PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION AND MATERIALITY
Parchment, most of a leaf, c.365×190mm, preserving the upper margin but cropped at three other sides, with seven lines of text written in a fine angular gothic script, and eight four-line (mostly oxidised) red staves with music in square notation, with enlarged initials alternately blue or red, and one with an ink drawing.
The horizontal creases with pairs of holes clearly indicate the spine of the book for which this fragment formed a cover; the blank upper margin was perhaps intended as a fold-over wallet-style flap, but its clean condition suggests that it was instead tucked inside the outer cover. The side with the fine drawing is considerably cleaner than the other, which is also considerably more abraded and polished, showing clearly which were the inner and outer faces.
This is a fine example of a very high-grade late medieval bookhand known as ‘quadrata’, because each of the minims terminates at the base with a lozenge-shaped stroke, matching the pointed tops of minims, and other letters such as ‘e’, ‘n’, etc. The letter ‘i’ is always dotted, as is the letter ‘y’ (normally an uncommon letter, but occurring here four times), to prevent confusion with either a ‘u’ or a double ‘i’.
Chant for the 4th Sunday in Lent, starting in the midst of the responsory ‘Qui persequebantur populum tuum’, and followed by further responsories and versicles:
recto: “[ducto]r eorum fuisti [dom]ine. v(ersus) Deduxisti [sicu]t oves populum tuum … Moyses fa[m]ulus domini ieiuna[vit q]uadraginta diebus et q[uadraginta noctibus ut legem do-]”
verso: “mini mereretur accipere. v(ersus). Ascendit Moyses in montem Synai … [S]plendida factus est [fa]cies Moysi dum aspice[ret in] eum dominus vident[tes]”.
Antiphonaries (with the chant for the Divine Office) and Graduals (with the chant for the Mass) both include responsories and versicles so, in the absence of other more distinctive liturgical forms (such as Secrets, Offertories, Postcommunions, etc.) it is not always possible to determine from which kind of choirbook a fragment comes.
The versicle initial ‘A’(scendit) is decorated with leafy ornament to one side, and a fine drawing of a man’s head in three-quarter profile: his mouth, upturned from a very long chin so that his lower lip reached the tip of this long pointed nose, suggests a caricature is intended rather than a lifelike portrait.
Inscribed on one side “Joannes | Franciscus | Van Des|sel” and “Van | Dessel”, and on the other with pen-trials, apparently: “Mari | Mari | Marice | … Caroli|næ vandessel | Mariazo | 1828”. These suggest that the fragment may have reached the Netherlands by the 19th century.