That’s a Bullarium

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 33/52

Bullarium Augustinianum (Collection of Augustinian Bulls); University of Pennsylvania, Ms. Codex 85, fol. 1r, with border here attributed to the workshop of Giovanni Pietro da Cemmo (doc. 1474–1507)

The manuscript we are looking at today—another University of Pennsylvania manuscript—is a collection of papal decrees and bulls pertaining to the Augustinians, a mendicant order that expanded  alongside the Franciscans and Dominicans from the thirteenth century onward. The compilation begins with a series of older texts combined into a sprawling bull outlining privileges for friars of the order, the Dum fructus uberes. This work was composed at the instigation of Pope Sixtus IV in 1475, giving a fairly straightforward terminus post quem for the date of our manuscript. However, the compendium appears to be an updated version, as it includes decrees by the more recent popes, Alexander VI and Julius II, which suggest a date of around 1505–6. Interestingly, the text of the Dum fructus uberes preserved on folios 1r–31v is identical to that in another manuscript at the University of Pennsylvania, Ms. Codex 736 (fols. 1r–28v). The latter, dated to 1475 and undecorated, was destined for the Augustinian Friars of Rouen.

University of Pennsylvania, Ms. Codex 736, fol. 2v, showing the beginning of the “Sixtus…” Bull identical to that in Ms. Codex 85

Anna-Marie Eze has shown that this earlier manuscript was the model for a more elaborate manuscript now in Boston (Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Richardson 28).1 She has also identified two further manuscripts that, like ours, contain the same compilation of papal decrees (Leiria, Biblioteca do Seminário Maior, Bulário dos Eremitas de Santo Agostinho; Bergamo, Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai, MS Cassaf. 1.10).

The manuscript’s text is copied in two parts (fols. 1r–69v, 71r–125v) and was apparently commissioned by the Augustinian theologian and abbot Antonio Meli, for the use of a certain Joannis Angeli, likewise a friar at Crema, Lombardy (inscription on fol. 1r). We can learn some of the details of Meli’s life from the Dizionario biografico cremasco:2 he was the recipient of a doctorate from the Sorbonne, and enjoyed an illustrious career within his order, rising to the position of Vicar General in 1516. He authored a popular mystical tract, the Scala del Paradisio, as well as other devotional treatises, and became confessor to Lucrezia Borgia (1480–1519). He died in Crema in 1528.

1550_0008_weba   1550_0008_weba
Ms. Codex 85, fol. 1r, details of border scroll and placard

The book is unusually richly illuminated for this type of compendium. Folio 1r includes a dense frame of gold foliage and blue grapes set upon a pinkish-red background, in an up-to-date style for the early sixteenth century. In the right margin is a scroll that reads “Laus Deo” and a blue placard inscribed with “Fides” in gold lettering. Above is a sleek bluish-green bird, while below, in a perspectival green medallion with a blue parapet, is a bust-length portrait of a reading bishop, undoubtedly Saint Augustine.

Ms. Codex 85, fol. 1r, details of illusionistic roundel with Saint Augustine

Within the book, each new section of text begins with either a spray of multicolored vine (up to fol. 59v) or a faceted initial (from fol. 63v). The book’s second section is also introduced by a decorated border (fol. 71r), with garlands composed of berries, fruit, books, and a skull hanging illusionistically from the parchment. While the decoration is relatively crude, it nonetheless participates in the wider all’antica visual culture of the time.

Ms. Codex 85, fol. 4v, vine decoration; fol. 71r, border with hanging garlands

On the basis of strong stylistic and circumstantial evidence, the manuscript’s borders can be attributed to the workshop of Giovanni Pietro da Cemmo (doc. 1474–1507). This artist, active in the region around Crema, was more broadly known as a fresco painter, with his work as an illuminator being rediscovered only relatively recently.3 He enjoyed very close links to the city’s Augustinian convent (today the Museo Civico) in the early years of the sixteenth century, painting a refectory fresco cycle there in 1507. He also illuminated a set of seven choir books for the foundation, the writing of which had been completed by the scribe Apollonio di Calvisano in 1498 (Crema, Museo Civico, codici XVI–XXII). The refectory cycle displays bust-length figures within illusionistically angled medallions, including in a portrait of Saint Augustine, and similar motifs are found elsewhere in his monumental work.4 The third volume of the choir book set (XVIII) begins with a grand frontispiece, which, while in a more elaborate style, contains a medallion portrait of Augustine in its lower margin (fol. 1r). Giovanni Pietro’s last documented work was the illumination of an Ordo manualis, likewise for the Augustinian convent (Bergamo, Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai, MS Cassaf. 2.3). Both this and the Sant’Agostino choir books contain distinctive hanging garland border motifs, closely reminiscent of those on folio 71r of the Bullarium.

