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les Enluminures

Breviary for the Night Office in Two Volumes (Use of Utrecht)

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment
The Netherlands (South Holland), c. 1450-1475

TM 940
mss in the curriculum

Volume I: i + 193 + ii folios on parchment, modern pencil foliation in Arabic numerals top outer rectos, complete (collation i8[-7, one leaf cancelled with no loss of text loss] ii-xxiv8 xxv2 [one text leaf with conjoint serving as pastedown, with flyleaf bifolium between]), finely frame ruled in brown-black ink with writing lines probably rake ruled in almost invisible graphite (justification 172 x 113 mm), copied in black ink in consistent Netherlandish Hybrida script in two columns of 33 lines, red rubrics, abundant 1-line alternating red and blue initials, numerous 2-line alternating red and blue initials throughout, as well as many 3- to 7-line initials in ‘aubergine-style’ penwork of South Holland (red and blue initials with white highlights, acanthus leaves with green infilling in gaps, and carefully executed red and blue penwork extending through the margins featuring motifs of vines, reclining acanthus, aubergines, and radishes), parchment fore-edge tabs throughout, many still tipped with colored knots, final text page (f. 193) has detached from the spine but remains intact by virtue of its conjoint serving as intact pastedown, some water-staining at bottom edge in first two quires, no holes or tears in parchment, overall in very fine condition with little sign of use or wear. ORIGINAL BINDING of thick wooden boards with a cushion bevel covered in brown leather, pricked single-fillet frame, inner double-fillet frame containing 3-flower stamps with single fleur de lys medallions at the corners, center panel filled with double-fillet grid of lozenges holding acanthus leaf stamps and smaller 3-flower stamps (same design on front and back but covering lower board more heavily abraded), brass clasp (closing back to front), front clasp missing, fixtures remaining on back, spine with five raised bands, later morocco leather spine label: “VARIAE LECTION./ M.S./ TOM. I” in gold.  Dimensions 245 x 180 mm.

Volume II: iii + 262 + i folios on parchment, modern pencil foliation, complete (collation i-xxxii8 xxxiii6 [final quire contains 6 text leaves with flyleaf wrapped around the outer bifolium and glued to f. 257]), ruling, script, and decoration consistent with volume I (described above), parchment fore-edge tabs throughout but unlike vol. I they are uncolored and larger (multiple later replacements), water-staining and minor mold damage at top inner corners throughout but concentrated at front and back (text unaffected but some bleeding in decoration), some dark staining confined to outer edges in last 2 quires, tearing and holes in top margin of ff. 7, 18, 20, 23, 25, 26 where folios stuck together (text unaffected), top outer corner (c. 10-c. 15 mm) chewed away by animal (text unaffected), otherwise little sign of use or wear. ORIGINAL BINDING identical with Vol. I, spine label reading “VARIAE LECTION./ M.S./ TOM. II.” Dimensions 245 x 180 mm.

Ideal for display and teaching, the accomplished script, elegant penwork initials, original stamped bindings, and parchment tabs marking key sections are notable features of these two volumes.  Distinctive decoration and liturgical Use firmly place these volumes in mid-fifteenth-century South Holland.  A beautiful example of Dutch book-making, this Breviary was exhibited at the Royal Library in the Netherlands in 1993.


1. Copied in the Netherlands in the third quarter of the fifteenth century, c. 1450-1475, based on the evidence of the script, style of the decoration, and liturgical use.  The script is a consistent and upright example of Netherlandish Hybrida, known as the national script of The Netherlands (Derolez, 2003, pp. 166-8, esp. pl. 142). The penwork decoration can be confidently localizable to the modern Dutch province of South Holland. The ‘radishes’ style, on which this manuscript’s ‘aubergine’ style is based, seems to have originated around Delft in the 1440s (Korteweg, 1992, p. 68) and quickly spread throughout the region, appearing in workshops and monastic scriptoria from Dordrecht to Leiden. Because of this dissemination, more precise localization based on penwork alone is difficult. As the century progressed, examples became more ‘cluttered’ and colorful, with additional elements such as birds and flowers. This manuscript is likely an earlier example, datable to the third quarter of the fifteenth century.

The text is of the Use of Utrecht for secular use – there are nine lessons for major feasts, compared to the twelve found in monastic volumes – meaning it was used, and also possibly made, by secular religious, such as canons or friars. 

