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les Enluminures

Breviary (use of Autun)

In Latin, manuscript on parchment
Central France (Autun), c. 1460-80?

TM 271

Parchment (some holes, for example f. 200, and repairs, ff. 133, 155), i (parchment) + 272 + i (parchment), modern foliation in pencil, top, outer corner, misfoliated with an unnumbered folio after f. 244, (collation i-ii10 iii6 iv-xxv8 xxvi10 [-1, before f. 203, with loss of text] xxvii-xxx8 xxxi8 [2, unnumbered leaf after f. 244] xxxii-xxxiii8 xxxiv8 [-6, 7, 8, following f. 271, with loss of text]), some quires with horizontal catchwords, now mostly trimmed, no signatures, written below the top line in a cursive gothic bookhand, with no loops, in two columns, thirty-two lines, ink varies from black to very light chestnut-brown, ruled very lightly in lead or brown crayon (often invisible), single full-length vertical bounding lines (?), prickings, outer margins, (justification 113 x 89-88 mm.), one- to two line red initials, red rubrics, liturgical directions underlined in red, some guide letters for initials within initials, some notes for the rubricator, for example, f. 52, first folio discolored, otherwise in excellent condition. Rebound in modern brown leather, spine with four raised bands, red and green head- and tail-bands; portions of the original back cover laid down, showing that it was originally bound in a very fine stamped calf binding, with a center panel of the Annunciation, bounded by a narrow border of small dots or spiral stamps, small square panels with eagles, and a border of three fillets; outer borders include a border of four-legged animals and a border of fleur-de-lis. Housed in modern cloth box. Dimensions 168 x 125 mm.

This utilitarian manuscript was made for the use of Autun, one of the most important pilgrimage sites and thriving trading centers in the later Middle Ages. In addition to its textual importance for the history of liturgical usage in Autun, this manuscript is perfect for teaching and studying codicology. A portion of the original binding has been preserved and the parchment is especially evocative of its animal origins, with uneven edges, holes, evidence of veins, and discoloration in the skin. Prickings guide the ruling, and notes for the rubricators and guide-initials for the pen decoration are also preserved.


1. Liturgical evidence allows us to state that this Breviary was made in Autun, most likely for a canon of the Cathedral of St. Lazarus; the suffrages at the end of the temporale invoke all the most important saints for Cathedral: Lazarus, Martha, Mary, Nazarius and Celsus. The Cathedral was dedicated to St. Lazarus and housed his relics. Legend recorded that Lazarus traveled to Marseilles with Martha and Mary. The Cathedral of St. Lazarus was built in response to the large numbers pilgrims visiting, and replaced the earlier Cathedral, which was dedicated to Saints Nazarius and Celsus. Feasts important to Autun (including four of St. Lazarus) dominate the Sanctorale, which also includes the Office of the Dead for the use of Autun. Liturgical evidence and the script suggest a date in the fifteenth century, probably c.1460-80; the manuscript includes the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6), approved for the whole church in 1457.

2. Notes in French housed with the manuscript from earlier owners or dealers, transcribing prayers and briefly noting the contents of the manuscript.


ff. 1-114, Temporale, beginning imperfectly within the office for Wednesday after the first Sunday in Lent and concluding with the Dedication of a Church and Suffrages including those of John the Baptist, Lazarus, Nazarius and Celsus, Mary Magdalene and Martha, ending a scribal flourish and “Deo gratias” [f. 114v blank];

ff. 115-271v, Sanctorale, beginning with the Vigil of Andrew (29 November), and ending imperfectly in the sixth lesson of Matins for Brice (13 November); among the Saints included are Racho, bishop of Autun (5 December), Lazarus (17 December), Bonitus, bishop of Clermont (15 January), Claudius, bishop of Besançon (6 June), Medard, bishop (8 June), Mary Magdalene (22 July), Martha (29 July), Lazarus (29 or 30 July), Transfiguration (6 August), Leodegar, bishop of Autun (2 October), Lazarus, solemnity (1 September), Andochius (24 September), translation of Lazarus (20 October), Benignus (1 November) and Martin (11 November); ff. 262-264v, text for All Souls (November 2), “Commemorationem defunctorum,” consists of the Office of the Dead, use of Autun (see Knud Ottosen, The Responsories and Versicles of the Latin Office of the Dead, Aarhus University Press, 1993, pp. 119 and 248),

Breviaries include the daily cycle of prayers said by the regular and secular clergy, based primarily on the Psalms, and divided into eight hours said during the day and night (Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline). This Breviary, made for the Cathedral at Autun, is notable for the very large number of saints included in the Sanctorale. It is an important witness to the liturgy of the Cathedral, which was dedicated to St. Lazarus; four feasts in honor of the saint are included. The Breviary now includes only the Temporale (beginning imperfectly) and the Sanctorale (ending imperfectly); it is likely the manuscript at one time also included a Psalter, calendar, and the common of saints.

Autun was an important pilgrimage site and thriving trading center in the later Middle Ages. Some very fine illuminated manuscripts were produced for the Cathedral of Autun in the fifteenth-century. Leroquais gives a total of six Breviaries for the use of Autun presently in the Bibliothèque municipale of Autun, and he cites another five examples found elsewhere. One especially rich and contemporary example of a deluxe fifteenth-century Breviary for the use Autun, this one like many others gifts of the wealthy ecclesiastics in the area such as Cardinal Jean Rolin, is Huntington MS 1077 illuminated by the Master of the Burgundian Prelates (see Online Resources below).

In contrast to this (and other) lavish examples that were probably little used, the present Breviary, while well written, is completely undecorated; it is a manuscript designed for utility and doubtless employed daily by a prelate within the chapter of the Cathedral. In addition to its textual importance for the history of liturgical usage in Autun, this manuscript is perfect for teaching and studying codicology. It has been rebound in a modern binding, and is thus unusually sturdy. Note that a portion of the original binding has been preserved, and that the parchment is especially evocative of its animal origins, with uneven edges, holes, evidence of veins, and discoloration in the skin. Prickings to guide the ruling, as well as notes for the rubricators and guide-initials for the pen decoration are also preserved.


Battifol, P., History of the Roman Breviary, London and New York, 1898.

Leroquais, V. Les bréviaires manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France, Paris, 1934

Pellechet, M. Notes sur les livres liturgiques des diocèses d'Autun, Chalon et Mâcon, avec un choix de leçons, d'hymnes et de proses composées en l'honneur de quelques saints spécialement honorés dans ces diocèses, Paris, H. Champion, 1883.

Plummer, John, Liturgical Manuscripts for the Mass and Divine Office, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 1964.

Salmon, Pierre, The Breviary through the Centuries, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1962.

Online resources

Cathedral of Autun, history:

“Diocese of Autun”:
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02144a.htm (New Catholic Encyclopedia)

Introduction to liturgical manuscripts: “Celebrating the Liturgy’s Books”:

The History of the Breviary:
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02768b.htm (New Catholic Encyclopedia, “Breviary”)

“The Roman Breviary” (text of modern Roman Breviary in Latin and English, with historical introduction):

Huntington Museum and Library, MS 1077