Mysterious Dominican Lectionary in Praescissa Script, Dispersed by 1879
Type: Leaves & Fragments
“Life of St. Agatha” (5 February) from a Curious Dominican Lectionary. Single folio on vellum. ?Spain, ca. 1400: 395 mm x 290 mm (justification, 294 mm x 201 mm). Double column, 27 lines. Thirteen folios from this manuscript are known, but no one agrees on its origin. Germany, Flanders and Spain have all been proposed. The script and decoration are so unusual, however, that a provincial center seems certain. Spain seems at least possible, even though the “pierced” penwork looks Dutch. The script is called praescissa (cut off) or “sine pedibus” (without serifs), which means that the minims terminate parallel to the lower bounding line instead of ending with a curve or diamond-shaped stroke. Praescsissa script is the second-highest grade of book-hand practiced in the middle ages, the highest grade being textus quadratus, a liturgical script with diamond-shaped strokes on serifs and shoulders. Decoration: One three-line initial P in red with piercings with red and blue penwork; alternating red and blue two-line initials with contrasting penwork; rubricated. Text: this is a curious format with readings called “lessons” (second through seventh lessons, in this case, from the “Life of St. Agatha”). While the rubrics probably refer to the nine lessons read at Matins, this manuscript has none of the other ancillary texts (antiphons, responsories, etc.) associated with the Divine Office. Could it have been read from during meals? It was a custom to read passages from martyrologies and lectionaries over the course of a major feast day. A manuscript with only excerpted lessons for Matins would be unusual and awkward to use. Provenance: A leaf that recently surfaced at a London book fair bears an English inscription dated “1879”; other leaves are known to have been sold in London in 1910. See: https://mssprovenance.blogspot.com/2018/11/leaves-from-14th-century-dominican.html#more. Leaves are known from Temporale and Sanctorale portions. Condition: very good, lightly soiled. The dimension of the page width and height of the written space implies that the manuscript has not been trimmed.
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