Crema2   Crema3
Cremona, Museo Civico, cod. XIX, fol. 87v, with initial and border decorations by Giovanni Pietro da Cemmo; Bergamo, Biblioteca Civica, Cassaf. 2.3, fol. 83v, with border decorations by Giovanni Pietro da Cemmo (images from Marubbi 1992)

Cremona, Museo Civico, cod. XVIII, fol. 1r, detail of lower border decoration by Giovanni Pietro da Cemmo (image from Marubbi 1992)



Question of the Week: “What will you do when he comes at you with the sickle?”

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 31/52

Denis Faucher, manuscript additions to Hendrik Herp, Speculum perfectionis (Mirror of Perfection), Venice: Sabio, 1524; University of Pennsylvania, Ms. Codex 1620, fols. 1v, miniature of a Nun on a Cross, and 3r, miniature of the Mememto mori, both by Denis Faucher, after 1524

As we approach the end of October, we interrupt our regularly scheduled blog posts to bring you a seasonally appropriate reminder of the grisly fate that awaits us all. This week, we delve into an item from the University of Pennsylvania’s holdings (not formally within the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project but closely associated with it, and now accessible through the main BiblioPhilly interface), a sammelband or hybrid volume that consists of a printed book sandwiched between two manuscript gatherings. Despite the extraordinarily morbid imagery present in these hand-written and illuminated sections, the book in question has been little studied to-date, despite the fact that we can name its author (who was also its scribe and artist) with great precision.

The printed core of the book is an edition of the fifteenth-century Franciscan mystic Hendrik Herp’s Mirror of Perfection issued in Venice in 1524. The two eight-folio manuscript quires that bookend it contain texts authored by Denis Faucher (1487–1562), a mystical poet and Benedictine monk with close links to the South of France. Faucher’s authorship was deduced by Norman P. Zacour and Rudolf Hirsch in their catalogue of the manuscripts of the University of Pennsylvania, published in 1965.1 They were able to locate the hymn to Saint Catherine, which begins “Festa lux mundo rutilans coruscat…” in the standard index of hymns, Ulysse Chevalier’s Repertorium hymnologicum.2 At numerous points in the manuscript portions, the rubrics tell us that the poems were written by a certain “Dionysius,” all but confirming Faucher’s identity.

Surviving information on Faucher’s biography is quite rich, and corroborates the notion that he actually transcribed and decorated his own devotional manuals.3 He was born in Arles and began his religious vocation in 1508 at the Benedictine monastery in Polinore, near Mantua, but was based for the majority of his career at the Abbey of Lérins off the coast of Provence, where he was elected prior in 1548. This storied island monastery was the subject of early monographs by Vincenzio Barrali (1613) and Mariano Armellini (1731), which discuss Faucher at length, and mention his activities as a spiritual advisor and provider of edifying religious texts to various mentors.4 Most fascinatingly, these sources also mention Faucher’s work as a scribe and johnny-come-lately illuminator.
The Abbey of Lérins, France (photo: Alberto Fernandez Fernandez, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0)

The poems by Faucher present in the sammelband are mostly addressed to a scholasticate, a nun in the training period following the novitiate, and concern the attainment of spiritual perfection in the world. While hybrid books of print and manuscript could be useful for obtaining a customized set of literary texts, or for pairing mass-produced images with favorite prayers, they could also allow for spiritual advisors to add tailored content suited to pupils, in a manner reminiscent of the earliest thirteenth-century Books of Hours. Faucher’s interest in embellishing pre-existing books is confirmed by an intriguing manuscript, signed by him, that surfaced on the market in 2018. Formerly in the collection of Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow (see Riverrun Books & Manuscripts, Hastings-on-Hudson, catalogue 2, 2018, item 1), and now in a European private collection, it consists of an apparently unfinished fifteenth-century Book of Hours that has had its miniatures and border decorations entirely painted by Faucher in a colorful style that can be described as a mid-sixteenth-century re-imagining of a century-old illuminated book. Faucher’s intervention is attested by an autograph inscription, dated 9 April 1554, in which he offers the book to his brother Jean on condition that it remain in the family in perpetuity (“Semper apud Faucherios maneant.”). Remarkably, this Book of Hours is mentioned in Barrali’s early-seventeenth-century biography of Faucher. Barrali even transcribed a portion of the inscription, and stated that the book was not only illuminated, but also written, by Faucher (“Haec sunt horaria preces manu propria ipsius Dionisii scriptae & miris figuris penicillo subtiliter adornatae….”).5

