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les Enluminures

Noted Choir Psalter and Hymnal

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment with musical notation
Germany (Northern Rhine, Westphalia, diocese of M√ľnster), c. 1390-1420 (after 1389)

TM 945

146 folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil top outer corner recto, missing four leaves of which one is probably cancelled (collation i6 [-1, with loss of text] ii-iii8 iv8 [-8, one leaf following f. 24, with loss of text] v-xi8 xii8[-8, one leaf following f. 91, with loss of text] xiii-xviii8 xix8 [-8, probably cancelled with no loss of text], no catchwords or signatures, ruled in ink with single full-length vertical bounding lines (justification 217-210 x 142-140 mm.), written below the top line in a gothic bookhand in twenty-five long lines,“hufnagel” musical notation on black four-line staves on approximately 153 pages, many a single line, but some half to full page, majuscules touched in red, red rubrics, decorative cadel initials in noted sections of the text, one-line alternately red and blue initials, two-line red or blue ‘KL’ monograms, larger initials (equivalent to one-line of text and musical notation) alternately red and blue, three- to four-line alternately red and blue penwork initials, seven six-line parted red and blue initials with red and purple pen decoration with sections highlighted in green extending the full length of the written space, one 8-line elaborately parted red and blue initial with purple and red infill with touches of green and an elaborate ‘waterfall’ initial of alternately red and blue half fleur-de-lis on f. 6, heavily used, with numerous signs of use and repairs throughout (discussed in detail below).  Bound in a sixteenth-century German binding of brown leather over fairly substantial wooden boards, steeply angled, that extend significantly beyond the bookblock, tooled in blind with four sets of triple fillets forming a narrow outer border (left blank), and a broader inner frame stamped with a roll of flowers and vines, and a rectangular center panel with a central rectangle enclosing a IHS stamp with a cross above and three nails emerging from a small heart below enclosed in an oval surrounded by rays, fleurons at the corners, with a broad frame stamped with a detailed roll of foliage and two smaller rectangles top and bottom with the same IHS stamp, spine (lined with cloth) with five raised bands, once fastened back to front, two brass catches upper board, and short light-colored leather loops (later additions?), extending from the lower board attached with three protruding brass bosses, edges perhaps once dyed green, front board cracked in the middle vertically, leather on the upper part of the spine is missing, and cracking at the bottom, worn along hinges (exposing part of the bands), front and back covers scuffed with a few patches of leather missing, overall in somewhat fragile but fair condition.  Dimensions 295 x 205 mm.

Manuscripts from the diocese of Münster are rare. This volume is an excellent example of a large Psalter copied for use in the Choir with the distinctively German musical notation known as “hufnagel” (from the shape of the notes resembling a horseshoe nail) throughout.  A remarkable artifact, this manuscript may survive with more signs of use than any manuscript we have ever offered (too numerous to summarize, see below “Use”), making it an ideal candidate for courses focusing on the use and survival of manuscripts and the history of the book. 


1. Copied in Germany for use in the diocese of Münster, as indicated by the liturgical evidence; it must date after 1389 (the calendar includes the Visitation, July 2, in red), and the evidence of the script and decoration support a date at the end of the fourteenth or beginning of the fifteenth century, c. 1390-1420.

The calendar closely follows the calendar printed by Grotefend for the diocese of Münster (Online resources).  In particular note the three feasts celebrating St. Ludger, the first bishop of Münster, March 26, April 24, and October 3, translation, and Florian (May 4), Victorinus and Florian (November 2), and the two Ewald brothers (October 3, and adventus, October 29), all with relics in Münster. 

This is a calendar for secular rather than monastic use; the clergy at cathedrals and other churches, canons, and the mendicant Friars all followed secular use.  This was used early in its history, and possibly made for, a secular church dedicated to St. Dionysius in the diocese of Münster (the feast of the translation of Dionysius “patroni huius ecclesie” (patron of this Church) is added to the calendar in a fifteenth-century hand on April 22). The church of St. Dionysius in Mündelheim near Duisburg is one possiblity.

Münster was the site of the famous Anabaptist “kingdom of a thousand years” in 1534-1535, which resulted in the destruction of many liturgical books in the city itself, adding to the interest of this manuscript, certainly made for the diocese of Münster. The liturgical use of the first Office of the Dead, not recorded in Ottosen (1993), is of special interest.

2. Used vigorously for centuries; the abundant physical evidence of use is detailed below.  Later Additions: a 15th- or early 16th-century hand added extensive liturgical notes in the calendar and occasionally elsewhere in a very tiny script; f. 33, top margin, added notes in another hand; the Psalms were numbered in the 16th- or 17th century; added hymns with musical notation f. 146rv (possibly in the same hand that annotated the calendar).

3. In the sixteenth century, it may have been owned by a Jesuit house (bound in a sixteenth-century German binding with the Jesuit IHS stamp).

