(More) Books of Hours as Transformative Works

Originally presented as the keynote lecture for Bindings Across Physical Formats and Digital Spaces, organized by the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture, University of Wisconsin Madison, Madison, WI, June 2021. This is an expansion of the work described in my blog post Books of Hours as Transformative Works posted in November 2019.

Good afternoon, and thank you everyone for coming today. Thanks especially to Heather and John for inviting me today, and for organizing the workshop. I was only able to sit in on parts of it but I learned a lot and I especially appreciated the obvious joy and pleasure that everyone took in the lectures and the hands-on exercises.

I am a librarian and curator at the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS), which is a research and development group in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania. I’ve been at Penn, at SIMS, for eight years, since SIMS was founded in 2013. The work we do at SIMS is focused broadly on medieval manuscripts and on digital medieval manuscripts – we have databases we host, we work with the physical collections in the library, we collaborate on a number of projects hosted at other institutions. Anything manuscript related, we’re interested in. My personal research interests revolve around what happens when we digitize manuscripts and then view them virtually, and how different theories and frames can help us design better interfaces.

So it may not be a surprise that I want to start my talk today with a brief discussion of what the digitization of a manuscript does, and how it affects our perceptions of manuscripts. 

Demo of manuscript photography in the upper right corner, digitized images in a page-turning interface in the middle.

Essentially, manuscript digitization involves taking photographs of each physical element of the book – each page, the covers, flyleaves, and – preferably – spine, top, bottom and foredges, metadata describing both the analog manuscript and various aspects of the digitization (including information about the camera, the time and circumstances the photos were taken in, and structural metadata that describes the order of the various pieces in reference to the original) and then storing that somewhere for future use. What kind of use? Well, usually – for institutional digitization – there is software provided for what we in the business call “end users” which interprets the data and metadata and arranges everything into some kind of interface. The interface is the thing that mediates your interaction with a digitized manuscript.

The Hamilton Book of Hours (Library Company of Philadelphia Ms. 24), in the BiblioPhilly interface

Most interfaces are fairly basic. This screenshot is Library Company Ms. 24 presented through the BiblioPhilly interface, which was built two years ago after the completion of a three-year project, the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project, which was funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources to digitize and make available as Free Cultural Works the medieval and early modern manuscript holdings of the institutions in Philadelphia. We ended up digitizing over 475 codices and many more individual leaves, and we partnered with Byte Studios in Milwaukee to build this interface. These screenshots show a Gallery View (where thumbnails are displayed in a grid) and the Collation View, which includes structural diagrams of each quire and allows users to arrange digital images by conjoined leaves instead of by openings.

I’m showing all this to start to get us thinking about the concept of transformation. Manuscript digitization is one example of how we transform manuscripts: through digitization we deconstruct manuscripts, breaking them virtually into individual pages and providing metadata about the object they represent and then combining that with structural metadata, which enables us to then reconstruct some kind of digital version of the physical object. As the example of the collation view implies, it’s possible to have multiple digital versions of an object, focused on different aspects of the physical object (in this case we provide both a page-turning view that mimics the experience of paging through the manuscript, and a collation view that shows us how the manuscript would appear if we were to take it apart, as well as providing diagrams that would not be available to us if we were just using the manuscript in the reading room. 

Nick Herman, SIMS Curator of Manuscripts, with Ms. Codex 1566, a Book of Hours, Use of Metz

For the rest of my talk I want to think about another kind of transformation: the textual and physical transformation inherent in a group of manuscripts that dominated the manuscript trade for 250 years during the middle ages and into the Renaissance – Books of Hours. What are books of hours? I will say much more about their history later in my talk, but to start (and to give us an excuse to look at a beautiful little book for a few minutes, courtesy of my colleague Nick Herman),

  • Christian devotional book popular in the middle ages (particularly in the 15-16th centuries
  • Personal devotion
  • Most common type of surviving medieval illuminated manuscript
  • Designed to bring monastic practice into the private home
  • Representation of personal wealth

Books of hours were personal, frequently personalized books, and they were prized and, dare I say, loved by their owners. And that’s how we come to the concept of the transformative work.

I am not ashamed to admit that I love things, some things quite deeply. I love my family, obviously, but there are other things that bring me joy. One of them is medieval manuscripts. The other one is Star Wars. I’m what is referred to as a fan. A fanatic. I watch the movies and TV shows, I read and write fan fiction, I participate in fandom activities on and offline, and I encourage other fans to create transformative works.

