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les Enluminures

Breviary (Use of Utrecht)

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment
The Netherlands (Utrecht?), c. 1410-20

TM 306

[I] + 152 + [I] ff., preceded and ending with a single parchment flyleaf (two halves of a document dated 1454), on parchment, final leaf lacking outer column (collation: i4+1 [f. 5 singleton with conjoint cancelled], ii2+1 [f. 6 singleton with conjoint cancelled],iii-ix12,x10,xi8,xii-xiv12,xv6), foliated in modern pencil in Arabic numerals in upper right-hand corners, written in brown ink in two sizes of gothic script, with a smaller size for chant text, by several scribes and later annotators, without music, text copied in two columns, 30 lines per page, margins, column boundaries, and center writing line ruled in brown ink (justification 119 x 79 mm), quire signatures A–P (skips J) in black ink in lower left corner of the first recto of each quire (probably added during later rebinding), red [x] on central verso and recto of each quire (also added later), one-line-high versal initials alternating red and blue, two-line Psalm initials alternating red and blue, numerous 3- to 6-line initials throughout in gold leaf filled with salmon on a blue background or vice versa, with white highlighting and white tendril infill, with black tendrils extending into margin with gold-leaf trefoil leaves (three above and three below), ferial Psalter opens with 9-line gold-leaf initial on f. 10 with blue diapered infill on red diapered background, gold-leaf bars and dots along inner margin, gold and light mauve vines extending along length of lower margin and half of upper margin with crown-shaped trefoil gold-leaf and blue leaves. Later (eighteenth-century?) binding of brown leather over pasteboard, double-fillet border and small floral stamp in center of front and back covers, spine in five compartments, front and back pastedowns from a fifteenth-century scholastic manuscript, front and back flyleaves two halves of a document dated 1454. Some wear on the covers, but otherwise in excellent condition. Possibly lacking at end, the missing section removed during rebinding. Dimensions 173 x 127 mm.

An illuminated Breviary made for a private individual and for the use of Utrecht, this manuscript later belonged to the famed library of the Dukes of Arenberg. Its fine marginal illustration relates it to the earliest group of Utrecht illuminated codices, those illuminated in the style of the Masters of Margaret of Cleves.


1. Written in the Netherlands for the use of Utrecht, ca. 1420. The calendar, litany, and Office of the Dead are all Utrecht use. The gilt initials are quite similar in style to those found in the Book of Hours of Margaret of Cleves (Lisbon, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Ms. OA 148, see Defoer, et al., no. 1, esp. fig. 2).

2. Owned by the Dukes of Arenberg, their MS 42, with ex libris card laid in and “ms 42” in black ink on inner front cover. The Dukes of Arenberg were established in Belgium in the sixteenth century. Many very fine manuscripts, including the famous “Hours of Catherine of Cleves” now in the Pierpont Morgan Library, distinguished their collection, compiled mainly during the later part of the nineteenth century. The Arenberg manuscript collection, exhibited in part at Düsseldorf in 1904, remained largely inaccessible to scholars and was dispersed in the 1950s. This particular manuscript does not figure in the catalogue by J. Seligman, Illuminated manuscripts from the Bibliothèque of Their Highnesses the Dukes of Arenberg, New York, 1952. In her reconstruction of the manuscript collection of the Dukes of Arenberg, Lemaire noticed certain gaps, which are likely those manuscripts Engelbert-Charles 10th Duke of Arenberg chose not to sell in 1952, and no. 42 does not figure in the sales catalogues, and is missing in Lemaire’s reconstruction (see C. Lemaire, “La bibliothèque des ducs d’Arenberg, une première approche,” in Liber amicorum Herman Liebaers [Brussels, 1984], 81-106).


f. 1, blank;

ff. 1v-7, Calendar, Utrecht use, in red and black. Completely filled, includes many Utrecht saints: Wyronis b. Utrecht (May 8); Gengulf (May 9); Servatius b. (May 13--in red); Boniface et soc. (June 5–in red); Odulfus conf. (June 12–in red); Lebuinus et Radbodus (translation, June 25–in red); Werenfridus (August 14); Othgerus (Sept. 10); Regenfledis (Oct. 8); Gereonis et Victoris (Oct. 10–in red); Willibrord b. Utrecht (Nov. 7–in red); Lebuinus (Nov. 12–in red); Radbodus (Nov. 29). Easter is given on March 27, the date in 1407, 1418, 1429, and 1440;