Includes saints venerated in the Low Countries: St. Servatius (d. 384) was Bishop of Tongeren and Maastricht; St. Odulphus (d. after 854) is considered one of the ‘Apostles of the Frisians’; St. Willibrord (d. 739), originally of Northumbria, was among the first missionaries to the Low Countries.  The Anglo-Saxon St. Lebuinus (d. 775) was another ‘Apostle of the Frisians’; and St. Lambert (d. 705) was Bishop of Maastricht. 

The prevalence of feasts related to St. Augustine suggest it was made for Augustinian secular Canons, perhaps with ties to a church dedicated to St. Agnes; feasts and hymns for her veneration appear frequently.  Augustine figures prominently in both volumes: the nativity of St. Augustine and his octave (28 August and 4 September) as well as the translation of his relics (11 October and in the other volume, 28 February) are included, as well as hymns for him. The translation of St. Agnes (2 September) is entered in the summer Sanctorale twice, and her Feast and Octave (21 and 28 January) in the winter Sanctorale. There are also hymns for her in both volumes.

2. Owned by H. J. von Aussem, apparently a collector and/or dealer of antiques, including books, in Aachen in the first quarter of the nineteenth century; his ownership inscriptions top outer corner of the front pastedowns in both volumes, labeling them as “No. 6” and “No. 7.”  He also owned Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 79.

3. Owned by William Ridley Richardson (b. 1856) of Ravensfell and Bromley House in Kent, England; his armorial bookplate (Fox-Davies 1905, p. 1153-4; Peter, 2016), front pastedowns of both volumes. He married into the Essex branch of the Tweedy family in 1886.  Another fifteenth-century Netherlandish manuscript, now Dunedin, Public Library, RMM MS 5, also holds his bookplate. The volumes perhaps passed to one of his six children after his death in 1935.

4. At the end of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first, this manuscript was owned by a private collector in North Brabant, The Netherlands. While remaining anonymous, the highlights of his collection were shown in the now-defunct Museum Scryption (Tillburg) in 1999. An exhibition catalogue, featuring a brief description and two photographs of Vol. I, were published by Scryption’s press (As-Vijvers, van Vugt, and Berkel, 1999, p. 53). It was also loaned to the Royal Library of the Netherlands in 1993 for an exhibition of Dutch manuscripts, and likewise appears in that exhibition’s catalogue (Duijzer 1993; Sanders 1993).

5. Volumes I and II, front and back pastedowns contain booksellers’s marks and prices in pencil and ink.


Vol. I (Winter):

ff. 1-99v, Temporale for the winter season from the first Sunday in Advent to Holy Saturday, with tabs marking all Sundays with the text for Matins; readings include biblical passages and patristic excerpts from the works of Gregory the Great, Bede, Isidore of Seville, Jerome, Origen, Pope Leo III, and Augustine.

ff. 100-139v, Ferial Psalter with major initials and tabs at psalms 1 26, 38, 52, 68, 80, and 97. Since this this is a Nocturnale only the psalms for Matins are copied in full; psalms for the remaining Offices are listed by cue only (4, 5, 21-25, 42, 50, 53, 62, 64, 66, 89-91 and 92); most of the “missing” psalms are copied following psalm 108 introduced by the rubric Psalmi David; Psalms 89 and 90 are in opposite order, and psalm 50 appears after 91, followed by 24. Psalms 62, 66, 89, 92, and all the psalms after 108 are omitted. 

ff. 139v-141, Hymns for Matins on major holy days: Advent [Verbum supernum prodiens]; Nativity [Christe redemptor omnium]; Epiphany [Hostis Herodes impie]; St. Agnes [Syon devote filiae]; Our Lady [Quem terra, pontus, aethera]; the translation of St. Augustine [Celi cives applaudite]; Lent [Summi largitor praemii]; Passiontide [Pange lingua gloriosi proelium certaminis]; Apostles [Aeterna Christi munera, Apostolorum gloriam, adapted from the Aeterna Christi munera for martyrs]; a Martyr [Deus tuorum militum]; Martyrs [Aeterna Christi munera]; a Confessor [Iesu redemptor omnium]; a Virgin [Virginis proles opifex matris].

ff. 139v-193v, Sanctorale and Common of Saints for Matins.  Some contents are out of order, apparently from the outset. It begins with the St. Peter’s Chair (22 February), followed by the Translation of St. Augustine (28 February), continues with Apostles, Martyrs, One Confessor, and One Virgin. It resumes with the Commemoration of Mary from Nativity until Purification (2 Feb), and then from Purification until Lent.  Liturgical directions on ff. 158-159v, specify the psalms for Matins (Versicles and responses for Lauds are also sometimes included) for the Common of Saints and important feasts of the Sanctorale.  The Sanctorale resumes with Andrew (30 November), continuing to Benedict (21 March). The volume concludes with the Annunciation (25 March), followed by Anthony (17 January), copied in a different hand.  Notable feasts include Agnes and her Octave (21 January), translation of St. Augustine, included twice, and Thomas Aquinas (7 March).

