Gregorian Chant, ca. 1490-1500
A large manuscript leaf from a Spanish antiphonal containing musical notation and text. Antiphonals were commonly used by monastic choirs and contained the chants to be sung at the canonical hours of the Divine Office such as matins, lauds, and prime.
The manuscript leaf features several large illuminated initials, including an elaborate red and blue geometric 'puzzle-initial' that appears to reference the abstract art of Islamic Spain.
Russian Chant, ca. 1850
A manuscript leaf from an Old Believers hymnal written in Cyrillic in Church Slavonic, the liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox Church. The leaf is very old-fashioned in format, having been written by hand rather than printed, and featuring Znamenny notation, an archaic form of musical notation that the official Church had largely abandoned by the 18th century. This reflects the fact that The Old Believers, broke with the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1660s after rejecting liturgical reforms, and have maintained pre-reform traditional practices ever since. This leaf will provide students with an example of manuscript production in the eastern Christian churches, and also demonstrates how manuscripts continued being produced in some areas long after printing technology became widespread.
Ethiopian Coptic Bible, 19th century
A unique Bible handwritten in Ge'ez, an ancient language that is now only used by the Ethiopian Christian Churches. This Bible is notable for its brightly coloured full-page illustrations of Biblical scenes and for the leather carrying case that would have protected the book as it was carried by a Coptic priest. This is the Archives' first complete manuscript book, and due to its very traditional structure and format, will be a valuable teaching aid when discussing medieval and early modern book production.
A Booke of Christian Prayers, 1590
Queen Elizabeth's Prayer Book
Originally printed in 1569 by the famous printer John Day, the Booke was allegedly designed for Queen Elizabeth I's personal use. The frontispiece above depicts Elizabeth kneeling at a prayer desk, and is the first of numerous beautiful woodcuts found throughout the book. Unlike traditional Catholic prayer books (like our book of hours) the text is in English, and prayers are addressed to God directly rather than Mary or the saints, reflecting the Protestant nature of Elizabeth's Church of England. This book will be a fascinating source for students studying the English Reformation, and the dramatic religious and social upheaval it caused.
The woodcut borders, shown in the background image, depict the Dance of Death and remind the reader of the inevitability of death. Death dances with people from all walks of life: shepherd's wife, an aged woman, a cripple, and a poor woman.
Theuerdank leaf, ca. 1519
The Theuerdank is a chivalric poem composed by the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I. Written in German, the work tells the fictionalized romantic story of Maximillian's (under the alias of Theuerdank) journey to marry his wife, Mary of Burgundy, in 1477.
Maximillian depicts himself as a chivalric knight, and wrote in the style of Arthurian legend as a way to glorify his reign. The Theuerdank tells an epic story of the hero overcoming 80 perils to reach and win the hand of his queen. This work is unique because, while it was created using the new medium of printing, the woodcuts were handprinted separately as were the pen flourishes that were added to make it look handwritten.