Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections


Illuminated page, Chew Breviary

Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts


MS 29 France, s. XV3

Chew breviary, use of Poitiers

1. ff. 1r-6v Calendar of Poitiers, graded in red, blue, and brown.

Among saints listed: Hylarii (13 Jan. in blue lettering); Flavie (7 May); Simpliciani (31 May); Translatio Hylarii (26 June in blue); Savini (11 July); Cypriani (14 July); Radegundis (13 Aug. in blue); Katherine (25 Nov. in blue); Florencie (1 Dec); Forunati (14 Dec.).

2. ff. 7r-141r Temporal from Advent through the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost.

Lacuna between ff. 103 and 104.

3. ff. 141r-144r Common of the Dedication of a Church.

4. ff. 144r-147r Sequuntur suffragia quae dicuntur in Ecclesia Pictavensi.

Saints include Hilary, Radegundis, Katherine.

5. ff.147r-148v Sequuntur benedictiones dicendae ad matutinas per annum.

Lacuna between ff. 147 and 148.

6. ff. 148r-225v Liturgical Psalter begins incompletely in Psalm 1.

Lacuna between ff. 160 and 161.

7. ff. 225v-227r Canticles: Benedicite omnia opera, Te Deum, Magnificat, Nunc dimittis.

8. ff. 227r-228v Litany with prayers.

Among saints listed: Hilary, Benedict, Francis, Radegundis, Katherine.

9. ff. 228v-232v Prayers and Suffrages to be said during the Office throughout the year.

Suffrages include B. V. Mary, Hilary, Radegundis, Relics of the Saints, the Trinity, the Apostles, All Saints.

Parchment. ff. i-iii (contemporary paper, i=front pastedown) + iv (parchment) + 232 + iii (contemporary paper, iii=back pastedown), modern foliation, 183 x 145 (117 x 86) mm. Written in two columns, 29 or 32 lines, ruled in red ink with single vertical and horizontal bounding lines, full length. Remains of prickings visible at outer margins.

I8(-8), II8(-1), III-XIII 8, XIV8(-3), XV-XVIII 8, XIX8(-8), XX 8, XXI4, XXII8(-2), XXIII-XXV 8, XXVI-XXVII8(+1), XXVIII-XXX 8. Catchwords sometimes placed horizontally in lower margin centered in inner column, verso, and sometimes vertically along inner bounding line in lower margin.

Written by several scribes in a fine textualis quadrata.

The extensive mutilation, as well as the exceptionally high quality of the remaining decoration,suggests a past presence of illustration, yet the existing illuminations are restricted to border decorations and initials. Nevertheless, the precision of line and brilliance of color, as well as the charm of the drolleries, birds, and insects in many of these borders raise this manuscript well above the average. The four-sided border decorations on ff. 167v, 174r, 180v, and 188v are the most elaborate, with several drolleries and at least one bird or insect nestled amid a three-sided border of gold and lapis lazuli acanthus leaves and naturalistic bright red carnations with gold and light green leaves. Additionally each page includes a selection of other flowers, also naturalistically rendered, in blue, pink, red, and violet; and blue, pink, and gold berries; strawberries, and gold seedpods. The detail on many of these decorations is so fine that they appear to be three dimensional. Black penwork leaves infilled with gold line the inner margin of these borders which are set off from the text by a gold frame extending from a 6-line red initial on a blue ground; both initial and ground are overlaid with a tracery of gold acanthus leaves and outlined in gold. If the initial is in the inner column, the frame continues up the center margin separating the two columns.

Particularly notable among the drolleries are the man and ape holding shields which look like masks. Sitting astride mythical beasts, they joust in the lower margin of f. 167v. The ape tugging at his leashed dog on f. 174r could serve as a model of the human form. Other leaves with margin borders which are less lavish may be found on ff. 26v, 83v, 103r, and 196v. On these compartmentalized borders, pink and blue acanthus leaves and pink, red, and white flowers adorn either gold or plain grounds. These borders also include drolleries, slightly crude but amusing renditions of snails, moths, griffins, dragons, and other mythical beasts in greens, reds, and oranges. Many of the pages include smaller margin borders placed next to 4- to 2-line blue and white initials on a gold ground infilled with pink and white vinework terminating in flowers or leaves. These small border decorations may be in the style of either the lapis and gold borders first described, or the compartmentalized borders, and appear at the side or in a corner of the text in the outer or center margin. Some of the small borders in the latter style are embellished with curvaceous tree-stumps. Reminiscent in form and shape of the animals used in the larger borders, they take the place of the more traditional acanthus leaves. Note for example, the twisted gold stump on f. 88v.

In August 2013, Samuel Gras, doctoral candidate at the Université de Lille III, identified the painter of the borders as part of the circle of the Jouvenel Group, in the Loire Valley, perhaps a painter called the Master of Adelaide de Savoie or the Master of Poitiers Ms 30. (Compare the painting in Chantilly, Musée Condé, MS 76, by this painter).

The text is further embellished with numerous 6- to 2-line gold or blue initials on a ground of contrasting black or red penwork flourishes; smaller 1-line red or blue initials on contrasting black or red penwork grounds; red and blue line fillers in the litany; and extensive rubrication throughout.

Binding: Gold-tooled vellum, probably early 19th-century. On upper spine handwritten in ink on paper label: Bréviaire/ Manuscrit./ 15e.

Written in France about 1460 for use at Poitiers. Possibly, considering the prominence of St. Hilary in the text, for the church of St. Hilaire le Grand. Early provenance unknown. Shelf number on lower spine and repeated inside front cover: Ya1/11. Purchased by Samuel C. and Lucy Evans Chew in 1921 in The Hague. Given to Bryn Mawr College in 1962 by Lucy Evans Chew.


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Last Update: January 23, 2018