breviaries

Takamiya MS 102: Breviary

Takamiya MS 102. Breviary (fragment). England or France, c. 1300
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Takamiya MS 102 is a single leaf from a breviary, a kind of liturgical manuscript. The liturgy prescribed the psalms, prayers, and hymns to be recited services throughout the year in services, giving shape to the worship of medieval English Christians. Breviaries conveniently collected the Latin texts of the liturgy together. Rather than flip between passages of the scripture in a Bible, celebrants found their liturgical readings arranged in order in one book made to purpose.

This leaf came from a deluxe manuscript. An artist has decorated three initials lavishly on this page alone. The initial “D” in the left column marks the beginning of a collectio, or collect (abbreviated in red). The visual impact of this decorated initial is enhanced by extenders above and below. A long “I” sprawls over much of the empty space between the two text columns. This “I” begins the first Scripture reading, or lectio, for “the eight Sunday” — in this case, the eight Sunday after Pentecost. The initial “V” in the right column begins the second lectio, from 1 Kings 8:3 (again, the abbreviated text clues us in to this).

This decorated breviary was a luxury item, a handsome investment that emphasized the importance of liturgy within this worship community and reflected their worldly prosperity.