Decorated Manuscript on Vellum.

Southern Spain, perhaps Grenada, or Portugal, c. 1600.


520 x 365 mm, 160 leaves, last numbered clxvii; I-XXI⁸ lacking 5ll. of text i.e. V₆, VI₇, IX₃, XIX₃ and XX₇ and 4 blanks: first and last and one from each of XII and XVI. Justification mostly 470 x 270 mm, in dark and light brown ink of varying quality in a very clean Spanish Rotunda, 6 staves of five lines per page in red with square and diamond shaped musical notation and text, sometimes interrupted by sections of text, most pages ruled in double blind lines, others in brown ink, from fol. 5-32 the written space is framed by double lines in black ink; original foliation visible in upper right in the second half of the codex, catchwords; rubrics in red, 90 elaborate calligraphic initials, 168 small painted initials (1-line + stave), 2 larger illuminated initials (2-line + stave). Heavy and sturdy vellum, typical for antiphonals, fleshsides and hairsides of vellum differ strongly in colour, few leaves broken in gutter, rather crude but functional repairs, a little water damage and ink bleeding, most pages are almost immaculate, some faded, minor ink erosion, occasional offprint, prickings in outer margins sometimes visible. Illumination overall in good condition. Remains of candlewax on inner side of front cover and scattered throughout the manuscript bear witness to its frequent use.

Beautiful contemporary, early 17th-century binding, calf over heavy wooden boards with delicate metal bosses and cornerpieces. Very soft spine, cracked at lower front, five raised bands, heavy headbands and thick threads in the quires, edges in red, remains of two clasps. Incipit: “Ecce nomen domini venit de longin quo et claritas..” (Isaia, 30, 27, Magnificat Antiphon at Saturday Vespers before the first Sunday of Advent) Explicit: “Crucem sanctam subiit qui infernum confregit” (Antiphon for Eastertide from Whitsunday).

This large antiphonal covers the liturgy from first Sunday of Advent to Eastertide. Its very heavy construction made it suitable for a high lectern for all members of the choir to be seen. With its very accomplished calligraphic initials and its 170 colourful painted initials it is quite lavishly decorated. Two larger initials (e.g. on fol. 30v) show an almost baroque approach to older Renaissance forms of grotesques, festoons, fruitbaskets and architectural floral elements. These two large initials open the liturgy of first Christmas day and Epiphany. The initials are painted on coloured square grounds, mostly in red and blue, with golden tendriled and spiralling decoration in liquid gold or silver. The smaller initials sometimes include charming faces of putti or masks and are in general quite playful in the arrangement of foliage that forms the letters.

There are two different types of painted initials, probably by different hands. One shows monochrome letters in almost austere, but elegant and humanistic shape on square grounds that could be either dotted or decorated with tendrils, while the other has polychrome initials formed of different kinds of leaves and foliage in 2 forms that are derived from renaissance Italian illumination. Both share the same palette for the square grounds and decoration, so we may assume that both painters worked in the same workshop. In addition to the style of the accomplished Spanish rotunda and calligraphy, the illumination points to Spain as place of origin. The more elegant initials resemble those in MS Egerton 3296 of the British Library, the Carta executonia de Hidalguia which was made for Philipp II in 1597 (cf. in particular fol. 59v). That manuscript was made in Grenada.

The contemporary binding is particularly beautiful and well preserved, which is rare. To find an antiphonal with all traces of long and continuous liturgical use in its contemporary binding is an unusual pleasure, as so many have been dismembered, and the bindings lost. The present binding with its delicate brasswork also points to Portugal or Southern Spain around 1600 or the early 17th century. Provenance: French private collection. No signs of earlier provenance distinguishable. An ornate, later, but not modern, cast iron book stand, perhaps constructed for this volume, is included in the price.


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