12mo. 66 x 95 mm. Illuminated manuscript on vellum. Ff. (ii) 145 (ii), fol.31 with full page illumination depicting the Virgin and the Infant Christ within full-page border, scrolling decoration at head and foot on a red and green ground, urns and flowers with jewels and pearls on a deep blue ground, text slightly worn, shield at foot azur an eagle or with initials N.M., fol. 66 with elaborate illuminated 5-line D with stave of flowers, leaves, scrolls, jewels and pearls on crimson, blue and gold grounds, one-line crosses in red and blue. In Rotunda Italiana script, 11 lines per page, in Latin, some rubrics in Italian towards the end. Two-line liquid gold illuminated letters on red, blue and green grounds with scrolling decoration, initial letters with traces of gold, partially rubricated. Text slightly faded in places on hairside only. Occasional slight marginal soiling, oil-stain to blank outer corner of last three leaves. Generally very good and clean in early 19th C black morocco, panel stamped with the Malpassuti (di Tortona) (?) arms and quadruple-ruled in blind. Title and ex libris of Isabella Sofia Commercati (c.1800) added to the recto and verso of the first and last leaves respectively. Light blue watered silk endpapers with bookplates of Pamela and Raymond Lister and Michael Tomkinson, all edges gilt. In folding box.
A charming pocket-sized liturgical work, apparently not corresponding to any of the principal liturgical books. Ff. 1-19 contain a calendar of saints. The only irregular Saints appearing here are Saint Petronius, indicating a Bolognan provenance, Mark the Evangelist and the apostle Barnabas. Ff. 20-51v comprise the Mass of the Virgin. The Confiteor, Misereatur and Blessing are followed by the Pericopes arranged in chronological order (John 1, 1-14; Luke 1, 26-37; Matthew 2, 1-12; Mark 16, 14-20). The striking and colourful full-page illumination marks the start of the Mass of the Virgin. It opens with psalm 44, before moving onto a farced Gloria with additional tropes specifically for the Marian mass, a collect, epistle, gradual, the Nicene Creed, Ave Maria, Eucharistic prayer II, the Preface of Mary, Sanctus, Agnus, Benedictus, Salve Regina, the Marian antiphons, Psalm 90, prayers of Saint Augustine, and on the Passion. Ff. 51v-81 contains the prayers of St. Brigit on the passion of Christ and 81v-85 of St. Anselm. Ff. 86-134 contain the seven penitential psalms and litanies beginning with a lovely elaborate illuminated letter, then follow prayers of St. Bernard from ff. 135-138r. Ff. 138v to the end give the prayers used at the Lateran Basilica in Rome and for papal indulgences.
Originally written for ‘Jacopo,’ whose name appears several times in the text in the same hand, reference is made to St. Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, thus giving a clue to the date of the book as after 1494, when Anselm was canonized by Pope Alexander VI. The small size of the book indicates private use, albeit at public celebrations, and the arms and initials within the full-page illumination indicate a lay origin. The clear and elegant calligraphy – the very regular rotunda script representative of a high-end scribal production for a wealthy patron – and style of illumination point towards the circle of the famed calligrapher Sallando, though not his hand, and the illuminator Marmitta, both of whom were working in Bologna in the last decade of the 15th century, and who made use of a palette of strong, dark colours and foliage. The N.M. monogram at the foot may indicate an earlier member of the Malpassuti family.
While we have been unable to trace the Comercati family, the Malpassuti family originate from Tortona in Lombardy.