Vol. II (Summer):

ff. 1-113v, Temporale for Matins for the summer season from Easter to Advent, with tabs marking all Sundays (many of which have not survived wholly intact or are replacements).

ff. 114-116v, Liturgical directions specifying the psalms for Matins for selected feasts from the Common of Saints and summer Sanctorale;

ff. 117-156v, Ferial Psalter for Matins with major divisions at psalms 1, 26, 38, 52, 68, 80, 97, and 4; as in volume 1, the psalms are somewhat out of sequence, with 4, 5, 21, 23-25, 42, 50, 53, 64, 90, 89, and 91 following psalm 108.  Psalms 3, 10, 13, 14, 22, 62, 66, and 92 are omitted.

ff. 156v-160v, Hymns (not noted) for Matins on major holy days: Advent, Nativity [Christe redemptor omnium]; Epiphany [Hostis Herodes impie]; St. Agnes [Syon devote filiae]; Lent [Summi largitor premii]; Passiontide [Pange lingua gloriosi proelium certaminis]; Octaves of Easter [Aurora lucis rutilat]; Ascension [Aeterne rex altissime]; Pentecost [Iam Christus astra ascenderat]; Corpus Christi [Sacris sollempniis]; Holy Trinity [O trinitas laudabilis]; John the Baptist [Ut queant laxis]; Dedication of a Church [Urbs beata Jerusalem]; Peter and Paul [Aurea luce]; Mary Magdalene [Sydus solare revehit]; Anne [Festum nunc celebre genetrix hodie]; Lawrence [Conscendat usque sidera caelique]; Augustine [Celi cives applaudite]; All Angels [Tibi Christe splendor]; All Saints [Christe redemptor omnium]; a Virgin [Virginis proles opifex matris]; a Virgin Non-Martyr [Huius obtentu Deus]; Virgins [Rex gloriose Martyrum].

ff. 161-262v, Matins for the Sanctorale including Servatius (13 May), Odulphus of Utrecht (12 June), Lebuinus (12 November), Dedication of a Church and its octave (between 15 and 22 July), Donatus (6 August), Lambert (17 September), Leodegar (2 October), Malachi (3 November), Willibrord (7 November), Brice (13 November), and Elizabeth (19 November).

The final entry, which offers alternative text for the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary that offered earlier, is complete. The termination is intentional: the scribe stopped after only four lines, and while seemingly leaving the end of “Tu autem in domine miserere nobis” aside, the truncation ends in a punctus, perhaps assumed to be a sufficient cue for the remaining text.  Overall, the duplication of so many feast days here is unusual, and how these alternative texts were chosen and used offers an opportunity for further research

Breviaries combine the texts required for the Divine Office, the cycle of prayers spoken and sung throughout the day and night by priests, monks, nuns, friars, canons, and other religious. Because the Breviary combined the contents of what were, in the early Middle Ages, several separate liturgical books, they could be very long.  This Breviary is copied in a larger, legible script and the thicker, velvety parchment common to the region. It is lightly abbreviated, perhaps to keep it accessible to the less practiced reader. In order to accommodate these features it contains only the text for Matins, making it a Nocturnale (also known as a Matutinale); a separate book, or set of books, called a Diurnale would have been used for the daytime Offices. Moreover, it is divided, as was commonly done, into summer and winter parts.    

This Nocturnale is Use of Utrecht, which was subordinate to the archdiocese of Cologne when the manuscript was produced. The diocese of Utrecht, which covered most of the Northern Low Countries (almost all of the modern-day Netherlands), was established in 695 by Pope Sergius I with the missionary St. Willibrord as bishop. It remained until 1559 when it was promoted to an Archdiocese, and was dismantled in 1580 during the Protestant Dutch Revolt.