I’ve been able to combine my loves together in various ways too, including, in 2019, collaborating on a series of videos with another medievalist and Star Wars fan, Dr. Brandon Hawk at Rhode Island College, in which we compared manuscripts from Penn’s collections with the “Ancient Jedi texts” shown in The Last Jedi. We have continued that work to include the manuscripts from The Rise of Skywalker and from other Star Wars properties, and we’ll be presenting this Fall at the Books on Screen Symposium organized by the Association of Adaptation Studies. 

So this project is another opportunity for me to combine my great loves – my love of manuscripts and my love of Star Wars, specifically my love of the fandom. And I don’t use that word lightly:  Love. I don’t think we talk enough about how emotions drive us, positive and negative emotions, individually and in groups, and how they influence what we study. So when I was looking for frames through which to examine digital manuscripts – which is the genesis of the project I’m telling you about today –  the frame of “Transformative Work” was a particularly attractive one. I wasn’t satisfied with my first attempts to apply this frame to digitized manuscripts, but after a few tries I found that it had potential for thinking about analog manuscripts.  

The Transformative work is a concept that comes out of fandom: that is, the fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc. regarded collectively as a community or subculture. We typically talk about fandom in relation to sports, movies, or TV shows, but people can be fans of many things (including manuscripts). As defined on the Fanlore wiki:

Transformative works are creative works about characters or settings created by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creators. Transformative works include but are not limited to fanfiction, real person fiction, fan vids, and graphics. A transformative use is one that, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the [source] with new expression, meaning, or message.

In some fandom communities, transformative works play a major role in how the members of that fandom communicate with each other and how they interact with the canon material (“canon” being the term fans use to refer the original work). Transformative works start with canon but then transform it in various ways to create new work – new stories, new art, new ideas, possible directions for canon to take in the future, directions canon would never take but which are fun or interesting to consider.

For example, a story where characters from the Star Wars movies are lectured by C3-PO on the dangers of wearing white cotton gloves while working with manuscripts, or artwork where Darth Vader is reimagined as a medieval Dark Knight

There is a small but growing academic movement to apply the concept of transformative work to historical texts. Some of this work is happening through the Organization for Transformative Works, which among other things hosts Archive of Our Own, a major site for fans to publish their fanworks, and provides legal advocacy for creators of fanworks.

The Organization for Transformative Works also publishes a journal, Transformative Works and Cultures, and in 2016 they published an issue “The Classical Canon and/as Transformative Work,” which focused on relating ancient historical and literary texts to the concept of fan fiction (that is, stories that fans write that feature characters and situations from canon) and in 2019 they published a special issue on “Fan Fiction and Ancient Scribal Culture,” which “explored the potential of fan fiction as an interpretative model to study ancient religious texts.” This special issue was edited by a group of scholars who lead the “Fan Fiction and Ancient Scribal Cultures” working group in the European Association of Biblical Studies, which organized a conference on the topic in 2016. 

You will note that the academic work on transformative works I’ve mentioned focus specifically on fan fiction’s relationship with classical and medieval texts, which makes a fair amount of sense given the role of textual reuse in the classical and medieval world. In her article “The Role of Affect in Fan Fiction ,” published in the Transformative Works and Cultures special issue of 2016, Dr. Anna Wilson places fan fiction within the category of textual reception, wherein texts from previous times are received by and reworked by future authors. In particular, Dr. Wilson points to the epic poetry of classical literature, medieval romance poetry, and Biblical exegesis, but she notes that comparisons between modern transformative works – that is, fan fiction – and these past examples of textual reception are undertheorized, and leave out a major aspect of fan fiction that is typically not found, or even looked for, in the past examples.

She says, “To define fan fiction only by its transformative relationship to other texts runs the risk of missing the fan in fan fiction—the loving reader to whom fan fiction seeks to give pleasure. Fan fiction is an example of affective reception. While classical reception designates the content being received, affective reception designates the kind of reading and transformation that is taking place. It is a form of reception that is organized around feeling.” (Wilson, 1.2)

My first attempt at applying the concept of the transformative work to medieval manuscripts was a paper presented at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in 2018, but although it was an interesting exercise it left something to be desired. 

