BREVIARY, Dominican Use, DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Florence, mid-fifteenth century]
242 x 168mm. ii + 209 leaves + ii: 1-78, 810, 98, 1010, 11-238, 249(of 8 + ix, addition), 2512, bifolios at beginning and end are the original pastedowns, each formed of one ruled folio placed sideways, apparently COMPLETE, catchwords in lower margins of most final versos, most pages 15 lines written in black ink in a gothic bookhand between two verticals and 16 horizontals faintly ruled in brown, long rubrics written in a smaller gothic bookhand in black ink in 30 lines, justification: 147 x 100mm, some pages written in six lines below three-line staves ruled in red with music of a square notation, antiphons written in two columns in six lines below three-line staves ruled in red with music of a square notation; shorter rubrics in red, text capitals touched yellow, two- to five-line initials alternately in blue flourished with red and red flourished with violet (edges of leaves rubbed, wormhole f.1). CONTEMPORARY RED-BROWN GOATSKIN tooled in blind, sides panelled with concentric rows of 'S' tools, a central divided square of 'S' tools and small stars on a field of ropework 'X's, spine with intersecting fillets and small stars, one early brass catchpin on lower cover (repaired and rebacked, new endpapers [original endpapers preserved as flyleaves], straps and one catchpin replaced by C. Philip Smith, his report 27 July 1958 inside lower cover).
1. The use is Dominican, and the Calendar includes, among many Dominican feasts, St Dominic (5 August) and his Translation (23 May), on both dates referring to him as patris nostri, our father; the book includes offices only relevant to a Dominican house, which was probably in Florence from the presence in the Calendar of St Reparata (8 October) and St Zenobius, added in a sympathetic hand (25 May), in the Litany of St Miniato, f.184, in the supplementary capitula of Sts Zenobius and Reparata, ff.191v-192, 193v, and from a prayer added in a contemporary hand to St Miniato, f.205. These Florentine saints were not normally celebrated in the Dominican rite, see W.R. Bonniwell, A History of the Dominican Liturgy, New York, 1945. The book, with its detailed rubrics, would be appropriate for a member of an Observant house, where great emphasis was placed on the full and proper recitation of the offices. Since no special status is accorded to St Mark, it may come from Fra Angelico's convent of S. Domenico, founded at Fiesole outside Florence in 1406, rather than from the daughter house of S. Marco within the city; S. Maria Novella remained the Florentine house of the Conventuals, who resisted the Observant Reform.
2. Baron Horace Landau (1824-1903): printed bookplate inside upper cover with nos 2264 and 2269; inherited by his niece Mme Hugo Finaly (d.1938) and then by her son (d.1945); Landau Sale, Sotheby's, 31 October 1949. Clipping from catalogue with price of £68 after Landau Sale pasted inside upper cover.
3. Southport Libraries stamp on original pastedown/endleaf inside front cover, deaccessioned in 1992.
Additions on blanks before Calendar: Converte nos with three-line stave ruled in red but never noted f.1; prayer to St Vincent Ferrer with space for large initial f.2; Calendar ff.3-8v; texts and music for the Office, opening converte nos deus, with instructions on variations in prayers, with examples, benedictions ff.9-18; Capitulary: Temporal ff.19-28v, Sanctoral ff.28v-39, Communal ff.39v-43v; Collectary: Temporal ff.43v-75, Sanctoral ff.75v-117; prayers for conventual offices and benedictions,ff.117-133v; Antiphonary: Temporal ff.133v-148v, Sanctoral ff.148v-154v; Communal ff.154v-156; Offices for sick, dying and dead friars, including Litany ff.157-174v; lessons and responses of the Office of the Dead, Dominican use ff.174v-182; Litany ff.182v-189; capitula ff.189v-194; prayers in different hand, including one on the translation of St Thomas Aquinas f.194r and v; antiphons, absolutions ff.195v-196v; benedictions on added leaf in a contemporary hand f.197; prayer to St Monica in a later hand f.197v, prayers in a contemporary hand, including St Vincent Ferrer and St Catherine of Siena ff.198-205; the later hand added a capitulum for the Transfiguration and prayers ff.208v-209v.
This Breviary does not provide every element needed for the Office: the Psalter, Lectionary and Hymns must have been separately available. Whereas a complete Breviary has to be written in a small script on fine vellum to be contained in one volume, the large, elegant script and the clear structuring of the text by the flourished initials show that this book was intended for communal worship, when different members of the community, equipped with the appropriate volumes, would be assigned their parts in the Office or could share a set of volumes on a lectern. The detailed rubrics would need to be studied before the services began and so could be more compressed for individual perusal. It can be dated to the mid-15th century from the initial omission of the Dominican saints Vincent Ferrer, whose canonisation in 1455 was officially promulgated in 1458, and Catherine of Siena, canonised in 1461. Prayers to both are among those written in a different, contemporary hand in the final gathering. At this time the convents in Fiesole and Florence were recipients of lavish patronage from Cosimo de' Medici and his associates and both were involved in book production, commercially and for their own use. New foundations could not rely on earlier copies of essential liturgical texts.
This handsome breviary was intended for regular use within the Dominican Order, to which the Observants had brought an intensified piety and new austerity; nonetheless, a handsome binding was thought necessary to preserve its contents and honour its function.