Rare Book & Manuscript Library Exhibitions

Bibiliotheca Schoenbergensis
An Exhibition from the Collection of Lawrence J. Schoenberg

Books of Devotion

Germany, 1444

As was the practice during the fifteenth century, this manuscript separates the Temporale Offices (the holidays relating to the life of Christ) from the Sanctorale (the Saints' feastdays). The colophon, shown here on the right-hand page and the photograph, describes the manuscript as having been completed on St. Barbara's feastday (4 December) in 1444 at the Chapel of St. Katherine. Unfortunately, the name of the city has been scraped away, a common practice in previous centuries intended to disguise the manuscript's origins.

Parchment, 257 folios, 142 x 112 (106 x 80) mm, 1 column, 28 lines, in Latin, written in Gothic cursive script.

Sacramentary (Cistercian use)
Italy, 1185-1190

This intriguing manuscript brings with it a long and interesting history. Produced in a twelfth-century Italian Cistercian house, it was used by nuns in the fifteenth century--some of the added prayers are written in the feminine plural. The manuscript was owned in the nineteenth century by author, artist, and social reformer John Ruskin, and passed from him to the great collector Major John R. Abbey. The marginal notations throughout the manuscript help to assign it a date of production. St. Thomas of Canterbury, added to the Cistercian liturgy in 1185, is included in the original text, while SS. Malachy and Martial, who became part of the Cistercian calendar in 1191, were later added in the margin. This indicates that the manuscript was produced no earlier than 1185, and probably before 1191. Shown here is the Preface to the Mass, which in this manuscript is recorded immediately before the Easter liturgy. The congregation's responses are indicated in red. The music is square notation on a three-line staff drawn in red, blue, and green.

Parchment, 134 folios, 359 x 240 (255 x 150) mm, 1 or 2 columns, 20 lines, in Latin, written in Gothic script.

Office for the reception of novices into a nunnery, with Rules of the Order of the Penance of St. Dominic
Italy, late-fifteenth century

This manuscript may have been prepared as a gift for a young girl about to enter a convent. The Rules were written slightly later than the Office - perhaps by the mature nun herself - and include regulations on clothing, daily services, fasting, providing for the sick, and so on. The page shown here describes the rules for rising in the morning, for confession and communion, and for observing silence.

Parchment, 10 folios, 178 x 129 (118 x 83) mm, 1 column, 22 lines, in Italian, written in Gothic rotunda script.

Penitential Psalms and additional prayers, for use by a priest
France, late sixteenth century

The original portion of this manuscript contains the penitential Psalms and the Hours of the Dead. Additions on paper at the beginning and end of the manuscript append prayers to be said by a priest before and after Mass, for example, while robing. This page shows the beginning of the third nocturne, the final section, of the Matins Office of the Dead.

Parchment with paper additions, 69 folios, 130 x 87 (83 x 50) mm, 1 column, 20 lines, in Latin, written in italic script.

Libellus de speculativa misticae theologiae
Jean Gerson, Northern France, ca. 1420

Jean le Charlier de Gerson (1363-1429) was an important figure in the history of university education, having served as Chancellor of the University of Paris from 1395. In addition, he was a major force in Church reform, working valiantly to heal the Great Schism and to establish the superiority of a general council over the Pope. Though neither religious effort was succesful, he is regarded as one of the leading theologians of his day. This manuscript is actually a compilation of four texts, three of which were written by Gerson between 1402 and 1409. The fourth text, De districtione in nocturnis pollutionibus, was written by Gerson's teacher, Pierre D'Ailly, who preceded him as Chancellor of the University. The manuscript was probably written in Gerson's lifetime, and as such preserves some of the earliest known copies of these texts. Early on, the manuscript was housed in the Carthusian monastery in Castres, France. This is a particularly interesting provenance for these texts, since Gerson is known to have held that monastic order in special esteem. The page exhibited shows the end of De passionibus animae on the left, and a schematic outline of the text on the right.

Parchment, 82 folios, 155 x 115 (103 x 72) mm, 1 column, 28 lines, in Latin, written in Gothic script.

Lectionary (sanctorale and commons)
Rome (S. Lorenzo in Panisperna), late sixteenth century

This collection of readings for saints' feastdays gives the full nine readings for each saint, usually culled or paraphrased from standard narratives of the saint's life. The manuscript is very exclusive, including only fourteen saints for the entire year. Among these are St. Laurence, who is the only saint to be given two complete sets of lections. At the end of the manuscript are added lections for St. Marmenia, an early Roman martyr whose relics are kept in the church of S. Lorenzo in Panisperna, in Rome. She is not well known elsewhere. The emphasis on Saint Laurence and the inclusion of St. Marmenia virtually assure the origin of the manuscript in the church, which, during the late sixteenth century, housed a community of Poor Claires, nuns following the example of St. Francis. Lections for St. Claire are also included in the manuscript, as is the Franciscan Saint Louis of Anjou. The lack of lections for St. Francis himself is curious, and is as yet unexplained. The scribe (or a later owner) has attempted to spruce up the manuscript by adhering illuminated initials from 14th and 15th century manuscripts into place at the beginning of most lections. In many cases, the historiated initial chosen for a particular lection is not quite appropriate, or is completely out of place: on the left page shown here, a portrait of St. Peter (identified by the key to Heaven in his right hand) precedes a hymn for St. Laurence. In addition, the historiated initial is the letter "E", but the text it precedes begins with a "D" (which the scribe has duly written). On the right, an illustration of the Virgin and Child precedes the lections for St. Claire..

Paper, 80 folios, 285 x 210 (204 x 140) mm, 1 column, 22 lines, in Latin, written in italic script.