Authored by Emily Walls from data compiled by Ty Stewart, David Zeagler, Miranda Clay, and Katie Lech; updated by Cynthia Turner Camp


The Hargrett Hours is a book of hours that originated in fifteenth century Paris, and is currently part of the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. At the time of its creation, using a book of hours was routine for nearly all literate citizens in France as worship and prayer were considered an indispensable part of daily life. Every family had a Book of Hours and the books were used daily, sometimes multiple times a day. The Hargrett Hours manuscript made its way from Paris to Edinburgh, Scotland by the late nineteenth century. From there, the Hargrett Hours arrived in UGA’s collections by sometime in the mid-twentieth century.


The Hargrett Hours has gone through at least three different bindings. There is no evidence remaining of the original binding, although we can presume that it was initially bound. The second of the known three bindings is the stab-stitching binding, which most likely was done in between the removal of the now missing sections and the addition of tape to to the manuscript. Considering that a stab-stitching binding was most commonly used on manuscripts that were very cheaply made, which the Hargrett Hours is not, we can presume that the stab-stitched binding was used to hold together what was left of the book after portions of the Hours of the Virgin were removed.

The third and current binding uses untooled leather layered over some kind of pliable material like pasteboard. The binding isn’t rigid in the way that it would be if the boards had been made out of solid wood. The third binding effort also includes the tape that is used to piece some damaged pages back together and a bookplate that is placed on the front interior cover. All three of these aspects of the third binding — the tape, the untooled leather, and the bookplate — appear to be roughly contemporary with one another, which leads us to believe that the book changed hands after the second binding. The new owner saw fit to do some extensive repairs on the manuscript. After researching the bookplate, we found that the book came into the possession of a man named William Rae Macdonald in Edinburgh, Scotland during the early 1880s. The intricate design of the bookplate can be attributed to the fact that William Rae Macdonald was a member of upper middle class society. Research into Macdonald’s relationship with the book is still ongoing, and will be continued by future students.

History of Damage

The Hargrett Hours has sustained a large amount of damage since it was first bound, including fire damage, water damage, and intentional damage to the folios. We have no way of ascertaining when the manuscript sustained what damage or in what order the damage occured. The manuscript was involved in a serious fire sometime before it came into UGA’s possession, as is immediately visible when viewing the exterior of the book, most noticeably along the fore edge. Although the majority of the fire damage is limited to the outside edges of the pages, we can infer from the charring and warping of the final extant leaf that the end of the manuscript, including the final leaves of the suffrages and presumably the Office of the Dead, were severely damaged by fire and so removed. The book also has noticeable water damage along the bottom that has caused the pages to wrinkle. The wrinkled areas start along the bottom edge of the book and creep up towards the spine, which indicates that the book was sitting upright when it came into contact with water as opposed to laid out on a flat surface.

At some point the book fell into the hands of a person who thought that it would be more valuable divided into pieces, as we can tell from certain pages that have been neatly and intentionally cut out using a very sharp knife. Later on, likely under a different owner who we believe would have been William Rae Macdonald, the pages that had been cut were repaired with tape in order to prevent the damage pages from tearing and sustaining even more damage.

Damage by Folio Page

Folio Number Description

These folios are taped together in the gutter

One single vertical cut near the interior of the book

cut in the page at the bottom of text block
where somebody started to cut it out but
decided to stop (not repaired with tape)

Tape placed above, below, and on the
exterior of the text block

Tape placed along the gutter to keep the
page attached to the spine

Tape placed along the entirety of the gutter
to keep the page attached to the spine


Foliation and Collation

The manuscript is made of 13 quires, regularly in eight leaves, with the exception of the first quire, which contains twelve. Four out of the twelve eight-leaf quires are abnormal: quires II, III, X and XII all have fewer leaves than expected. The first quire contains twelve leaves rather than the regular eight because it includes the calendar. This anomaly it is expected as most calendars in books of hours are contained in a single quire.