4. In 1803 the bishopric of Münster was secularized, and broken up into many parts; the books and manuscripts from the monasteries and churches were scattered; some were sold to the Prussian State Library in Berlin, and it is difficult to say today what proportion went to the library that is today the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Münster.

5. Modern owner’s or dealer’s notes: inside front cover, “Psalterium/ Hymnarium” in orange pencil, modern; initial “A’ in orange crayon with two intersecting circles.


ff. 1-5v, Calendar, in red and black, lacking the first leaf with January and February, so beginning now with March; including Gertrude (March 17), Joseph (March 19), added, Ludgerus, bishop (March 26), translation of Dionysius, “our patron” (April 22), added, George, in red (April 24), Ludgerus, bishop, in red (April 24), Florian (May 4), Visitation, in red (July 2), Margaret, in red (July 13), Divisio apostolorum (July 15), Hereneus and Habundus (August 26), Magdalberta (September 7), Remigius, in red (October 1), Ludgerus, translation (October 3), Dionysius (October 9), Gereon and Victor, in red (October 10), Victorinus and Florian (November 2).

Not graded, but with extensive liturgical notes added in a very tiny script including, among other notes, the grading of various feasts.

ff. 6-109v, Ferial Psalter, partially noted; [lacking a leaf following f. 24v, f. 24v ends in Psalm 28:6 and f. 25 begins with Psalm 30:10, and a leaf following f. 91, with f. 91v ending imperfectly in a prayer, and f. 92 beginning imperfectly with a text for Terce].

The Psalms here are not completely in biblical order, but are instead arranged in the order of the Divine Office, and are accompanied by Canticles, some hymns, and other ordinary (that is unvarying) texts for the Office with musical notation. The major divisions follow the Office for secular use:  f. 6, psalm1 (Sunday, Matins); f. 23v, psalm 26 (Matins, feria ii); f. 32, psalm 38 (Matins, feria iii), f. 41, psalm 52 (Matins, feria iv); f. 50, psalm 68 (Matins, feria v), f. 62, psalm 80 (Matins, feria vi), f. 72v, psalm 97 (Matins, Saturday), f. 84v, Psalm 109 (Vespers); with secondary initials at other divisions of the Office, as well as Psalm 51, f. 47v; and f. 73v, Psalm 101.

ff. 112-115v, Litany and prayers including Pontianus, Lambert, George, Victorinus, Florian, Dionysius, Boniface, Maurice, and Gereon among the martyrs; Remigius, Ludgerus, Willibrord, Benedict, Bernard, Francis, Dominic, Anthony, Lebuinn, and Odulph among the confessors, and Walburga, Gertrude, Margaret, Katherine, and Barbara among the virgins; additions in a later hand in the margin, Aldegundis and Apollonia, Ursula, and Elizabeth.

ff. 116-125, Office of the Dead, noted; unidentified use;

Use is not recorded in Ottosen, 1993 (following Ottosen’s numbers, the responses: 79, 44, 58, 47, 10, 1, 83, 18 and “Ecce misterium”); similar but not identical to the Office at Naumburg (Ottosen, p. 194), and the major Office for Münster (Ottosen, p. 194).

ff. 125v- 129, [Second Office of the Dead], Inuitatorium istud cum venite dicetur ad paruas lectiones, incipit, “Regem cui omina uiunt …”; [ends mid. f. 129, remainder blank].

Use of Münster; Ottosen, 1993, pp. 172 and 321.

ff. 129v-131v, [Compline], Ad competorium ferialis diebus, incipit, “Cui invocare exaudiuit me deus …”; [ending mid f. 131v, remainder blank].

ff. 132-146, Noted hymns, for Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Saturday in Lent; three Sundays in Lent, Passion Sunday, Tenebris Evening, Easter octave, Ascension, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, Trinity Sunday, Chair of Peter, Nativity of John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, Visitation, Lawrence, Exaltation of the Cross, All Saints, Martin, Andrew, apostles, martyrs, confessor, virgins, Dedication of a church, and 10,000 martyrs; [ends mid f. 146; a later hand added a noted hymn below the text on f. 146, and on f. 146v].


This manuscript survives with some of the most extensive signs of long and vigorous that we have encountered ­– all contributing to its potential interest for study.  The leaves are now darkened, in part from dirt and use (some folios are amazingly pliable and soft to the touch), but since most are quite dark from top to bottom there was probably some other cause, perhaps some defect in their original manufacture (ff. 72v-73 seem to have been particularly poorly prepared), or environmental damage.  Numerous original holes in the parchment; for example: ff. 9-10, small oblong holes; f. 15, a hole with sewing marks, circled in red; f.18, long slit with sewing holes; f. 32, a hole in the lower inner margin that is still sewn, circled in red.  Some sheets are offcuts (i.e. from the edge of the animal skin, and thus irregular in shape), as f. 13.

