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Antiphonary, Dominican use: Feast of St. John the Apostle, December 27

France, early 14th century

Script: Gothic bookhand (part one); Rotunda semitextualis (part two)

Parchment with ink and paint

Notation: Square


This antiphonary was made in France and eventually made its way to Italy by the 16th century, as there are added chants at the end of the volume which can clearly be dated to Italy in that time period.

This decorated initial U begins the response for the first nocturn of Matins for the Feast of St. John the Apostle, Dec. 27: “Valde honorandus est beatus iohannes qui supra pectus domini in cena recubuit. . .” (Very highly we must venerate blessed John; for during the Last Supper he reclined on the breast of the Lord). The page has been mended with green thread, possibly in the 18th or 19th century. This entire volume was well-used and well-worn, as it has mendings throughout, in addition to rips and tears from use.

Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 6 f158v

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Leaf from a gradual:

Initial I with St John the Evangelist, December 27

Perugia, Italy, ca. 1325

Script: Rotunda

Parchment with ink, paint, and gold

Notation: Square


This initial begins the Introit for the Mass for the feast of St. John the Evangelist (Dec. 27), “In medio ecclesie apperunt os eius…” (In the middle of the temple, [the Lord] opened his mouth). John is blessing a monk in this image.

What is particularly interesting about this leaf is its bas-de-page, featuring animals playing instruments.  There is no way for us to know what the full picture in the margin once was, as the leaf was cropped at some point (probably in the nineteenth century). Also, there is a catch word at the bottom of the page, where the scribe has doodled a border.  Catch words were used to line up the quires or gatherings of pages when a book was bound.  The word “spiritus” would have been the first word on the next quire, presumably.

This leaf is from the same manuscript as Lewis E M 72:16 (Assumption), also featured in this exhibition.

Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E M 72:15