Italian decorated manuscript Breviary leaf, c.1460.

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The ”Nunc dimittis”  and a hymn by

Saint Ambrose.

The “Nunc dimittis” was sung by the aged Simeon, who had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Simeon was at the Temple in Jerusalem when Mary and Joseph came to present the infant Jesus for the rite of purification according to Jewish law and custom. Simeon recognised the baby as the promised Saviour, took him in his arms, and raised his hymn of praise.

Verso:  Text in Latin written in two columns in an assured gothic bookhand in brown ink on vellum.  Rubrics in red. Three two-line decorated initials alternating in blue with red penwork and red with the palest sepia penwork. Several one-line initials alternating in red and blue.

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

Origin:  Northern Italy.

Date: c. 1460

Content: The text on Verso, beginning with the blue ’T’ in the left column is an ancient hymn written by Saint Ambrose:

Te lucis ante terminum,

rerum creator, poscimus,

ut solita clementia

sis præsul ad custodiam.

To Thee before the close of day,

Creator of the world, we pray

That, with Thy wonted favour, Thou

Wouldst be our guard and keeper now.

The blue ’N’ in the right column begins the famous “Nunc dimittis” (see Notes below).

“Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum, in pace.”

(Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised.)

Condition:  The leaf is in excellent condition.  Apart from the expected edge browning, the vellum is clean and the text and decorations clear and bright.  The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

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

Notes:  The Nunc dimittis, also known as the Song of Simeon or the Canticle of Simeon, is a canticle taken from the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, verses 29 through 32. Its Latin name comes from its "incipit", the opening words, of the Vulgate translation of the passage, meaning "Now you dismiss".

The brief hymn of praise was sung by the aged Simeon, who had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Simeon was at the Temple in Jerusalem when Mary and Joseph came to present the infant Jesus for the rite of purification according to Jewish law and custom. Simeon recognised the baby as the promised Saviour, took him in his arms, and raised his hymn of praise.  Because of its implications of fulfilment, peace, and rest, the early church viewed it as appropriate for the ending of the day. It has been used since the 4th century in such evening worship services as Compline, Vespers, and Evensong.

Many composers, from Schutz to Rachmaninoff have set the words to music.

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.

Item No:  MOT086

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