As seen at the top of the post, Faucher’s poems in the Penn sammelband are accompanied by two striking images. The style is extremely close to the miniatures in the aforementioned Book of Hours, confirming that Faucher’s hand was responsible not just for the images but also for the texts as well. The first image shows a nun in a black habit being crucified, with a snake biting a heart, representing sin, entwined around her left arm (fol. 1v). The lit oil lamp the nun holds in her right hand represents faith and refers to the parable of the Wise Virgins (who tended their lamps). This remarkable iconography merits further study, as apart from its brief mention (and illustration–thanks to digitization) in a recent article on the figure of the crucified abbess in the New World, it is totally absent from art-historical literature.6

Ms. Codex 1620, fol. 1v, detail of miniature of a Nun on a Cross by Denis Faucher, after 1524

Arrayed around the nun are illusionistic scrolls with quotations from scripture: Matthew 25:41: “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire;” Matthew 5:16: “So let your light shine before men;” Psalm 118:120: “Pierce thou my flesh with thy fear;” Psalm 118:37: “Turn away my eyes that they may not behold vanity;” Psalm 140:3: “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth: and a door round about my lips;” 1 Corinthians 15:56: “Now the sting of death is sin;” Luke 12:35: “Let your loins be girt;” Psalm 118:116: “Uphold me according to thy word, and I shall live: and let me not be confounded in my expectation”; Jeremiah 2:2: “I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals;” Psalm 118:101: “I have restrained my feet from every evil way: that I may keep thy words/order;” and Galatians 2:19: “I am nailed with Christ to the Cross” (with a feminine ending in Latin).

The four-line poem below can be roughly translated as: “The heavenly bridegroom, so that he could appear beautiful / Made this likeness of a chaste girl for your eyes. / Do not be pleased by her face, or lose your shame in front of what is shown here, / only pray now for those who are dead.”

Ms. Codex 1620, fol. 1v, detail of poem

The second image (fol. 3r) consists of a somewhat more conventional memento mori, at least pictorially. A medallion hangs from a stalk of lilies, its frame decorated with bones and pansies (pensées in French). At its center, a skull in a circular mirror is intended to invoke a sense of self-consciousness in the viewer’s mind. The scroll above the image bears a further moralizing extract from the Bible: “In all thy works, remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin” (Ecclesiasticus 7:40). Similar scriptural quotations are found surrounding a painted skull in a manuscript addition to a printed Book of Hours of 1491 now in Cambridge University Library (Inc.5.D.1.19 [2530], fol. 4r).

Ms. Codex 1620, fol. 3r, detail of miniature of the Mememto mori by Denis Faucher, after 1524

The two vertical scrolls, however, bear a unique message, likely authored by Faucher himself: “If you tremble in fear looking at this image of death, what will you do when he comes at you with the sickle?” (“Si fremis inspiciens mortis turbata figuram, quid facies cum te falx truculenta trahet?”). Interestingly, the verb faucher in French means to mow, reap, or knock down, and it comes from the Latin root falx (sickle, scythe) used in the verse. One wonders whether the author was indulging in a macabre pun. The large scroll directly beneath the image contains a quatrain that, in Barrali’s early-seventeenth-century history of Lérins,7 was ascribed to Faucher and said to be dedicated to “Anna de Boufremont,” possibly Anne de Bauffremont-Sennecey Abbess of Tarascon, suggesting that this otherwise obscure figure may have been the recipient of the present hybrid book, early in her career.

The final scroll is an adaptation of Saint Bonaventure’s exhortation: “When death comes, no one accepts it willingly, except for he who prepared for it, while living, with good works” (“Mortem venientem nemo libenter accipit, nisi qui se ad ipsam, dum viveret, bonis operibus praeparavit”).

Ms. Codex 1620, fol. 3r, detail of scroll

All good things to keep in mind in the run up to All Saints’ Day. Happy Halloween!


