Sometimes called the medieval "bestseller", Books of Hours could range widely in quality and beauty depending on what the owner could afford. Most of them contained painted pictures, initials, and border decorations (called "illumination") to aid, guide, and entertain the reader of the daily prayers. The illuminations informed the text, encouraging rumination upon the religious images and themes.
Unlike the luxurious manuscripts usually displayed in museums, the Books of Hours exhibited here are more typical of what the average medieval book-owner might have possessed. Some of the most ornate manuscripts seem relatively untouched, as if they were acquired for collection or display. In contrast, Bryn Mawr's books show significant marks of personalization and deep spiritual interaction. In the smudges from the thumbs that turned the pages, in the scribbles in the margins, in addition of prayers to saints who were significant to the individual owner, there are clear signs that these were the books of people who experienced the act of reading them intensely and spiritually.