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Just preparing this morning to embark on a new preaching series on the book of Ecclesiastes, and thought I would start with its best known passage on ‘a time for everything’ (Ecclesiastes 3). In the course of preparing the worship, I started researching “Books of Hours” and their importance in personal devotional life, from the Middle Ages onwards. These gorgeously illustrated devotional books were once the preserve of the very wealthiest people. However, with the advance of printing techniques, even the servants of a wealthy household could own their own Book of Hours by the Fifteenth Century.
The books contained various things from Psalms and antiphons to prayers and devotions. It is principally for their illustrations, rather than their words, which we remember them now, though. At times, as seen in the example below, the words all but disappear under the wealth of ilustration:
At the same time as looking into all this, I have a newspaper article on my desk about the work of gifted cartoonists Nick Hilditch and Chris Bell. On their website, irkafirka.com, they have set themselves the task of illustrating random tweets on the day that they are tweeted. Thus the ephemeral words of Twitter (or at least the ones which catch the cartoonists’ eyes) are turned into an artwork which outlasts the tweet illustrated:
As preachers we inevitably have a word, rather than an image bias. We are wordsmiths, after all. However, when I look at these pictures from the 15th and 21st Centuries, it makes me wonder what pictures my words are painting.