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les Enluminures

Liturgical Miscellany with Office of St. Catherine, Mass of the Virgin, and Biblical Readings

In Latin and Italian, illuminated manuscript on parchment
Italy (Florence?), c. 1475-1500, with eighteenth-century illuminated borders

TM 631

i (paper pastedown, reused from earlier binding) + 78 + i (paper endleaf) on parchment, modern foliation in pencil top outer corner recto, apparently complete, but the final added prayer may be incomplete (collation, i-vii10 viii8), horizontal catchwords (lacking in quires one, four, five and seven), ruled in brown ink with full-length single vertical bounding lines (justification, 97 x 64-62 mm.), written on the top ruled line in a mannered humanistic bookhand in nineteen long lines, prayers added at the end, ff. 72-78v, in italic, majuscules within text slashed with red, rubrics, all in the same ink used for the text, often copied in capitals highlighted with red diagonal slashes, or in the case of longer rubrics copied in text script and then outlined in red (reducing legibility), one- to two-line red initials throughout, some with simple red pen decoration, on f. 41 decoration extends from the initial the length of the text in the inner margin, FIVE ILLUMINATED FULL BORDERS, ff. 1, 12, 51, 70v, and 71, probably added in the eighteenth-century (described below), occasional minor stains at edges, some soiling, ink rubbed or partially flaked-away, ff. 11rv, 12v, 20rv, 35v, 51 and 60v, text generally still legible (occasional letters lost), overall in good condition. Bound in eighteenth-century (?) brown leather over pasteboard, with the original (Italian, fifteenth-century) front and back covers laid down, tooled in blind with a border of two sets of five fillets, a chain pattern between them, forming a rectangular center panel of three rope-interlace medallions, rounded spine with two raised bands, worn along the joints and partially split at the top and bottom joining the upper board, scuffed and worn especially at edges, but in serviceable condition. Dimensions 135 x 97 mm.

This is an important small-format collection of prayers, together with formal liturgical texts, in both Latin (approximately sixty-nine texts) and Italian (seventeen prayers). The Italian prayers, probably all unpublished and by contemporary fifteenth-century writers, make-up almost half the manuscript and deserve careful study. Included is an early ownership inscription from a Florentine woman from the powerful and wealthy Corbinello family, and attractive eighteenth-century decorative borders


1. The evidence of the script supports an origin in Italy in the later fifteenth century. It was owned very early by a member of the Corbinello family, a prominent Florentine family (see below), and it is certainly very likely that it was also copied in Florence.

The contents provide the strongest evidence of the original owner of this manuscript, but the evidence is not without ambiguity, and further study is certainly called for. It may have been copied for a lay owner with strong ties to the Dominicans (possibly a member of the third order, or a lay confraternity), but it also seems possible that it was copied for a Dominican Friar or nun (feminine forms used in the prayer on f. 13v); certainly its owner was both devout and learned, given the presence of lengthy vernacular prayers, numerous Latin prayers, and more formal liturgical texts including texts for Masses for the Virgin, an Office of St. Catherine, and the beginning of St. John’s Gospel (in Latin).

2. Early ownership inscription, inside front cover: “Questo si e uno librizino in lo quale se contene molte bene et diuote oratione a onore de dio de la gloriosa Vergine maria et de
molti sancti del paradiso. Lo quale librizino e de me Nanna donna de Iohane Baptista Corbinello de Firenza.”

This inscription tells us that this “little book that contains many good and devout prayers” was owned by a Florentine woman, “Nanna,” possibly the wife of Giovan Battista Corbinello, who was vicar of Pescia and Pieve S. Stephen, as well as Commissioner of Pistoia, c. 1499-1502 (SIUSA, Online Resources); its script suggests that it was added soon after this book was copied, probably in the early sixteenth century. The Corbinello family, documented in Florence since the late thirteenth century, by the fifteenth century was one of the Republic’s wealthiest families, active as wool merchants, landowners and merchant bankers.

