The “Sellers Hours”
[Book of Hours. Use of Sarum].
[Flanders or Northern France (St. Omer?), ca. 1325–1330].
Illuminated manuscript on vellum. (BRMS 13)
The Book of Hours, the most popular book of the Middle Ages, profoundly shaped Christian life by bringing a structured sanctity to each day of the year. Designed for private devotion to Christ, the Virgin Mary, and particular saints at appointed times of the day, its Latin prayers offered Christian lay people a uniquely personal source of spiritual fulfillment and hope for salvation.
The illuminated manuscript known as the “Sellers Hours” is the earliest Book of Hours preserved in any Texas collection. Extremely colorful and resplendent with burnished gold leaf, the tiny book features fifteen miniatures and ten lively vignettes of the Labors of the Months in the calendar, each set within pinnacled Gothic niches and surrounded in the margins by elaborate decorative motifs and fantastical hybrid creatures. Illuminated in the vicinity of St. Omer near the Franco-Flemish border, the Sellers Hours was produced for Sarum Use, featuring particular texts and devotions to local saints preferred by English owners, including a rare memorial to St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury.
The Sellers Hours also includes an extremely rare illustration for devotion to the English martyr Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. This provides the earliest possible date for the book itself, as Thomas of Lancaster was assassinated by his cousin, Edward II, in 1322. The Earl’s cult arose circa 1325 but lasted only a few years as efforts to canonize him in 1327 failed, leaving only a handful of such images and devotional texts.
The Ruth and Lyle Sellers Medical Collection