Rare Books Blog

February 16, 2010

Fragment: Gradual (Italy)
Date: c. 1425-1525

Found in: Naples (Kingdom). Capitula regni una cum apparatu, ac utilissimis, et necessariis prioribus. [Campagna: Domenico Nibbio], 1561.

This cover is made from an Italian gradual and features part of the tract (tractus) from the Mass on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. Tracts replaced the alleluia chants during Lent and other penitential times of the liturgical year. Early tracts consisted of verses from a single psalm, but this later example is based on Matthew 21:33. In its entirety, the tract reads, “Et maceriam circumdedit et circumfodit et plantavit vineam Soreth et hedificavit turrim in medio ejus.” That is, “And he enclosed it with a wall, and surrounded it by a trench; then he planted a vineyard of Sorec grapes, and he built a tower in the middle of it.”

While most of the manuscript fragments in this exhibit were recycled into bindings centuries ago, this one was probably used fairly recently, perhaps early in the 20th century (the Law Library acquired this volume in 1947). It was not uncommon for booksellers to use the large pages from manuscript graduals and other choir books to re-cover volumes as a way to make early books more attractive. In fact, some German monastic libraries had been doing the same thing since the 17th century.

     – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Richard Rouse (UCLA) for clarifying the origin of the manuscript fragment, and to William Mahrt (Stanford University) for the following: “The text is an Old Testament canticle (I think from Isaiah), Matthew is only quoting it. Tracts are Psalm texts, but for Holy Saturday, the pieces are on canticles (from other books of the O.T.); they are set to the same kind of melodies as mode-eight tracts of Lent, and so are sometimes called tracts, but are more properly called canticles. Their melodies are the simplest usage of the tract formulae, simpler than the other tracts. The incipit of the canticle is ‘Vinea facta est’.”

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 16, 2010

 

Fragment: Missal (France?)
Date: c. 1150-1225

Found in: La Pape, Guy de. Lectura subtilis et aurea … Guidonis Pape. [Lyons: for Simon Vincent?, 1517.]

The parchment cover for this 16th-century book is made from a medieval missal. The folio visible here contains the chants, prayers, and readings for celebrating Mass on the first Sunday after Easter, the Octava Paschae. The service opens with the introit (introitus), an antiphon sung as the priest approached the altar. Here the text is accompanied by neumes (early musical notes) that appear to be of the German or Saint Gallen variety. Next comes the collect (oratio), the prayer said before the Epistle reading, which here begins “Presta quaesumus omnipotens…” The Epistle reading is 1 John 5:4-10, and it is followed by the Gospel reading, which starts with John 20:24. Along the deteriorating spine of the book you may be able to see that additional manuscript fragments were used as linings.

    – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Richard Rouse (UCLA) for clarifying the origin of the manuscript fragment.

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 16, 2010

Fragment: Antiphonal (Italy)
Date: c. 1050-1150
Found in: Denari, Odofredo. Refugium advocatorum. Milan: Giovanni Giacomo da Legnano, [1522].

The unassuming example presented here is one of the more unusual medieval items in the Law Library’s collection. Originally, this 16th-century book was covered with a piece of parchment from a medieval antiphonal with music for the divine office on the feast of Saint Paul (January 25). At some point the parchment fell off or was removed, leaving behind a remarkably clear ink transfer of the music and text on the board beneath. Although the writing appears in reverse as a result of the transfer, it is possible to make out the text as well as a series of musical notes (called “neumes”). These neumes are arranged around a single red line which, according to letter-clefs in the margin, marks the F-line. Approximately fifteen different styles of medieval neumes have been identified, and this fragment has characteristics of the Beneventan and Messine varieties. Much of our understanding of the history of medieval musical notation has relied on fragments found in localized bindings.

   – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Richard Rouse (UCLA) for clarifying the origin of the manuscript fragment.

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 16, 2010

Fragment: Breviary (Germany)
Date: c. 1150-1200
Found in: Mascardi, Alderano. Communes i. v. conclusiones, ad generalem quorum cunque statutorum interpretationem acommodatae. Frankfurt: Wolfgang Richter, 1609.

The fragment of a breviary seen here was cut in half to make the cover for this book, and it remained in place for almost four hundred years, accented by decorative pieces of stamped leather. When a bomb exploded in the Law School in May 2003, the book got wet, causing parts of the cover to come unglued. When the book was repaired, the cover was removed completely, allowing us to see both sides of the fragment. What we find is a portion of the service for Lauds on the eleventh Sunday after Pentecost. The end of the reading (from Proverbs) is followed by the lesson (attributed to the theologian Bede around 700), and an antiphon based on the Gospel passage that forms the subject of that lesson (Luke 8:10-13). The neumes here are of the Messine variety, arranged on a four-line staff with the F-line in red.

   – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Richard Rouse (UCLA) for clarifying the origin of the manuscript fragment, and to George Brown (Stanford University) for correcting the identity of the text and its attribution to Bede.

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 16, 2010

 

Fragment: Breviary (England)
Date: c. 1225-1325
Found in: [Year Books, Edward III.] Regis pie memorie Edwardi Tertii a quadragesimo ad quinquagesimum. London: Richard Tottell, 1565.

