BREVIARY, Premonstratensian use, in Latin. ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM. [Northeastern France, possibly Laon, ca. 1290-1300]
180 x 132 mm. 451 leaves (of 456): 17(of 8, viii presumably blank cancelled) 2-88 9-1112 12-188 19-2212 2313(vi+1) 2412 2511(of 12, lacking vi) 269(of 12, lacking vi, vii, ix) 2712 28-348 3511(of 12, lacking i) 36-4512 46-472. Traces of contemporary quiring in extreme lower left corners of rectos. Two columns of 29 lines written in brown and red ink in two sizes of gothic textura script between 4 vertical and 30 horizontal lines ruled in lead, justification: 115 x 85 mm; calendar ruled with 6 vertical and 36 horizontal lines in blue ink and written in burnished gold, blue, and two shades of red. Line-fillers in red and blue penwork, text initials with delicate penwork in brown ink, frequently filled with yellow or green, initials in the top line of text sometimes extended into the upper margin and elaborated to form cadels incorporating grotesque faces, thousands of one-line Lombard initials in red or blue with penwork of the opposite color as versal initials to Psalms, antiphons, etc., hundreds of two-line Lombards in red or blue with pen-flourishing of the opposite color introducing chapters or readings, pen-flourishing in red and blue extending the height of every column except those with illuminated initials and borders, this flourishing with tendrils extending into the top and bottom margins and punctuated in columns without large initials by small grotesque heads in penwork or liquid gold, ca. EIGHTY ILLUMINATED INITIALS of 3-15 lines alternately mauve on a blue ground or blue on a mauve ground with white tracery infilled with blue and orange ivy leaves on burnished gold grounds and with marginal extensions often the height of the page terminating in ivy leaves and tendrils, many initials or extensions incorporating faces or small grotesque creatures, THIRTY-ONE HISTORIATED INITIALS of 8-10 lines each WITH FULL BAR BORDERS in mauve, blue, burnished gold and burnished silver with ivy-leaf finials, accompanied by NUMEROUS BIRDS, ANIMALS, GROTESQUES AND HUMAN FIGURES engaged in various activities, one similar border without initial, the calendar with VIGNETTES OF THE LABORS OF THE MONTHS AND THE SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC. (Cropped touching borders, slight rubbing to some borders, occasional minor smudges, some offset or bleed-through from borders, the silver oxydized, f. 247 a later vellum insert originally blank, neatly incised hole to f. 374 removing one line of text, clean tears to ff. 167 and 238, ca. 35 leaves with discreet vellum repairs mostly to blank margins but in ca. 15 instances clearly before writing or illumination.) Blind- and gilt-tooled sheep in the style of the 16th century, vellum endleaves (slight wear, three tiny wormholes); cloth case.
Provenance: Laon, Premonstratensian monastery of St. Martin: on the evidence of calendar, liturgical use, and a series of ownership inscriptions, the manuscript was written for this monastery and remained there probably until the house was suppressed in 1790; 14th- or 15th-century exlibris (Iste liber est ecclesie sancti Martini Laudunensis), f. 446r; 17th-century inscription (Ex communitate sancti Martini Laudunensis), f. 2r; 18th-century inscription with the same wording, f. 1r; in the 16th century the manuscript was used by Brother Quintinus Matar of the monastery, who wrote his name and mark on f. 263v (Frater Quintinus Matar religiosus sancty Martini ... Teste meo signo), where a contemporary hand entered the date 1538, and also scribbled his name on ff. 145v-146r and 151 -- ms.11 in an unidentified collection: spine label, number on pastedown -- Eric Sexton (1902-1980): bookplate; sale, Christie's New York, 22 May 1981, lot 3 (to Lathrop Harper).
