Family Resemblances, Part 1

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 25/52
A guest post by University of Pennsylvania Manuscripts Cataloging Librarian, Amey Hutchins

Carta executoria de hidalguia de Agustin de Yturbe, vezino de la ciudad de Sevilla, Bethlehem, PA, Lehigh University, Linderman Library, Codex 22, fols. 1v–2r (Full-page miniature, Yturbe family praying before the Virgin Mary; Full-page miniature, John the Baptist and Saint Augustine)

One of the great outcomes of the BiblioPhilly project is how easy it is to discover similar manuscripts in multiple partner libraries. As a cataloger at Penn, I was aware of seven cartas executorias in the Penn Libraries: six in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, and one at the Library at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. These are sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century manuscripts celebrating the aristocratic genealogy of Spanish families and confirming the privileges of aristocracy, issued at the end of lawsuits brought in the chancillerías (royal chancery courts) in Granada or Valladolid to prove nobility. These privileges were worth having: they included exemption from taxes and protection from a variety of criminal punishments including torture and being sent to the galleys, and protection from imprisonment for debt.1 Through the BiblioPhilly project, I have made the acquaintance of six more cartas executorias in the region: one at Lehigh University (not described as a carta executoria prior to the project), one at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and four in the John Frederick Lewis Collection of European Manuscripts at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The manuscripts often begin with two full-page illuminations, including images of their owners, sometimes with their families. Here we see Alonso Ximenez de Canizares and his wife Maria de Zuniga (1574):

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1923-17-1, fol. 1v

Juan de Londono and family (1587):

Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 59, fol. 1v

and Agustin de Yturbe and family (1593):

Bethlehem, Lehigh University, Linderman Library, Lehigh Codex 22,  fol. 1v

Some manuscripts also have historiated letters or small miniatures with portraits of the ruling monarch. The thirteen manuscripts in the BiblioPhilly region span the years from 1538 to 1606, issued in the reigns of Charles I (1516–1566):

Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 263, Carta executoria a pedimiento de Alonso Mendez de Parada, fol. 48v
Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 263 (1538), fol. 48v

Phillip II (1556-1598):

University of Pennsylvania LJS 20: Carta executoria de hidalguia a pedimiento, fol. 65r
Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection, LJS 20 (1578), fol. 65r

and Phillip III (1598-1621):

University of Pennsylvania LJS 21: Executoria de hidalguia a pedimiento, fol. 49r
Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection, LJS 21 (1606), fol. 49r

In this group of highly formulaic manuscripts, one has a significant difference, which will be the subject of the next post.

Before Breakfast?? Instructions for Weekday Prayers in a Venetian Dialect

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 22/52
Book of Hours for the Use of Rome, University of Pennsylvania, Ms. Codex 688, fol. 13r

The Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project did not formally include manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania, which had already been digitized and made available on the OPenn repository several years ago. However, these manuscripts will soon be integrated within the BiblioPhilly browsing interface in an effort to produce a comprehensive digital resource for pre-modern manuscripts in the region. Preparations for the upcoming “Making the Renaissance Manuscript: Discoveries from Philadelphia Libraries” exhibition I am curating at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts (February–May 2020) have provided an additional reason for looking more closely at some of Penn’s European manuscripts, which still have plenty of secrets to reveal. As many of us know, mere digitization does not equal discovery!

The compact Book of Hours that is our subject today, UPenn Ms. Codex 688, has perhaps evaded attention because it contains no secondary decoration, apart from a large initial D and some vinework on folio 13r which may well be later in date. The textual content of Italian Books of Hours – as distinct from their decoration – has received relatively little scholarly attention, though the situation is changing.1

Ms. Codex 688 is written in a fine humanist hand. It is a late example of a format and genre popular in Central and Northern Italy earlier in the fifteenth century. The text of the Calendar and the principal offices is in Latin, as is the case in the overwhelming majority of Books of Hours from all regions of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe. The Calendar contains saints venerated in Northern Italy generally, including Ambrose of Milan (7 December), Secundus of Asti (1 June), and Prosdocimus of Padua (7 November). However, a more precise indication of origin is hinted at by the presence of the unusual Dedication of Saint Mark’s Basilica (8 October), which firmly locates the book in Venice. Reflecting the increasing prevalence of vernacular prayer in the fifteenth century, towards the end of the book, after the Hours of the Holy Spirit (fols. 86r–128v), there are also weekday prayers in Italian. This particularity had been noted without further elaboration in the the existing catalog record for the manuscript, and is not altogether surprising.

But what do these prayers actually consist of? They are in fact a set of devotions intended to be performed in front of a crucifix. This is a rather precise and unusual series of prayers for a Book of Hours, perhaps related to the fact that the book contains no illuminations.2 The prayers are also a reminder of how Books of Hours were often intended to be employed in concert with works in other media, in this case a sculpture. There is one prayer for each day of the week plus another for Palm Sunday, and each is prefaced by detailed instructions about the specific gestures to be made by the devotee while reciting the text.

Reading these instructions, we notice some distinct spellings and words that are not of the mainstream, Tuscan variant of Italian. For example, we read “Zuoba” and “Domenega” for Thursday and Sunday respectively instead of the habitual “giovedì” and “domenica”; “zonte le mane” instead of “giunte le mani” for joined hands; “quindexe” instead of “quindici” for the number fifteen, and so on. These unusual orthographies point to a Venetian dialect (here truly a regionally inflected variant of Italian as opposed to the more distinct Venetian language) as recorded in dictionaries such as Giuseppe Boerio’s Dizionario del Dialetto Veneziano.3 A few words seem closer to variants attested in the Milanese vernacular, in particular “morzada” for “extinguished,” which is an unusual spelling close to the “smorzada” recorded in Milan.4 On balance, though, it seems likely that the Book of Hours was produced for use in Venice, especially considering the presence of the Dedication of Saint Mark’s in the calendar, much rarer and more geographically specific than Saint Ambrose or even Saint Prosdocimus of Padua.

Equally fascinating is the attitude that the supplicant should take when pronouncing each prayer. On Palm Sunday, the prayers are to be said while looking up with joined hands:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 129r

On Mondays, with hands crossed over the knees in memory of the flagellation:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 129v

On Tuesdays, at the foot of the cross in the manner of Mary Magdalene:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 130r

On Wednesdays, prostrate and face to the ground:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 130v

On Thursdays, kneeling:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 131r

On Fridays, the devotee is to recite the Pater Noster (Our Father) and Ave Maria (Hail Mary) five times, kissing each of Christ’s wounds once, in memory of the Crucifixion:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 130r

On Saturday, prayers must be said while holding an extinguished candle (“candela morzada”) in memory of Christ’s death:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 130r

On Sunday (“domenega”), the candle is to be lit as a symbol of his resurrection:
Ms. Codex 688, fol. 130r

For each day of the week, the prayers are to be said before breakfast (“avanti che tu manzi ne bevi”).  This unusual guide to prayer shows the extent to which such compact prayer books were intended to be used in concert with devotional images, especially when not otherwise illustrated. They also allow us to nuance and enrich the corpus of Italian Books of Hours, which is often considered as a monolithic block.