A Leaf from Prime in a Large-Format Latin Breviary

January 1, 2020 in Manuscript Studies, Uncategorized

J. S. Wagner Collection. Leaf from from Prime in a Latin manuscript Breviary. Folio 4 Recto, with the opening of Psalm 117 (118) in the Vulgate Version. with a framed initial C for Confitimini, decorated wih scrolling foliate ornament.

 Leaf “4” from Prime in a Large-Format Latin Breviary

Spain, 16th or 17th century

Single columns in 14 lines
circa 395 x 515 mm
with Foliate and Floral Decorated Initials

J. S. Wagner Collection

J. S. Wagner Collection. Detached Manuscript Leaf with the Opening in Latin of the Penitent Psalm 4 or Psalm 37 (38) and its Illustration of King David.

J. S. Wagner Collection. King David as Penitent from a Book of Hours.

[Published on 1 January 2020, with updates]

We continue our series of reports revealing unknown witnesses to the creativity of written materials, manuscript and in print, across the centuries.  See the Contents List for this blog for discoveries so far and unfolding.

Now, with thanks to the collector, who brought this and other manuscript and early-printed materials to our attention, we offer images of a detached leaf from a large-format manuscript for liturgical use.

Already we showcased another leaf in that collection.  It has an illustrated opening for one or another of the Penitential Psalms — we can’t know which one, given that its few visible opening lines pertain to 2 Psalms — depicting the Old Testament King David in his penitence, with crown and lyre set to one side.  The publication of that illustration, and the gathering advice of experts whom we could ask, led to improved knowledge about the probable orgin of the leaf and its original manuscript.  A similar process commences with this next leaf, also from a religious manuscript.

Element Number 4 out of N (= Integer)

Here we turn to a single Breviary leaf, which carries the modern arabic number “4” in ink at its top right corner of the recto. In my first iteration of this blogpost (1 January 2020), I asserted confidently:

That number must belong to a consecutive series applied while the manuscript was still intact.  The number identifies the front side of the former Folio 4, presumably, rather than a Page 4, partly because the verso of the leaf is unnumbered and partly because a Page 4 out of 4 would scarcely stand on a recto, rather than on a second verso.

Then I observed:  “Who knows how many leaves which the numbered sequence encompassed?  Let’s call it “N”, meaning a whole number (so far unknown) of leaves.”

Upon this basis, it seemed reasonable to observe that, because “so far the manuscript remains unknown”, such signs as “the folio number could aid in identifying which manuscript formerly contained this specimen”. And there’s more:

For example, a full series might carry numbering written by a single hand more-or-less at a single sitting.

If the formerly adjacent folios 3 and 5 survive, we might recognize them (and others from the same original book) through their shared folio numeration, signs of damage, style of script and decoration, and consecutive text.

That was then.  This is now (mid January).  A dedicated and constructive critic has made suggestions worth reconsidering the assessment of the value of the number 4 in this position.  Not sure that the number 4 has to be a ‘folio number’, attractive as that reasoning seemed.  (See below.)

For the moment, let’s stick with “4” in some sequence of 1–4 + N, without yet deciding which things (folios, specimens, something or other) that those numbers were designed to designate.  But the consecutive sequence entered perhaps by a single hand at a single sitting still holds attraction.

Leaf from from Prime in a Latin manuscript Missal. Folio 4 Recto, top, with the rubricated running title "Ad Primam".

J. S. Wagner Collection. Leaf from from Prime in a Latin manuscript Missal. Folio 4 Recto, top.

Prime Facie, or, Two Sides to the Story

Recto and Verso tell the tale.  Each carries the running title, rubricated in red pigment, at the top center of the page.   Identifying the purpose and occasion of the readings presented in the single column of text on each page, the title proclaims that the section of liturgical readings pertains to Prime.

The verso writes the title in full:  Ad Primam (“At [the Hour of] Prime”).  The recto, however, abbreviates the title, with a suspension of the final m indicated by a horizontal stroke above the preceding letter a, according with standard practice for abbreviations in Latin already for centuries.

