August 1, 2017

Wee Hours through Noon

        As previously mentioned, I’ve been working on a project inspired by the medieval Book of Hours, a genre that was simultaneously status symbol and aide to private devotion.  Because of the former, these books were often beautifully crafted and lavishly decorated with gorgeous illustrations and decorative borders.  Because of the latter, they included calendars of church celebrations, psalms and Bible excerpts, prayers and creeds to recite at different times of the day on different days of the week, litanies of saints to invoke, and so on.  Since I’m not Catholic (let alone medieval) I don’t care about the specific Saints’ Days or prayers traditionally included in medieval books of hours, but I do embrace the idea of spirituality throughout the day and the year.  I like the reminder that it’s always appropriate to be aware of the natural rhythms of the day, to be grateful for the gifts of each
part of the cycle, to maintain wonder and appreciation for the presence of the divine all the time.  So I began to think about a series of prints celebrating each of the traditional “hours” of the day.
        Again, I’m not necessarily adhering strictly to the monastic hours, which had a good deal of variation from order to order and century to century.  I simply chose to divide the day into eight more-or-less equal and important moments: wee hours, dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, dusk, evening, and midnight.  These would be equally spaced if dawn and dusk were exactly twelve hours apart, in which case you could think of the times as being 3am, 6am, 9am, 12 noon, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm, 12 midnight.  They roughly correspond to the traditional “hour” names vigils, matins/prime/lauds, terce, sext, none, vespers, compline, and getting some sleep for goodness sake.  (Again, the observation of
these “hours” and exactly when they fell varied a great deal historically.  See my post Time for Etymology for a quick summary of how one such monastic change gave us our word noon.)
        Today I share the first four “hours” in my series.  You can see that my inspiration from medieval books of hours gave me elaborate decorative borders, as well as the inclusion of text.  My texts are not all explicitly religious, but they are all definitely spiritual to me.  I composed the text for  Wee Hours using Dylan Thomas’s beautiful phrase “the close and holy darkness,” and Dawn’s line is from Shakespeare’s sonnet 29, my favorite.  Morning and Noon are simply my own.
        As far as design, Morning was the hardest because I couldn't figure out what to do that was different.  It seems a little too similar to Dawn and Noon.  But one
thing it does include that's different from these other three is signs of human activity.
        I’ll share the final four hours in the next post, along with my further ambitions…

[Pictures: Wee Hours, block print by AEGN, 2017;
Dawn, block print by AEGN, 2017;
Morning, block print by AEGN, 2017;
Noon, block print by AEGN, 2017.]

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