One may speculate that Nanna, although probably not the original owner of the manuscript, also had ties to a Dominican Convent in Florence, possibly through membership in a confraternity. Confraternities were religious organizations for the laity, often associated with a particular church or religious order that promoted charitable works and other religious functions; they were particularly important in late medieval and early modern Italy, where they were focal points of lay piety (Henderson, 1997).

3. Inside back cover, early inscription in ink, possibly with prices (?), and modern dealer’s note in pencil, “200”; inside front cover, inscription in pencil by a modern dealer in Norwegian.


ff. 1-10v, Qui comincia uno spechio e una contemplatione a tute lore del di e della nocte della sancta et penosa passione del nostro dolcissimo Saluatore Messer ihesu …, A lora di matutino, incipit, “Et primo pensa la sera ella nocte …; f. 3, A Hora de la prima, incipit, “O anima diuota non essere pigra ma …; f. 3v, A llora del la tertia, … il dolore ella pena”;

said at of the canonical hours (matins, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, compline); also in Florence, Biblioteca nazionale centrale, MS Palatina MS 74 (Palermo, 1853, v. 1, p. 82).

ff. 11-12v, Due bvoni amaestromenti de frate cherubino de spoleti, incipit, “Alle cose predicte piglia due amaestromenti lo primo quando uai a fare oratione …; f. 12, A maestramento saluti fero et utile de fratre chervbino da spoleti, incipit, “O figuolo mio benedeto da dio et da me nota bene questo amaestramento et consiglio ultissimo non telo dismenticare. Guardati non fare …”;

Cherubino da Spoleto (or da Siena; 1414-1484), became a Franciscan in Spoleto in 1432. He was a well-known preacher, noted for his long preaching tours throughout Italy between 1441 and 1484.

ff. 12v-13, Antiphona devotissima della virgine maria, incipit, “Sancta maria succurre miseris uiua pusillamines …”;

The prayer (in English, “Holy Mary, be thou a help to the helpless”), traditionally attributed to Bishop Fulbert of Chartres (c. 951- c.1029). It is found in the Roman Breviary for various Marian feasts; Latin with English translation at http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/BVM/SMSuccurre.html.

f. 13, incipit, “Famulis tuis quesumus domine celstis gratie …”

f. 13, Oratione da … confirma rei nella sancta fede, incipit, “Firmiter credo et puro corde et ore pro fiteor sancta fidem catholicam …”;

f. 13v, Oratione di sancto augustino devotissima a nostro signore, incipit, “Aspice in me infelicem peccatricem pietas inmensa respice …”;

Note the use of the feminine form for sinner, “peccatrice.”

ff. 13v-14, Oratione a nostra donna facta per papa bonifatio, incipit, “Svccurre mihi uirgo dulcissima tribulationibus angustiis …”;

f. 14rv, Quaesta oratione de sancto langelo a sancto bernardo di nostra donna et pape gregorio dette sette anni di indulgentia …, incipit, “Tibi dilectissima mater domini nostri yhesu christi et gloriosissima virgo maria recommendo animam meam …”;

ff. 14v-15v, Oratione devotissima di sancto Thomaso daquino …, incipit, “Concede mihi misericors deus qui tibi placita sunt ardenter concupiscere …”;

Doyle, 1948; and see Salmon, 1969, no. 328; also found in TM 584, f. 36, on this site.

ff. 15v-16, Oratione da dir si a temporo de pesta et di gverra, incipit, “Deus angelorum munitionibus sancta ierusalem uisitas et propitiis protegis custodi …”;

ff. 16-19v, Questa oratione feci Ser Pace patre di sancta felicita il quale morite di morbo perla moria del Settanto, incipit, Madonna sancta maria perpetua uergini madre di Somma benignita et misericordia. Per quello coltello del quore che passo lanima vestra quando el uestro unigenito figliuolo Signor nostro yesu christo …”;

Note the mention of “Ser Pace,” of Sancta Felicita (possibly the Church of St. Felicity in Florence).