A Leopard that Changes its Spots: A Hand-Decorated Incunable from the Library of Jean Chardalle

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 28/52

Penn Libraries call number: Inc A-1232 Folio
Saint Augustine, De civitate Dei (City of God), University of Pennsylvania, Inc A-1232 Folio, fol. 13r

This week’s BiblioPhilly manuscript “discovery” is a bit of a misnomer on all three counts, as it A) amplifies an observation previously made by another scholar, B) relates to an item held at the University of Pennsylvania–an institution not officially included in the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis grant–and C) concerns an early printed book, rather than a manuscript! Nevertheless, it is worth including in the blog since A) the discovery was enabled by an innovative online project, B) the item will be included in next year’s post-BiblioPhilly exhibition at Penn, and C) the incunable in question was decorated by hand with high quality initials and bar borders.

So, we are still dealing with an illuminated book, even though it is printed. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the advent of the printing press did not diminish the demand for skilled illuminators. In fact, there was an explosion of available work, as innumerable inset spaces left for initials in printed works still had to be completed by hand. The book we are looking at today is an example of the involvement of traditional illuminators with the new technology, a phenomenon well studied by Lilian Armstrong and others. It is a copy of Saint Augustine’s City of God from 1470, the third edition of the work to be printed in Italy, by the German printers Conradus Sweynheym and Arnoldus Pannartz (a fourth had been produced by Johann Mentelin, the first printer to settle in Strasbourg, in 1468). These two business partners were the first to establish a press outside of German-speaking lands, at the Benedictine abbey of Subiaco in 1464/65. By 1467, they had moved in search of greater economic opportunities to Rome, where our volume was printed. Adapting to their trans-alpine audience, Sweynheym and Pannartz abandoned the Gothic typeface used in Northern Europe, developing a semi-Roman font at Subiaco and finally a fully Roman version upon their move to the Papal city (you can see that this is the typeface they used here).

Inc A-1232 Folio
Inc A-1232 Folio, fol. 13r (detail of illuminated initial G)

Unusually, and perhaps uniquely, this incunable’s secondary decoration was added not in Italy but in France. The bar borders and illuminated initials in deep blue and reddish-mauve are all typical of northern French illumination of the 1470s. The single historiated initial G on the first page of the prologue depicts the mitred Saint Augustine blessing the kneeling Marcellinus of Carthage, his friend and the dedicatee of the City of God, who is shown holding a heart in his hands indicative of their bond. In style, the two figures are reminiscent of miniatures produced in Paris by the workshop of François Le Barbier, a prolific artist (previously known as “Maître François”) responsible for illuminating a large number of Books of Hours and theological manuscripts in a somewhat rote style.1 Le Barbier and his associates illuminated three much more elaborate French translations of the City of God: one for the lieutenant general of Paris, Charles de Gaucourt (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 18–19); one for the king’s secretary, Mathieu Beauvarlet (Paris, Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, MS 246); and one for the recalcitrant Duke of Nemours, Jacques d’Armagnac (vol. 1: The Hague, Museum Meermanno, 10 A 11; vol. 2: Nantes, Bibliothèque municipale, Ms. 181).

In the lower margin of the prologue page, a rectangular strip of paper has been excised and replaced with a patch bearing an armorial escutcheon surrounded by a green wreath. The arms appear to show a Lion’s golden face against a blue background. This would seem to be a potentially popular choice for a coat-of-arms, but a head-on lion’s head is almost unheard of in European heraldry, and my first instinct was that this was a fictitious emblem, added to enhance the appearance or price of the book at a later date.

Penn Libraries call number: Inc A-1232 Folio
Inc A-1232 Folio, fol. 13r (detail of coat-of-arms)

However, I noticed that the book’s heraldry had previously been discussed on the web as part of the Provenance Online Project. This is a lightweight crowdsourced initiative started at the University of Pennsylvania whereby simple, cellphone photos of unknown annotations, bookstamps, bookplates and other heraldic identifiers are shared online via Flickr, a free photo posting utility. Users around the world are then encouraged to identify the owners. Luckily, the arms in our book were identified by none other than Martin Davies, former curator of incunabula at the British Library and a leading authority on early printing.

As Davies pointed out in a reply to the POP posting, the arms display the face of a leopard, not a lion! They are, in heraldic terms: azure, a leopard’s face or (in French: d’azur à la tête de léopard d’or). This unique animal iconography belongs to Jean Chardalle of Marville, (Johannes Chardallus in Latin) who served as Canon of the Cathedral of Metz from 1475 to 1502. Described as a “noble seigneur d’Église, homme sage docte et scientifique personne” by the contemporary chronicler Philippe de Vigneulles, Chardalle was a prolific book collector, and around thirty-five incunables and fifteen manuscripts have been identified as belonging to him by Pierre-Édouard Wagner.2 This copy of the City of God represents a new addition to this impressive tally, and is all the more important owing to the devastating loss of nearly half of the Municipal Library of Metz’s manuscript and incunable holdings during the Second World War, incuding many books that had belonged to Chardalle. This is indeed a case where prior dispersal has led to survival.

