FERIAL PSALTER, in Latin, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Rome, early 16th century]
593 x 420mm. 131 leaves: 1-128, 136, 14-168, 175, COMPLETE, catchwords in centre lower margin of final versos, old foliation in arabic numerals in upper corner of rectos, 12 lines written in a round gothic bookhand, hymns and antiphons with music of square notation on a four-line red stave, justification: 410 x 270mm, rubrics in red, one-line versals alternately of red or blue, FIFTY-TWO LARGE FLOURISHED INITIALS with staves of red or blue patterned in reserve and with pen-work flourishing of the other colour shaded with mosaic gold, extending the height of the text, THREE LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIALS with jewels and renaissance forms in colours and liquid gold, later vellum indexing tabs on outer edges (slight flaking and offsetting of ink to some folios, ink erosion affecting f.23 and occasional isolated letters, early replacement of text on ff.36v, 37, 89r&v, 90, 92r&v, 96v, 97, 98r&v). ORIGINAL BINDING of brown leather over thick wooden boards with brass cornerpieces, borders and bosses, shaped and stamped with tools including the monogram of Christ, the Virgin and Child and flowerheads, inset title panel on lower board (detached from text block, lacking straps, vertical tear at foot of spine).
The scale of the work and the binding with its elaborate metalwork embellishment show that this manuscript must have been one of a splendid and vast series of choirbooks made for use in an Italian monastery. The title label on the lower cover is annotated in a later hand to show that it was the third volume of the Ferial Psalter and it clearly continued in use at least into the 18th century: various marginal annotations refer the user to the indexing tabs to find the appropriate psalm or hymn. The name 'Frater Cherub' is written in a 17th-century hand on folio 103.
Antichità Gaetano Barile, Rome: his stamp on remnants of pastedown on lower cover.
Ferial Psalter for Friday and Saturday ff.1-88; Hymnal ff.88v-100; Psalter for Major Feasts on Friday and Saturday ff.100v-131.
The fine illuminated initials incorporate all'antica elements that were so popular from the end of the 15th century with Italian artists inspired by the newly discovered painted and stucco decoration of the Golden House of Nero. The decorative vocabulary, including strings of hanging jewels, candelabra, dolphins and a panel lettered SPQR, is very close to that in the choirbooks painted by Fra Antonio da Monza in Rome around 1500 for the Franciscans of Sta Maria in Aracoeli (Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, Ludwig VI 3). It is likely that this manuscript originated in the city at a similar date.