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les Enluminures

Noted Office of the Dead (Dominican Use), Penitential Psalms and Litany

In Latin and German, decorated manuscript on parchment with musical notation
Germany (Southern?), c. 1456 (with later additions)

TM 630

i (paper) + i (parchment) + 82 + i (paper) + iv (modern paper, added into binding) on parchment, modern foliation in pencil top outer corner recto (collation i-ix8 x8 [+quarter-sheet, f. 80, added after 7; f. 82, single leaf added after 8]), no catchwords or signatures (justification, 108-106 x 73-70 mm.), ruled in ink with single full-length vertical bounding lines (horizontal rules lightly traced and almost indiscernible), on folios with musical staves, first horizontal rule is red and full across, prickings remain in outer margin, ff. 56-64v, written in fifteen long lines in a formal gothic bookhand, square musical notation on four-line red staves with up to five staves and five lines of text per page, red rubrics, one-line alternately red and blue initials, numerous decorative cadel initials accompany lines of text and music, three- to one-line alternately red or blue initials, ff. 1, 8 and 61v, three four- to three-line initials with decorative void spaces within the initial and with violet or blue pen decoration, f. 22, original sewing repair (stitches now missing), f. 29v, hole, ff. 13v-14v, 62v-63, 69v-70, 71v-72, rubbed, ink abraded but legible (some phrases rewritten in later hands), f. 25v, bottom outer corner soiled, overall in very good condition. Bound in wooden boards covered with dark brown leather in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, blind tooled with a border of triple fillets and an extra set of vertical fillets, once fastened back to front, remains of two straps visible lower board and corresponding metal catches, upper board (short stubs only remain), spine with four raised bands (sewing visible at the bottom of spine), and decorative green and white head and tail bands, edges dyed red (cf. the binding of TM 387 sold at this site, now Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania, MS Codex 1561) leather covering of bottom half of spine missing (fragments preserved separately), wear along the joints, covers scuffed. Dimensions 133 x 115 mm.

This liturgical manuscript was certainly used for centuries by Dominican Nuns. Manuscripts used by Nuns survive less often than those from religious foundations for men and are therefore of special interest. This manuscript includes annotations in German, supplementing the Latin text and painstakingly detailing elementary changes in case and gender, and musical notation throughout the Office of the Dead (graced by attractive cadel initials).


1. Copied in Germany, probably around 1456 (in 1456 the Dominican Saint, Vincent Ferrer was added to the Dominican litany; this manuscript was originally copied without Vincent, but his name was added in a contemporary hand, possibly that of the original corrector of the manuscript); similarly, in the prayers following the litany on a small quarter-sheet, f. 80v, a prayer mentioning Vincent was inserted, again by a contemporary. The litany does not include Catharine of Siena, added to the Dominican litany in 1462, suggesting that the manuscript was copied before that date.

There is no doubt the manuscript was meant for Dominican Use (Use of the Office of the Dead, saints in the litany, and prayers for Dominican saints at the conclusion of the litany). The saints added to the litany (again in a contemporary hand, possibly the corrector), suggest that it was copied for use in Southern Germany; they include Henry Emperor and his wife Cunigundis (especially venerated in Bamberg), Sebald (Nuremburg), Maurice (included in the original hand; Magdeburg), and Elizabeth of Hungary or of Thuringia (Marburg).

The manuscript may have been intended for the use of a Domincan Nuns, although the prayers follow masculine forms in the original hand (note the rubrics and explanations in German, ff. 44, 58v, 59, and the addition of feminine forms); certainly it was used by Nuns early in its history (the added prayer on front flyleaf, f. i verso, uses feminine forms), and continued in use by Nuns for centuries (the seventeenth-century additions mention the prioress). Although the evidence is not strong enough to assign definitively the manuscript to one particular Dominican convent, there were a number of Domincan Convents in the diocese of Bamberg, including Heilig Grab in Bamberg itself, founded in 1365 (see “The Monastic Matrix,” Online Resources; Krämer,1989, volume 1, pp. 67-8), St. Catherine’s in Nuremberg, which, especially after its reform in 1428, was known for its active scriptorium and library (Krämer, 1989,2:622, and Ruf, 1932, pp. 578-670, and “The Monastic Matrix,” Online Resources), and Frauenaurach at Erlangen, founded in 1268 and suppressed in 1548 (see “The Monastic Matrix,” Online Resources).

The relationship between this manuscript and TM 387 sold at this site, now University of Pennsylvania, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, MS Codex 1561 (Breviary for Dominican Nuns, southern Germany, c. 1455-1475), deserves careful study, since both bound manuscripts are now preserved in identical bindings.

Evidence of use includes tabs (small rectangles of pink leather): f. 8, Office of the Dead (matins), f. 19 (second nocturne), f. 31 (third nocturne) f. 46, lauds, and f. 60v, Penitential Psalms.

