TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Processional (Dominican)

In Latin and French, manuscript on parchment
France, c. 1500-1550 (?)

TM 281

Parchment, i (paper) + 155 folios + i (paper), modern foliation in pencil, 1-153, with an unnumbered leaf at the beginning, and an unnumbered leaf after f. 63, a few leaves with much earlier foliation, very bottom, outside corner (collation i8[-1; 2, unnumbered] ii8 iii6 iv-vii8 viii8 [-8, following f. 59, cancelled] ix8 [f. 63 followed by an unnumbered leaf] x-xix8 xx8 [-8, cancelled]), vertical catchword, f. 44v (quire six), leaf and quire signatures, many trimmed, with a letter designating the quire, and an Arabic numeral, the leaf, written below the top line in an elegant calligraphic bâtarde script in fifteen long lines, or in a liturgical gothic book hand in five lines of text and five lines of music (four-line black ink staves, square notation), ruled in red ink with the top and bottom lines full across, and single full-length vertical bounding lines, prickings, outer margin, for every other line of text, and top and bottom margins, some folios with an additional pricking, very bottom, outer corner (justification 94-90 x 60-57 mm.), red rubrics, one-line initials, alternately red and blue; larger initials, two-line or equivalent to one-line of text and music, alternately red and blue, some with decorative flourishes (for example f. 85v); beautiful strapwork initials in brown ink, equivalent to one-line of text and music, with acanthus decoration in light brown ink (for example, f. 89v, infilled with a face in profile, ff. 104v and 126v), excellent condition. Bound in 16th-century (original?) dark brown leather over wooden boards, tooled with a gilt center fleuron ornament, and an outer border of delicate flowers and flies,, two brass fasteners, back cover, catches now missing, fastened back to front, rebacked, spine with four raised bands, lettered in gilt “Processional on Vellum/ MSS/ [France] 1535,” gilt edges. Dimensions 138 x 95 mm.

This small portable Processional was copied for Dominican Nuns in a French-speaking area, for the rubrics are in French. Likely in its original binding, the manuscript is a lovely example of the art of the late medieval book by a very accomplished scribe, whose skill is demonstrated by the two different scripts used for the text, as well as by the handsome musical notation, and elegant calligraphic initials. Liturgical specificities may one day lead to the identification of the convent.


1. Script and decoration suggest that the manuscript was copied in the first half of the sixteenth century; there is now no evidence within the manuscript to support the date on the spine, 1536, but it is possible that the evidence was destroyed when the manuscript was rebacked. The manuscript, which includes liturgical directions in French with references to the “les religieuses,” was doubtless copied for a convent of Dominican Nuns, but it has not been possible to identify the actual foundation.

2. Early notes, s. XVII (?), unnumbered first leaf, serving as a flyleaf: “A Lusage de Soeur maria de bouron,” followed by informal notes, also in French, on the contents of the manuscript.

3. Belonged to Athelstan Riley (1858-1945), an Anglican layman active in Church affairs and author of a number of works including Athos, or the Mountain of the Monks (1887); in pen, inside front cover, “ex libris Athelstani Riley anno domini 1886” and his printed book plate, “Athelstan Riley, Seigneur de la Trinité,” tipped in.

4. No. 102 in an unidentified sales catalogue; clipping glued inside front cover.

5. Sale, London, Sotheby’s, December 13, 1965, lot 203, and possibly July 26, 1926, lot 173 (cf. Lawrence J. Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts, id. number 12501, described only as Processional, 153 folios, 1450?).

6. Unidentified dealers’ or owners’ notes, inside back cover, in pencil, “46476,” and “P/229 A.T.”; and price code, inside front cover.


ff. 1-59, Funeral service in the Church, and at the grave; [Ends mid. f. 59; remainder and f. 59v blank];

ff. 60-138, Noted Processions for Palm Sunday (“In die palmarum ad processionem ant. Pueri hebreorum tollentes …”); f. 72, Maundy Thursday (“In cena domini in ablutione altaris, R. In monte oliueti …., f. 73v, De sancta trinitate …, f. 74v, De sancto Dominico, …, f. 78v, De sancta Margareta …, f. 81v, De sancta virgine …, f. 83, De Sancta cruce..., f. 85v, De sacramento …, f. 87, De omnibus sanctis …, f. 88, In cena domini ad mandatum. R. Dominus Ihesus …”); f. 102, Good Friday (“In parasceve. Sacerdotes. Popule meus …”); f. 107, Easter (“R. Christus resurgens …”); f. 110v, Ascension (“In die Ascentionis [sic] domini. Ad processionem. R. Viri galyle …”); f. 116, Corpus Christi (“In die sacramenti ad processionem. R. Cenantibus illis …”); f. 119, “In festo sancti dominici. Ad processionem. Panis oblatus …”; f. 126, Assumption (“Felix namque …”); f. 130v, Purification (“In purificatione beate marie. Ant. Lumen ad reuelationem …”);

ff. 138-152, Seven Penitential Psalms, not noted;

ff. 152-153, and verso of unnumbered leaf before f. 1, noted text in later hand [f. 153v blank].

Processionals include the texts and chants necessary for liturgical processions. Like this manuscript, most are small, portable books. Michel Huglo records that almost 140 Dominican Processionals survive (see “Processional,” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie [London, 1980], vol. 15, 280). This manuscript, which contains only a small selection of the texts sometimes found in Dominican Processionals, nonetheless is clearly Dominican in origin: Saint Dominic is mentioned several times, and his feast is included, and the choice of antiphons and responsories agrees with those in Dominican manuscripts. Especially notable are the texts included here for the Washing of the Altars on Maundy Thursday, also characteristic of Dominican Processionals. Some manuscripts lack specific texts for this rite but here the complete texts are given for altars dedicated to The Holy Trinity, St. Dominic, St. Margaret, the Virgin Mary, the Holy Cross, the Sacraments, and All Saints. Also included are some of the most important, standard feasts of the liturgical year, including Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, the Ascension, the Assumption, and the Purification. The text and music for the Funeral Service in the Church and at the grave were not infrequently included in Processionals.

The manuscript was clearly written for Nuns. Feminine forms are included throughout, sometimes added after the masculine form, sometimes superscript, and in other cases, listed first, followed by the masculine forms; liturgical directions in French always refer to Nuns (“les religieuses”). The manuscript is a lovely example of the art of the late medieval book by a very accomplished scribe, whose skill is demonstrated by the two different scripts used for the text, as well as by the handsome musical notation, and elegant calligraphic initials.


Gy, P. M. “Collectaire, ritual, processional,” Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques 44 (1960) 441-69.

Haines, John. “A Newly Discovered Medieval Dominican Processional from Hungary,” Studia musicologica academiae scientiarum Hungaricae 41 (2000) 125-131.

Huglo, Michel. “Processional,” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie, London, 1980, vol. 15, 278-281.

Huglo, Michel. Les manuscrits du processionnal. Répertoire international des sources musicales B.XIV.1, Munich, 1999-2004.

Online resources

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

General introduction to liturgical processions:
(New Catholic Encyclopedia, “Processions”)