 

Here we find a good example of how 15th- and 16th-century bookbinders used fragments of medieval manuscripts as “strengtheners.” Strengtheners are strips of parchment or paper that were wrapped around the inner edge of the first and last sections of a book in order to protect them at the point where the paper might otherwise rub against rough portions of the binding. The Law Library has about twenty-five early books with visible fragments of medieval manuscripts used as guards in this way. While most are not large enough to be displayed well, some of the fragments can be identified. As we learn more about the bookbinding trade in the first several decades of print, even small fragments will become valuable pieces of evidence about the distribution of manuscripts in the late Middle Ages.

The strengthener seen here is from a breviary with both sides featuring elements of the Divine Office for Holy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter). On the left side we see a decorated initial “A” beginning the first reading for the service of Matins (Lamentations 1:1-2). On the right side we see pieces of the music and text for short liturgical chants called “antiphons,” which were used to introduce the Psalms during Lauds. Notice how the initials in the antiphons have been lightly decorated with little faces.

   – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Richard Rouse (UCLA) for clarifying the origin of the manuscript fragment.

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 16, 2010

Fragment: Legendary (Italy)
Date: c. 975-1075
Found in: Rolandinus, de Passageriis. Flos testamentorum. Padua: Matheus Cerdonis, 1482.

From the earliest days of Christianity, the faithful (and not-yet-faithful) were inspired by the words and deeds of particularly holy people, many of whom came to be regarded as saints. Hagiography (stories about the lives of the saints) was a popular genre of literature throughout the Middle Ages, and the Divine Office even contained daily readings about the Church’s early martyrs.

Among the oldest and most beautiful fragments in the Yale Law Library’s collection, the pastedowns of this incunable are taken from a manuscript recounting the lives of early saints. At the front (not displayed) we find part of the “Fabulous Deeds” (“Acta fabulosa”) of the apostle Saint Bartholomew, written by the Pseudo-Abdia Babylonio, probably in the early 10th century. At the rear, we find the end of the “Acta fabulosa” and the beginning of “The Passion of Saint Alexander, Pope and Martyr” (“Passio Sancti Alexandri martyris papae”). Looking out from his inhabited initial, a beautifully-rendered Saint Alexander gestures towards his tale with an outstretched hand. Note that the beginning (“CUM OMNIUM”) is also marked off by a special “display script,” in this case an all-capital script called Uncial, which after the 8th century was generally only used for headings like this one.

     – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Richard Rouse (UCLA) for clarifying the origin of the manuscript fragment. From Elizabeth A. R. Brown (CUNY), Hope Mayo (Harvard University), Alison Stones (University of Pittsburgh), and David Ganz (King’s College London): “Hope Mayo says [the fragment] could go as late as [the 12th century], but probably earlier. [The fragment is from a] Legendary. Could be a big book – one needs to see verso + the fragment at the beginning [of the volume].” Here are images of the verso of the fragment shown above and of the companion fragment in the front pastedown of the volume.

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 15, 2010

The liturgy of the Church in medieval Europe was built around two core elements: the Mass and the Divine Office. The Mass was a once-daily celebration of the sacrament of Holy Communion. The Divine Office was a sequence of eight services that made up the devotional prayers of the canonical hours (Vigils, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline). Each day members of the clergy were supposed to attend or celebrate Mass and recite the entire Divine Office, though surely some priests found the process onerous and focused on the major services: Matins (a combination of Vigils and Lauds), the Mass, and Vespers. Laypeople were encouraged to attend Mass at least every Sunday (as well as on special feast days), but did not say the Divine Office (though lay devotional books based on the canonical hours did emerge in the 12th century).

The Christian liturgy was elaborately structured and changed from day to day, week to week, and season to season throughout the liturgical year. Furthermore, there were numerous regional variations. As a result, priests and clerics relied on service books to guide them through their local liturgy.

In the early Middle Ages, a “solemn” or “high” Mass was typically celebrated by a priest accompanied by a group of assisting ministers and a choir. They used four separate books: a sacramentary (the prayers), an epistolary (the Epistle readings), an evangelary (the Gospel readings), and a gradual (the sung elements). As demand increased for “private” or “low” Masses celebrated by a priest alone (primarily for the commemoration of the dead), the four books were combined into a single, more manageable volume. The “missal,” as this was called, almost completely replaced the separate service books by the early 13th century.

The story was similar for the Divine Office. Prior to the 11th century, several books were needed for its celebration, including an antiphonal (the musical elements), collectar (the prayers), lectionary (the scripture readings), martyrology (readings on the lives of the saints), and psalter (the Psalms). Eventually these were combined into a single volume, called a “breviary.” The popularity of breviaries grew rapidly in the early 13th century as the itinerant lifestyle of Franciscan and Dominican friars demanded a more portable service book.

It is possible that this consolidation rendered some sacramentaries, antiphonals, and other older service books obsolete, allowing their expensive parchment pages to become a source of durable bookbinding materials.

      – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

Fragment of a Breviary, c. 1225-1325, found in Regis pie memorie Edwardi Tertii a quadragesimo ad quinquagesimum. London: Richard Tottell, 1565. Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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