Dot Porter’s video orientation to LJS 101

UPenn LJS 101 is the oldest codex we have in the University of Pennsylvania Libraries by at least 150 years and is one of only two codices in our collection which is written in Caroline minuscule (the other one being UPenn Ms. Codex 1058, dated to ca. 1100 and located to Laon). 

The bulk of the manuscript, folios five through 44 (Quires two through six), are dated to the mid-9th century, but in the early 12th century replacement leaves were added for the first four leaves and for the last 20 leaves. The contents of LJS 101 reflects the educational program set up in the Carolingian court by Alcuin, and includes thorough glossing and editing of the 9th century section by the hand of the 12th century scribe.

Over the course of the presentation I did a slow walk-through of the manuscript, examining it from cover to cover and noting every instance of a signs of care from the people who created and, for the most part, have used the manuscript since it was created. There were two things I paid particular attention to as I was working on that paper, with regard to trying to fit the manuscript into the frame of a transformative work. The first was what exactly was it that was being transformed. 

The thing that is being transformed is something canon – usually a book, movie, or tv show, but it could be something else; an artwork, or a sports game, for example – and then there is the transformation, the transformative work. In the case of LJS 101, one could argue that the canon is the various texts in the manuscript, but by the time they were written in that parchment, they had already been transformed – they’d been copied and recopied, edited, a scribe had decided to use this copy of the text for their manuscript and not that one (if they even had a choice, which we can’t know), someone decided which other texts to include. If one argues instead that the canon was the 9th century version of the manuscript – as it existed when it was created – and the version we have now is the transformative work, I find that a bit more satisfying, although there’s still another problem. 

I’m not comfortable applying Dr. Wilson’s concept of affective reception to the people who created and worked with LJS 101 – I don’t want to suggest that these people loved the manuscript– but I do want to explore the idea that this person or people cared about it, and that other people have cared about this manuscript over time enough that it survives to live now in our library at the University of Pennsylvania. Their interests may have been scholarly, or based on pride of ownership, or even based on curiosity, but whatever their reasons for caring for the manuscript, they did care, and we know they cared because of the physical marks that they have left on these books. Manuscripts that survive also often show examples of lack of care, damage and so forth, so those elements need to be included in this framework as well. So coming out of that paper I suggested a language of care around their use, rather than the frame of Transformative Work.

After Leeds, I spent some time wondering if there were actually a way to make the frame of Transformative Work fit any medieval manuscript, or if it was just another one of my zany ideas. But in the fall of 2018, when I was teaching an undergraduate course on medieval manuscripts with Dr. Will Noel, then director of the Schoenberg Institute and the Kislak Center, I had a bit of an epiphany as he was lecturing on Books of Hours. He made the very important point that people saw Books of Hours at least in part as a ticket to salvation. As I will describe in a moment, Books of Hours are organized around the veneration of the Virgin Mary, who acts as an intercessor between Christ and people on earth. By using Books of Hours to ask Mary to intercede with us for Christ, the people who owned them hoped to spend less time in purgatory and to make to heaven, to be with Christ, sooner than they might otherwise.

I still thought this idea was a bit weird, so I sat down with my colleague Nick Herman, whose hands you saw in the video earlier, and talked about the potential of manuscripts as transformative works, and he reminded me that, unlike LJS 101, which really only works as a transformative work in a physical sense, Books of hours can work both textually and physically. What do I mean by this?

Textually, Books of Hours are designed to be lay versions of the texts that priests, monks, and nuns used during their lives in the Church. Churches, cathedrals, and monasteries had antiphonaries – containing liturgical chants – and breviaries –  books furnishing the regulations for the celebration of the canonical Office – for the use of their communities, usually very large books that the members of the community would share as they sang and recited prayers together. 

Historians trace the growth of Books of Hours to the late 13th century, when social and economic changes led to both a growing secularization and an embryonic urban middle class, which emerged through the 14th and 15th centuries. Speaking generally these groups – although small – had money, and they were both literate and interested in books. They were also pious. In Time Sanctified, Roger Wieck explains that the laity at this time wished to imitate the clergy by adapting their prayers, adapting their books, and by adopting their direct relationship with God. The book of hours gave them all of these things: “a series of prayers like the clergy’s, but less complex, and a type of book like the breviary, but easier to use and more pleasing to the eye.”

