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

Eamon Duffy
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 Oct 2006
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, fly-leaves, 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.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 201 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (27 Oct 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300117140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300117141
  • Product Dimensions: 24.7 x 20 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 564,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'...passionate and knowledgable...[Duffy] has again opened for the reader a
window into the medieval world of faith and fervour.' -- Catholic Herald, December 22, 2006

'It takes subtle insight and deep historical understanding to interpret
these traces of intimate spiritual arresting, affecting
book'. -- The Sunday Telegraph, December 24th, 2006

'The most beautiful history book of the year.' -- The Times, November 18, 2006

'readable and convincing...Duffy brings alive the daily lives of English
people...through the[ir] beautiful prayer books.' -- The Spectator, November 18, 2006

" arresting and beautiful book..."
-- The Spectator, October 2006

" is to be expected in a book published by Yale University Press, it is beautifully produced and profusely illustrated. Duffy has yet again demonstrated his total mastery of the topic of popular religion in the late middle ages. His book can hardly be bettered as an accessible introduction to English late medieval prayer books and the debates surrounding them." -- History, October, 2007

"...this book was a revelation. It brings individuals and history back to life. Beautifully illustrated, it's a coffee-table book with a brain." -- Church Times, October 19, 2007

'Marking the Hours brilliantly opens up 'windows on men's
souls' - as well as being this year's most beautifully produced work of
-- The Sunday Telegraph, December 3, 2006

'Like books of hours, Duffy's new book is lavilshly illustrated,
so one can also see what he is writing about.'
-- BBC History Magazine, November 2006

'once again, the author of Stripping of the Alters has
given us a newly convincing picture of a misunderstood period of religious
practice.' -- The Tablet, November 18, 2006

About the Author

Eamon Duffy is professor of the history of Christianity, Cambridge University, and fellow of Magdalene College. He has received many prizes for his previous books, including the Longman-History Today prize, and the Hawthornden prize.

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Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb writing and lavish illustrations 8 Mar 2009
After reading "The Stripping of the Altars", I was determined to read more of Eamon Duffy's works and with each one I am not only more informed but more appreciative of the strong faith held pre- and at the time of the English Reformation.

In this most lavish book, Duffy looks at copies of personal Prayer Books, and in particular the writings on them which record the lives, and deaths, of those near and dear to the owners, giving us fascinating insights to the lives and devotional practices of the owners. The illustrations of the Prayer Books are worth the price of this book alone, but Eamon Duffy is an engaging and intelligent writer, and every page will inform and educate. More please Mr Duffy!
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81 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another 'must have' from Eamon Duffy. 13 Dec 2006
By Brim
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
'Marking the hours' is an excellent companion book to Professor Duffy's 'The Stripping of the Altars' and 'Voices of Morebath'. The main thrust of Duffys arguement in 'Altars' and 'Morebath' is that immediately prior to the Henrician reformation England's adherance to Rome was firm and that there was little to suggest that there was an appetite for the non-conformism fomenting on the continent.

'Marking the Hours' is more 'grist to Duffy's mill'. By an examination of the mostly previously ignored marginalia, emendations, additions and deletions to copies of Books of Hours, enscribed and printed between the early 13th century and late 16th century, Duffy replies to historians whose theories run counter to his thesis. This he does methodically and presents his interpretation with typical lucidity.

Duffy seems to have written a canon of his very own and for anyone interested in catholicism in reformation England it needs to be read and 'Marking the Hours' is an original contribution to it and also to the understanding of that time in its generality.

A note on the quality of the book build itself: 'Marking the Hours' contains many splendid reproduction of pages from Books of Hours both expensive and hand written and low budget popular imports; all are pertinant to the text and add hugely to the enjoyment of such an essay. It is also printed on sturdy alkaline paper which gives rise to the hope, at least, that it may last as long as the subjects contained therein.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marking the Hours 30 Jun 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Another superb offering from Eamon Duffy. This is a lavishly illustrated book - all the illustrations are in colour - concerning the prayer books - Books of Hours - used by the English laity for their meditations and religious devotions. Initially produced by hand, eventually the advent of printing ensured that Books of Hours, once the exclusive preserve of the very wealthy, could now be purchased by those possessed of more far modest means.

Here, the author is concerned principally with what the "added" content to many of these devotional aids - added into the original texts and scribbled in the margins -in the hands of those who owned them, have to say about the religious beliefs of their owners.

There are case studies of several Books of Hours and also a careful consideration of what befell the content of these Catholic devotional books and manuscripts during the upheavals of the Reformation.

Well worth reading and purchasing.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marking Eternity 19 Feb 2008
This book is meticulously researched and presented with beautiful colour plates on almost every page. Duffy's devotion to his subject is infectious. Here he writes with a simple lightness of touch which makes for easy reading that remains yet scholarly and accessible. This is a beautiful book to own and keep or to give as a gift. Many finely reproduced images are here available and now lend themselves for all time to thoughtful reflection anywhere. This is a quality product and a worthy tribute to the material which was so cherished and lovingly preserved through the ages by so many classes of people even after the reformation.
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