TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Very Small Portable Diurnal

In Latin, manuscript on parchment
The Netherlands (Windesheim?), ca. 1450-1475

TM 242

iii (paper) + 220 + i (paper) folios, fine even parchment, ff. 215-220 are paper, sporadic modern foliation in pencil, top outer corner, recto, not complete, accurate collation impractical due to the condition of the binding, stubs remain following ff. 30, 155, and 162, manuscript now ends imperfectly, no catchwords or signatures, written in a very small, controlled gothic bookhand with some cursive letter forms by an expert scribe with twenty-five to twenty-eight long lines on each page, ruling indiscernible, (justification 71-69 x 45-44 mm.), two skilled pen initials, ff. 39 and 115, six-line blue initials with decorative void spaces left within the initial, infilled with fine red penwork so that the void spaces form leaves, with red penwork and beading forming a box around the initials; f. 210 similar 4-line initial, but without pen decoration, simpler initials, six- to four- line, blue, infilled and decorated with red pen (ff. 100v, 153v, and 183), three-line “KL” monograms, alternately red and blue, three- to two-line initials, alternately red and blue at the beginning of lines, one-line initials, alternately red and blue, within the line of text, red rubrics. Bound in seventeenth-century (?) brown leather, spine with three raised bands and remains of decorative scrollwork and title in gilt, binding in very fragile condition with the front and back covers flaking, spine cracked, front cover now detached, although anchored to the front flyleaf, headband missing (The textblock, however, is in excellent condition). Dimensions 90 x 60

Probably made for use in one of the reformed Augustinian monasteries of the Windesheim Congregation, this manuscript, of macro-miniature format for easy portability, is especially remarkable for its extremely minute script. With breathtaking proficiency, the skillful scribe has compressed eleven lines into a single inch. Diurnals (day offices only) are less common than complete Breviaries.


1. The manuscript was certainly made in the Netherlands (saints in the calendar and litany, include Gudula, 8 January, Gertrude of Nivelles, 17 March, Servatius, 13 May, Boniface, 5 June, Odulph,12 June, Lawrence, 10 August, Lambert, 17 September, Hubert, 3 November and Willibrord, 7 November), for a house of Augustinian Canons: Augustine is included in the calendar in red, and observed as a solemnity (28 August); the prayer, f. 14v, refers to Augustine as “pater noster”; on f. 210, in the sanctorale his feast is marked by a special initial, and the feast of his mother St. Monica (4 May) is also observed and ranked duplex. The use of the Office of the Dead conforms to manuscripts from Utrecht and Windesheim. Some of the saints prominent in calendars from Utrecht are lacking, however (for example Pancratius, 12 May, Lebuin, 25 June, and Remigius and Bavo, 1 October), and it seems more likely that this manuscript was made for the Augustinian Canons at Windesheim. Windesheim, four miles south of Zwolle, was a community of Augustinian canons founded at the direction of Geert Groote, the religious reformer associated with the Brethren of the Common Life, and consecrated in 1387. The manuscript includes the Feast of the Transfiguration on 6 August, which was approved in 1457, but lacks other mid-century saints, including the translation of Saint Monica, approved in 1443, and Nicholas of Tolentino, O.S.A. approved in 1446, supporting a date in the third quarter of the fifteenth century.

2. Information relevant to its modern owners’ include: inside front cover, fragment of a typed description; inside back cover, clipping from a dealer’s catalogue in English; inside front cover, in pencil, “no. 77”; front flyleaf, f. i v: “136/18.”


ff. ii-iii, [prayers copied on paper flyleaves, now bound in upside down, in a later seventeenth-century (?) hand; f. i, blank];

f. 1. [Notes in several eighteenth-century (?) hands];

ff. 1v-4, [Added prayers, in a later fifteenth- or sixteenth-century hand, most likely to replace missing text] Post celebrationem oratio, Domine Iesu christe in memoriam inmense tue charitatis … Ad beatam virginem marie, O serenissima et inclita virgo maria … dignetur indulgere// [ends top f. 4, remainder blank];

ff. 5-19v, [, including prayers before Mass, ff. 13-17v prayers of Saints John the Evangelist, John the Baptist, Lawrence, “de sancto augustino pater noster,” Jerome, Bernard of Clairvaux, Mary Magdalene, Catherine, Barbara, Elizabeth and All Saints, and concluding with prayers before and after Confession] //per quem orbis terre est … Oratio post celebrationem missa, Eya nunc oro piisime deus ut sit …;