2. Additions to the text suggest it was in active liturgical use into the seventeenth century by Dominican Nuns (see the added prayer on f. 80 that mentions Catherine of Siena, canonized in 1461 and Antoninus, canonized in 1523, and the seventeenth-century texts, inside front cover, front flyleaf, and back flyleaf, discussed above), and certainly still consulted in modern times (notes, nineteenth-century[?] in German on the last four inserted paper leaves).

3. Inside back cover in reddish-brown pencil (?), “Alberta von Herzen Jesu,” and below, date, 5 July 1822.

4. Modern annotation in pencil, “Kk.Cc.36.”


Inside front cover and ff. i rv (paper flyleaf), liturgical texts in German and Latin, with musical notation, added in the seventeenth century; text begins noted texts from the Office of the Dead, incipit, “Aporta ; Domine exaudi orationem meam ...”; note the mentions of “die priorin” (the Prioress) in the following lines.

f. irv (parchment flyleaf), incipit, “Magnificat anima mea domini …”; fur lebend vnd fur tote[n]. Oracio, incipit, “Ominipotens sempiterne deus qui uiuorum dominiaris …” Die in; incipit, [in another hand], “Quesumus domine animam famule ab omni uinculo …, Absolve quesumus animas famularum tuarum ab omni vincula …”;

Added, but closely contemporary with the remainder of the manuscript; note the use of feminine forms in the second set of prayers.

ff. 1-60, Noted Office of the Dead, Dominican Use (see Ottosen, 1993, pp. 108-110 and 239-242), with matins beginning on f. 8 and lauds on f. 46, followed by prayers: f. 58, Pro episcopo defuncto, incipit, “Deus qui inter apostolicos sacerdotes …; Pro viro defuncto …; Pro femina defuncta …; In anniversario ..; Pro fratribus et sorores …; Pro parentibus ..; and ending, f. 60 Pro cunctis fidelibus defunctis oratio, incipit, “Fidelium deus omnium conditor et redemptor …”; followed by added prayers, in a formal script: Dis ist fur alle ellend selen, oratio, incipit, “Largire piissime deus animabus que neminem …” Fil man vnd fil frawen oratio, incipit, “Absolve quesumus domine animas famulorum famularumque …”; followed by another prayer, very bottom margin (partially trimmed), incipit, “Deus in cuius miseracione anime fidelium …”;

ff. 60v-82, Penitential Psalms and Litany, concluding with prayers, f. 81, incipit, “Protege domine famulos tuos subsidiis pacis ...”; Alia oratio, incipit, “Concede quesumus ominpotens deus …. beati dominici confessoris …”; Alia oratio, incipit, “Preces quas tibi offerimus domine intercedente petro matire tuo …”, f. 81, Oratio, incipit, “Deus qui ecclesiam tuam mira beati thome confessoris …”; [small quarter sheet f. 80], added later, incipit, “Concede quesumus omnipotens deus .. sanctorum tuae petri thome vincencii anthoninus Katherine …”; f. 80v, contemporary addition (hand of scribe or very similar), incipit, “Deus qui gentium .. mira beati vincencii confessoris …”, f. 81, Oratio, incipit, “In effabilem misericordiam tuam ..”; Oratio, incipit, “Pretende domine famulis et famulabus …”; f. 81v, Oratio, incipit, “Ecclesie tue domine preces placates admitte …”; ff. 81v-82, Oratio, incipit, “Deus a quo sancta desideria recta consilia et iusta sunt opera …;

The litany is clearly Dominican (Rogers, 1995, especially appendix II, pp. 228-9, is a useful study of Dominican litanies), and includes Vincent, Denis, Maurice and Peter Martyr, O.P. among the martyrs, Dominic (twice) and Thomas Aquinas among the confessors, and Catherine (of Alexandria) and Margaret among the virgins; Anthony and Bernard appear to be written over erasures; an early hand (closely contemporary, possibly an original corrector) added Vincent Ferrer, OP, Henry, Louis, Sebald, Anne, Barbara, Ursula, Cunigundis, and Elizabeth.

Concludes with the same nine prayers (not including the later addition on f. 80) as those found in Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Lat. 173 (Germany, c. 1450-1500, lacking the prayer here found on f. 80v), and California, Claremont College, MSS Crispin 8 and 9, Dominican Psalters from Germany, c. 1450-1500. In the manuscript described here the third and fourth prayers have been crossed out, with the intention of replacing them with the inserted prayer on f. 80v.

f. 82, early addition, bottom margin, incipit, “Concede quesumus ominipotens deus …, and f. 82v, incipit, “Benedictus dominus deus Israel quia visitatvit ….”

