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les Enluminures

Dominican Collectarium (Collectar)

In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment with musical notation
Italy (Florence), late fifteenth or early sixteenth century (likely after 1491, and before 1524)

TM 858

i+ 197 + i folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil bottom inside margin with errors, 1-36, 38-158, 160-199, lacking five leaves, (collation i6 [-1, with loss of text] ii10 iii10 [-3, one leaf after f. 17, with loss of text] iv-vii10 viii10 [-8, one leaf after f. 72, with loss of text] ix10 x10 [-4, one leaf after f. 87, with loss of text] xi10 [-1, one leaf before f. 94, with loss of text] xii10 xiii6 xiv-xxi10), decorated horizontal catchwords center lower margin, layout varies, but likely copied by one scribe: ff. 1-5v, (justification c. 195 x 120 mm.), in thirty-three long lines; ff. 18-103 and 149-199, (justification 142 x 100-97 mm.), ruled lightly in ink with single full length vertical bounding lines, written in an accomplished formal round gothic bookhand in fifteen long lines; ff. 6-17v and 103-136, (justification 164-150 x 100-97 mm.), with up to six lines of text in a rounded Gothic bookhand and six three-line red staves with square notation; ff. 119-148v, copied in two columns with five lines of text and five four-line red staves with square notation, flourished ascenders and decorative penwork line fillers, red rubrics, red or blue paraphs, one-line alternately red and blue initials, two-line alternated red and blue initials (and ‘KL’-mongrams in the calendar) with contrasting pen decoration in purple or red, one illuminated initial on f. 36:  two-line gold initial on a dark blue ground with gold detailing, with short floral extension in yellow and green, overall in good condition, some stains, occasional ink offsets and discoloration (text remains dark and legible), and cockling, f. 11v, rubbed.  Modern limp vellum binding, excellent condition.  Dimensions 233 x 165 mm.

This is an extraordinary witness to the place of women in the book trade of the Florentine Renaissance. The nun (from the famous and wealthy Rucellai family), who signed this rare music manuscript Collectar, belonged to the Dominican convent of San Jacopo di Ripoli in Florence, where the nuns are the first documented women to work in the print industry.  San Jacopo di Ripoli set up one of the earliest printing presses in Florence active from 1476 to1484.  Probably dating soon after the press closed, this manuscript testifies to a continuing scribal culture at the convent. Manuscripts from the convent appear to be very uncommon.   


1. Copied by Angela de Rucellariis, a nun at the Dominican convent of San Jacopo di Ripoli, who signs it on f. 189v, “Ego soror angela de rucellariis monialis monasterii sancti Jacobi de Ripolis de florentia scripsi manu propria hoc collectarium” (I, sister Angela Rucellai, a nun at the monastery of San Jacopo di Ripoli in Florence wrote this Collectarium by my own hand). Angela did not include a date, but liturgical evidence suggests a date after 1491 (feast of the Sanctification of the Virgin), and before 1524 (lacks Antoninus, May 10).  Angela’s family, the Rucellai, was one of the wealthiest and most distinguished families in Florence (Kent, 1977); the fifteenth-century Palazzo Rucellai on the Via della Vigna Nuova was designed by Leon Battista Alberti.  They evidently had ties to the convent of San Jacopo, sending their daughters there, and also patronizing the press (Conway, 1999, pp. 12 and 79). 

The convent of San Jacopo was founded in 1292; it was suppressed in 1781.  Historians of the book will recognize the name, since it was the home of one of the first printing presses in Florence, established in 1476 by two Dominicans, Dominico da Pistoia and Piero da Pisa, the convent’s procurator and confessor. The press was in operation until 1484, their last imprint was the first complete printed edition of the works of Plato (Conway, 1999, Rouse and Rouse, 1988).  The convent’s diario (daybook) notes that the Dominican sisters were paid for their labor – these nuns are the first documented women to work in the printing business.  Manuscripts from San Jacopo appear to be very uncommon (Conway, 12, n. 14, mentions the existence of one other dating from 1508).  Our manuscript most likely dates from the period after the press closed, but it is conceivable that the scribe, Angela, may have been living at the convent when the press was in operation.