The growth of the cult of the Virgin around this same time also contributed to the development and popularity of Books of Hours. Indeed, the thing that determines whether a prayer book is a Book of Hours or some other type of prayer book is the inclusion of the Hours of the Virgin. The Hours of the Virgin did not come into the common use before the 10th century although it may be older, and it was added to breviaries in various monastic orders throughout the 11th and 12th centuries. The Hours of the Virgin were extracted from the breviary and became the centerpiece of the Book of Hours: a set of prayers to Mary, designed to be recited daily and throughout the day – eight times, roughly following the canonical hours that would be practiced in a monastery – an ongoing reminder of the pious life of the user of any given Book of Hours.

In addition to the Hours of the Virgin, Books of Hours will typically include a Calendar, which will list festivals and saints’ days presumed relevant for the geographical location in which the owner of the book resides; The Gospels; the Hours of the Cross and Hours of the Holy Spirit; two prayers to the Virgin known as the Obsecro te and the O intemerata; the Penitential Psalms and Litany; the Office of the Dead; and various and perhaps numerous Sufferages. 

The Hours of the Virgin were pulled from existing monastic or liturgical books, but so were other parts of a typical Book of Hours – the Calendar, the Office of the Dead, and of course the Penitential Psalms. Other elements, including the Hours of the Cross and Hours of the Holy Spirit, the Obsecro te and the O intemerata, and the Suffrages have uncertain sources although it’s unclear in my research whether they were original to Books of Hours.

Returning to the frame of Transformative Works, here we have Books of Hours, as a class or type of books, that represent a transformation of canonical liturgical texts originally developed for clerical and monastic users, into texts that are explicitly for lay use, and this transformation was explicitly made from a place of affection – based on religious piety – on the part of the people doing the transforming. In other words, Books of Hours are transformative works of the liturgical canon. 

But that’s looking at Books of Hours as a class. What about transformation within the class? According to Lawrence R Poos, in his chapter on Social History and the Book of Hours in Time Sanctified, the most commonplace books of hours (as opposed to the lavish, illuminated, highly personalized ones which are prized by art museums and collectors today) were virtually mass-produced from standard exemplars. For the social historian this is notable because it means that one didn’t have to be incredibly wealthy to purchase and own a book of hours. But I think that “virtually” is doing a lot of work there. As I explained earlier Books of Hours usually contain a set group of texts, and they usually appear in a set order (perhaps pointing to these ‘standard exemplars’ that Poos mentions), my theory coming into this is that, in practice, the textual organization of individual Books of Hours is much more variant than this statement implies. So I did a bit of work to visualize the variance of contents across a collection of Books of Hours. 

(and here is the color coding I used for the most common texts, as listed by Roger Wieck in Time Sanctified, and others)

I visualized the contents of three collections of Books of Hours, pulling the contents lists from the digitization metadata, which for all of these happens to be in the TEI format: those digitized through the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project (including Penn’s small collection of Books of hours), those of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore digitized through Digital Walters, and the e-codices digital library of Switzerland (which is new for this presentation). I was able to pull out the contents from the Walters and BiblioPhilly TEI automatically; the e-codices data was inconsistent enough that I entered it by hand into an online Google Form, and then transformed the resulting spreadsheet. Then I color coded each text.

Here are the first couple of books of hours, and you can see that the texts in both are in a slightly different order than the “usual” order.

To more easily view the variance I turned the color charts on their side, placing each manuscript in a row, and stacked them. Here is the data for the books of hours from the BiblioPhilly collection. The Hours of the Virgin is the gold bar down the center; I did it this way because the Hours of the Virgin is the central text of Books of Hours and it made sense to visualize the other texts around that one. The rest of the contents are arranged around that text. We can see that the area before the Hours of the Virgin tend to be warmer, and the area after the Hours of the Virgin tend to be cooler, there is an awful lot of variation there. Unfortunately this chart isn’t organized in a thoughtful way; There are a mix of uses represented here, including Paris, Rome, Sarum, Franciscan, Bourges, and Utrecht, among others, and they range from the 14th through the 16th centuries, mostly from France and the Netherlands, but they aren’t ordered, and that’s definitely something that would need to be addressed in future use. The chart also doesn’t take into account any physical modifications that might have been made to the individual manuscripts, modifications that could lead to texts being reordered at some point after the book was written. 

This view also doesn’t take into account the actual or relative length of the books, so for this paper I focused on creating visualizations using a relative chart, using the same colors for the texts. 

