Manuscript Road Trip: Christmas in Colorado

The Flight into Egypt, Walters Art Museum, MS W.188, f.112r

The Flight into Egypt, Walters Art Museum, MS W.188, f.112r

With the Feast of the Nativity nearly upon us, I’ve decided to spend this week not only looking for manuscripts in the beautiful state of Colorado, but looking in particular for images or text having to do with Christmas.

Blog map Let’s start at the University of Colorado in Boulder. UC Boulder has a very nice  collection of more than 85 leaves, all of which have been digitized here.  There is indeed one leaf that happens to preserve Christmas liturgy, but before we get to it I want to share these two standouts:

Univ. of Colorado at Boulder MS 355, saec. IX

Univ. of Colorado at Boulder MS 355, saec. IX

The leaf shown at the left is remarkably early, dating from the ninth century. It is from a Bible and preserves part of the Book of Job. The fragment was recycled in the late Middle Ages to be used as part of a binding; you can see clearly how the leaf was trimmed to create tabs that were to fold around and adhere to the cover. The two small holes at the right were from the nails that attached two metal clasps, and the damage to the leaf resulted from the parchment being pulled off of the cover.

Martyrdom of St. Eustace from a late fifteenth-century Book of Hours (Univ. of Colorado at Boulder, MS 315 verso)

Martyrdom of St. Eustace from a late fifteenth-century Book of Hours (Univ. of Colorado at Boulder, MS 315 verso)

The second leaf I want to share with you is from a late fifteenth-century Book of Hours. This is a somewhat rare image of the martyrdom of St. Eustace, who was boiled in a hollowed-out bronze idol in the shape of a calf. It’s certainly not an image you would regularly encounter in a Book of Hours. The text is a Suffrage to St. Eustace and would have been included in the manuscript at the request of the original owner.

Next we’ll drive through Denver, stopping at Regis University where we will find several leaves (MARC records here). The Archivist, Elizabeth Cook, was kind enough to send the two images below:

Leaf from a Book of Hours, s. XV (Photo courtesy of Regis University Archives and Special Collections)

Leaf from a Book of Hours, s. XV (Photo courtesy of Regis University Archives and Special Collections)

Leaf from a Psalter, s. XIII ex (Photo courtesy of Regis University, Archives and Special Collection)

Leaf from a Book of Hours, s. XIII ex (Photo courtesy of Regis University, Archives and Special Collections)

I’m fairly certain that the leaf at the far left is from the manuscript that Otto Ege dismembered to use as No. 31 in his “Fifty Original Leaves” set; here‘s a leaf from No. 31 at Kent State University, for comparison (note in particular the style of the border rinceaux and the use of gold leaf in the line-fillers). The right-hand image is from a fairly early Hours, preserving part of the canticle Te deum laudamus that was sometimes sung at the end of Matins of the Hours of the Virgin (the bunny at the end of line four is particularly charming).

Heading south, we make our way to Colorado College in Colorado Springs, where we will find a dozen pre-1600 leaves (listed here) and a newly-acquired fourteenth-century breviary. The breviary is bound in a beautiful and rare seventeenth-century embroidered binding of silver thread on white silk:

Colorado College, Special Collections, Breviary

Colorado College, Tutt Library, Special Collections MS 0378

Some of the Colorado College leaves are part of a collection assembled by Donald Jackson and have been digitized here. Among them are a few Ege leaves, including the twelfth-century Italian lectionary (Jackson #1) and one of Ege’s thirteenth-century Paris Bibles (Jackson #2). Also noteworthy is this tenth-century bifolium preserving part of the Life of St. Fabian (my thanks to curator Jessy Randall for the images):

The Life of St. Fabian, Italy, s. X (Colorado College, Tutt Library, Special Collections)

The Life of St. Fabian, Italy, s. X (Colorado College, Tutt Library, Special Collections)

Finally, I promised you Christmas, and here it is. In UC Boulder’s collection is an Ege set whose leaves include the lovely twelfth-century Italian lectionary we’ve come to know and love (I just pointed out another leaf from this manuscript in the previous paragraph). It just so happens that the leaf in Boulder preserves the Gospel readings for Christmas.

Univ. of Colorado at Boulder, MS Ege 3, verso

Univ. of Colorado at Boulder, MS Ege 3, recto

On the recto (shown at the right), we read Luke 1:26-33, a lection that includes the  Annunciation – “Ave gratia plena dominus tecum” – and the description of the birth of Jesus –  “Ecce concipies in utero et paries filium et vocabis nomen eius jesum.”

As I turn this virtual road trip west and head over the Rocky Mountains, I wish a Merry Christmas to all who celebrate and a Happy New Year to all who adhere to the Gregorian calendar.

See you in Utah!colorado_snow

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2 Comments

Filed under Medieval Manuscripts

2 responses to “Manuscript Road Trip: Christmas in Colorado

  1. harrisfr

    Thank you for the beauty of all that you post!

  2. Unfortunately, I could not post pictures of some of ours at our location in Denver.
    – Alan Culpin
    Abracadabra Books

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