ff. 19v-20, incipit “Qvoi figuolo di dio a chi honore io fo priego alla gloriosa uergine …”;

ff. 20-23v, Qvesta oratione fece il glorioso sancto gregorio …, incipit, “Signore il dio intendi et exaudisse loratore … Signore mio liberami da falso testimonio come liberasti sancta susanna …. Signor mio liberami dall alto mare chome piero …. Signore dammi sapientaia come desti a Salamone … “;

Lengthy vernacular prayer, ending in petitions naming a series of biblical figures (Susana, Peter, David, Salomon, Daniel, Loth), requesting deliverance from various evils parallel to the grace shown to these people (for example, “Deliver me Oh Lord from false testimony, as you delivered Susana”).

ff. 23v-24, Questa oratione e scolpita in una pieta a roma in sancto giouani laterano e per essa conciedesi a co loro chi ofessi et con tristi dirano la predicta oratione con una uolta il pater nostra et l’aue maria octanta milia anni dindulgentia per cia scuna uolta la dira per li peccati mortali e per lo tempore perduto, incipit, “O domine ihesu christe pater dulcissime rogo te ut amore illius gaudii quod dilectissima …”;

Also in Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, Pal. 000, Book of Hours in Latin and Italian, f. 96r (reported in Corpus italicum precum, Online Resources).

ff. 24-25v, Oratione di sancto beda doctore delle septe parole …, incipit, “Signore mio yhesu il quale septet parole nel lultimo dilla uita tua pendent in croce …”;

f. 25v, Per impetrare humilita, incipit, “Omnipotens sempiterne desu cui ex humano generi …”;

f. 25v-26, Oratione <inanci?> la comunione, incipit, “Signore mio dolcissimo ihesu Christo il quale diuolunta del tuo padre …”;

ff. 26-27, Dopo la communione, incipit, “Signore id dio sancto Padre omnipotente il quae per la toa gratia …”;

f. 27rv, incipit, “Padre spirituale dell anima mia creatura sono did dio e sua figliola a doctiua …”;

ff. 27v-28v, Oratio beati augustini valde devota, incipit, “Deus propitius esto mihi peccatori et custos ominibus horis et diebus … Salua me hodie et in omni tempore. Agyos. Otheos. Hiscyros. Agros. Athanatos. Crux christi adiuua me …”;

Note use of masculine forms; also in Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 22402, Book of Hours, Naples, f. 93v (reported in Corpus italicum precum, Online Resources).

ff. 28v-29, Oratio ad laudem beate virginis marie, incipit, “Deprecor te sancta maria mater dei pietate plenissima ..”;
Also in Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, Pal. 000, Book of Hours in Latin and Italian, f. 95r (reported in Corpus italicum precum, Online Resources).

f. 29rv, Oratio ad dominum nostrum iesum christum quam ipse composuit, incipit, “Ave domine yhesu christi uerbum patris filius virginis … uita perhennis. Miserere nobis. Amen”;

Wilmart, 1932, p. 377, n. 2, and p. 412; also in Mn 61/44v (reported in Corpus italicum precum, Online Resources).

ff. 29v-30, Gratiarum actio post comunionem, incipit, “Saturatus ferculis et cibis sacrosanctis saginatus epistolis …”;

f. 30rv, Oratio dicenda ante comunionem valde devota, incipit, “Domine iesu christe pius et misericors et longaminis creator …”;

ff. 30v-31v, incipit, “O domine yesu christe. Adoro te in cruce pendentem coronam spineam …”;

Continuing through seven variations, all ending with the Pater noster and the Ave Maria; Leroquais, 1927-, 2:346; English and Latin at http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Filius/SeptemSG.html. Also in TM 584, f. 22rv, on this site, and in Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 22402, f. 91v, Book of Hours, Naples (reported in Corpus italicum precum, Online Resources).

ff. 31v-33, Qualunque persone dirrano … vintimilia septe anni et giorne trenta sede indulgentia, Credo picholo, incipit, “Credo in deum patrem …”; Oratio, incipit, Anima christi sanctifica me …”;

