closely at several special volumes, including the cherished Book of Hours that Sir Thomas More kept with him in the Tower of London as he awaited execution.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books

“. . . Probably the most intimate glimpse possible into medieval social history. . . . constructed in easy and confiding prose. . . . Almost certainly the most informative and readable account of the actual use of Books of Hours ever written.”—Christopher de Hamel, New York Review of Books

— Christopher de Hamel

New York Review of Books - Christopher de Hamel
“. . . Probably the most intimate glimpse possible into medieval social history. . . . constructed in easy and confiding prose. . . . Almost certainly the most informative and readable account of the actual use of Books of Hours ever written.”—Christopher de Hamel, New York Review of Books
America - Msgr. Thomas J. Shelley
"Marking the Hours is Professor Duffy's fourth book on the English Reformation and further enhances his reputation as one of the leading historians of Tudor England. . . . Marking the Hours is a valuable addition to our knowledge of that heritage, and it is served up with Duffy's characteristic panache."—Msgr. Thomas J. Shelley
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300170580
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 2/22/2011
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 968,568
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Eamon Duffy is the professor of the History of Christianity, and Fellow and Director of Studies, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. He lives in Cambridge, UK.
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Table of Contents

Preface     VIII
List of Illustrations     X
Towards a History of Intimacy
A Book for Lay People     3
Devotional Intimacy: a Book of Remembrance     23
Devotional Isolation?     53
Sanctified Whingeing? The Voice of Prayer in the Late Middle Ages
A Book for an Aristocrat: the Talbot Hours     67
The Roberts Hours: Piety off the Peg     81
Sanctified Whingeing?     97
The Prayers of Thomas More     107
Catholic Books in a Protestant World
The Impact of Print     121
The Break with Rome     147
Marginality and Eclipse     171
Notes     179
Bibliography     190
Index     196
Photographic credits     202
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