THE LIBANORI BREVIARY, use of Rome, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Ferrara, c.1475-90]247 x 177mm. 422 leaves (the last blank), with later flyleaves, including a bifolium around the first gathering, COMPLETE: 16, 2-1810, 192, 208, 21-2510, 268, 27-4010, catchwords in lower margins of final versos, 34 lines written in a fine gothic liturgical hand in dark brown ink in two columns between two verticals and 35 horizontals ruled in pale ink, justification: 152 x 106mm, rubrics in red, versal capitals in alternating burnished gold and blue, DECORATED INITIALS THROUGHOUT, two-line initials in alternating burnished gold and blue against elaborate grounds of alternating blue and red filigree penwork extending into margins, with EIGHTY-THREE LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIALS in pink, green, blue and red on grounds of burnished gold with floral designs, occasionally with elaborate gold filigree extensions, TWENTY-FOUR HISTORIATED INITIALS from four to eleven lines high, usually accompanied by full-length bar borders sprouting panels of elaborate gold filigree enclosing painted flowers in upper and lower margins, FOUR FULL-PAGE ILLUMINATED AND HISTORIATED BORDERS OF GOLDEN FILIGREE containing medallions with saints, angels, birds and other animals (slight rubbing to edges of the first two borders, a few creases, occasional wear). CONTEMPORARY GILT-STAMPED BINDING of brown goatskin over wooden boards with outer arabesque border and roundel of interlace set in an extended diamond on a field of interlace, gilt edges, traces of gilding (rebacked with original spine laid down, a few small small repairs, endleaves replaced, clasps lacking). Dark green solander box.
1. The Breviary appears to have been destined for an Augustinian house, perhaps in the diocese of Padua. There are Masses for St Augustine (f.345), his octave, and Translations (ff.368 and 267), along with an additional mass after the end of the Sanctorale for the Vigil of St Nicholas of Tolentino (f.384), and for his canonization (f.388), and for St William of Malavalle (f.390). St Augustine is also the only saint given a capital letter in the Litany (f.80). The calendar includes numerous Paduan saints, as well as the Dedication of Padua Cathedral (24 April). On f.276v St George's mass begins 'Incipit officium Sancti Georgii martyris ac patroni Fer(rariensis).' This might confirm what the style of illumination suggests, that the Breviary was made at Ferrara.
The arms on f.7, azure a chevron argent, with three letter 'L's or arranged 2 and 1, until now attributed to the Ferrarese Boiardo family, belong in fact to the Libanori of Ferrara (cf. Crollalanza, Dizionario storico-blasonico delle famiglie nobili e notabili italiane estinte e fiorenti, Pisa, 1886-90, vol.II). Libanoro Libanori was ducal chancellor of Ferrara in 1472, during the time of Ercole I d'Este (Duke of Ferrara from 1471-1505), and the Breviary may have been commissioned by him -- or by Martino Libanori, Bishop of Adria from 1472-1484. The Breviary cannot date from before 1472, since the Calendar also includes the Translation of St Bernardino, which took place in May that year.
2. 'Geo. A. Leavitt & Co., Auctioneers, New York' label inside upper cover.
3. Major J.R. Abbey (1894-1969): his bookplate and numbered JA.7209, bought in New York, probably from Harper, on 17 June 1963.
Calendar ff.1-6; Temporale, use of Rome, from Vespers on the first Saturday in Advent to the fourth Sunday in November ff.7-178; rubrics ff.179-186; Ferial Psalter, use of Rome ff.187-244; Sanctorale from the feast of St Saturninus (29 November) to that of St Katherine (25 November), followed by additional offices for SS. Nicholas of Tolentino and William of Malavalle ff.245-392; the Common of Saints and the Dedication complete with matins ff.393-412; Hours of the Virgin ff.412-416v; Office of the Dead ff.416v-419v; Benedictions ff.419v-421; ff.421v-422 ruled blank.
AN EXQUISITE EXAMPLE OF THE ELABORATE DELICACY OF FERRARESE ILLUMINATION. The four full-page borders of shimmering gold scroll-work, accompanied by medallions containing saints, angels, birds and animals against naturalistic settings and landscapes are a testament to the fervent and imaginative artistic ethos of the court of Niccolo III d'Este and his sons Lionello, Borso and Ercole. The first of the four principal opening pages (f.7) contains an historiated initial 'F' on a ground of highly burnished gold depicting St Paul holding a book and a sword and is surrounded by a full border of gold penwork with pink, blue and green flowers and medallions containing half-length saints, the first clad in green and brown with a blue turban (?St Daniel), the second a bishop (?St Prosdocimus of Padua) and the third a young man or a girl in green, reading (?St Justina). Above is a small mallard; below, the arms of Libanori are flanked by St Gabriel and the Virgin Annunciate. The second opening, the incipit of the Psalter (f.187), contains an historiated initial 'P' depicting a Bishop Saint blessing; within the border are three medallions depicting a hare against a luxuriant green backdrop, a mallard on rolling waves of blue, and a collared leopard seated in a fantastical barren landscape. The artist here displays remarkable depth, and his palette spans a variety of colours: from the greens and blues of the more familiar animals to the exotic yellows and browns of the leopard in its desert setting. The third opening, marking the beginning of the Sanctorale (f.245), contains one 9-line historiated initial 'D' depicting St Saturninus and one 6-line initial 'F' depicting St Andrew; the borders boast three lozenges with a bird, a seated monkey with its back turned, and a faun. The fourth and final opening, the Common of the Saints (f.393), contains an historiated initial 'F' depicting SS. Peter and Paul; the borders with three compartments depicting a lone faun, a goldfinch on a perch and two deer.
The Breviary is the work of at least two illuminators, their styles showing a close relationship to Ferrarese painter Cosmè Tura (1430-1495). The principal miniatures in this Breviary have been identified as the work of Fra Evangelista da Reggio (d.1494), who is also documented as having worked on the corali of Ferrara cathedral from 1477 until his death (see J.J.G. Alexander and A.C. de la Mare, The Italian Manuscripts in the Library of Major J.R. Abbey, 1969, no 50, pp.137-9, and pls. LXIb-LXIV and La Miniatura a Ferrara, ed. F. Toniolo, Ferrara, 1998). His work is often indistinguishable from that of Jacopo Filippo Medici, known as l'Argenta, and this Breviary may well be a further example of their collaboration (see Dizionario biografico dei miniatori italiani, ed. M. Bollati, Milan, 2004, pp.211-12). The British Library Breviary Add. ms 17294, also illuminated by Fra Evangelista, displays a similar use of bright colours and comparable stylistic trends: thick lips, pronounced, bony features, deep-set eyes and pointy beards.
The subjects of the other large historiated initials are as follows: the Nativity f.29, St Stephen f.32v, St John the Evangelist f.34v, the Holy Family f.43v, the Adoration of the Magi f.47, the Resurrection f. 118, the Ascension f.132v, Pentecost f.139v, the Trinity f.144, the Eucharist f.147v, Christ blessing f.235v, St Barbara f.247v, St Thomas Apostle f.252, the Annunciation f.272, St John the Baptist f.303v, SS. Peter and Paul f.308, the Assumption of the Virgin f.338v, St Augustine f.345 and All Saints f.372.