Contents: calendar, with numerous contemporary and later alterations and additions (including several erasures not legible under ultraviolet light) (ff. 1v-7r, 1r blank), calendar tables (f. 7v); psalter (ff. 8r-75r), canticles (ff. 75r-80r), litany and prayers, with Saints Lawrence, Martin, Augustine and All Saints marked for emphasis, Saints Gervasius and Protasius and Saint Louis added in a contemporary hand (ff. 80v-82r); office of the dead, Premonstratensian use, and commemorations of saints (ff. 82v-87v), hymns (ff. 87v-98r), prayers to the Virgin (ff. 98r-99v); breviary with texts and liturgical instructions added in the margins in a 16th-century hand: temporale (ff. 100r-316v), sanctorale (ff. 317r-423v), commune sanctorum (ff. 424r-446r); prayers (ff. 446r-448r); office of Corpus Christi, added in a 16th-century hand (ff. 448v-451r, 451v blank).
St. Martin at Laon, founded as a Premonstratensian monastery in 1124, came into being under the direct influence of St. Norbert and was one of the principal daughterhouses of Prémontré. In the 13th century it acquired an important relic, the arm of St. Lawrence, an event which influenced both the architecture and the liturgy of the monastery. In 1243 special indulgences were proclaimed for the octave of the feast of St. Lawrence, and between 1260 and 1270 the façade of the church was reconstructed, incorporating relief sculptures honoring St. Lawrence and St. Martin. The composition of these reliefs is echoed in the illuminated initials of the present breviary. In the manuscript, St. Lawrence lies on the gridiron as one torturer fans the flames with his bellows and a second prods the saint with a pole; this corresponds closely to the central portion of the tympanum above the left portal of the church (reproduced in Laon: une acropole à la française, Amiens 1995, p. 232). The initial which depicts St. Martin on horseback dividing his cloak for the beggar is a reverse copy of the sculpture on the façade of the church.
The calendar of the breviary offers a rich resource for the history of the liturgy and devotion to the saints at St. Martin. The two principal feasts at the end of the 13th century were St. Martin (Nov. 11) whose name appears in gold letters on a blue and red ground, and St. Nicholas (Dec. 6), whose name appears in gold on a blue ground. A number of other names were written in gold but without a special background; in addition to the feasts of Christ, the Virgin, and others, these include feasts known to be of significance at St. Martin: Invention of the Holy Cross, commemorating a relic given to the monastery by the Byzantine emperor John Comnenus (May 3), Translation of St. Nicholas (May 9), Translation of St. Martin (July 4), Lawrence (Aug. 10), Octave of St. Lawrence (Aug. 17), Augustine, whose rule the Premonstratensians followed (Aug. 28), and Exultation of the Cross (Sept. 14). The calendar also includes a large number of medieval additions in red and blue, as well as a few in black. These may have been intended in part to convert the calendar into one with a saint for (nearly) every day, but it is likely that some of the additions had special significance at St. Martin. There is also a complex system of symbols indicating the liturgical grade of various feasts; both medieval and 16th-century hands were responsible for multiple alterations to this information.
The lacuna at f. 247 of the breviary was apparently occasioned by the early loss of a leaf at this point, for the blank vellum replacement leaf has on its verso the beginning of the office for Saturday after the octave of Pentecost supplied in a 16th-century hand. Although copied in the 1290s, the manuscript does not include the feast of Corpus Christi, proclaimed in 1264, undoubtedly because this was not adopted by the Premonstratensian order until the early 14th century. The beginning of an office In festo sacramenti altaris was entered in a blank space on f. 246v in a hand of the 14th or 15th century, and the text of a complete office for the feast of Corpus Christi was copied in a later hand at the end of the manuscript (ff. 448v-451r).
The manuscript was illuminated in northeastern France in the late 13th century. Since it was clearly made for use at St. Martin in Laon, and since Laon was the center of a long and active school tradition, it seems likely that the codex was a local product.