The recto of the leaf:

J. S. Wagner Collection, Leaf from from Prime in a Latin manuscript Missal. Folio 4 Recto, with the end of Psalm 53, the title for the Gloria Patri, and the opening of Psalm 117 (118), set out in verses with decorated initials..

J. S. Wagner Collection. Leaf from from Prime in a Latin manuscript Breviary. Folio 4 Recto.

The verso of the leaf:

J. S. Wagner Collection. Leaf from from Prime in a Latin manuscript Breviary. Folio 4 Verso, with part of Psalm 117 (118) in the Vulgate Version, set out in verses with decorated initials.

J. S. Wagner Collection, Leaf from from Prime in a Latin manuscript Breviary. Folio 4 Verso, with part of Psalm 117 (118) in the Vulgate Version, set out in verses with decorated initials.

That the leaf exhibits multiple signs of damage from moisture, mold, tears, and other stains.  Such traces would also, perforce, pertain to the other leaves of the book.  No way could that amount of damage accrue solely to a single leaf while within a book.

Now we’re talking about the archaeology of the book.  The first of the layers would, of course, pertain to the manuscript in its original state.  Then (among others), would come the assaults of damage, and persistent damage, as the book fell prey to multiple forms of depredation — culminating in the severance of the leaf from its companions, whereby that single leaf was set loose, alone, to find a new home.

Text

Both the recto and verso of the leaf present texts for Prime on each Sunday among the canonical hours of the Divine Office in the celebration of the Christian liturgy.  The sequence for reciting all of Psalms at least once during the week was set out in the “PSALTERIUM DISPOSITUM PER HEBDOMADAM”, or “Weekly Psalter”, within which section of the Breviary our leaf belongs.

Prime, or “The First Hour”, is intended to be said at the first hour of daylight, which occurs at 6:00 a.m. at the equinoxes, or earlier in summer and later in winter.   This Hour stands between the dawn hour of Lauds and the 9 a.m. hour of Terce .

The recto of the leaf carries the conclusion of the reading of the text of Psalm 53.  It closes the second half of the last verse of that Psalm, that is, verse 9:  [quoniam ex omni tribulatione eripuisti me/] et super inimicos meos despexit oculus meus.

This reading is followed by the cue for the Gloria Patri (“Glory Be to The Father”), by which cue the celebrant or participant would understand the recital of a very familiar text, which comprises a short hymn of praise to God the Father as well as the rest of the Trinity.   Thus:

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum.  Amen.

“Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, and now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.”

[Or, more literally:  “As it was in the beginning, and now, and always, unto ages of ages.”]

This cue functions in much the same way as poems in literature and arias in opera can familiarly be cited by their first lines.

Next comes the reading of Psalm 117 (118).   It starts with Verse 1, “Confitemini domino quonuam bonus.  The verso of the leaf ends near the end of Verse 8, about one-quarter of the way through the Psalm (which extends altogether to 29 verses).  The page break comes mid-word:  Bonum est confidere in Domino quam confide[/re in homine]. 

By the sequence of the texts, we might expect that the leaf formerly preceding this one ends with the first part of Psalm 53:9 (to the words eripuisti me), while the leaf formerly following it would begin with the close of Psalm 117 (118): 8 (-re in homine).

All this text corresponds with the Vulgate Version of the Bible.

Decorated Initials

The several decorated initials enliven the pages.  They variously open Verses of the Psalms, the Gloria, and the Psalm as a whole.  Examples here.

J. S. Wagner Collection. Leaf from from Prime in a Latin manuscript Breviary. Folio 4 Verso, with part of Psalm 117 (118) in the Vulgate Version, set out in verses with decorated initials.

J. S. Wagner Collection. Leaf from from Prime in a Latin manuscript Breviary. Folio 4 Verso, detail.

J. S. Wagner Collection. Leaf from from Prime in a Latin manuscript Breviary. Folio 4 Recto, detail. The opening of Psalm 117 (118) in the Vulgate Version. with a framed initial C for Confitimini, decorated wih scrolling foliate ornament.