The “Anima Christi” remains one of the most treasured prayers in the Roman Catholic Church, traditionally said after Mass, or after receiving communion; Pope John the XXII (1244-1334) granted indulgences for reciting the prayer in 1330; it may have been written by this Pope or by another writer in the first half of the fourteenth century; Latin and English in http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/PostMissam/AnimaChristi.html; see also Leroquais, 1927-, 2:340, and Chevalier, 1892-, no. 1090.

f. 32v, incipit, “Ihesu nazareno re dell uniuerso Gloria risguarda …”;

f. 32v, incipit, “Domine yhesu christe qui hanc sacratissimam carnem …”;

Also in Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, Pal. 000, Book of Hours in Latin and Italian, f. 87r (reported in Corpus italicum precum, Online Resources).

ff. 33-34, Infrascriptam orationem composuit sanctus Grigorius ..., incipit, “Salue mater saluatoris uas electum ...”;

Chevalier, 1892-, no. 18051.

f. 34rv, Si dixeris infrascripta orationem sepe in sompnis virginem mariam aut corporaliter ante mortem tuam et dic cotidie ante ymagines suam flexis genibus …, incipit, “Ave maris stella non despicias …”;

ff. 34v-35, Oratio valde devote ad virginem Mariam, incipit, “O maria piissima stella maris clarissima …”;

f. 35rv, Qualunque dira questa orationem …, incipit, “Domine yhesu christe parce mihi per sanctam conceptionem tuam …”;

ff. 35-36v, Questa e vna oratione molta devota …, incipit, “Obsecro te sanctissima dei genetrix …”;

ff. 36v-39, Incipit officium sancte catherine uirginis et omnes horas dicentibus centum dies indulgentiarum. Ad matutinum et ad omnes horas dicitur Pater noster …, incipit, “Deprecare regem celi pro me uirgo katherina…”; [Matins] Hymnus, incipit, “Kastitatis speculum alma katherina …,” Oratio, incipit, “Deus cui uirgo prudentissima katherina …” [followed by a note that this prayer is to be said at each hour], f. 37v, [prime], incipit, “Ad certamine dicitur virgo …”; [terce], incipit, “Templum addidit tertia hora incensorum …”; [sext], incipit, “Exarsit cesaris in pupilla …”; [none], incipit, “Remittitur in carcere uirgo flagella …”; [vespers], incipit, “Ivbar splendisimum uirgo katherina …”; [Compline], incipit, “Nempe completorii hora tumulatur in sumitate synai …”; In loco Salve regine dicitur, “Adiutrix omnium uirgo Katerina ..,” Oratio, incipit, “Deus qu dedisti legem moysi in sumitate mentis syon … [HAS 26v, reported in Corpus italicum precum, Online Resources]”;

Office of St. Catherine of Alexandria; a Ball State University leaf from a French book of hours with the Hours of St. Catherine with the same prayer as the prayer for matins found here is reproduced at http://libx.bsu.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/IlluminManu&CISOPTR=149&REC=2).

Short hours in honor of the most popular female saints, St. Catherine and St. Barbara, appear relatively late in French Books of Hours, and may have been popularized first in printed Books of Hours (one was printed by Hardouin in 1512); a different Office of St. Catherine is found in the Guyot Hours, Nantes (?), 1485-1515 (see CHD, Online Resources, http://www.chd.dk/dismembra/GuyotH.html).

ff. 39-40v, Oratio beati bernardi contra peccata, incipit, “Domine yhesu christe misericors et miserator …”; Questa oratione … di dono …, incipit, “Bellissima gema di dio splendida katherina glorosa sopsa …”; incipit, “Ave messer sancto nicholao …”;

ff. 41-44v, Qvesta oratione fece sancto Augustino la quale oratione chi la dira deuotamente xxx di ogni di una uolta ginichioni dinanzi allo crucifixo se sarra in alchuna tribulatione infra quelli xxx di sarra consolato e se egli sera in discrodia con suo signore o femma con suo marito sara riconcilata. Et se egli sera in alcuna neccessita o in pouerta o in bisognio o in angoscia sarra collauito di dio liberata e se egli in prigione sarra da epsa prigione sciolta …, incipit, “O dolcissimo singnore mio giesu christo uero iddio chel del sero del tuo padre descendesti e mandato fustia purgare il peccato … Per omnia secula seculorum. Amen. Guaspar. Baldasar. Melchior. Consumatum est. In manus tuas domine comendo spiritum meum. Amen”;

