TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Noted Breviary for select feasts; short Mass texts in German; recipes (medicinal and cosmetic)

In Latin and German, illuminated manuscript on paper with musical notation
Southern or Central Germany, c. 1515-1525

TM 947

ii + 114 + xxix [blank leaves] + i folios on paper, watermarks, two paper lots: ff. 1-90: hand, close to Piccard 420, Turin, 1517, ff. 91-114: crown with two clovers flanking three spikes surmounted by small balls; five round gems embellish the base of the crown, sixteenth century (not in Piccard or in Briquet; see description below), contemporary foliation in black ink, ii-lxxxvii and modern foliation in pencil, 88-114, [blank leaves following f. 114 are foliated every five leaves], complete (collation i-ix8 x7 xi8 xii12 xiii8 xiv6 xv1), no catchwords or signatures, ruled in brown ink (justification 135 x 102 mm.), written in black and red inks in textualis (ff. 1-90v, 99, 103v-112v) and cursive (ff. 91-98, 100-103, 112v-114v) bookhands on 16 lines for text pages, and for music 5 staves of four lines ruled in brown ink with hufnagelschrift notation, rastrum c. 13 mm., capitals and cadel initials touched in red, 2- to 5-line initials alternating in red and blue throughout, two 3-line foliate initials in pink or blue on green or pink grounds, in-filled in burnished gold and accompanied in the margin by acanthus in pink, blue and green with balls in burnished gold (ff. 33v, 35), f. 41, one 4-line (32 x 32 mm.) foliate initial in blue on pink ground, in-filled in burnished gold, f. 1, one large (56 x 56 mm.) foliate initial in pink on blue ground, in-filled in burnished gold and accompanied in the margin by acanthus in pink and blue with balls in burnished gold, minor stains and smudging, otherwise in very good condition. CONTEMPORARY BINDING of pigskin over wooden boards, blind-tooled with rosettes, ferns, fleurs-de-lis in lozenges, and a berry vine, five brass bosses on front and back covers, two brass clasps and catches, brass border-strips at top and bottom, three raised bands and a leather label on the spine inscribed in gilt “Breviary CHANTS &c. CIRCA 1390,” modern headbands and marbled pastedowns, gilt edges, minor wear of leather on the spine, otherwise in excellent condition. Dimensions 200 x 140 mm.

This handsome manuscript, a perfect size for teaching, features distinctive German musical notation known as Hufnagel (“horseshoe nail”), accomplished illuminated initials in gold leaf, and a fine contemporary blind-tooled binding.  Alongside the Latin liturgical texts are texts for the Mass and recipes for make-up in German, opening the possibility of female ownership. An intriguing witness to the religious life in Germany during the early decades of the Reformation, the volume underlines the continuation of medieval traditions of bookmaking well into the age of print.


1. The evidence of the language, script, style of the illumination, and watermark evidence support an origin in Southern or Central Germany, c. 1515-1325.  The crown watermark in the second part of the manuscript (ff. 91-114) includes decorative elements that first appear in the last quarter of the fifteenth century, but the presentation of the crown as seen in perspective from below, as found here, does not appear until the sixteenth century (Piccard, 1961). The cursive hand on ff. 91-98, 100-103 and 112v-114v can be compared to a manuscript written in German c. 1513-1526 in Switzerland containing the laws of the Swiss Confederacy, although the scribe of our manuscript was less professional (London, Sotheby’s, July 7, 2009, lot 27). An even closer comparison with the cursive script as well as the “half-puzzle” initials in red or blue ink in our manuscript can be found in the Lohengrin made in Stuttgart around 1470 for the Countess of the Palatinate, Margaret of Savoy (Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Pal. germ. 345; see fig. 3.44 in Hamburger, Suckale and Suckale-Redlefsen, 2018, p. 238).

2. Short sale catalogue entries in English and German pasted to the verso of the first front flyleaf.

3. In 1884, offered to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) by Joseph William Drexel (1833-1888) of Philadelphia; Drexel’s donation was confirmed after his death in 1889. Drexel’s music manuscripts, possibly including this manuscript, were displayed in the musical instruments galleries at the museum for years. Transferred to the museum’s library collection in the 1930s; the Library book label, inscribed in pencil “Drexel Collection no. 5147,” is pasted inside the front cover, and the Library stamp is found on the recto of the second front flyleaf. Later de-accessioned and book label stamped “WITHDRAWN.”  Drexel was a banker, philanthropist, bibliophile and trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the present manuscript formed part of his music collection of 6000 items.


ff. 1-90v, incipit, “Exurgens autem Maria abiit in montana cum festinatione in civitatem iuda et intravit in domum zacharie et salutauit elizabeth [Luke 1: 39-40, with musical notation] … Per dominum nostrum ihesum christum fili.”