Among the incunables Chardalle owned, most are Italian and bear Italian decoration. Chardalle presumably purchased these on ecclesiastical trips to Rome. The style of the roundel in the City of God is also Italian, contrasting with the Parisian initials. It closely resembles the heraldic devices on other books he brought back from Italy, for example two separate texts by Juan de Torquemada, a Commentum in psalmos David (Verdun, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 84), and a De potestate Ecclesia (Metz, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 104). The evidence from our book suggests that Chardalle purchased extra versions of his coat-of-arms while abroad for insertion into his books.

DGo8WPeXYAAIR2h   chardalle
Juan de Torquemada, Commentum in psalmos David, Verdun, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 84 (image tweeted by Michaël George) and Juan de Torquemada, De potestate Ecclesia, Metz, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 104, fol. 1r (image from Pierre-Édouard Wagner in Pierre Louis, ed., Épreuves du temps, 200 ans de la bibliothèque de Metz, 1804–2004 (Metz: Bibliothèques-Médiathèques de la Ville de Metz, 2004), 126.

Though most versions of his coat of arms show five thistles issuing from the Leopard’s mouth (the word for thistle in French is chardon, a play on his surname), here this feature is absent. The same is true of the arms in a fine manuscript copy of Augustine’s works (comprising the Meditationes, Manuale, Enchiridion, and De fide, but not the De civitate dei) from the Cathedral Treasury of Metz, where it accompanies a striking image of Chardalle in prayer before the Crucifixion (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 9545, fol. 1r).


Saint Augustine, Meditationes, Manuale, Enchiridion, and De fide, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 9545, fol. 1r (with detail of coat-of-arms)

Family Resemblances, Part 2

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 26/52
A guest post by University of Pennsylvania Manuscripts Cataloging Librarian, Amey Hutchins

Carta executoria, Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 241, fols. 1v–2r (large illuminated initial D, coat of arms; facing text page)

As Richard L. Kagan explains in Lawsuits and Litigants in Castile,1 minors (under the age of 25) and women of any age were not allowed to litigate on their own behalf in the Castilian courts. The exception to the rule about women was that widows were allowed to bring lawsuits, which meant that they could protect their dowries from creditors of their dead husbands. One of the cartas executorias at the Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 241, records an example of a widow filing a pleito de hidalguía, the lawsuit by a private individual to prove a claim of nobility. Her name first appears as “Marí Lopez de Colmenares muger de Pedro de Matienzo ya defunto vezína de la dicha vílla de Carrión” (Marí Lopez de Colmenares, wife of Pedro de Matienzo already deceased, resident of the town of Carrión, fol. 2r).

This carta executoria was probably quite plain in its original form, with the floral borders added later. For comparison, simple pairs of diagonal lines like these in the upper margin of another, less extravagant, carta executoria,  UPenn Ms. Codex 74:

Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, UPenn Ms. Codex 74, fol. 6v

…are visible under the borders in Lewis E 241:

Lewis E 241, fol. 17r

…and the notarial marks like these at the bottom of each page in UPenn Ms. Codex 74:

UPenn Ms. Codex 74, fol. 6v

…have been roughly avoided by the later decoration in Lewis E 241:

Lewis E 241, fol. 17r

At the end of the text of the carta executoria, the later decoration does not fill the lower margin, in order not to cover the title-like summary at the end, where the name of Marí Lopez de Colmenares appears again, slightly damaged:

Lewis E 241, fol. 28r

The full-page illuminations in Lewis E 241 are at the end of the manuscript, not the beginning, and this departure from the usual order, together with the later date of the decoration, makes the shadowy double portrait at the end of the manuscript (fol. 30r) a bit enigmatic.

Lewis E 241, fols. 29v–30r

Lewis E 241, fol. 30r (detail)

Is it a retrospective portrait of Marí and Pedro? A portrait of their son García de Matienzo (named in a later addition on fol. 28v), with his wife? Or another member of the same family?

With thanks to Richard Kagan, Johns Hopkins University; Scotland Long, University of Pennsylvania; and Francis Turco, Temple University, for their assistance.

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.