"By the Rivers of Babylon..." Illuminated Breviary leaf, c.1480, France.

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The leaf includes the entire psalm136 and one line of liturgical chant music. 

 Despite its appearance, this leaf is almost certainly from a Breviary, not a Book of Hours.  The beloved Psalm 136 (KJV 137) "By the rivers of Babylon" is part of the liturgy for Sunday in the 5th week of Easter.  Neither the psalm nor the antiphon that follows it on this leaf appear in the usual Uses of Books of Hours. 

Recto:  15 lines of text in Latin written in a gothic bookhand in brown ink on vellum.   Faint rulings in red.   One two-line illuminated initial 'S' in raised and burnished gold on  a ground of blue and red outlined in black and finished with white penwork.  Six similarly illuminated one-line initials and six illuminated line fillers. 

Verso:  As Recto, with six similar illuminated initials and five line fillers. One line of liturgical chant notation in square neumes on a four-line stave.

Origin:   Northern France.

Date:   c.1480.

Content:   Psalm 136 begins on Recto and continues to its conclusion on Verso. 

(See Appendix for the Latin and English text.) 

The liturgical chant on Verso is an antiphon drawn from the psalm.  It reads:

Hymnum cantate nobis de canticis Syon. (Sing ye to us a hymn of the songs of Sion.)

Condition:  The leaf is in excellent condition.  Apart from light edge browning the vellum is bright and clean, the colours of the illuminations remain strong and the burnished gold shines brightly. The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

Notes:  Psalm 136 Super flumina Babylonis was sung by the Jews in Babylonian exile, as a communal lament about remembering Zion, and yearning for Jerusalem while dwelling in exile during the Babylonian captivity.  After Nebuchadnezzar II's successful siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC, and subsequent campaigns, inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah were deported to Babylonia, where they were held captive until some time after the Fall of Babylon (539 BC). The rivers of Babylon are the Euphrates river, its tributaries, and the Tigris river.  The psalm reflects the yearning for Jerusalem as well as hatred for the Holy City's enemies with, in the last verse, violent imagery.

It forms a regular part of liturgy in Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and other Protestant traditions. It has often been set to music, by, for example, Palestrina, Orlando di Lassus, Charpentier, Saint-Saëns and many others into the 21st century.  It was the inspiration for Verdi's opera Nabucco.

Size:  Leaf: approx. 165x130 mm.  Please note that shipping is invoiced separately.

Appendix:  Psalm 136 (KJV137)

Super flumina Babylonis illic sedimus et flevimus cum recordaremur Sion:

In salicibus in medio eius suspendimus organa nostra.

Quia illic interrogaverunt nos qui captivos duxerunt nos verba cantionum

Et qui abduxerunt nos hymnum cantate nobis de canticis Sion.

Quomodo cantabimus canticum Domini in terra aliena?

Si oblitus fuero tui Hierusalem oblivioni detur dextera mea.

Adhereat lingua mea faucibus meis si non meminero tui 

Si non praeposuero Hierusalem in principio laetitiae meae.

Memor esto Domine filiorum Edom diem Hierusalem 

Qui dicunt exinanite exinanite usque ad fundamentum in ea.

Filia Babylonis misera beatus qui retribuet tibi retributionem tuam quam retribuisti nobis

Beatus qui tenebit et adlidet parvulos tuos ad petram.

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

How shall we sing the lord's song in a strange land?

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

Remember, O lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.

O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.

Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

Item No:  MOT099

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