J. S. Wagner Collection. Leaf from from Prime in a Latin manuscript Breviary. Folio 4 Recto, detail. The opening of Psalm 117 (118) in the Vulgate Version, with a framed initial C for ‘Confitimini’.

All the decorated initials are enlarged and inset within the lines of text.  The bodies of their letters alternate, mostly, between red pigment and blue pigment, from initial to initial, although, at the top of the recto, the G of Gloria and the following C of Confitemini share the same pigment red.

“Our” leaf has both major and minor decorated initials.  The major initial for Psalm 117 (118) stands 3 lines tall, set within a pen-line upright rectangular frame of doubled lines (whose contours overlap somewhat unevenly).  All the other initials stand 1 line tall, without frames.

For all the decorated initials, the foliate decoration comprises either inset marigold-type flowers (enclosed within the 6 initial Ds) or short segments of scrolling stems (G, C. B).  Those stems either fit within the initial (G, B), or fill the interior of both the letter and the frame.

The polychrome foliate initials add attractive embellishment to the layout of each page.

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Sequence of Elements

The textual sequence of Psalm 53, the Gloria Patri, and Psalm 117 (118) places this leaf within a larger setting of liturgical usage according to specific prescribed practice.  The combination of these components, in this order, point to their liturgical intentions within their given institution.

The Roman Breviary (Breviarium Romanum) “is the liturgical book of the Latin liturgical rites of the Catholic Church containing the public or canonical prayers, hymns, the Psalms, readings, and notations for everyday use, especially by bishops, priests, and deacons in the Divine Office (i.e., at the canonical hours or Liturgy of the Hours, the Christians’ daily prayer)”.  The Sarum Breviary belongs to the Use of Sarum, or Salisbury, a variant of the Roman Rite widely used in the British Isles for the ordering of Christian public worship, including the Mass and the Divine Office.

The full sequence of hymns, readings, and prayers for the Hour Ad Primam is edited, for example, in the Breviarum Ad Usum Insignis Ecclesiae Sarum (Cambridge, 1838), Fascicle II, columns 37–58.  There (at columns 47–48), Psalm 53 ends with the Gloria Patri, followed by Psalm 117.  In contrast, the Tridentine Breviarum Romanum of 1838 follows Psalm 53 with Psalm 117, but omits the Gloria Patri. Likewise does the 1799 Tridentine Breviary.

Although the text of Breviaries could vary considerably, according to changing customs and religious practices across time and place, the probable date of “our leaf” in the 16th or 17th century suggests conformance with one or another evolved forms of the Breviary, as they entered the modern period.  A closer study — and the identification of other leaves from this manuscript — might better identify the specific Use for which it was intended.

It is perhaps worth saying that the manuscript with “our leaf” apparently did not comprise a Missal.  A Missal was designed to serve for the priest’s use alone in the celebration of the Mass. Customilarly rubrics would be indicated, with emphasized lettering (often colored in red) providing instructions which were to be followed, rather like stage directions. Not only does “our leaf” not possess rubrics; moreover, we have not yet found the requisite combination of Psalm 53 followed by Psalm 117 in Prime — although Psalm 117 itself occurs many times in, for example, the Sarum Missal.

Presumably this leaf belonged to a stately Breviary of folio size.  It has clearly written lines of text in single columns upon large-format pages.  The embellishment includes rubricated running titles and polychrome initials enlivened by foliate and floral decoration.

Palaeographical Features

Written in dark ink, the text script is rounded and upright, with both Uncial and Minuscule elements.  Elaborate Gothic-style capitals form the initial letters of names (Patri, Israel, Aaron, Dominum, and Ad Primam).

The text employs few abbreviations.  Eschewing the traditionally abbreviated nomina sacra (“sacred names”) for names of the divinity, the text consistently spells out the terms Dominus, Dominum, Domino (“Lord” in the different cases, nominative, accusative, dative).  For Prima[m] in the abbreviated running title on the recto, a horizontal stroke above the –a marks the suspension of final –m.  Similar pertains to the suspended –m at the end of line 12 on the recto (= line “r12”) in sęculu[m] — which word employs an e-caudata (“tailed e”) for the dipthong –ae-.   In line r5, a raised dot about the o marks the suspension of final –n of no[n].  A curled 9-shaped mark indicates the suspension of final –us in eius on both recto and verso (lines r7, r10, and v2).