In addition, throughout there are frequent tears and other damage to the edges of the leaves, some have been repaired: f. 14, bottom outer corner torn; f. 15, small shape cut out of the lower margin; ff. 38-39, 48-49, 135, 138, 139, damage with remains of white adhesive from earlier repairs; f. 89 outer margin repaired with light colored parchment and glue; top margin f. 72, a patch (from a printed book or document?); outer margin f. 84, ripped away, with traces of a repair; f. 98, top margin, parchment repair; lower corners of ff. 101-106, torn (eaten?) away, some with traces of repairs; lower corner f. 110 severely damaged with a loss of a little text; lower margin f. 129, large portion cut away; f. 130, outer lower corner torn or bitten.  Occasionally the ink has been rubbed away, usually the text remains legible (see ff. 37v, 66v, 67, 67v, 68v, 72v-73, 79v), but on ff. 69v-70, 84, 86rv, 99, 100, 135, 137v, 141, 141v, 143v, 144v, parts have been almost entirely rubbed away (on f. 135v, and elsewhere in the Hymnal a later hand rewrote parts of the damaged text).  The script on the recto can be seen as shadows (reversed) on the verso of ff. 131 and 132.

Users of the manuscript also left behind other evidence, including drops of wax on ff. 18v-19, and f. 35, and stains on ff. 24v-25, 98. On f. 20 there are two vertical slits in the upper outer margin – and part of the outer edge cut away, for a fore-edge tab; another slit for a tab on f. 62.


f. 6, 8-line parted red and blue initial infilled with purple and red penwork with touches of green, with an elaborate “waterfall” initial of half fleur-de-lis, alternately red and blue extending the full-length of the page (slightly trimmed at the top, and a bit rubbed).

Seven 6-line parted red and blue initials infilled with purple pen decoration with touches of green wash, with purple and red penwork extending from the initial, marking the major divisions of the psalms:  f. 23v; f. 32; f. 41 (rubbed); f. 50; f. 62 (slightly soiled); f. 72v (very rubbed); and f. 84v (very rubbed).

The psalms were central to religious practice during the Middle Ages.  Psalters copied throughout the period for private devotion, for both lay people and clerics, include some of the most celebrated illuminated manuscripts known today. The Psalter described here was not for private devotional use, but is rather an example of a large volume copied for use in the choir during the Divine Office, complete with musical notation.  Liturgists call books such as this one Ferial Psalters or Choir Psalters. 

The chanting of the psalms lay at the heart of the Divine Office, the prayers said throughout the day and night by members of the secular clergy and religious orders at the offices of Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline.  Each week the entire Psalter was recited during these services.  Ferial Psalters (also called Liturgical Psalters or Choir Psalters), include the psalms together with the other texts chanted daily during the office, including antiphons and hymns, thus providing a complete repertoire of the ordinary texts for the Office. (They do not include the “proper” texts for the Office, that is the texts that change according to the varying cycle of the liturgical year, the feasts of the saints and other liturgical occasions, that would be found in Antiphonals and Breviaries).

In some Ferial Psalters, like the Psalter described here, the psalms were copied in the order in which they were recited in the Office, rather than in their biblical order, suggesting that they were used in the Choir for performance.  As is common, the text here includes two main sections, the Psalter and a Hymnal that includes hymns for important feasts.  In this manuscript, the inclusion of musical notation for many of the texts (although not the psalms, which were chanted according to a very simple tone), including the beginning of the Hymns (also a text often found without notation), is of special interest.  The notation is the German style of notation known as “hufnagel” (from the shape of the notes that resembles a nail from a horse shoe).


Haller, Bertram. “Liturgische Handschriften und Drucke des Bistums Münster im Spiegel der Buchgeschichte,” in Benedikt Kranemann and Klemens Richter, eds. Zwischen römischer Einheitsliturgie und diözesaner Eigenverantwortung: Gottesdienst im Bistum Münster, Münsteraner Theologische Abhandlungen 48, Altenberge, 1997. 

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

Leroquais, V. Les psautiers manuscrits latins des bibliothèques publiques de France, Paris-Mâcon, 1940-1941.

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

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

Van Deusen, Nancy, ed. The Place of the Psalms in the Intellectual Culture of the Middle Ages, Albany, 1999.

Van Dijk, S. J. P. “The Bible in Liturgical Use,” The Cambridge History of the Bible. Volume 2, The West from the Fathers to the Reformation, Cambridge, 1969, pp. 244-248.

Online Resources

H. Grotefend, Zeitrechnung des Deutschen Mittelalters und der Neuzeit, HTML-Version by

Dr. H. Ruth; diocese of Münster calendar

St. Dionysius (Mündelheim)

Susan Boynton and Consuelo Dutschke, “Celebrating the Liturgy’s Books”

Jean-Baptiste Lebigue. “Livres de l’office Le Psautier et l’ordinaire de l’office,” in Initiation aux manuscrits liturgiques, Paris-Orléans, IRHT, 2007 (Ædilis, Publications pédagogiques, 6)

TM 945