ff. 20-31v, [Calendar, with lengthy liturgical notes within the calendar, and major feasts in red; entries include:] Gudula, nine lessons (8 January), Blasius, missa (3 February), Scholastica (10 February), Gertrude of Nivelles, nine lessons (17 March), Benedict, nine lessons (21 March), Ambrose, duplex (4 April), Invention of the Cross, in red, duplex (3 May), Monica, duplex (4 May), Servatius, missa (13 May), Marcellinus and Peter, nine lessons (2 June), Odulph, missa (12 June),Visitation, in red, maius duplex with octave (2 July), translation of Benedict (11 July), divisio apostolorum, in red, duplex (14 July), Mary Magdalene, in red, duplex (21 July), Anne, duplex (26 July), Dominic, nine lessons (5 August), Transfiguration, duplex (6 August), Lawrence, in red, duplex, with octave (10 August), Augustine, in red, solemnity (28 August), Exaltation of the Cross, in red, duplex (14 September), Lambert, nine lessons (17 September), Francis, nine lessons (4 October), translation of Augustine, duplex (11 October), “dedicatio ecclesie nostre,” in red, solemnity (12 October), Hubert (3 November), Willibrord (7 November), and Catherine of Alexandria, in red, duplex (25 November);

ff. 32-38v, [Liturgical directions; f. 38v blank];

ff. 39-82v, Offices for the week for the day offices (lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, and vespers).

ff. 82v-87, [Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany, including Marcellinus, Peter, Lambert, Denis, Boniface, and Maurice among the martyrs, Augustine, Willibrord, Benedict, Bernard, Francis, Dominic, Anthony, Hubert [added], and Odulph among the confessors, and Agnes, Scholastica, Walburga, Gertrude, Margaret, Catherine, Ursula, Elizabeth, Anne (added), and Monica (added) among the virgins.]

ff. 87-88, [Preces maiores, at vespers and lauds, with variations for the liturgical year, followed by preces minores, for terce and none];

ff. 88v-100, Office of the Dead; responsories to the lessons agree with use of Utrecht and Windesheim; see Knud Ottosen, The Responsories and Versicles of the Latin Office of the Dead, Aarhus University Press, 1993, 174-176;

ff. 100-114, [Hymns for the day offices, not noted, for the temporale and sanctorale combined, ending with the Dedication of a Church; followed by Hymns for the common of saints] In adventum domini ad vesperas hymnum, …;

ff. 114rv, [Added Hymn for Saint Monica; ends mid f. 114v; remainder blank];

ff. 115-182v, Temporale from Advent to the 23 Sunday after the octave of Pentecost, lauds-vespers, concluding with the Dedication of a Church; includes Trinity Sunday [Ends mid f. 182; f. 182v blank];

ff, 183-210v, Sanctorale beginning with Andrew, and ending imperfectly in the Office for Augustine: Collecta, Adesto supplicationibus nostris … indulgere intende//

f. 211-216, [Added texts added in the later fifteenth- or sixteenth-century by the scribe who also copied ff. 1v-4, including before the Celebration of Mass and to Mary, and a Litany to say before Mass];

f. 216v, [Note in another hand];

ff. 217-220v, [ added in the later seventeenth-century (?) by the scribe who copied ff. ii-iii] ff. 217-218 Rosary; ff. 218v-220 Salutationes pie ad dominum Iesu Christe, Ave domine Iesu christe et sanctorum angelorum …; [f. 220v additional prayers in this hand, and note in another hand].

Breviaries include the Psalms and other prayers said throughout the day by religious communities and priests. The Office is divided into eight services or hours (lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, compline and matins). Here, because only the day offices, lauds through vespers, are included, the manuscript is called a diurnal.

The calendar stands out from the usual calendar found in liturgical manuscripts because of its content and format. It includes long liturgical notes within the calendar after a number of feasts; to accommodate these notes, the amount of space allotted for each month varies (calendars were commonly copied with one month per page). It is also interesting that the scribe used Arabic numerals for the numbers of the Roman calendar, which were usually written in Roman numerals, or at this date, omitted.

This breviary is a remarkable example of a medieval manuscript copied in a very reduced format for portability, measuring only 90 x 60 mm., or 3 ½ x 2 ¾ inches (see Julian I. Edison, A Miniature Lesson in the History of the Book [Cambridge, Massachusetts: Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, 2005], p. 36, classifying miniatures books measuring between three and four inches in height as “macro-minis”). Miniature manuscripts are not unknown, and Breviaries and Prayerbooks especially were copied in very small formats; this manuscript is however remarkable for the extremely small script. The skill of the scribe who copied this volume in such a minute script is breath-taking; eleven lines of script are compressed within a single inch. This simple Breviary may have been made for one of the brothers from Windesheim, a reformed monastery associated with the Brethren of the Common Life.


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

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

Post, R. R. The Modern Devotion: Confrontation with Reformation and Humanism, Leiden, 1968.

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

Online resources

www.newadvent.org/cathen/15651a.htm (Catholic Encyclopedia, “Windesheim”)

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

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

“The Composite Utrecht Calendar,” CHD Tutorial on Books of Hours