2. Private European collection.


ff. 1-5v, Calendar, in red and black, graded, lacking one leaf with January and February and now beginning with March; includes numerous Dominican saints: Thomas Aquinas (March 7), in red totum duplex, can. 1323, observed Dominican 1326; Vincent Ferrer (April 5), can. 1455; Peter Martyr, in red, totum duplex (April 29); Catherine of Siena, in red, totum duplex, can. 1461 (2 May); translation of Peter Martyr, in red, totum duplex, (May 7); translation of Dominic, in red, totum duplex (May 24); and Dominic “patris nostri,” in red, totum duplex (August 5); also note: Ambrose, 4 April, in red, totum duplex;  Zenobius, bishop, patron of Florence, in red, semiduplex (May 25); Transfiguration (August 6), in red, totum duplex; Dionysius (October 9), in red, totum duplex, raised to totum duplex by the Dominicans in 1481; Leonard, in red, totum duplex (6 November); “Sanctificatio beate virginis” (December 8), in red, totum duplex, confirmed in 1491. The feast of Anne on July 26, observed from 1465, is lacking.

ff. 6-17v, [Liturgical instructions with music for chanting elements of the office], Modus inchoandi horas, versus, incipit, “Conuerte nos deus …”; … Modus dicendi capitulum, …; Modus dicendi orationes …; ff. 10v-13, [liturgical instructions for ending prayers (not noted)], incipit, “Notandum quod orationes que ad patrem siue persone alterius expressione diriguntur sic concluduntur, Per dominum nostrum yhesum christum …; ff. 13-15v, De modo dicendi preces, incipit, “Finito uersiculo … [partially noted]”; ff. 15v-17v, Benedictiones lectionum in matutinis … [Benedictions, first with music];

ff. 17v-25v, Dominica prima in aduentu domini ad utrasque vesperas et ad laudes et ad tertiam. Capitulum, …”

Capitula for the Temporale, with a leaf missing following the rubric on f. 17v so the text now begins abruptly in the midst of a capitulum (incipit, “//luntas mea in ea et terra tua …”); followed by the capitulum for terce on Christmas day, and concluding with Corpus Christi, the first Sunday after Trinity Sunday, and the Dedication of a Church.

ff. 25v-39v, De capitulis sanctorum …, Capitula for the Sanctorale including the Sanctification of Mary, Stephen and his octave, John the Evangelist, Holy Innocents and their octave, translation of Thomas Aquinas, Purification, Chair of St. Peter, Thomas Aquinas, Annunciation, Vincent (Vincent Ferrer, canonized 1455),  Catherine of Siena (canonized 1461), Holy Cross, de corone domini (the Crown of Thorns), John before the Lateran Gate, translation of Dominic, Nativity of John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, Commemoration of Paul, Visitation, Mary Magdalene, Peter in Chains, Invention of Peter, In festo sancti dominici patris nostri, Transfiguration, Assumption, Nativity of Mary, Exaltation of the Cross, Michael Archangel, 11000 virgins, and All Saints.

ff. 39v-42v, Capitula for the Common of Saints;

ff. 42v-68v, Prayers (collects) for the Temporale from the first Sunday in Advent to the 24th Sunday after Trinity Sunday, concluding with the anniversary of the Dedication of a Church;

ff. 68v-98v, Prayers (collects) for the Sanctorale (beginning f. 68v) from Andrew through Saturninus, including (among many others) the translation of Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Aquinas, Vincent Ferrer, Peter martyr, Catherine of Siena, translation of Dominic, Zenobius, Accasius, Commemoration of Paul, Visitation, Louis confessor, Sabina, and Quentin;

