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Archival description
Medieval and early modern manuscript collection
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English book of hours leaf

Item is a leaf from an English book of hours containing verses 22:5-23:4 of the Book of Psalms. The leaf may have been produced at Syon Abbey (a wealthy monastery of the Bridgettine Order that was located east of London on the north bank of the River Thames in the parish of Isleworth), but this claim (from the seller's description) remains unsubstantiated. The leaf features illuminated initials of burnished gold and a floral border on the recto. Surviving English books of hours are rare, as many were destroyed during the English Reformation.

A partial transcription of the leaf reads: Beginning with "In conspectus meo..." : "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Beginning with the illuminated letter D of "Domini est terra..." : "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof: the world, and all they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas; and hath prepared it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend into the mountains of the Lord: or who shall stand in his holy place? The innocent in hands, and the clean of heart, who hath not taken his soul in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbour..."

Medieval and early modern manuscript collection

  • CA MRUASC C0003
  • Collection
  • [11--?]-[19--?], predominant [12--]-[15--]

Collection consists of manuscripts (books, leaves, and documents written by hand), mostly from medieval and early modern Europe. Most items were produced in Western and Southern Europe (France, England, Flanders, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Spain), although a few are from the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Many leaves are illuminated and feature decorative initials, borders, line fillers, etc. Most are in Latin, although a few are in medieval vernacular or other languages.

The collection is arranged in series by manuscript type: Books of hours, liturgical books (contains leaves from psalters, breviaries, antiphonals, and graduals), charters, Bibles, and canon law.

Liturgical books

Series consists of leaves from liturgical books (also known as service books), which were used by the clergy in the celebration of Christian public religious worship. Types of liturgical books in the series include breviaries, antiphonals, psalters, hymnals and gradual processionals.

Moralia in Job fragment

Item is a fragment of a leaf from the Moralia in Job (also known as the Commentary on Job, Magna Moralia, or Moralia, sive Expositio in Job), a work of biblical commentary authored by Pope Gregory I (Saint Gregory the Great) in the late 6th century. The fragment is written in late Caroline miniscule or protogothic script. It also features several holes including a large parchment flaw at bottom, while those in the centre were probably created when the fragment was reused as a limp binding.


Series consists of English and French charters, legal records that documented the transfer of property or rights from one person or group to another. Charters include marriage settlements/contracts, property leases/declarations of sale, a will, a deed, an obligation, and a papal bull.

Books of hours

Series consists of leaves and a bifolium from books of hours, Christian devotional texts for the private use of laypeople (non-clergy) which were very popular in the late medieval period.

Bible leaf from William de Brailes' workshop

Item is a leaf from an English pocket bible containing verses 22:12-24:39 of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Leaf features illuminated initials and marginalia including a partial English translation of verse 24:1 ("Wisedome shall prayse herselfe and be honored in god and rejoyse in the middes of his people :". The leaf was produced in Oxford in the workshop of the prominent manuscript illuminator William de Brailes.

A partial transcription of the leaf reads: Beginning nequissimi enim...: "For the wicked life of a wicked fool is worse than death... keep fidelity with a friend in his poverty, that in his prosperity also thou mayst rejoice... wisdom shall praise her own self, and shall be honored in God, and shall glory in the midst of her people and shall open her mouth in the churches of the most high, and shall glorify herself in the sight of his power... he said to me: let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in my elect. From the beginning and before the world, was I created, and unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling place I have ministered before him..."

French psalter-hours leaf

Item is an illuminated leaf from a miniature psalter-hour from France. A psalter-hours is a personal prayer book that was the precursor to Books of Hours. The leaf features initials and line fillers in red, blue, and burnished gold.

French breviary leaf

Item is a leaf from an illuminated breviary from Northern France. Verso features a zoomorphic initial featuring a dragon, and several other illuminated initials and line fillers in red, blue, and burnished gold. A breviary is a liturgical book used by the clergy to celebrate the Divine Office (also known as the Liturgy of the Hours), and contains readings, hymns, psalms, and prayers.

English psalter leaf

Item is a leaf from an illuminated psalter featuring initials, line fillers, and leafy borders in red, blue, and burnished gold. The borders are inhabited by a pointing figure (recto), and a downward facing human-animal hybrid with a tall hat (verso).

Tefillin scroll

Item is a tefillin scroll containing an excerpt from the Torah. Tefillin (or phylacteries) are sets of two small black leather boxes, each containing a set of four scrolls of verses from the Torah, which are worn by observant adult Jews during weekday morning prayers as a remembrance of God's delivery of the Israelites out of Egypt.

Shahnameh leaf

Item is a leaf from the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), the national epic of Greater Iran which was written by the Persian poet Hakīm Abul-Qāsim Firdawsī Tūsī (Ferdowsi) in the early 11th century.

Palm-leaf manuscript

Item is a palm-leaf manuscript from Southeast Asia (possibly Thailand), and is likely a Buddhist text in Pali. The text is written in 5 lines, possibly in Thai script. The manuscript is bound with a cord that passes through a central hole in the leaves and the boards. Both the boards and the manuscript's accompanying display stand are made of wood and painted black with gilt decoration.

English pocket Bible leaf

Item is a leaf from an English pocket bible, possibly from East Anglia, containing verses 10:30-12:41 of the Book of Mark. Leaf features illuminated initials and marginalia.

A partial transcription of the leaf reads: "Et sorores, et matres, et agros..." : "and sisters , and mothers, and children... the Son of man also is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many... Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord... My house shall be called the house of prayer to all nations. But you have made it a den of thieves... Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's... And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment. And the second is like to it; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself..."

Liber Sextus Decretalium leaf

Item is a large leaf from an Italian copy of Liber Sextus Decretalium (the Sixth Book of Decretals), a collection of papal decrees concerning canon law (decretals) that was compiled by Pope Boniface VIII as a supplement to the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX. The leaf features glossing, manicules, and paraphs and headings in red and blue.

Manuscript fragments

File contains three fragments of manuscript leaves (possibly works of canon law) recovered from later bindings. Fragments 1 and 2 appear to be from the same manuscript, and possibly the same leaf. The fragments feature glossing in a number of medieval and modern hands, rubrication, and illuminated initials, paraphs, and marginal decorations, one in the form of a a mythical creature.

French pocket Bible leaf

Item is an illuminated leaf from a French pocket Bible, likely from Paris. The leaf features text from the Book of Obadiah in minute Gothic miniscule script in two columns. The recto features an elongated whimsical creature (possibly a griffon?) between the two columns of text, and the verso contains a 6-line historiated initial depicting the prophet Obadiah seated and holding a scroll.

English psalter leaves

File contains two leaves from an illuminated psalter that feature illuminated initials and line fillers in red, blue, and burnished gold. The leaves also feature three-quarter borders on both sides depicting long tendrils terminating in trefoils and containing marginal illustrations of humans/hybrid creatures and a bird. A psalter is a book containing the Book of Psalms and often other devotional texts such as a liturgical calendar, Litany of Saints, and Office of the Dead.

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