Illuminated manuscript on parchment, 295 x 197 mm. 174 + i leaves (not counting detached pastedowns from front and back), at least 2 front flyleaves missing; I8-2 (lacks 1, 8), II-XV8, [1 quire of 8 leaves missing between XV and XVI => old foliation jumps from 120 to 129], XVI-XVIII8, [1 quire of 8 leaves missing between XVIII and XIX => old foliation jumps from 152 to 161], XIX8-4 (lacks 3, 4, 5, 6), XX6-4 (lacks 1, 3, 4, 6), [a bifolium missing between XX and XXI], XXI6, XXII8, XXIII8-2 (lacks 4, 5), XXIV4, XXV2 (last 2 leaves are singletons rather than a bifolium, that have been added later: leaf no. 205 with a more recent humanistic script, while the last leaf serves as flyleaf for the new 17th-century binding); catchwords almost throughout; red foliation in arabic numerals on top of each leaf probably contemporary with the binding; justification: 225 x 140-150 mm, ruled in brown ink for 8 lines of text and music, while a number of pages show additional musical lines in the lower margins, which were added later, 4-line bars in red, notation and text in dark brown ink, written in a textualis formata; versals and cadels infrequently touched in yellow, rubrics in red, every verse is introduced by some form of a 1-line decorated letter, be it a delicate calligraphic cadel with an inkdrawing of a face attached to it, a blue and red initial with penwork or an illuminated initial, some of which executed in tempera and liquid gold and others as pen and ink drawings with washes in different colours, others a combination of penmanship and coloration. All in all 6 illuminated initials of different sizes, the last one on fol. 204v is a quite large elaborate cadel and spans 5 lines. Some interspersed decorative checkered geometric forms between verses, some large and elaborate calligraphic initials (cadels), some large, almost abstract blue and red initials towards lower margins (e.g. on fol. no. 89, 147v). It seems that a number of very diversely skilled artists each contributed their bit to create this composite piece of art.
Binding: early 17th century brown calf over wooden boards with 5 metal bosses/buckles on both covers; blind-line tooling and marking with 2 different stamps on front and back cover a) 2 stamps with a cross formed from a number of small crosses, b) 2 oval stamps with the Jesuit order’s symbol incorporating IHS. Remains of two clasps with the catches lost. 5 raised bands, spine heavily damaged but original, it is torn at head and tail, hinges intact. The spine is also embossed with the cross-stamp. Paper label to spine has mostly peeled off, leather of back cover broken at top end and towards upper edge, front and back pastedowns present but they were detached from the surface of the boards, both with a few wormholes; back pastedown made from and old, probably legal document. Original headbands preserved, but they are quite brittle and damaged. Condition: The codex is made of very strong and sometimes coarse parchment with margins probably trimmed to fit the 17th-century binding, darkened and spotted in places, cockled. Some original repairs to parchment (sutures). The ink of both text and musical notes is sometimes blurred, faded or washed out, here and there apparently even intentionally erased to accommodate later liturgical or musical amendments. Decoration very diverse from various hands with different skills; the illuminated initials in varying states of preservation, some a bit flaked, some a bit rubbed or faded, but otherwise unharmed. Overall the book looks heavily used, with a part of one of the illuminated initials rubbed off forcefully (cf. fol. no. 105v). It was adjusted for use throughout the centuries, but is surprisingly intact, despite of two quires and a number of leaves missing. Perhaps even some of the decorations were added later in the 17th century. Scribbled writing exercises in ink on leaf no. 95. Some liturgical amendments and additions in the margins by a 17th-century hand (e.g. the feast of the nativity of St Augustine is added to the margins of fol. no. 175, referring to pages within the book which contain the proper psalms and verses for the liturgy of St Augustine). Library stamp of the Bibliothèque Seminaire de N.D. de Puy on first leaf.
Since at least the 17th century, when it received its present binding, the book was part of a seminary library of the Jesuit order, perhaps even of the Collège des Jésuites in Puy (Library stamp of the Bibliothèque Seminaire de N.D. de Puy on fol. 1). In fact, the Church of the Collège des Jésuites in Puy was built as the first church building in France in the so-called Jesuit style, and it was conceived and designed by friar Martellange from Lyon in 1605 after he had returned from Rome. It is hypothetically possible that the 15th-century manuscript was incorporated into their collection with a new binding on the occasion of the consecration of the church.
