We’re currently processing a collection of rare book leaves. Some of them are beautiful, but extremely difficult to identify!

This is a leaf of a Spanish breviary from 1425, but we don’t know what the text says, what city or monastery it may be from, or who may have commissioned it. Do you know anything about this leaf? Or maybe you know someone who does?

Get in touch via Tumblr or email: Please mention “Spanish breviary manuscript” in the subject line.


Feast of All Saints – Breviary Meditations * Taken from Daily Breviary Meditations: Meditations for Every Day on the Scriptural Lessons of the Roman Breviary, in accordance with the Encyclical “Divino Afflante,” written by the Most Rev. Joseph Angrisani, Bishop of Casale-Monferrato, and translated by Rev. Father Joseph A. McMullin of St. Charles Seminary at Philadelphia, PA (Vol. 4; New York: Benziger Brothers, Inc., 1954).

Pretty medieval manuscript of the day is a lavishly illustrated Franciscan breviary. The historiated initial shows David with his harp. The border contains fantastical creatures, and owls, and dragons, and naked figures fighting, and angels bearing coats of arms, and… well really there is just so much going on here that the best thing you can do is take a proper close-up look! If this image isn’t high res enough for you, check out the original over on Flickr.

Image source: Schaffhausen, Ministerialbibliothek, Min. 98: Breviarium OFM . Creative Commons licensed via eCodices on Flickr.


Puzzle initial U from fol. 6r of Ms. Codex 1233. This breviary is bound to 508 x 378 mm and contains 303 leaves, so it’s a fairly hefty codex– and it had a life just as outsized, having seen use from the 15th century all the way through to the end of the 18th. Look at all the drip marks from candle wax!

Manuscript description and digital images can be found here on the Penn Libraries website.

Pretty medieval manuscript of the day is the Stuart Breviary, an illuminated manuscript which belonged to Mary Queen of Scots. According to the National Library of Russia (which owns the book):

The most famous book of hours was given to Mary, Queen of Scots by her uncle, the Duc de Guise, when she was still betrothed to the Dauphin, the future Frances II. It was created and beautifully illuminated in France in the second quarter of the 15th century. On blank pages and of the margins there are many notes,written by Mary herself. It is said that she took this very book to the scaffold with her. 

Source: National Library of Russia website

I think the intricate detail of the border illustrations is quite wonderful.

Image source: Image declared as public domain on Wikimedia Commons because its copyright has expired.


Neumes! Magical neumes!

Check out these leaves from a breviary dating all the way back to the 11th century. Contains versicle and hymn for first vespers of Passion Sunday, the Magnificat antiphon, the invitatory (from Psalm 94) with neumes, the vesper oration; the hymn at matins (Pange Lingua), and the first lesson at matins with its responsory, with neumes.

Source: Conception, Conception Abbey and Seminary, Special Collections,  CA 06

Pretty medieval manuscript of the day is a leaf from the Stowe Breviary. This page has a rather lovely historiated initial showing the face of Christ. The book was produced in Norwich, East Anglia, in the early fourteenth century.

Image source: British Library MS Stowe 12. Image declared as public domain on the British Library website.


Today is the fortieth day after Christmas, a day reserved for the celebration the feast of the Purification of the Virgin. The feast commemorates Mary’s presentation of the infant Christ and her reintegration into Temple worship. (According to Mosaic law, women remained ritually impure after giving birth and could not participate in Temple rituals until a period of forty days had passed.) In England the feast became known as Candlemas because it was accompanied by a procession of the faithful, each holding a newly blessed candle.

This leaf, from a fourteenth-century Italian breviary, contains part of the office for the feast. Notice that on the recto, the decorator goofed and did not adhere to strict alternation between red and blue initials.
RARE FO Z113.P3 item 7

Columbia, University of Missouri, Ellis Library, Special Collections, RARE FO Z113.P3 item 7.  More info at Digital Scriptorium.

- Julie Christenson

Portrait of Sister María Antonia del Corazón de Jesús (1814). José María Vázquez (Mexican, 1765-ca. 1826). Oil on canvas. Museo Nacional de Arte.

The painting honors Sister María Antonia who became a nun in the Order of Conception. Superfluous decoration has been abandoned in favor of elements of spirituality, such as the breviary being held. The saints and holy personages on the coat of arms have to do with the nun’s name and forebears.