Books of hours from the Walters Art Museum

In this visualization, we have Books of Hours from the Walters Art Museum, each book has its texts distributed across a row, which is the same length for each book. Again the Hours of the Virgin are in gold, with the other texts colored appropriately, but because the gold bar of the Hours of the Virgin appear very long in some, and short in others – assuming that the Hours of the Virgin is approximately the same in each manuscript – you get a better sense of the size of the books in number of folios from this visualization.

Following is a series of visualizations, sorted by place created and organized by date (earlier-later from the top of the chart). Using these one might be able to start to make arguments about preferences for the contents and organization of books of hours based on location and date (I am not doing that in this talk – I am simply presenting data).

This is interesting, but the more work I do on this sort of textual variation the more I feel like I’m getting into textual analysis, which is interesting but doesn’t really fit the “Transformative Work” frame. So I want to step back into the frame and spend the last few minutes of my talk looking at the physical books, because I think that’s where we can really see affective reception. 


Presentaion miniature from the Bible of Saint Louis, Paris, c. 1220-1230, New York, The Morgan Library & Museum, MS M 240

To begin it might be helpful to clarify who was making the decisions about what was included in books of hours at the time that they were made. Notwithstanding the earlier quote about the virtual mass production of books of hours from standard exemplars, even in those cases there were decisions to be made about the creation of individual books. This illustration – thanks to Nick Herman, SIMS Curator of Manuscripts, for bringing it to my attention – shows a woman, thought to be Blanche of Castille, dedicating the book to her son, Louis IX, with a cleric and a scribe below working on the book. This is an effective visual of the top-down nature of the planning and manufacture of books of hours. While there was a general structure within which a book of hours would fit (and, as we can see from the previous visualizations, that general structure may vary depending on where and when the book was created) specific decisions about what was included, in which order, and details about the illuminations which would accompany the texts, would be made by the people who were commissioning the book to be made, not by the scribes and artists. Books of hours were built to spec, and while they might be bought and sold after creation and also passed down through families, it would have been unusual for someone to purchase an already written book of hours without them making some kind of change to it. This is usually talked about as personalization but it is reasonable, given the purpose and use of Books of hours, that personalization can be considered as a kind of affective reception.

One of the most common ways for people to personalize their books of hours at the time of creation was through the inclusion of owner’s or patron’s portraits. These portraits, whether they resemble the physicality of the individual owner or they are a more general representation, allow the people to quite literally insert themselves into the Biblical story, most frequently alongside Jesus or the Virgin Mary, in a similar way that an author of modern fan fiction might insert themselves into canon stories as a self-insert, or fans might commission artists to draw them with their favorite characters.

As we look at the portraits please note the number of women included in the owner portraits. One thing that I wanted to look into more for this talk but I didn’t end up having time to include is the question of gender when it comes to who owned and used books of hours and who had them made. The reason for my interest in this specifically is that 

transformative fandom tends to be a draw for women (and other people who are not cis men) while the other “type” of fandom, curatorial fandom, tends to be more attractive for cis men (although as with every division there are overlaps and exceptions), and that I have in the past heard books of hours described as a “feminine genre.” I haven’t looked into this as much as I would like, but it does certainly appear that although women did commission, own, and use books of hours, so did men – and in fact most of the most famous books of hours that survive were owned by men – so it’s clearly not just women here. Even so I think there is more to be parsed out; the “feminine genre” label may be due more to the misogyny of modern scholars than to anything that was happening in the middle ages. 

Once a book of hours was made, whether a more standard one or a personalized one, there were other transformations still to be made. Books of hours have long afterlives.  

For several years now Dr. Kathryn Rudy at the University of St Andrews has been doing important and cutting-edge work on how people in the medieval and early modern periods physically interacted with their books, particularly their prayer books, and two of her studies are particularly relevant to the concept of Books of Hours of transformative works.

In her book Piety in Pieces: How Medieval Readers Customized Their Manuscripts, Dr Rudy classifies the many ways in which the owners of Netherlandish prayerbooks modified these books over time. (This book, by the way, is published under Open Access and is free to download, I highly recommend it) In the introduction, she points out that it’s often difficult if not impossible to understand exactly why some of these changes were made, but clearly some of the possible reasons lie within the realm of Wilson’s definition of affection. Rudy says:

In this study I explore the ways in which medieval book owners adjusted the contents of their books to reflect changed circumstances. Such circumstances were not usually so overtly political, but they nonetheless reveal other fears and motivations. Religious, social or economic reasons could also motivate such emendations. Augmentations to a book reveal strong emotional and social forces.