The subjects of the illuminations are:
f. 1v January: Janus feasting. Vignette: Aquarius. In the border: a bird, a dog, a centaur archer, and a man blowing a trumpet at another man
f. 2r February: warming by the fire. Vignette: Pisces. In the border: birds, grotesques, and a dog dancing on his hind legs before a man playing the bagpipes
f. 2v March: pruning vines. Vignette: Aries. In the border: grotesques, a juggler and two men playing a game with balls
f. 3r April: digging. Vignette: Taurus. In the border: a bird, a dog, grotesques, a man with an ax, and a centaur with a club pursuing a grotesque
f. 3v May: a knight riding among flowering trees. Vignette: Gemini. In the border, grotesques, a man holding two sticks, and four men playing bowls
f. 4r June: haying. Vignette: Cancer. In the border: a dog, a fox, grotesques, a centaur holding two balls, an archer shooting a bird, and another bird caught in a snare and approached by two men
f. 4v July: hunting. Vignette: Leo. In the border, grotesques, a dog pursuing a stag, a centaur holding a stone, and three men baking bread in an oven
f. 5r August: reaping. Vignette: Virgo. In the border: birds, grotesques, an archer shooting a stork, a hunter with a horn and club and two dogs, one of whom is attacking a stag
f. 5v September: shooting a bird. Vignette: Libra. In the border: grotesques, a man with a club, a man with bagpipes and a woman dancing, and an ape chained to a post
f. 6r October: harvesting the grapes. Vignette: Scorpio. In the border: a dog, a stag, grotesques, a jester, a man with a club, and two men fighting with swords and bucklers
f. 6v November: hunting the boar. Vignette: Sagittarius. In the border: a dog, grotesques, and two men with shields and clubs
f. 7r December: killing the pig. Vignette: Capricorn. In the border: a bird, a dog, grotesques, and two men, one with a bird in a wheelbarrow f. 7v Calendar tables. In the border: dogs, grotesques with clubs, two men seated and apparently disputing, and two other men, one holding a square, the other compasses
f. 8r Psalm 1: David enthroned with his harp in the upper bow of the B, David and Goliath below. In the border: birds, grotesques, an archer, and a juggler
f. 18v Psalm 26: the anointing of David. In the border: birds, grotesques and an archer shooting at a bird
f. 25v Psalm 38: David before God, pointing to his mouth. In the border: a dog, a bird, grotesques, and a man holding a branch with a bird perched on it
f. 32r Psalm 52: the fool. In the border: a bird, grotesques, and a dog barking at a rabbit
f. 38v Psalm 68: David in the water, God above. In the border: birds, grotesques, and a scribe seated before his writing desk with his implements on a table before him
f. 46v Psalm 80: David playing the bells. In the border: a dog, a bird, grotesques, heads of two men sounding trumpets, and a boy with an artichoke-like implement protecting a seated man from the insects swarming around him
f. 54r Psalm 97: three clerics singing from a book on a lectern. In the border: a dog, an archer, and grotesques, two of them fighting with a club and a stick
f. 61v Psalm 109: the Trinity. In the border: a dog, a stag, a bird, and grotesques
f. 100r First Sunday of Advent: the Annunciation to the Virgin. In the border: birds, grotesques, and an archer shooting a rabbit
f. 118r Christmas: the Nativity in the bowl of the initial P; Daniel, Moses, and St. John in its stem. In the border: grotesques, including an archer, and two men mounted on fantastic animals and fighting with swords and shields
f. 137r Epiphany: the Three Kings. In the border: birds, a dog, grotesques, and three apes, two riding dog-like beasts, the third holding two spears
f. 239v Pentecost: Pentecost. In the border: grotesques, a man holding two sticks, an archer, and a rabbit with an arrow through its neck
f. 304r First Sunday after the Octave of Pentecost: Dives and Lazarus. In the border: grotesques and a dog chasing a rabbit
f. 326r Purification of the Virgin: the Presentation in the Temple. In the border: grotesques, a man with a club, and a long-eared owl
f. 367v St. Lawrence: St. Lawrence on the gridiron. In the border: grotesques, a dog playing the bagpipes, and a rabbit dancing
f. 371v Assumption of the Virgin: the Dormition of Mary. In the border: two dogs, an archer shooting an arrow at a fantastic creature, two centaur-like grotesques fighting with club and spear
f. 388v Nativity of the Virgin: the virgin seated in a garden. In the border: a bird and grotesques
f. 411v Deposition of St. Martin: St. Martin on horseback dividing his cloak with the beggar. In the border: grotesques