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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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):
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.
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!