The next two quires contain an abnormal number of folios. Quire II is a bifolium that stands alone. It seems to be in the middle of the Hour of Lauds in the Long Hours of the Passion. The fact that the manuscript moves from the calendar to Lauds of the Passion suggests that there are many missing quires at this point in the manuscript. Typically the Hours of the Virgin comes before the Long Hours of the Passion, but there are no remaining parts of the Hours of the Virgin in the book. This suggests that there is possibly an entire section missing from the book. What we do know is that Quire II contains Psalm 58 from Lauds of the Long Hours of the Passion and that its final folio, folio 14, is probably contiguous with the next quire starting on folio 15r because the Psalm continues across the quires. ​

Quire III begins on folio 15 and is an artificial bifolium held together by tape. It is not clear if folios 15 and 16 were attached before they were taped together or if they were put together in the restoration process with tape. What is clear is that the text is not contiguous between 15v and 16r, which suggests that there is at least a bifolium missing between folios 15 and 16. This can also be determined by the offsetting in the outer margins of folio 16r that would usually be caused by a border on the facing page rubbing on it. However, there is no decorative border on 15v. It is probable that quires II and III were once part of a single eight- folio quire and that the pages were repaired as best as could be in the restoration process. This would make sense as there are three hours missing or incomplete in the Long Hours of the Passion: Matins, Lauds, and Prime. Folios 13-15 contain text that would be expected from Lauds, and the offsetting on 16r suggests that Prime would have begun on the previous, missing page. Folio 16 is the last leaf of the original quire, because the catchword on fol. 16v aligns with the first word of fol. 17r, the beginning of Quire IV.  Matins is a bit of a mystery as there doesn’t seem to be any of it in the current Hargrett Book of Hours, and it is likely part of the missing folios from the complete quire that once contained quires II and III. If this theory is true, that means there is a missing leaf between folios 15 and 16, where the start of Prime would have fallen, and three more missing leaves from the opening of the original quire that would have contained the text of Matins and the beginning of Lauds.



The Hargrett Hours contains seven catchwords overall. We know that the book is missing a quire that should go at the end, because there is a catchword on the very last folio page that leads to nothing. This catchword is difficult to read because the page that it appears on is very heavily damaged by fire.

Quire Number

Folio Number

III 16v montem
IV 24v sederu[n]t
V 32v sicut
VI 40v nos
VII 48v titulu[m]
IX 64v bilitas
XI 78v ge[m]ma
XII 85v la Ioye


The entirety of the text of the book is formatted into one column on each page, with generous margins on every side. Each text column is composed of seventeen lines, and the red ink that creates the ruling is visible on almost every page, although the ruling is more visible towards the beginning of the manuscript. The calendar at the beginning of the book encompasses folios 1r-12v and is ruled to 21 lines.

Illumination and Ornamentation

There are no full-page illuminations in the Hargrett Hours, and it is overall very plain in appearance. There are six pages with borders, which are all very similar in design, indicating that all of the decorations were done by the same artist. Other decorations include penwork initials, champ initials, and four line initials that open each Hour. The color palette for the initials alternates between red and blue vs. black and gold.

Type Color Palette Example Notes
Red & Blue or Black & Gold  


Red & Blue or Black & Gold
Decorated Initials
Gold background
with red and blue detailing
Used to mark the
beginning of each Hour
Border   Used to mark the
beginning of each Hour


The text is written in a compact lettre batarde font that was most likely written by two, or perhaps three, scribes. One scribe wrote only the calendar, and only one other scribe seems to have done nearly the entirety of the rest of the manuscript; a different scribe, perhaps the calendar scribe, wrote fol. 60r-v and two lines on fol. 52r. The change in scribal hand occurs in the middle of coherent texts, and in the middle of quires. Several places in the text have lines where the ink suddenly goes from black to a lighter color, which most likely indicates a place where the quill ran out of ink or the ink pot was changed altogether and the new ink came from a different batch. The rubrics also appear to be written by the same scribe who wrote the main text.