Note the repetition of the names of the three Magi, Guaspar, Baldasar and Melchior at the end of the prayer; their names were often used in prayers as protection against evil, approaching and perhaps crossing the line between prayer and magic; see Duffy, 1992, p. 216, and in general, 2006, pp. 93-96.

f. 44v, Oratio sancti nicolai, incipit, “Deus qui beatum Nicolaum pontificem tuum innumeris decorasti miraculis tribue …”;

ff. 44v-45, incipit, “Angelum nobis medicum salutis …”; “Deus qui raphalem arcangelum tuum Thobie famulo tuo properanti <premium?> direxisti ...”;

f. 45rv, incipit, Oratio sancti sebastiani, incipit, “O beate sebastiane miles christi beatissime cuius meritis patria lombardie fuit liberate a pestifera peste libera nos ..”;

f. 45v, Questa loratione de sancta caterina, incipit, “Deus qui dedisti legem moysi et in sumitate montis syon …”;

Also found above in the Office of St. Catherine, and in HAS 26v (reported in Corpus italicum precum, Online Resources).

ff. 45v-46, De sette alle grece de la vierge maria, incipit, “Gaude uirgo mater christe qui per aurem concepisti …”;

Chevalier, 1892-1921, no. 7017; also found in TM 522, ff. 113v-115 on this site, and in Rimini, Biblioteca Gambalunghiana, 23, f. 67, Book of Hours of 1325 (reported in Corpus italicum precum, Online Resources).

f. 46rv, Questi sono setti versi …non pro morire sanza cenfessione, incipit, “Illumina oculos meos ne unquam odormiam …”;

Leroquais, 1927-, 2:415; also found in TM 584, f. 32rv, on this site, where it is attributed to St. Bernard.

f. 46v, Oratione devotissima de la vergine maria, incipit, “O maria uirgo uirginum sancte trinitatis sacrarium …”;

ff. 46v-47, Salutatione divote al lorro di christo, incipit, “Ave domine iesu christe uerbum patris .. vera vita perhennis Amen”;

Cf. Wilmart, 1932, p. 377, n. 2, and p. 412; and Mn 61, f. 44v (reported in Corpus italicum precum, Online Resources).

ff. 47r-50v, Oratione che siv vole dire quando si leva il corpo di christo, incipit, “Adoro te domine iesum christe que confiteor …”; f. 47v, Psalmus david, incipit “Qui habitat in adiutorio …. [Psalm 90]”; f. 48, Ant., incipit, “O spirito sancto i dio omnipotente il quale essendo …”; f. 50, Oratione ..., Ave uera caro Christo quem in cruce pependisti …”; f. 50, Oratio sancti Anselmi, incipit, “Domine deus meus si feci ut essem reus tuus … [also in Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 22402,

f. 89, as reported in Corpus italicum precum, Online Resources )”;

at the elevation of the Host.

ff. 51-53v, Incipit letanie gloriose uirginis marie <?> composuit frater Margaretus in ordinis predicatorum, incipit, “Uirgo audi nos, Uirgo exaudi nos …”; f. 53, Oratio, incipit, “Deus qui beatissima semper uiginem Mariam in conceptu et in partu unginitate …”;

Litany of the Virgin (petitions and responses) by brother “Margaretus,” OP; the prayer also found Rimini, Biblioteca Gambalunghiana, MS 23, f. 67v (reported in Corpus italicum precum, Online Resources).

ff. 53v-54v, Sequentia beate viginis marie, incipit, “Ave uirgo gloriosa celi iubar mundi rosa celibatum lilium …[Chevalier, 1892-1912, no. 2205]”; f. 54, Sequentia beate marie, incipit, “Saluatoris mater pia mundi huius spes maria …[Chevalier, 1892-1912, no. 17821]”;