Chants with musical notation (including antiphons and responsories), a prayer, and lessons for the feast of the Visitation (July 2) and its octave, both with twelve lessons for Matins (ff. 1-33v), six lessons for the feast of St. Anne (July 26) (ff. 33v-35), nine lessons for the feast of Our Lady of the Snows, “In festivitate nivis Marie” (August 5) (ff. 35-38), six lessons for the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin (November 21) (ff. 38-40v), notated chants, lessons (nine at Matins) and homilies for the feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus (August 6), and notated chants for the Mass on that feast (ff. 41-58), notated chants and lessons (nine at Matins) for the feast of St. Monica (May 4) and notated chants for the Mass on that feast (ff. 58v-80v), nine lessons and a homily for the feast of St. Joseph (March 19) (ff. 80v-86v), and nine lessons for the feast of St. Erasmus (June 2) (ff. 86v-90v).

ff. 91-98, [Early addition], Conceptio beate marie virginis, incipit, “Adest namque concepcio sacratissime virginis quae ex regali progenie genita, genuit christum regem dominum; ipsa intercedat pro peccatis nostris” [Corpus antiphonalium Officii, no. 1266]; [f. 98v, blank];

The antiphon, “Adest namque nativitas” (without musical notation) for the Nativity of the Virgin Mary adapted to celebrate her conception, as indicated by the rubric and the change of the word “nativitas” to “concepcio,” copied in cursive script and without musical notation.

f. 99, [Added], incipit, “Kyrie fons bonitatis pater ingenite a quo bona cuncta procedunt elyson. Christe unice Dei patris genite quem de Virgine nasciturum mondo mirifice sancti predixerunt prophete: Eleyson. Kyrie, Ignis divine, pectora nostra//”; [f. 99v, blank];

Adaptation of the Kyrie eleison for the German Mass, ending imperfectly, copied in textualis script. Only these three short extracts of the sung prayer were transcribed and accompanying musical staves were left blank.

ff. 100-103, [added], incipit, “Ave durchluchte stern des meres…”

Copied in cursive script, a German translation of the Latin Sequence, “Ave praeclara Maria sella” (Chevalier, Repertorium hymnologicum, no. 2045; Analecta Hymnica vol. 50, p. 313, no. 241), traditionally attributed to Sebastian Brant (1457-1521, author of the Ship of Fools); this translation is known in twenty-seven manuscripts, not including this one (Online Resources, “Handscriftcensus”); edited in Wilhelmi, 1998, nos. 73, 74, 76; Walther Lipphardt, in 2Verfasserlexikon 1 (1978), pp. 568-570 and Gisela Kornrumpf in 2Verfasserlexikon 11 (2004), pp. 193-195; now see Rothenberger, 2019.

ff. 103v-112v, [added hymns with musical notation] incipit, “Ecce iam noctis renuatur...”; incipit, “Verbum supernum prodiens...”; incipit, “Amorem sensus erige...”; incipit, “Audi benigne conditor...”; incipit, “Summi largitur praemii spes...”; incipit, “Martine confessor dei valens...”;

ff. 112v-114v, [added], six recipes in German, copied in cursive script: a recipe for preparing calamus (a medicinal plant) with honey; a recipe for the preparation of green ginger using lye and preserving it in syrup; a variant recipe for preserving ginger; treatment for watering eye and cataracts; cosmetic recipe for making “a good face,” (i.e. for make-up) using rose-water to be rubbed into the corners of your eyes; and two additional sets of instructions for making make-up, one for an apothecary, and one to do it yourself, with some explanations about the properties of the different ingredients including, among other things, rose water, mother of pearl, and red coral (we thank Dr. Stephen Mossman for his assistance).


Despite the somewhat modest appearance of the script and the initials in red or blue ink, the four foliate initials in colors and burnished gold with acanthus leaves in the margins are especially well executed and look rather professional. The minor divisions are executed in red or blue ink and take the form of “half-puzzle” initials, in other words only one color has been completed. Finally, at the end of certain rubrics there is a checkboard ornament in red and black (e.g. f. 33v) or in black and parchment (e.g. ff. 80v, 86v), which serve as a line-filler. The illumination in this book merits further research and may offer important clues to its exact place of origin.

