Just thought I'd share some of the items that my wife and I have collected. I never thought that we would be collecting old manuscripts and books, but here we are! Here are a few of the items we now have, and as time permits, I'll add more.
A Little History
Some of the old manuscripts that we've collected were created as far back as approximately 1250 AD. It was common practice to "write" or hand scribe on sheets of animal skin called "vellum". Until we started collecting these documents, I had no clue what vellum was. Here's an excerpt of the description:
"Medieval scribes usually wrote their Books of Hours on parchment or vellum, the supple, almost silky, skin of a calf or lamb, which had been carefully cleaned, thinned, scraped, and polished to a pearly and opaque, nearly white, color. A single Book of Hours uses eight to ten of these hides. The vellum used for the finest Books of Hours is nearly as thin as paper, and it was much more costly. Paper was a high-value commodity in 14th-century Europe, but vellum probably cost three to five times the price of paper."
One side of a vellum is always darker than the other, as the "inside" side of the skin was harder to clean of flesh than the outer or "skin" side.
What is a Book of Hours?
A few of the old pages, or "leaf's", come from what was called a "Book of Hours". I'll quote some text here from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas Austin, but you can find the entire three part series on the Book of Hours by clicking here.
Pestilence, famine, war, and death: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were close companions to life in the 14th century. The Church was compromised by political corruption and worldliness, and the pope resided not in Rome, but at Avignon, where he remained a virtual pawn to the king of France. During this calamitous phase of European history, a devotional text called the Book of Hours emerged as a medieval bestseller.
1450 - Late Medieval/Early Renaissance Devotional - Gold Illuminated Book of Hours Manuscript on Vellum
This is currently the 2nd oldest document we possess, and as of 2015, it is 565 years old. This is a leaf from a Book of Hours, circa 15th century, in Latin, on vellum, from the North of France (possibly Amiens?), and is approximately 153x100 mm (6"x4") in size. There are seventeen lines of monastic Gothic script in brown inks with numerous highly embossed capitals on grounds on red and blue with white tendrils. Line fillers have blue and red grounds with white tendrils and a highly embossed gold middle. It is a two sided leaf. It's hard to see the embossed gold in the pictures without the flash. Everything you see in the document was created by hand.
The condition of this leaf is Fine [F]
The leaf reads: "Gloria Patri, et Filio: et Spiritui sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper: et in saecula saeculorum, Amen." "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost. Even as it was in the beginning, and now, and ever: and world without end. Amen."
1497 - The Nuremberg Chronicles Colored Woodcuts of 2nd Century Gnostics, Virgin & Ptolemy
This is a leaf of incunabula from the Liber Chronicarum (Book of Chronicles) better known as The Nuremberg Chronicles. Next to Gutenberg's Bible, it is one of the best-documented early printed books and one of the first to successfully integrate illustrations and text.
Written in 1491 by Hartmann Schedel, it is an illustrated Biblical paraphrase and world history. Johann Schonsperger printed this edition on February 1, 1497 in Augsburg. The small folio leaf measures 300 x 195 mm. (11.8"x7.7") in totality and contains various lines of Gothic type (4, 5, 9) printed multi-column format in Latin, copiously illustrated by Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff. All woodcuts contain contemporary hand coloring. Woodcuts depict second century Gnostics Cerdo, Marcion, & Valentinus as well as four of the Ante-Nicene Fathers Theophilus, Melito, Hippolytus, & Polycarp. The verso contains the same lines format & type. Woodcuts depict six second century personalities from the Virgin, Martyr Saint Praxedes to the great cartographer Ptolemy (Hain 14509; Goff S-308, Proctor 1786, Oates 946, BMC II 370) .
The Nuremberg Chronicle is an illustrated biblical paraphrase and world history that follows the story of human history related in the Bible; it includes the histories of a number of important Western cities. Written in Latin by Hartmann Schedel, with a version in German, translation by Georg Alt, it appeared in 1493. It is one of the best-documented early printed books—an incunabulum —and one of the first to successfully integrate illustrations and text.
1503 - Late Medieval/Early Renaissance Incunable Illuminated Book of Hours on Vellum
This is a 500+ year old gorgeously illuminated gold burnished printed bifolium (2 connected leaves) manuscript leaf from a Book of Hours, namely the Hours of the Virgin, in Latin, printed on vellum with dozens of beautiful illuminated gold burnished letters with gorgeous blue and red block backgrounds, as well as various scenes, figures and designs printed in the borders, as shown. Based on characteristics, very likely printed by Theo. Kerver in Paris, France, circa 1503. Fine vellum leaves in excellent condition with minor traces of aging and a few small parts w/ marginal soiling; still, very well preserved. Pics taken with and without flash to show details; page is not yellowed. As shown, each separate leaf measures 5" x 3.25". Presented in single column, the bifolium remains in double page format with 26 line Latin text, again with metal cut illustrations. 8 inches by 3.5" each leaf (seven inches across both).
I'm combining three documents into this section, all very large pages from a class of documents called Antiphons. The quote below is from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Roman Church has been singing the "O" Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative "Come!" embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.
"The O Antiphons are Magnificat antiphons used at Vespers of the last seven days of Advent in Western Christian traditions. They are also used as the alleluia verses on the same days in the Catholic Mass.
They are referred to as the "O Antiphons" because the title of each one begins with the interjection "O". Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture. They are:
We currently have 3 pages, all original hand-scribed leaves from a Spanish manuscript Antiphonal on animal parchment (vellum). All three of these leaves are from the "Winter Volume" (pars hiemalis) which comprised the Offices of Advent, Christmastide, and Epiphany, circa 1525. They are all double sided documents and measure approximately 560 x 365 mm or 22 x 14 3/8”.
The first document has one illuminated initial in blue with red interior and exterior penwork extending into margin with intricate flourishing. This leaf continues the hymn O Adonai: “...in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.”, and translated reads: [O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses]... in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
The illuminated “O” begins the hymn: "O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare", which translated reads: "O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer".
I happened to find this Gregorian chant on Youtube! Enjoy!
The next leaf has one illuminated initial in red with violet interior and exterior penwork extending into margin with intricate flourishing; one illuminated blue initial with red interior and exterior penwork. This leaf continues part of the Office of Advent.
The illuminated "O" begins the hymn: "O Oriens..."O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis, translated to: O Morning Star, splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death".
The second illuminated “O” begins the hymn: “O Rex Gentium…” (O King of the Gentiles, yea, and the desire thereof, the Corner-stone that makest both one: come and save man…).
The last leaf contains one illuminated initial in red with violet interior and exterior penwork extending into margin with intricate flourishing.
The leaf contains most of the last line of "O Radix Jesse" (O Root of Jesse) "veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare." or "Come and deliver us, and delay no longer", which is sung on December 19th, and the opening of "O Clavis David" (O Key of David), which is sung on December 20th.
The illuminated "O" begins the hymn: O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis, translated to: "O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death."