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Single leaf from a gradual: Initial P with the

Adoration of the Christ Child

with the Shepherds, December 25

Lombardy, Italy – c. 1490-1510

Script: Rotunda
Parchment with ink, paint, and gold

Notation: Square

 

This image begins the Introit for the Third Mass of Christmas Day, “Puer natus est nobis et filius datus est nobis” (Unto us a child is born and unto us a son is given). An Introit for a Mass is the first sung portion of the Mass, signifying its start.

 

In contrast with the Austrian Nativity leaf, 65:7, there is much more detail and definition in this historiated initial P. Notice the folds in the robes of the figures, the vanishing point of the decrepit stable, and more realistic-looking faces, with light and shadow. Although this was only made twenty years or so after the Austrian manuscript, it is evident that the Italian style had already become far more advanced, as the Renaissance was well under way by this time.

 

Free Library of Philadelphia E M 71:14

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Click on image for a link to the catalog record and higher resolutions.

Click on image for a link to the catalog record and higher resolutions.

 

Single leaf from an antiphonary:

Initial H with the Nativity, December 25

Austria – Melk, ca. 1430-1440

Benedictine Use

Script: Gothic bookhand

Parchment with ink, paint, and gold

Notation: Square

 

This initial begins the first response of the first nocturn of Matins for the feast of the Nativity, “Hodie nobis caelorum Rex de Virgine nasci dignatus est, ut hominem perditum ad caelestia regna revocaret.” (On this day the King of heaven deigned to be born for us of a Virgin, in order to call fallen men home again to the heavenly kingdom). This leaf is one of many in the Free Library’s collection from a number of separate manuscripts from the scriptorium of the Benedictine monastery at Melk. Melk was famous for its calligraphy at the beginning of the 15th century: the abbey was reformed in 1418, at which time the abbot instituted a revival of learning and raised the bar for the quality of the scripts produced there.

Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E M 65:7