Sequences in honor of the Virgin.

ff. 54v-56, Oratio devote dicenda omni die, incipit, “Marie cum surrexero intende ad me domine guberna omnes actus meos uerba mea et cogitations meas …”:

ff. 56-57, Orationes sequentes sunt pro euitando mortem subitaniam et contra pestem, incipit, “Deus qui non mortem sed penitentiam desideras peccatorum populum tuum quesumus ad te reuertentem …”; Oratio, incipit, “Omnipotens et misericors deus respice propitius super populum …”; f. 56v, incipit, “Signor mio yhesu Christo padre dulcissimo io ti prego che per amore di quel gaudio …”;

f. 57rv, Ant. Devotissima della conceptione di nostra donna, incipit, “Sancta maria succure miseria iuua pusillamines et debiles …”; Oratio, incipit, “Famulis tuius quesumus domine celestis gratie munus inpartire ut quibus beate marie virginis …”; incipit, “Festina domine ne tardarueris libera me …”;

ff. 57v-59, Missa in honore virginis Marie a purification vsque ad pasca introitus, incipit, “Salve sancta parens …”; Oratio, Concede nos famulos tuos domine deus perpetua mentis …”;

Mass in honor of the Virgin from the Purification to Easter, proper texts only; includes readings from Ecclesiasticus 24:14-16, incipit, “Ad initio et ante secula ..”, the Tract, incipit, “Gaude maria uirgo cunctas hereses ..”; and Luke 11:27-28, incipit, “In illo tempore loquente yhesu ad turbas ….”

f. 59rv, Initium sancti evangelii secundum iohannem, incipit, “On [sic] principio erat uerbum …”

John 1:1-14.

ff. 59v-63, Questa e linno del corpo di Christo, incipit, “Pange lingua gloriosi corporis misterium sanguini …”; ff. 60-61, Oratio, incipit, “Deus qui nobis sub sacramento mirabili passionis tue memoriam …”; “Veni creator spiritus mentes tuorum …”; Oratio, “Deus qui corda fidelium sancti spiritus …” ff. 61-63, Simbolum …, incipit, “Quicumque uult salus essa ante omnia opus est ut teneat catholicam fidem. … Fides autem catholica hec est ut unum deum in trinitate et trinitatem in unitate ueneremur …”;

Hymn by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) for the feast of Corpus Christi, followed by prayers and the Athanasian Creed.

ff. 63, incipit, “Angele dei qui custos me …”;

ff. 63-64v, incipit, “Te matrem dei laudamus te Mariam uirginem confitemur ….”;
Some similarities to Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, Pal. 000, Book of Hours in Latin and Italian, f. 97v (reported in Corpus italicum precum, Online Resources).

f. 64v, Ant., incipit, “Sub tuum presidium confugimus …”;

Latin and English found at http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/BVM/SubTuum.html ; an ancient prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, used in litanies to Mary and as the concluding prayer at Compline.

ff. 64v-65, incipit, “Visita quesumus domine habitationem istam …”;

Latin and English found at http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Cotidiana/Visita.html, traditional part of compline; also found in Chg173b 332 ad completorium reported in Corpus Italicum Precum, Online Resources).

f. 65, incipit, “Ave regina celorum, Aue domina angelorum …”;

A version of a popular Marian antiphon chanted at compline; see http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/BVM/AveRegina.html, for Latin and English (the text in this manuscript slightly different).

ff. 65-69, Qui si comincia vna devote oratione della croce, incipit, “O beatissima croce laquale choliu meritasti di tonere il quae nel cielo …”; f. 67, incipit, “Questa bene seruare …”; incipit, “Messere giesu Christo nazzareno … dal tuo diritto lato. Amen”;

ff. 69-71, [introducted by a long rubric telling a story in Italian of St. Thomas and the Virgin], ff. 69v-71, La prima alle greça .., incipit, “Gaude flore uirginali. Honoreque spirituali …”; f. 70, La secunda alle greça …, incipit, “Gaude sponsa chara dei ….; f. 71, La septima ale greça si e perche io sono certissima …, incipit, “Gaude uirgo mater pura …”;