The longest and most formally presented section of this manuscript, ff. 1-90v, consists of texts and music for the Divine Office (the daily prayer of the Church celebrated by members of the secular clergy and religious orders throughout the day and night at the offices of Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline) for eight feasts from the Sanctorale. They are not organized strictly according to the liturgical year, and why these particular texts were chosen for presentation in this rather expensive volume poses a puzzle for future research.  Some of these feasts were relatively new (the Transfiguration was added to the Roman calendar only in 1457, and the feast of St. Joseph was popularized in the fifteenth century), and it is possible that they were copied to supplement out-of-date liturgical volumes. 

Another striking oddity is the apparent discrepancy in liturgical use.  Most of the Offices include nine lessons for Matins, which is usual for secular use, but the Office of the Visitation and its Octave (another later feast approved by Boniface for the whole church by Pope Boniface IX in 1389) includes the twelve lessons found in monastic Breviaries.  The inclusion of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, certainly stands out, and this may have been copied for a religious congregation following the Rule of St Augustine (despite the anomaly posed by the monastic use of the Office of the Visitation).  The cult of St. Monica, particularly after her translation to Rome in 1430, however, was not confined to Augustinian convents, and this is only a possibility. The interesting additions in German, including texts for the Mass and cosmetic recipes, suggests that this could have been copied for nuns.

It is even possible, based on the choice of saints and the inclusion of recipes for maintaining one’s appearance, that this book was prepared for a laywoman for use in her private chapel. St. Erasmus was especially invoked against abdominal pain, including by women experiencing childbirth, because of the torture he suffered when his stomach was split open and his intestines wound around a windlass. Women in difficult marriages and victims of unfaithfulness venerated St. Monica of Hippo, mother of St. Augustine, who suffered from her husband’s adultery. Other readings are devoted to the Transfiguration and the family of Christ, including his parents Mary and Joseph, his grandmother St. Anne, and his mother’s cousin St. Elizabeth. The manuscript begins with the office of the Visitation, when the two pregnant mothers, Mary and Elizabeth, meet. Continuing the theme of childbirth, an antiphon celebrating the conception of the Virgin Mary was added to the manuscript at a slightly later date.

This early-sixteenth-century manuscript demonstrates splendidly the high esteem that manuscript making continued to hold after the invention of printing. Its handsome binding is medieval in appearance with its finely tooled pigskin covers furnished with brass bosses, clasps, catches and border-strips. Both the scribe and the illuminator resorted to models from the preceding century, a natural instinct for artisans faced with heavy competition from the printed book. The book’s four delicate foliate initials with burnished gold grounds overlaid with filigree and the marginal acanthus leaves painted in fine colors provide a valuable example of late medieval illumination in central Europe. The text, a very specific collection of readings and chants for eight selected feasts, may have served an Augustinian convent, although use by a private individual cannot be ruled out with the evidence available.


Briquet, C. Les Filigranes: Dictionnaire historique des marques du papier dès leur apparition vers 1282 jusqu’en 1600, 4 vols, Amsterdam, 1968.

Hamburger, J, R. Suckale and G. Suckale-Redlefsen, eds. Painting the Page in the Age of Print: Central European Manuscript Illumination of the Fifteenth Century, Turnhout, 2018.

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

Hesbert, R.-J. Corpus antiphonalium Officii, Rome, 1963-1979.

Hiley, D. Western Plainchant: A Handbook, Oxford, 1993.

Hughes, A. Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office: A Guide to Their Organization and Terminology, Toronto, 1982.

Huglo, M. Les livres de chant liturgiques, Turnhout, Brepols, 1988.

Rothenberger, Eva. Ave praeclara maris stella. Poetische und liturgische Transformationen der Mariensequenz im deutschen Mittelalter, Liturgie und Volkssprache 2, Berlin and Boston 2019.

McKitterick, David. Print, Manuscript, and the Search for Order, 1450-1830, Cambridge, and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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

Piccard, G. Die Kronen-Wasserzeichen: Findbuch I der Wasserzeichenkartei Piccard im Haupstaatsarchiv Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 1961.

Piccard, G. Wasserzeichen Hand und Handschuh, Stuttgart, 1997, pp. 21, 84.

Thomas Wilhelmi, ed. Sebastian Brant, Kleine Texte, Arbeiten und Editionen zur Mittleren Deutschen Literatur NF 3, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, 1998.

Online Resources

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

Handschriftencensus: Eine Bestandsaufnahme der handschriftlichen Überlieferung deutschsprachiger Texte des Mittelalters (Universität Marburg)


Berliner Repertorium der mittelalterlichen deutschen Übertragungen lateinischer Hymnen und Sequenzen


TM 947