Dr Rudy divides the modifications into two groups, those that require rebinding and those that don’t, and comes up with a detailed variety of changes. The list includes many ways that people changed their prayer books, from changing the text in various ways to adding new leaves or removing old ones. Dr Rudy’s study also includes sections on modular design – where prayer books were built from modules that were designed to be modified on spec, either during the time the book was being made or after – and on modifications that led to complete overhauls of books; for example, building books out of quires that were originally part of other books.

Most relevant for the discussion of Books of Hours as transformative works and the accompanying concept of affective reception is Dr Rudy’s final chapter, in which she lists the reasons that changes might have been made – reasons that she refers to as patterns of desire.

I have asked in this study: how did later users register their opinions that a book considered perfectly acceptable by its previous owners was for them somehow incomplete, and by what means did they express their discontent? How can their acts of recycling and upcycling be interpreted? The kinds of augmentations owners made to books reveal certain patterns of desires, which I enumerate here.

Although these desires vary significantly from the kind of affection that I’ve discussed earlier in the paper – which focused on the love of the Virgin Mary and the desire to reach God (so, I suppose, aligns most clearly with “H. Fear of Hell”) – these other desires also reflect affection of various sorts.     

One of Dr Rudy’s other studies focuses on densitometry, or the quantitative measurement of optical density in light-sensitive materials. It is a simple fact that medieval and later users of manuscripts leave traces of their use of manuscripts in the form of dirt around the edges of pages, and sometimes on decorations and illustrations as well. More use would deposit more dirt, more dirt would make an area darker, and that darkness vs. the lightness of the rest of the page can be picked up using a tool called a densitometer. Dr. Rudy used a densitometer to measure the distribution of dirt through a number of Netherlandish prayer books and first published her findings in “Dirty Books: Quantifying Patterns of Use in Medieval Manuscripts Using a Densitometer,” in the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art in 2010. Her conclusion was that in applying densitometry to prayer books, one might be able to determine which pages – and thus which texts – users of those books turned to the most. 

While my concern with the care of LJS 101 focused on how it was manipulated by later users – by how they bound it, notated it, cared for it in a physical sense – Dr. Rudy’s use of densitometry is designed to determine which prayers the people who actively used the prayer books recited most frequently. It’s a physical indication of religious practice – in other words, affective reception. 

Here are two examples from Dr Rudy’s article. This first is from a Missal – a liturgical book, not a personal prayer book – That shows where a priest (or perhaps priests) kissed the illumination enough to damage it. This circle and cross at the bottom of the page is an osculation plaque, which was designed to be kissed and touched in place of the illumination, as artists knew that their work would be the object of veneration. So that plaque has been well-worn, but the priest wandered, at times reaching up as high as Christ’s feet.

In addition to measuring the wear of illuminations to see how people caressed their books, Dr Rudy used densitometry to measure dirt on the edge of pages. These pages show very heavy discoloration in the bottom margins, which implies that someone (or many someones) held the book open frequently to this page, which contains the incipit of a prayer to the “Seventy-two Names of the Virgin.” 

Someone loved the Virgin Mary, so they returned to this page again and again to read this prayer, thereby physically changing the book with the addition of dirt from their fingers. Affective reception, completely accidental.

I want to close by saying that I am, honestly, skeptical of how well books of hours fit the frame of transformative work, but even if it turns out not to be a good fit doing this project over the past couple of years has definitely been worthwhile for me. It’s given me an appreciation for books of hours that I didn’t have before, and it’s also uncovered some possible options for ongoing study: the question of the gender of the people who commissioned, owned, and used books of hours and how modern research may have colored our thinking around that, and the variation of contents by geography and how that changed over time and varied by use. On this second point there is a major research project in Europe that is tackling this second question, HORAE, under the direction of Dominique Stutzmann at the Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes, which is focused on the automated reading of books of hours in order to determine the contents (as I discovered when I was gathering data for my visualizations for this talk, many catalogues, particularly of art museums, don’t include completely lists of textual contents for their books of hours), and HORAE is set to both determine contents and then do analysis over geography and time; it will be exciting to see what they come up with.

Returning again to these pages: This book is one of many that contain approximately the same texts, in the same approximate order, but each of which was designed and written to be used by individuals for prayer and contemplation. And finally this type of book, the Book of Hours, was a transformation of liturgical texts into something that individuals could use for prayer in their own lives.

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