Missing a leaf following f. 72v which ends with Prisca (January 18); f. 73 begins with Julianus (January 29); a leaf following f. 87; and a leaf following f. 93v, which concludes with Cosmas and Damian (September 27); f. 94 begins with St. Francis (October 4).

ff. 98v-103v, Prayers for various occasions, including feasts of the Virgin and for the dead (numerous variations); … f. 101, De disciplinis post completorium, …; f. 101rv, De officio receptione nouitiorum, …[feminine forms, “Saluam fac ancillam tuam uel ancillas tuas”, with prayers, “Deus qui corda fidelium sancti spiritus … da famule tue uel famulabus tuis …” and “Pretende domine famule tue …”]; De offitio in electionibus … [of a master, of a provincial general, of a prior of a convent]; De benedictione itinerantium …; De modo recipiendi ad benefitia …;

ff. 103v-109, [noted], Finitis que de kalendario luna et martyrologio pronuntianda sunt. Subiungatur. De pretiosa, versus, incipit, “Pretiosa est in conspectus domini …”;

Said after Lauds or after Prime, the Pretiosa began with the readings from the Martyrology for the commemoration of the dead.

ff. 109-112v, [noted], De benedictione mense.  Quando bis comeditur ad prandium dicto benededicte. Sequitur versus, incipit, “Oculi omnium in te sperant …”;

Blessing at meals.

ff. 112v-114v, Benedictions (Ad cenam, Post cenam, De collatione in times of fasting, At the end of lessons, In Choir, At Sermons, For the clothes of the professed);

ff. 114v-117v, Exorcism and Blessings of Salt and Water; [f. 118, blank but ruled];

ff. 118v-145, Principia antiphonarum in choandarum ab illorum qui facit officium.  Dominica prima in aduentum domini …” [Ends bottom column a, f. 145; remainder and ff. 145v-148v, blank but ruled];

Office Antiphons with musical notation for the Temporale from Advent to the 25th Sunday after Trinity Sunday, followed by the Dedication of a Church, Sanctorale from Andrew through Clement (includes the translation of Dominic and the feast of “our father” Dominic, and the Transfiguration), and concluding with the Common of Saints.

ff. 146-152, Subscripto modo dicantur uersiculi … [the first example only noted, for the Temporale, Sanctorale, and Common of Saints];

ff. 152-189v, De communione infirmi, incipit, “Ad communicandum infirmum uadit prelatus …”; … f. 155, Oratio, incipit, “Domine deus qui per apostolum tuum Iacobum locutus es dicens …”; …. 160, Deinde qui facit officium faciat absolutionem infirmo sub hac forma, …; … De transitu fratris, incipit, “Cum autem frater penitus morti …”; f. 162v, [Litany for the newly dead, said without music]; … f. 182v, [second litany for the remembrance of the dead]; f. 189v, [Scribal colophon], incipit, “Ego soror angela de rucellariis monialis monasterii sancti Jacobi de Ripolis de florentia a scripsi manu propria hoc collectarium.  Deus sit laudatus et to [sic] corde benedictus”;

Services with extensive liturgical directions for the sick and the dead; the prayers from f. 166v on use feminine forms and speak of “our sister N” (see for example, f. 168, Oratio, incipit, “Tibi domine comendamus animam famule tue sororis nostre N….”), although elsewhere the manuscript retains masculine forms and mentions the brothers, presumably reflecting its exemplar.  Note the prayer on f. 155 mentioning St. James, the patron of this convent.

ff. 189v-198v, Letanie de beata virgine que dicuntur in ominibus tribulationibus, …”; f. 194, Letanie de beata virgine, …,” Finito libro isto. Laus et Gloria sit yesu christo; [f. 199rv, blank but ruled].

