Art, Identity and Devotion in Fourteenth-Century England: Three Women and their Books of Hours.

Kathryn A Smith

Paperback. 364p, 8 col pls, 145 b/w figs, 5 maps, 2 genealogies (The British Library and University of Toronto 2003). Publishers price € 22,00.

The rise to prominence, and prosperity, of certain lower noble or knightly families within local communities required them to take measures that ensured their social and political standing. Patronage and commissioning pieces such as Books of Hours provided affluent lay families with a means of signifying their social standing and proclaiming their religious piety. This book by Kathryn Smith contains a detailed and thorough study of three Books of Hours produced in the early 14th century, De Lisle, De Bois and Neville of Hornby, produced for Margaret of Beauchamp, Hawisia de Bois and Isabel de Byron. Adopting a wide-ranging approach, Smith examines the visual and textual aspects of the Books within a broad context, exploring issues of female patronage, devotional experience, personal and familial identity, book ownership, lay literacy and religious imagery as well as the practicalities of their production. Her discussion of the function of the Books is particularly revealing about the preoccupations of those owning the Books including issues of self-examination, commemoration, legitimation and instruction. A great addition to the series. 

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