SERVICE BOOK FOR MAJOR FEASTS, Hieromymite use, in Latin and Italian, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Italy, Venice, mid-15th century]
295 x 205mm. i + 98 + i leaves, 1-910, 106, 112, COMPLETE with original flyleaves and pastedowns, a trace of one catchword (f.30v), foliation in 20th-century pencil, two columns of 26 lines written in brown ink in a fine round gothic bookhand, between four verticals ruled in drypoint and 27 horizontals ruled in ink, justification: 210 x 65-18-65mm, rubrics in red, capitals with pale yellow wash, one-line initials alternately red with purple penwork flourishing, or blue with red flourishing; similar two-line initials; two-line initials in gold modelled with yellow and edged in black, on a blue and rose ground with white decoration, the ground with angular demi-fleurs-de-lys outlines, TWELVE HISTORIATED INITIALS EACH WITH BORDERS IN COLOURS AND GOLD, the gold often finely tooled, SMALL MINIATURE at the beginning of the Canon of the Mass and FULL-PAGE CRUCIFIXION MINIATURE WITH FOLIATE BORDERS on the facing page, (generally in fine condition throughout, with some worming of the first and last leaves, not affecting text or decoration, slight cropping of the extremities of some marginal decoration (e.g. f.2)). Blue velvet over wooden boards, gilt edges, endleaves with traces of purple velvet and marks made by the corner- and centre-pieces of an earlier binding. Modern blue cloth-covered box.
1. The Congregation of St Jerome, whose members are known as Hieronymites even though they followed the Rule of St Augustine, was founded in Spain and Italy towards the end of the 14th century by groups of hermits who had chosen St Jerome as their patron and model. Nunneries required a male confessor and priest to hear confession, perform masses, and officiate at other ceremonies: its contents show that this manuscript was written for the use of the priest of the Hieronymite nuns of Santo Spirito, in Dorsoduro, Venice. The section with rubrics in Italian was presumably shown to women who wished to profess, so that they could understand their role in the ceremony even if they could not understand Latin. Textual additions show that the manuscript continued in use through the 16th and into the 17th century.
2. HSA, B2962
Office of St Jerome, from vespers to second vespers, with nine lessons at matins, ff.1-6v; litany of St Jerome, ff.6v-8; mass of St Jerome, including prefaces with music on four-line red staves, ff.8v-13; readings for major feasts from Easter to the Purification, ff.13v-29; the preparation for mass, including prefaces from Christmas Eve to the octave of Pentecost, and for votive masses, followed by the Gloria and Credo, ff.29-41v; f.42 blank; f.42v with a full-page miniature; Canon of the Mass, ff.43-49; the order for making holy water on Sundays, ff.49-50v; the order for blessing water at Epiphany, ff.51-58; the blessing and consecration of virgins, ff.59-76, including their symbolic marriage to Christ, marked by the bishop placing a ring on their finger, ff.67v-68, and a solemn mass to be said on the three following days, ff.71v-76; instructions for virgins wishing to profess, with rubrics in Italian ('Questo e li muodo che se die observare in le donne che vuol far profession. Prima faci l'offertorio, e facto quelo, madona l'abaessa con lo so convento stagando avanti l'altare', etc.), ff.76-78; a verse prayer to St Jerome, in 28 quatrains: 'Exultet celum laudibus Et omnis terra iubilet...', and another in Italian: 'Candido çiglio oroxa sença spina Spechio de chastitade', ff.78-80; f. 80v blank; twelve readings for Holy Saturday, ff.81-90; added(?) reading from Revelation, f.90v; part of an office for St Catherine, including music, apparently left unfinished and finished by a later scribe, ff.91-94; added (16th-century?) 'Ordo servandus ad induendas novitias', ff.94-96; added (17th-century?) 'Ordo Rituum Caeremoniarum emittendi professionem a Monialibus Sancti Hieronymi Venetim', ff. 96-98v; the flyleaves at the beginning and end contain part of a mass for St Michael (f.i verso) and a noted antiphon for the octave of Epiphany (f.99).
The style of illumination is bold and appealing. It was presumably undertaken in Venice and there is an evident debt to the Venetian illuminator Cristoforo Cortese (d.1440) in the border forms, the inclusion of colourful birds, and the light decorative palette combined with numerous gold besants and lozenges all surrounded with penwork tendrils and flourishes. There is a strong sense of volume in the portrayal of all the figures, but the stark tonal contrasts in the Crucifixion add an emotional as well as plastic quality to the scene.
The two-line gold initials set against parti-coloured shaped grounds of pink and blue are particularly distinctive. They find a close parallel in a Pontifical which was written at Padua in 1455, but decorated during the next few years in Venice by a chaplain of the nunnery of Corpus Domini (Padua, Biblioteca capitolare, ms. C.48; see La miniature a Padova dal medioevo al settecento, 1999, catalogue no.91, pp.234-5 for a description and colour reproduction).
The subjects of the miniatures and historiated initials are:
f.1 St Jerome, holding an open book, accompanied by a full border incorporating birds, a rabbit, a dog, and a putto
f.1 St Jerome's lion
f.1v St Jerome writing a book at a writing-desk
f.2 St Jerome reading
f.8 St Jerome holding an open book, turned towards the viewer, the border incorporating his lion with a thorn in its paw
f.8v St Jerome holding an open book and a model of a church; the border incorporating a peacock and a jay(?)
f.13 The Resurrected Christ above the empty tomb
f.22 St Andrew
f.42v Full-page miniature of the Crucifixion, with Mary and St John
f.43 Small miniature of the consecration of the wafer and wine by a priest, and the ringing of the Sanctus bell by an acolyte
f.51 A priest at a lectern blessing a tub of water, and an acolyte holding a candle
f.58 A bishop blessing a group of kneeling nuns
f.71v A bishop at an altar, seen from behind
f.81 Christ blessing and holding an orb