This manuscript for the Divine Office is a Collectar, in Latin, Collectarium.  The Collectarium (“book of Collects”) originated as a compilation of the collects, or prayers, said during the various canonical hours of the Divine Office.  Every hour except Matins (which is followed immediately by Lauds) concludes with a collect.  Vespers, Lauds, Terce, Sext, and None usually are followed by the collect of that day’s Mass; Prime has a collect particular to that hour (as does Compline, although in that case it is usually unvarying).  A Collectar was thus the book used by the officiating priest during day offices; it is to the Divine Office what the Sacramentary is to the Mass.  Collectars also often include capitulum, short readings said at each hour except Matins (the longest hour, with extensive readings).  In every case except at Prime, these short readings varied depending on the time of year and liturgical occasion.  Indeed, after the tenth century Collectars almost invariably include both collects and capitula (Gy, 1960, pp. 448-449).

Over time the contents of Collectars tended to grow, and in the later Middle Ages they often became ad hoc collections of the prayers and ceremonies not found in other liturgical books.  As a result of this development as a unique book to be used in a particular context, the Collectarium, unlike the more common service books, such as Breviaries, Missals, and the like, never became a widely disseminated or standardized text. In fact, whether as manuscript or printed book, the Collectarium is one of the rarest types of medieval liturgical book.

In this Dominican Collectar, the two most extensive sections are the capitula and the collects (here called “orationes”), both copied separately, and arranged according to the usual divisions of the liturgical year (Temporale, Sanctorale, Common of Saints).  In addition, we find a calendar, and numerous other texts for the Office that were often not included in Breviaries, including instructions on the proper chanting of invariable texts (with musical notation), the Pretiosa (said after Lauds or Prime including a Martyrology), benedictions, and the liturgy for the sick and for the dead (here with long descriptions of the ceremonies).  The texts and music in Collectars can be of special value to liturgical historians and musicologists since they sometimes record details of the liturgy, in particular the Divine Office, not found in other, more common liturgical manuscripts.

Examples of late medieval Collectars are quite rare. The Schoenberg Database lists perhaps fifteen sold in the last 100 years and only four examples in the last thirty years.


Bonniwell, W. R.  A History of the Dominican Liturgy, 1215-1945, New York, 1945.

Conway, Melissa. The Diario of the Printing Press of San Jacopo di Ripoli: 1476-1484: Commentary and Transcription, Florence, 1999.

Gy, P. “Collectaire, Rituel, Processionel,” Revue des Sciences philosophiques et théologiques 44 (1960), pp. 441-469.

Hughes, Andrews. Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office, Toronto, 1982.

Kent, F. W.  Household and Lineage in Renaissance Florence: the Family Life of the Capponi, Ginori, and Rucellai, Princeton, 1977.

Latham, Helen M. “Dominican Nuns and the Book Arts in Renaissance Florence: the Convent of San Jacopo di Ripoli, 1224-1633 (Italy),” unpublished dissertation, Texas Woman’s University, 1986 (not available for consultation).

Palazzo, Eric.  A History of Liturgical Books from the Beginning to the Thirteenth Century, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1998.

Rouse, Mary A. and R. H. Rouse. Cartolai, Illuminators, and Printers in Fifteenth-century Italy: the Evidence of the Ripoli Press, Los Angeles, 1988. https://archive.org/stream/cartolaiillumina00rous#page/16/mode/2up

Salmon, Pierre. Les manuscrits liturgiques latins de la Bibliothèque Vaticane. I: Psautiers Antiphonaires Hymnaires Collectaires Bréviares, Vatican, 1968.

Online Resources

St. James of Ripoll, Florence (San Jacopo di Ripoli)

“Unseen Hands: Women Printers, Binders, and Book Designers,” Princeton University Library

Naomi Nelson, “Women at Work: the Nuns of the Ripoli Press,” The Devil’s Tale: Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University

Lessons (Pericopes) in Liturgy, including Office lessons (capitula)

Introduction to liturgical manuscripts (France, I.R.H.T [CNRS])

Collectarium at Ohio Wesleyan

A Pipeline from Heaven: 800 Years of Dominican Books

Dominican Liturgy

TM 858