Private chateau, Central France, until 2017.
Its text covers the sung liturgy of the mass following the Graduale Romanum beginning with Advent in the Proprium de Tempore as the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, continuing with the Sanctoral, followed by the Communal.
Incipit on the first leaf, signed no.2: “Ad te Domine levavi animam meam …” This means that the leaf with folio-number 2, which is the first leaf today, does contain the proper beginning of the Roman Gradual, so that we may conclude that the missing first leaf was either blank or contained a title page, perhaps decorated.
Ëxplicit on leaf no. 204v:”Gloria patri et filio et spirito sancto. Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in secula seculorum Amen”
Fol. no. 205 adds another text with music, written by a later hand: “Illuxerunt coruscationes tuae orbi terrae commota est et contremuit terra …” (Psalm 76, 19), the texts ends on verso: “Communio: Visionem quam vidistis nemini dixeritis donec a mortuis resurgat filius hominis” (Communio for the feast of Transfiguration celebrated on 6th of August)
The text on the missing quire between XV and XVI contained the major part of the Vigil of Ascension, it begins on the preceding leaf “Omnes gentes plaudite manibus iubilate deo in voce exultationis ….” The text on the missing quire between XIX and XX contained the ending of the office of 21st Sunday.
It is the text added later on fol. no. 205 that could help us date the present manuscript. The closing lines of this section mark the Communion of the feast of Transfiguration, while they could also be used for the second Sunday of Lent, when at some point Transfiguration used to be celebrated. However, the second Sunday of Lent is represented in this manuscript, so we may conclude that the complementary text on the added bifolium was intended to fill a gap that the 17th-century users of the manuscript needed to bridge, as it was apparently not covered by the 15th-century manuscript. The feast of the Transfiguration of Christ however became fixed in the ecclesiastical calendar of the Western Church on the 6th of August only fairly late, namely in 1456, when it was installed by pope Callixtus III as a universal feast to commemorate the raising of the siege of Belgrade. This most likely gives us a terminus ante quem for the production of the manuscript. On the other hand, the preceding psalm 112 on the recto of fol. no. 205 is not part of the Offertorium of Transfiguration ….
What makes the manuscript highly unusual, charming and interesting, however, is its multifaceted scheme of decoration. There are fairly ordinary bifid red and blue initials with penwork decoration, which are sometimes enhanced with a face. The penmanship presented in small and large cadels is however remarkable (cf. e.g. “Jerusalem surge” for the 2nd of Advent on fol. no. 3v, or “Spritus sanctus” on fol. no. 166v), while some of the attached faces are not only highly amusing, but also well executed (c.f. e.g. the face of a jester sporting a pair of glasses attached to the letter A of “Alleluya” on fol. no. 167v). It is difficult to establish whether the scribe, the calligrapher and the artisan who did the accompanying pen and ink drawings and drolleries could be one and the same person. The big last cadel on fol. no. 204v would suggest and support this idea, as the incorporated delicate foliage, the drolleries with birds and animals and the faces in profile work so well together. A similar kind of coordinating all the above mentioned elements shines through on fol. no. 142v or 129v. The illuminated initials for Easter (“Resurrexi” on fol. no. 105v), the 1st Sunday after Trinitatis (“Benedicta sit”, fol. no. 129v), the fourth Sunday of Advent (fol. no. 5, “Rorate celi”) or Nativity (fol. no. 14, “Puer natus est”) on the other hand show a combination of true illumination using tempera and liquid gold and pen and ink drawing. In all of these different categories of decoration we can distinguish a hierarchy of ornament. The illuminated initials are preserved for high feast days of the ecclesiastical year, the more elaborate cadels mark subordinate feast days, while the simpler cadels and the red and blue initials introduce the ordinary parts of the sung liturgy on ‘ordinary’ sundays or days of the week.
This liturgical manuscript speaks of a monastic community, where a number of average trained artisans contributed their skills to produce a book that was of central importance in all their services throughout the ecclesiastical year. As such, it is a very colourful, interesting and rare witness of 15th-century monastic life in an ordinary, perhaps rural area of France.