Cutting from a Lectionary, with readings from Mark 14:1-11, in Beneventan script, in Latin, manuscript on vellum; Southern Italy, twelfth century.
Near-rectangular cutting, recovered from reuse in a binding and hence now only one lower quarter of the original leaf, with remains of one column (originally two) of 20 lines of fine and angular Beneventan minuscule, remains of red rubric, capitals touched in red, the characters ‘c’ and ‘+’ in red added above words to indicate the different readers for the service in Holy Week, scuffed and stained overall with some small worm damage, 170 by 120mm.; bound in cloth-covered card folder.
Schøyen Collection, London and Oslo, their MS 1680; acquired Sotheby’s June 1988
Sotheby’s 22 June 1993, lot 13.
This is a good and affordable example of early Beneventan script, as well as an early witness to the public performance of religious texts in the Middle Ages. The small red letters above certain words told the medieval reader how to perform the reading, but their precise function remains imperfectly understood (see Karl Young, ‘Observations on the Origin of the Mediæval Passion-Play’, Proceedings of the Modern Language Association, 25, 1910, pp. 309-54, and M. Huglo, Les livres de chant liturgique, 1988). While previously thought to stand for Latin words describing how the reading has to be read or sung, these initials are now believed to indicate which person or groups of people should read or sing the text. As such, they are the base of the Medieval Passion plays performed in churches, and thus the earliest form of medieval performative drama.
V. Brown, ‘A Second New List of Beneventan Manuscripts (III)’, Mediaeval Studies, 56 (1994).
Bibliografia dei manuscritti in scrittura beneventana, Viella, Roma, 1994.