Back flyleaf, f. i, liturgical notations in German and Latin in the same had as the front flyleaves, including the prayer, incipit “Fidelium Deus omnium conditor et redemtor [sic] animabus famulorum famularumque tuarum fratrum ac sororem ordinis nostri … Requiesant in pacem”;

Back flyleaves, i-iv, modern paper, added in, modern (nineteenth-century?) notes in German (apparently scholarly rather than active liturgical additions) commenting on various prayers found in the manuscript.

The Office of the Dead, Penitential Psalms and the Litany were fundamental to the devotional life of late medieval Christians, both clerical and lay. In monasteries and Franciscan and Dominican foundations, these Offices were said as adjuncts to the clerical hours of the Divine Office and as such they are often included in Breviaries, but they were also found in personal volumes such as this one. They were essential texts for lay devotion as well, and are included in Books of Hours. Some of the most beautiful prayers from the medieval liturgy are found among these texts. The final prayer, (“Deus a quo sancta desideria recta consilia et iusta sunt opera ….”) is a particularly moving prayer for peace (“O God, from whom are all holy desires, rightful counsels, and just works: give unto thy servants that peace, which the world cannot give: that our hearts disposed to keep thy commandments, and the fear of enemies taken away, the times through thy protection may be peaceable”; Hypertext Book of Hours, Online Resources).

The Office of the Dead includes Psalms, readings and prayers; it was part of monastic devotion as early as the ninth century. These were the prayers said on the evening before, and the day of, a funeral, as well prayers said in remembrance of the dead, and, perhaps, as a reminder of one's own mortality. The Penitential Psalms (Psalms 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129 and 142), as their name indicates are all expressions of contrition and the search for forgiveness.

The Office of the Dead in this manuscript includes a complete repertory of the needed musical settings with approximately sixty-six folios including at least some musical notation: antiphons, psalms (the opening words), responses and versicles (in detail, see for example ff. 13v-14, 15-16, 17-17v, 18v-19v, 26v-27v, 29v-31, 39-40, 41rv, 42v-46).

Women played an important role in the Dominican Order from its very earliest years. St. Dominic himself founded the first Dominican convent for Nuns at Prouille in 1206, and the number of convents grew rapidly. In 1267 a papal order secured the place of women within the order. Throughout the medieval period the number of convents was especially notable in Germany, particularly in the southeast; in 1277 there were fifty-three convents in Germany; by 1303 the number had grown to seventy-four, compared with only forty-eight Houses for men. Modern historians interested in the religious life of women have tended to focus on vernacular sources, and on illuminated liturgical manuscripts that belonged to Nuns. Small, undecorated, or simply decorated manuscripts such as this one are a source that deserves to be studied more closely for what they can teach us about the daily life of religious women in the late Middle Ages.


Bonniwell, William R. A History of the Dominican Liturgy, New York, J. F. Wagner, 1944.

Ehrenschwendtner, Marie-Luise. “A Library Collected by and for the Use of Nuns: St. Catherine's Convent, Nuremberg,” in Women and the Book: Assessing the Visual Evidence, eds. Lesley Janette Smith and Jane H. M. Taylor, London, British Library, 2007, pp. 123-132.

Eisermann, Falk, Eva Schlotheuber and Volker Honemann, eds. Studien und Texte zur literarischen und Materiellen Kultur der Frauenklöster im späten Mittelalter, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2004.

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

King, Archdale. Liturgies of the Religious Orders, Milwaukee, Bruce, 1955.

Krämer, Sigrid. Handschriftenerbe des deutschen Mittelalters. Mittelalterliche Bibliothekskataloge, Deutschlands und der Schweiz, Ergänzungsband 1, Munich, 1989-1990.

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

Plummer, John. Liturgical Manuscripts for the Mass and Divine Office, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 1964.

Rogers, N. “Oxford University College MS.5: A Flemish Book of Hours for a Dominican Nun,” in Flanders in a European Perspective, ed. M.Smeyers and B.Cardon, Louvain, 1995, pp. 219-235 (Appendix II p.228-29).

Ruf, P. “Bistum Augsburg, Eichstätt, Bamberg,” in Mittelalterliche Bibliothekskatalogue Deutschlands und der Schweiz, Munich, 1932, pp. 578-670.

Online resources

Penn in Hand, Rare Book & Manuscript Library University of Pennsylvania Ms. Codex 1561, digital facsmile

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

Dominican Liturgy;
A Mirror for Dominican Material Published on the New Liturgical Movement

Mandonnet, P, “Order of Preachers,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York, Robert Appleton Company, 1911

Hypertext Book of Hours (Office of the Dead, Penitential Psalms and Litany in Latin and English; not exactly as in this manuscript)

Frauenklöster in Mittelalter und Neuzeit: Literatur, Dominikanerinnen

Monastic Matrix: A scholarly resource for the study of women’s religious communites from 400 to 1600 c.e.

Monastic Matrix: Heilig Grab

Monastic Matrix: Frauenaurach

Monastic Matrix: S. Katharinenkloster (St. Catherine’s, Nuremberg)