A Leaf from the Office of the Dead

March 15, 2016 in Manuscript Studies, Photographic Exhibition

Verso of Leaf with the Office of the Dead from an unknown Book of Hours, showing its elaborate foliate border in gold and polychrome. Photography © Mildred BudnyA Part of the Office of the Dead

from a 15th-century Book of Hours
made in Flanders
(perhaps at Bruges or Antwerp)
circa 1470

A single leaf, trimmed down in spoliation
to produce a decorated tidbit on its own
Circa 135 mm × 100 mm
< written area circa 66 × 50 mm >
Single column of 17 lines

Budny Handlist 12

Our series of posts by Mildred Budny on Manuscript Studies continues with a somber view of a detached leaf from the Office of the Dead in a gracefully decorated Book of Hours from Flanders.  With this post, given the subject of the manuscript text, we also reflect wistfully on the passing of some friends, colleagues, and others dear to us.  The occasion prompts us to offer a personal recollection of Jennifer O’Reilly (1943–2016).

Text and Layout

Manifestly the text on this detached leaf demonstrates that it forms part of the Office of the Dead.  On its own, it is not exactly clear for which part of that Office this part of the text was intended to serve, mainly because there are no indications upon the leaf, and because the assigned practices for liturgical observance could vary considerably from place to place, custom to custom, and time to time.

Such is the nature of Books of Hours, a widely popular and personal genre of manuscripts or printed books in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance.  At least we know which part of that set of texts, that is, the Office of the Dead, to which this leaf pertained in its original setting, although we cannot be certain of its specifically intended purpose, that is, which part of that particular Office.  Discovery of other parts of the original book might reveal such features more precisely.  Meanwhile, let us see what we can see.

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