Introduction

In Medieval Europe the Book of Hours, so called because its core component consists of the Hours of the Virgin, became the prayer book of choice for worshippers prosperous enough to commission or purchase such a book.

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Although its contents were of monastic origin, literate lay readers were the most likely to use books of hours, as served not only as a prayer book, but also as a way of keeping track of the calendar, often doubling as a family chronicle.

Books of hours provide insight into broad patterns of piety marking the High and later Middle Ages, and through their choice of texts, images and added materials, inform us about the interior life and aspirations of everyone from kings and queens and lords and ladies to monks and nuns and, ordinary members of the patrician class, merchants and others.

In this course, we will explore how books of hours provide the closest thing we have to a comprehensive and continuous record of the development of painting across most of western Europe from the later thirteenth through the early sixteenth century.

“The Book of Hours” is the eigth of nine modules in the series of courses called “The Book: Histories Across Time and Space.” You may take this course on its own, or with the other courses of the series.

HarvardX pursues the science of learning. By registering as an online learner in an HX course, you will also participate in research about learning. Read our research statement to learn more.

Meet The Faculty

Jeffrey F. Hamburger

Jeffrey F. Hamburger

Kuno Francke Professor of German Art and Culture Harvard University

Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Kuno Francke Professor of German Art & Culture in the Department of the History of Art & Architecture at Harvard University, is a specialist in the history of the book in the European Middle Ages. Having received his B.A. and Ph.D. at Yale University, he taught at Oberlin College and the University of Toronto before coming to Harvard University in 2000. Prof. Hamburger is a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences as well as the American Philosophical Society.

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