BREVIARY, use of Rome, in Latin,ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Italy, ?Florence, 1470s]
141 x 105mm. 402 leaves: 16(of 8 lacking ii and iii), 2-1710, 188, 19-4010, 418, catchwords in lower margins of final versos, 28 lines written in brown and black ink in a gothic bookhand in two columns between four verticals and 29 horizontals ruled in grey, justification: 82 x 28-8-28mm, rubrics in red with blue paragraph marks, one- and two-line initials alternately in red and blue, flourished in the contrasting colour on f.7, THIRTY-TWO LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIALS on grounds of burnished gold with marginal extensions of acanthus and gold disks or leaves linked by hairline tendrils, THREE LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIALS WITH PARTIAL BORDERS of hairline tendrils linking burnished gold disks and flowers and leaves in purple, blue and green, ONE LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIAL WITH STAVES AND AND EXTENSIONS OF BLUE AND GREEN ACANTHUS JOINING A BORDER OF SIMILAR TYPE (lacking two leaves from the calendar, initial f.228v rubbed, worming to final leaf, slight wear to a few margins). 16th-century blind stamped brown leather over wooden boards (lacking two clasps and catches, scuffing and worming to covers, spine cracking). Cloth-covered box.
The breviary was written for use within a religious house, since it includes not only offices for the sick but also for blessing within the refectory where fratres, brothers, are mentioned. It was possibly an Augustinian foundation: St Augustine appears in red, 28 August, and, in black, his mother St Monica, 4 May, and the Augustinian hermit St Nicolas of Tolentino, 10 September. In the sanctoral, however, Augustinian feasts are not distinguished by illuminated initials. The absolution of sins at the moment of death, f.402, is given by authority of Pius II, who was pope from 1458 to 1464; the illumination, Florentine in style, indicates a later date into the 1470s. A coat of arms, gules, a lion argent, a bendlet vert, has been superimposed over the border on f.7.
The book continued in use. Further lections have been added in a 15th-century cursive hand after the communal, ff.172-174, and further benedictions in an informal hand on the final verso. On the recto, a 16th-century hand has added the names 'Fra Claudio priore Fr Desiderio vicario', with no indication of the order to which they belonged. An inscription has been erased on f.7. The book remained in Italy, as demonstrated by the Italian title written in a late 19th-century hand, f.1v.
Calendar May to December (lacking January to April), ff.2-5v; table for the movable feasts, f.6; breviary secundum consuetudinem sanctae Romane ecclesie, ff.7-402: temporal f.7, added lections f.172, psalter with canticles and litany f.175, sanctoral f.255, communal f.370, offices for giving communion to the sick and for anointing them f.370v, benedictions for the refectory f.400, absolution of sins auctoritate...domini nostri pii pape, f.402, added benedictions f.402v.
The clearly articulated text of this compact volume would have allowed a member of a religious house to fulfil the clerical obligation to recite the offices of the breviary daily. The elegantly simple red and blue initials are replaced by handsomely illuminated letters at the major divisions and feasts. With their acanthus staves and burnished gold grounds and embellishments, the initials are typical of the Florentine border decoration, ultimately French in inspiration, that co-existed with more overtly classicising forms. On f.212, the stylised leaves and flowers, in rich combinations of blue, green and purple, are joined by a sinuous bird. The breviary might have been written within the community of its first owner and then decorated by a professional illuminator.
The illuminated initials with borders are on ff.7, 212, 258 and 300.