The punctuation takes the form of diamond-shaped marks or points. Resembling the modern period and colon, a single, low point and a vertical pair of points indicate pauses respectively of final and medial length.

Note that the “dots” for the lower-case letters i appear as extended strokes, variously vertical or slanting toward the right.   Some of these strokes bulge at the middle.  Standing above the straight vertical stem of the letter, these strokes resemble the flames of candles.  Indeed, their variable direction appears to emulate flickering or wind-swept flames.

J. S. Wagner Collection. Leaf from from Prime in a Latin manuscript Breviary. Folio 4 Recto, top, with the rubricated running title "Ad Primam".

D. S. Wagner Collection. J. S. Warner Collection. Leaf from from Prime in a Latin manuscript Breviary. Folio 4 Recto, top.

Some Comparisons

Although the original manuscript is not yet identified, some relatives in terms of script offer points of comparison.  For example:

This last one, like the Wagner leaf, has the name dominus written out in full, and a mixture of upright and flat-topped ‘d’s.  The Morgan Library labels the script of both these Antiphonaries, M. 682 and M. 1091, as ‘textura’.

Designations of the script in question differ amongst the descriptions for these specimens.  We wonder ourselves, whilst we explore an apposite term. [Watch This Space!]

Meanwhile, our explorations yield some more designations:

  • The Free Library of Philadelphia reports its cutting of a leaf from a Latin Breviary? as “Rotunda”. On which see, for example, Rotunda (script) .
    [We’re not so happy with that term for the Wagner Leaf.]
  • Carlton University in Ottowa calls the script of its leaf with a Fragment of Antiphons “a Humanistic Book Hand”. Note that its initial C for Confitebor (Psalm 111) stands within a rectangular frame drawn in multiple outlines, like the C of Confitemini on the Wagner Leaf.
    [The term for the script, we think, is plausible.]

And then there are samples from Spain.

First

  • Library of Congress, Music Division M21 XVI M2, a large-format liturgical leaf from a 16th-century Spanish musical manuscript, presenting part of the Sanctus from the Roman Catholic Mass, and including musical notation; its recto carries the page (or folio) number LXXIX in red at the top right, apparently as part of the original production of the book

Like the Wagner Leaf, this one has the e-caudata form, as well as ‘flames’ on top of the i’s.  However, the nib-width of the pen looks thinner.  The decoration in the enlarged initials is quite different, while the form of the A in the title per Annum at the top of the recto is very similar.  The Library of Congress describes the script as ‘Renaissance Uncial’.

Library of Congress, Music Division, M2.1 XVI M2. Leaf from a 16th-Century Latin Musical Manuscript from Spain, recto. With musical notation on 6 staves, the leaf presents part of the text of the Sanctus in the Roman Catholic Mass.

Library of Congress, Music Division, M2.1 XVI M2. Leaf from a 16th-Century Latin Musical Manuscript from Spain, recto.

Next

In another connection, we learned of a leaf from a 16th-century Latin Antiphonary from Spain.

  • Poughkeepsie, New York, Vassar College Libraries, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscript Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Item 69, Recto.  The recto, having the apparently original page- or folio-number lvii in red at the top right, is illustrated, courtesy of Ronald Patkus, in our 2019 Anniversary Symposium Booklet , Figure 6 (although my caption there wrongly labels it as Item ’63’). With permission, and with thanks to our Associate Ronald Patkus (Head of Special Collections at Vassar College), we show it here.
Vassar College Libraries, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscript Collections, Archives and Special Collections (ASC), Item 69, recto. Leaf from an Antiphonary, including the text for the celebration of Pentecost in the Missal. The musical notation is set out on 5-line stages and the opening inset blue initial of A for 'Appareunt' has a rectangular bed of red decoration.

Vassar College Libraries, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscript Collections, Archives and Special Collections (ASC), Item 69, recto. Leaf from an Antiphonary, including the text for the celebration of Pentecost in the Missal.