Although either monastic or commercial production is possible for these two volumes (Korteweg 1992), it is possible that this was copied by a house of Canons for their own use.  In contrast with the rest of Western Europe in this period, religious houses still produced the lion’s share of books – especially liturgical ones – in the Northern Low Countries (Gumbert 1990, pp. 52-53). The frequent appearance of both St. Augustine and St. Agnes among the hymns and Sanctorale of both volumes suggest that this Breviary was produced for, and perhaps also at, a house of secular Augustinian canons. While the regional origin of this two-part Nocturnal is clear, its institutional origin offers a compelling opportunity for further research.

The script of this two-volume Nocturnal is a consistent and upright example of Netherlandish Hybrida, known as the national script of the Netherlands (Derolez 2003).  It is written by an experienced scribe who completes all but the last folios of both volumes: vol. I, f. 193 and vol. 2, ff. 261v-262v. These two short stints are completed by another scribe whose hand is contemporary but more angular and formed with a smaller pen nib. Initials and penwork throughout both volumes appear to be carried out by a single artist, barring those on the final folios, which likewise seem to share an artist between them.


The penwork in this two-volume manuscript exemplifies a distinctive style specific to the modern province of South Holland (Zuid Holland) in the Netherlands. It is known as aubergine penwork for the eggplants tucked among the vines and leaves that scroll from the larger initials into the margins, and is closely related to, and concurrent with, the radijsjes [little radishes] style wherein radishes poke out between leaves. The leaves are usually ‘reclining’ acanthus (that is, lying in layers and curling, rather than posed flat). The so-called ‘fish bladders’, knots, and triangles made up of fine looping lines that sometimes accompany this style are also present. Penwork is entirely in red and blue. The initials themselves are either solid red or blue, red or blue with white highlights, or divided into separate red and blue sections, usually by highlight. In this manuscript all but the largest initials are blue with red penwork. They are set into square frames holding more leaves and eggplants, with grass green background. On this decoration style, see the excellent descriptions, with examples, in Korteweg, 1992 and Gumbert, 1990.


As-Vijvers, Anne Margreet, Carine van Vugt, and Rob Berkel. Miniaturen en monnikenwerk, middeleeuwse manuscripten uit een Brabantse collectie, Tillburg, 1999 (repr. 2000), no. 24.

Derolez, Albert. The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books: From the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century, Cambridge, 2003.

Duijzer, Henk J, ed. Verzameld verlangen: Het Nederlands Genootschap van Bibliofielen exposeert uit het bezit van leden, The Hague, 1993, pp. 11-12 (no. 3).

Fassler, Margot E. and Rebecca A. Baltzer, eds. The Divine Office in the Latin Middle Ages: Methodology and Source Studies, Regional Developments, Hagiography: Written in Honor of Professor Ruth Steiner, Oxford, 2000.

Fox-Davies, Charles Arthur. Armorial Families: A Directory of Gentlemen of Coat-Armour, 5th edition. Edinburgh, 1905.

Gumbert, J. P. The Dutch and their Books in the Manuscript Age, Panizzi Lectures 1989, London, 1990.

Harper, John. The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy from the Tenth to the Eighteenth Century: A Historical Introduction and Guide for Students and Musicians, Oxford, 1991.

Hughes, Andrew. Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office: A Guide to their Organization and Terminology. Toronto, 1982.

Korteweg, Anne S., ed. Kriezels, aubergines en takkenbossen. Randversiering in Noordnederlandse handschriften uit de vijftiende eeuw, Zutphen, 1992 (esp. ‘Zuid Holland’, pp. 68-83).

Pennink, Renetta. Catalogus der niet-Nederlandse drukken, 1500-1540, aanwezig in de Koninklijke bibliotheek ‘s-Gravenhage, The Hague, 1955.

Virgilius in de Nederlanden, of Aeneas heldendicht: Nederduytsche verkleedinge strekkende tot een schitze van onze tyd-geschiedenissen, Brussels: Lemaire, 1802, volume 3, p. iii.

Online Resources

Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 79, http://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/id/object/118802

The History of the Breviary (Catholic Encyclopedia, “Breviary”)

Peter, Bernhard.  “Exlibris von Miss C. Helard,” Britische und irische heraldische Exlibris (9), 2016 http://www.welt-der-wappen.de/Heraldik/seiten/exlibrisbrit9.htm

Sanders, Ewoud. Verzamelen: Verzameld verlangen ... NRC.nl, 9 October 1993 https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/1993/10/09/verzamelen-7198761-a421626 

Hymnary.org, Harry Plantinga, 2007-present

TM 940