Illuminated Italian Breviary leaf, c. 1460.

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Recto: Text in Latin written in two columns in an assured gothic bookhand in brown ink on vellum. Rubrics in red. One splendid 5-line illuminated initial ‘N’ in burnished gold on a ground of intricate blue penwork with flourishes extending into the margin. One two-line and many one-line coloured initials.

Verso: As Recto with three two-line illuminated initials and many one-line coloured initials.

Origin: Northern Italy.

Date:  c. 1460

Content:  The illuminated initial ‘N’ on Recto begins Psalm 126 (KJV 127): Nisi dominus aedificaverit domum in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eam nisi dominus custodierit civitatem frustra vigilat qui custodit eam.  (Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.) 

The psalm continues on Verso to its conclusion and is followed by Psalms 127, 128 and the beginning of the moving Psalm 129: De profundis clamavi ad te domine: domine exaudi vocem meam. (Out of the depths have I cried to thee O Lord: Lord, hear my voice.)

Condition: The leaf is in excellent condition. The vellum is clean and the text and illuminations clear and bright. The burnished gold initial is unblemished and lustrous. The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

Size:  Size of leaf: approx. 150x120 mm. Text and illuminated area : approx. 95x80 mm. Archivally mounted, ready for framing.  

Notes: A breviary, etymologically a compendium or abridgement, is the liturgical work which contains the psalms and the hymns, the readings from Sacred Scripture and from the writings of the Fathers, the prayers and the responses, which are combined to form the canonical hours of the divine office of prayer recited daily throughout the world by priests and the religious.

Fifteen psalms are identified in their ascriptions as "A Song of Ascents." It is believed that this collection within the Book of Psalms consists of the songs that pilgrims sang together on their way to the Holy City, ascending the hills one by one until they reached Jerusalem itself. They were well suited for being sung by their poetic form and the sentiments they express. The ascriptions at the beginning indicate that King David wrote Psalms 122, 124, 131 and 133. His son, King Solomon, wrote Psalm 127 (KJV numbering). The rest of them do not mention the author by name.They are also variously called Gradual Psalms, Songs of Degrees, Songs of Steps and Pilgrim Songs.

Psalm 126 has been set to music many times, including by the composers Orlando di Lasso, Cavalli, Charpentier, Biber and Vivaldi.

Item No: MOT082

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