This specimen similarly has extended strokes for the ‘dots’ of its letters i and diamond-shaped points for the punctuation.

There must be more leaves out there, once they are recognized and examined as a group, to show to which manuscripts and centers they once belonged. We look forward to learning more about them and discovering which term is best appropriate for the stately, rounded script of “our leaf” and its relatives.

The 4 of What?

It seems correct to assume that the modern number “4” on the recto marks it as belonging to a sequence for which at least the preceding 1–3 were present when the numeration was installed.

Now we address the question as to how much text would have preceded this leaf, and whether 3 Somethings (such as Leaves of the same manuscript, with both rectos and versos of each) would suffice to encompass it.  In other words, was my initial reasoning (see above) correct?

Spoiler Alert:  Maybe not.

Given the Hour of Prime, as stated in the running title on the leaf itself, we can look to some ready reference points.  Using as a model the easily available printed text of the Breviarium Aberdonense (“the Aberdeen Breviary”), we can see that our folio — or item — ‘4’ covers about 19 lines in the printed text of 1 column of Aberdeen.  Working backwards, the previous folio for “our leaf” [that would be 3?] would start exactly at the beginning of Psalm 53.  Next would come a folio [2?] halfway through Psalm 25, then a folio [1?] beginning 2 verses before the end of Psalm 24.

So, the numbering of the unit could not commence from the start of the Weekly Psalter, if that numeral is a folio.

Both the recto and verso of the leaf present texts for Prime on each Sunday among the canonical hours of the Divine Office in the celebration of the Christian liturgy.  The sequence for reciting all of Psalms at least once during the week was set out in the “PSALTERIUM DISPOSITUM PER HEBDOMADAM”, or “Weekly Psalter”, within which section of the Breviary “our” leaf belongs.

Roughly, 4 of our folios correspond to one *page* of Aberdeen.  “Our” text lies mostly on Aberdeen, folio 13 verso of the Weekly Psalter, so that it would comprise 26 pages, or 104 of “our” folios.  That is simply too many for ‘4’ on the leaf to be a quire numeral.

Prime starts in Aberdeen on folio 12r, so that it would take 4 pages of Aberdeen to reach our text.  This span would require 16 folios of our manuscript.  That is closer for a ‘4’ than anything else that we can find so far.

While these findings do not, perhaps, yet bring us closer to an understanding of the meaning of ‘4’ in this context, they do require a reassessment of my initial conclusion (see above) that “That number must belong to a consecutive series applied while the manuscript was still intact”.  Always I welcome corrections and refinements.  Glad to learn more.

How About Item “4” in a Leaf Book or Portfolio?

For all we know, that “4” could be a sequence number in someone’s Ege-like portfolio, similar to those prepared by Otto Ege!  About such sequences of detached leaves from medieval manuscripts reassembled in a very different modern order, for very different purposes than the original manuscripts before their dismemberment, our blog on Manuscript Studies gives some case studies.  (You Are Here.)  See its Contents List.

And on that subject, it is worth saying that we work on a blogpost reporting on another leaf from the Wagner Collection, this time from Otto Ege Manuscript 19.   Earlier blogposts have considered some of Otto Ege Manuscripts. For example:

Spoiler Alert:  The modern labelling for the Wagner Leaf from Otto Ege Manuscript 19 shows clear indications of adjustment from a pre-set sequence, so as to accommodate rearrangement of some kind into a new order, by which Ege’s “19” turns into some other number.  But not one of Ege’s.  Watch this space.

More to Explore

Our preliminary explorations for the Wagner Leaf from a Spanish Breviarum in Latin provide some directions for further investigation.  By presenting the leaf here, with the permission of its owner, and offering some reference points, we hope that more suggestions, advice, and information might come to light.

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We thank Barbara Shailor and Consuelo Dutschke for their initial evaluation, judging from photographs, of this leaf as Spanish and 16th- or 17th-century.

Please let us know if you know other specimens by this scribe, artist, or center of production.

We welcome suggestions and feedback.  Contact Us, add your comments here, and visit our Facebook Page.

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