Although the sections often appear in Books of Hours in the following order, the content and arrangement of the texts varied widely depending on when, where, and for whom it was created. A Book of Hours might only feature the Hours of the Virgin and not the Cross or Holy Spirit, or might contain all three as well as additional prayers and suffrages.
Calendar: Virtually all Books of Hours begin with a calendar section that informed the reader of saint's days and allowed them to calculate important movable liturgical events such as Easter. Families would often record the anniversaries of births, deaths, and marriages in the calendar. Because the calendar could be customized to emphasize local saints, it can sometimes be used to help determine where the Book of Hours was made. Occasionally, the Hours of the Cross and Holy Spirit were integrated into the Hours of the Virgin, resulting in a "mixed" Book of Hours.
Hours of the Virgin: The heart of the Book of Hours, the Hours of the Virgin are a series of devotional texts organized by the hours of the divine office: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline.
Hours of the Cross: Follows the same canonical hours as the Hours of the Virgin, except that there is no Lauds. The Hours of the Cross is often much shorter than those of the Virgin because there are no Psalms. Each hour focuses on sequential moments in Christ's Passion, reflected through the verses of the hymn.
Hours of the Holy Spirit: Also follows the same canonical hours as the Hours of the Virgin, except that there is no Lauds. The Hours of the Cross is often much shorter than those of the Virgin because there are no Psalms. Each hour focuses on different attributes of the Holy Spirit, reflected through the verses of the hymn and a final stanza invoking the Holy Spirit's aid in achieving eternal salvation.
Penitential Psalms: The Seven Penitential Psalms (6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, and 142) were thought to be written by King David as atonement for his sins. The psalms could be contemplated to help the reader avoid sin or ask forgiveness as well as a means of reducing the time the soul of a departed family member or friend would spend in purgatory.
Obsecro Te and O Intemerata: Two special prayers to the Virgin that appear in nearly all Books of Hours. They are known by their incipits (opening words): “Obsecro te” (I beseech you) and “O intemerata” (O immaculate Virgin). Written in the first person singular, the prayers address the Virgin directly in especially plaintive tones.
Litany: The litany is a listing of saints who are asked to pray for the reader.
Office of the Dead: A series of prayers meant to help the souls of loved ones reach heaven, the Office of the Dead is spread over the hours of Vespers, Matins, and Lauds. Matins features nine lessons from the Book of Job, which embody the anguish felt by those suffering in Purgatory.
Suffrages: The suffrage section memorializes the saints while presenting them in hierarchical order: God or the three Persons of the Trinity always begin the Suffrages, followed by the Virgin, the archangel Michael, and John the Baptist (the last two prominently positioned because of their importance as judge and intercessor, respectively, at the Last Judgment). The apostles appear next, followed by male martyrs and confessors (non martyr saints), female saints and virgin martyrs.