Chevalier, 1892-1921, no. 6810; printed Leroquais, 1927, 2:343.

ff. 71v-72, Oratio ad angelum custodem, incipit, “Supplex te de posco numeri angelicum cui comunis conditor anime corporisque mei curam dedit …”;

ff. 72-73, [Added in an italic script], Ogni persona che dira diuota, incipit, “[E] mente percia scuna ghoccola disangue laquale usci delcorpo …”;

ff. 73-78v, [Added], Incipiunt centum meditationes passionis domini nostri yhesu christi cum centum petitionibus a Christo fratri amando ordinis predicatorum omni die cum centum ueniis dicendis, incipit, “Domine yhesu christe qui permisisti a maria madalena santos pedes tuos lavari …; Domine yhesu christe qui dissisti pauperes …; Domine yhesu christe qui fuisti negatus a iudeis dicentibus non abemus regem nisi cesarem recipe”;

Sixty-two of the promised hundred meditations, so it is possible that it was once followed by additional text.

Medieval prayer books as a genre – as opposed to Books of Hours -- have been relatively neglected in the scholarly literature (an exception is Achten, 1987), and indeed, medieval prayers themselves -- present in both books such as this one and in some Books of Hours – are a relatively unexplored field. It is at present still difficult to identify them, or to accurately gauge their popularity in the manuscript tradition. Nonetheless, they represent both a rich literary source and one of our most important direct witnesses to what recent historians have called “traditional religion” (Duffy, 1994, p. 3; and 2006).

As eloquently summarized in the description of the Burnet Psalter, a fifteenth-century illuminated manuscript that includes 288 prayers and hymns (see Online Resources) medieval prayers are a direct reflection of the religious life of the period: “The men and women who read or recited these prayers and hymns knew themselves to be weak and vulnerable in a hostile and hazardous world. They turned to God, to his son and the mother of his son, to the orders of angels and the ranks of the elect, for help in avoiding or surviving the dangers and crises of everyday life …. For further reassurance, they invested some of their prayers with the properties of charms or incantations, carrying them on their person, saying them at various times and in various ways, in order to enhance their efficacy. Beyond this, however, the laity prayed for salvation, for guidance and help in living the righteous life and in making the ‘good end’ that would secure it.”

The sixty-nine Latin prayers (and other texts) and the seventeen vernacular prayers included here exemplify all these different types of prayers. Noteworthy characteristics of the contents of this manuscript, however, should be underlined. In particular, the vernacular prayers, many of which are remarkably lengthy in contrast with the Latin prayers, and which are likely to have been composed by contemporary fifteenth-century figures (including the Franciscan peacher, Cherubino da Spoleto (1414-1484) on ff. 11-12v, and a certain “Ser Pace patre de sancta felicita,”on ff. 16-19v) all deserve careful study. Dominican connections seem important, seen for example in the inclusion of the prayer by Thomas Aquinas on ff. 14v-15v, the lengthy rubric detailing a story about St. Thomas and Virgin on f. 69, and the litany of Mary “composuit frater Margaretus OP,” on ff. 51-53. The prayer on ff. 20-23v includes a series of noteworthy allusions to Old Testament figures. An example of a prayer verging into the area of a magical charm can be seen on ff. 41-44v where the names of the three magi are copied at the end. The inclusion of texts for more formal or public liturgical occasions is noteworthy as well, in particular, the Office of St. Catherine of Alexandria, ff. 36v-39 in Latin, prayers at the elevation of the Host on ff. 47-50, and on ff. 57v-59, the Mass in honor of Mary. Finally, the presence of a passage from the Bible, the beginning of John’s Gospel on f. 59rv, is of interest in this context of texts that are for the most part private and devotional in nature.