ff. 7v-9, blank;

ff. 9v-88v, Ferial Psalter, divided into eight parts: Psalm 1, “Beatus vir” (f. 10); Psalm 26, “Dominus illuminacio mea et salus mea” (f. 22v, Feria secunda); Psalm 38, “Dixi custodiam vias meas” (f. 29, Feria tertia); Psalm 52, “Dixit insipiens in corde suo” (f. 36, Feria quarta); Psalm 68, “Salvum me fac” (f. 42v, Feria quinta); Psalm 80, “Exultate Deo adjutori nostro” (f. 51v, Feria sexta); Psalm 97, “Cantate Domino canticum novum” (f. 59v, Sabbato invitatorium); Psalm 109, “Dixit dominus” (f. 77v, Dominicis diebus ad vesperas);

ff. 88v-93, Litany and Collects (includes Gengulf, Willibrord, Werenfridus, Radbodus, Wyronis, Odulfus);

ff. 93-100, Office of the Dead, Utrecht use (see Ottosen, pp. 143-144 and 174-175);

ff. 100-106v, Hymnal, Temporale beginning with the first and second Sunday of Advent, and ending with Pentecost and Corpus Christi;

ff. 106v-109v, Hymnal, Sanctorale for the second half of the year. Begins with St. John the Baptist (June 24), continues with Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Laurence, the Assumption, the Nativity of the Virgin, the Dedication of the Church of St. Michael, St. Remigius, All Saints, St. Martin, and concludes with St. Andrew (November 30);

ff. 109v-110v, Hymnal, Common of Saints;

ff.111-138v, Breviary, Commons of Saints between Easter and Pentecost;

ff. 138v-152, Breviary, Sanctoral (partial, with some offices abbreviated and in no clear chronological order), beginning with special offices in honor of the Virgin, one to be said between after Christmas, the other before Pentecost, continuing with St. Martin, St. Michael, St. John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Thomas, a second office for St. Martin, the Transfiguration, St. Jacob, St. Bartholemew, and St. Elizabeth. Folio 152 is lacking the outer column–this may indicate that the manuscript was divided upon rebinding, and the outer column became the first folio of the second volume.

f. 152v, blank.

The Breviary, like the Missal, is a combination of all the Office books, except the martyrology and obituary, into a single volume. It is the result of a long evolution. The text of a Breviary comprises the daily programme of readings, prayers, hymns, canticles and psalms arranged according to the prayer hours of the day (Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline). This Breviary contains the Calendar with its record of the feast days and saints' days of the liturgical year, the Ferial Psalter, with the Psalms arranged in the order in which they are read each day, a hymnal, the Temporal, which contains the offices for the year excepting those of the saints' days, and the Sanctoral, which contains the offices for the saints' days. The particular manuscript was intended for personal use, and was probably originally much longer, divided upon rebinding. Originally, it would have included Saints for the entire year in each Sanctoral section.

Breviaries this early and for the use of Utrecht are not common on the market. The present copy holds special interest because of its unusually fine decoration which is similar to the earliest group of Dutch illuminated manuscripts made in Utrecht, those associated with the manuscripts of Dirk van Delft (e.g., Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, MS 397) whose artist takes his name from the beautiful Prayerbook of Margaret of Cleves. On this prayerbook, which must have been completed before 1411, and an introduction to the style see Marrow, 1995. Although the small and delicate lobe-shaped tendrils in our Breviary are quite similar to those found in manuscripts in this group, there remain, alas, insufficient elements to secure definitively this attribution.


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

Defoer, H. et al., ed. The Golden Age of Dutch Manuscript Painting, New York, 1990.

Harper, John. The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy from the Tenth to the Eighteenth Century, Oxford, 1991.

Marrow, James. As Horas de Margarida de Cleves (The Hours of Margaret of Cleves), Lisbon, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, 1995.

Ottosen, K. The Responsories and Versicles of the Latin Office of the Dead, Aarhus, 1993.

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.

Grotefend, H. Zeitrechnung des Deutschen Mittelalters und der Neuzeit, 2 vols., Hannover, 1892-98 (reprint 1984).

Seligmann, J. Illuminated manuscripts, 11th century through 16th century, from the Biblothèque of Their Highnesses the Dukes d’Arenberg, New York, 1952.

Online resources

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

The History of the Breviary
(Catholic Encyclopedia, “Breviary”)

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