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Books of Hours at Houghton: September
Book of hours: crushing grapes detail

September 2013—As a prayer book for both commoners and royalty, the book of hours enjoyed unprecedented popularity—a “bestseller” of the Middle Ages. Known for their often spectacular decoration, books of hours provide a virtually continuous, dense record of medieval life, painting and Christian iconography.
Books of hours frequently included calendars marking church feasts, which often contain an image of an activity associated with a month. For example, a laborer crushing grapes for wine appears with September, symbolizing winemaking, in the 1470 Habert du Berry d’Artois-Hoe Book of Hours. This book, part of the Houghton Library collection, was named for its first owner, a member of the Habert du Berry d’Artois family, and its last owner, the New York bibliophile Robert Hoe. It was acquired by William King Richardson, Harvard Class of 1880, who bequeathed it to Houghton in 1951.
Harvard’s Houghton Library holds a rich collection of books of hours, some of which have been comprehensively digitized and are exhibited online.
See the August Image of the Month here.