Six illuminated borders, certainly added, probably in the eighteenth century:

f. 1, full border of small red and purple flowers with thin stems and leaves, interspersed with small gold ball; a peacock and coat of arms of the French royal family (azure, three fleur de lis or) in the lower margin;

f. 12, similar full border with bird in the lower margin and a grass hopper in the inner margin;

f. 51, full border of red, blue, green and gold acanthus;

ff. 70v-71, double-page opening, both pages with full borders of red and green acanthus, on f. 70v, with a spray of purple flowers, and on f. 71 an Angel playing an instrument.

These carefully-executed, attractive illuminated borders add considerably to the manuscript’s charm. They were certainly added long after the manuscript’s completion, most likely in the eighteenth century. Probably the most well-known examples of medieval manuscripts (as well as fifteenth-century printed books) with decoration added in the eighteenth century, are those by the artist sometimes known as the “Master of the Canonici Fakes,” who decorated manuscripts for Franz-Joseph von Hahn (1699-1748), bishop of Bamberg and Arad, and a notable collector of books and manuscripts, as well as art, antiquities and coins. The Bishop had border decoration with coats-of-arms of famous people (including, popes, and cardinals) added to a number of his manuscripts and some of his printed books. His library was consigned to the Venetian bookseller, Gianbattista Albrizzi, who added it (secretly) to the sale of the library of the Venetian procurator Geraldo Sagredo in Venice in 1747 (detailed discussion in Boese, 1986; see Online resources for references to other manuscripts in this group).

Although Hahn probably had his books decorated and linked to famous owners to add (fraudulently) to their value, other eighteenth-century collectors had their books and manuscripts decorated by contemporary artists simply for their own pleasure (see in particular the examples in Jensen, 2011, pp. 157-163; see also TM 101, related to another group of manuscripts, these with provenances forged in the eighteenth century). It seems most likely that this manuscript was owned by a pious owner in the eighteenth century who wanted to embellish a rather austere manuscript by adding decoration.


Achten, Gerard. Das christliche Gebetbuch im Mittelalter: Andachts und Stundebücher in Handschriften und Frühdrucke, Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 1987.

Boese, H. “Über die 1747 in Venedig verkaufen ‘Sagredo-Handschriften,” Quellen und Forschungen aus italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken 66 (1986), pp. 269-309.

Chevalier, U. Repertorium hymnologicum, Louvain, 1892-1912, Brussels, 1920-21.

Doyle, A.I. “A Prayer Attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas.” Dominican Studies 1 (1948), pp. 229–38.

Duffy, Eamon. Marking the Hours: English People and their 1240-1570, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2006.

Duffy, Eamon. The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c.1400 - c.1580, New Haven, and London, 1992.

Henderson, John. Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Jensen, Kristian. Revolution and the Antiquarian Book: Reshaping the Past, 1780-1815, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2011 (especially, “Commemorating and Obliterating the Past: “Old Books, Very Displeasing to the Eye,” pp. 137-175, in particular, pp. 157-163).

Leroquais, Victor. Les livres d’heures manuscrits de la Bibliothèque nationale ..., Paris, Maçon, Protat frères, impr., 1927-1943.

Palermo, Francesco. Biblioteca nazionale centrale. I manoscritti palatini di Firenze, Florence, vol. 1, 1853.

Wilmart, André. Auteurs spirituels et textes dévots du moyen âge latin; études d’histoire littéraire, Paris, Bloud et Gay, 1932.

Online resources

Giovan Battista Corbinelli, SIUSA (SIUSA, Sistema Informativo Unificato per le Soprintendenze Archivistiche)

Thesaurus precum latinorum (Treasury of Latin ), with English Translation

In Principio, Incipit index of Latin texts

CHD Institute for Studies of Illuminated Manuscripts in Denmark, “Late Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts – Books of Hours 1400-1530”

Kent, W. “Indulgences,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York, Robert Appleton Company,1910

Thurston, H. “Prayer-Books,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York, Robert Appleton Company, 1911

and Hymns inThe Burnet Psalter (Aberdeen University Library, MS 25)

Other manuscripts with added eighteenth-century decoration:


British Library, MS Burney 132

Jef Schaeps. “Feigned nobility: a forged provenance,” no. 13 in Omslag, 2010, Bulletin van de Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden en het Scaliger Instituut,