Rare English Antiphonal with Grand Initial


Genre: , ,

English Antiphonal with Large Initial and Complex Decorative Borders. Single folio on vellum. Southern (perhaps southeastern) England, ca. 1450: 466 mm x 261 mm. While the texts conform to Sarum Use, the rubrics might be localizable and may reflect an Augustinian focus. Ruled in diluted black ink. Double column, 51 lines (17 staves). Square neumes on four-line staves in red (11 mm). Decoration: a very large initial I of “Ingressus angelus” in colors on gold grounds, as well as a thick bar border in gold and colors extending the length of the margin with similar extensions and swags filling the upper and lower margins; staff-high strapwork initials with penwork designs and human faces; single- and multi-line blue initials with red penwork; alterating red and blue versal initials; rubricated. Texts: chants, prayers, and rubrics for First Vespers (V1) and Matins (M) of the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March). As a double and a major Marian feast, this occasion was likely among the most ornately decorated in the manuscript. The following table summarizes the notated contents: 

Side Column





Cantus #Comment
Recto A1[Orietur sicut sol ]V1 A004195Begins midway through.

Alleluia for Paschaltide.

Cue for Psalm.

Recto A2Ave maris stellaHymn V1;

Marian Feasts;

Little Office

008272Mode 1 melody
Recto A3Ave maris stellaV1 Hymn;

Marian Feasts;

Little Office

008272Mode 4 melody
Recto A4Ingressus angeliusV1 Mag. A. V1003339Alleluia for Paschaltide. Cue for Magnificat.
Recto B1Ave Maria M I.001042Alleluia for Paschaltide. Cue for Venite.
Recto B2Prophetae praedicaveruntM A. 1.1004392Alleluia for Paschaltide. Cue for psalm.
Recto B3Rorate caeli desuperM A. 1.2004668Alleluia for Paschaltide. Cue for psalm.
Recto B4Egredietur virgaM A. 1.3002613Alleluia for Paschaltide. Cue for psalm.
Recto B5Ingressus angelusM R. 1.1006963Ornate capital I serves as  a visual cue to help cantor turn back responsory after reading the first lesson. Alleluia for Paschaltide.
Verso A1Benedicta tuM V. 1.1006963a 
Verso A2Suscipe verbumM R. 1.2007744 
Verso A3Paries quidem filiumM V. 1.2007744b 
Verso A4Maria ut audivitM R. 1.3007130 
Verso A5Quomodo fiet istudM V. 1.3007130c 
Verso A6Ecce veniet deusM A. 2.1002549Cue for psalm.
Verso B1Super solium DavidM A. 2.2005064Cue for psalm.
Verso B2Super te JerusalemM A. 2.3005065Cue for psalm.
Verso B3Dixit angelusM R. 2.1006466 
Verso B4Ecce concipiesM V. 2.1006466a 
Verso B5Ecce concipiesM R. 2.2006579 
Verso B6Hic erit magnusM V. 2.2006579a 
Verso B7Dabit illi dominusM R. 2.3006390 

While much of the Office for the Annunciation is held in common by the Roman and Sarum rites, the assignment of certain chants is unique to Sarum Use. The recto begins with an incomplete antiphon of First Vespers, [Orietur sicut sol salvator mundi et] descendit in uterum virginis sicut imber super gramen. An Alleluia is indicated during Paschaltide, as the feast’s date of 25 March may fall before or after Easter on any given year. Assigned in the Roman rite to the Vigil of the Nativity, the use of this antiphon for the Annunciation is shared with GB-Cu Mm.ii.9 (the “Barnwell Antiphoner,” from the Augustinian abbey of St. Giles, Barnwell, near Cambridge) and the Sarum “Great Breviary” of 1531. Similarly, on the verso Matins antiphon 2.3, Super te Jerusalem orietur,  is an assignment found only in Sarum books such as the Barnwell Antiphoner, and GB-AB 20541 from Wales. While these antiphons confirm the Sarum Use and suggest an Augustinian focus, the rubrics themselves may indicate a localized practice. Two melodies are given for the hymn Ave maris stella, with extensive rubrics explaining its performance on Marian feasts throughout the year, and for the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin sung as daily devotion. These rubrics are provided because the Annunciation is transmitted in the Temporale section of the manuscript. Its celebration on 25 March would represent the earliest calendar date on which this hymn would be encountered in the manuscript. (The Purification, celebrated on 2 February, would appear later in the book, in the Sanctorale section, which may have been a separate volume altogether.) The rubrics for the hymn vary somewhat from those of the printed Sarum Breviary, and may represent a localized version of the Sarum use.

Matthew Cheung Salisbury has proposed a three-stage model of standardization and variation in the Sarum Office. The first stage, established from 1320 on, followed the spread of the Salisbury Cathedral pattern. Texts from this first pattern survive, in some manuscripts, into the fifteenth century. The second stage resulted from an effort to harmonize and reform the Salisbury pattern associated with Henry Chichele, archbishop of Canterbury from 1414-1443. Chichele’s reform aimed to simplify the office, making it more generally applicable to other venues. Cheung writes that the second stage “ … borrows richly from the texts of the Ordinals, though their relationship to any particular redaction of the Ordinal is never clear.” The third stage, an outgrowth of the second, adapted the Sarum Office to specific contexts, creating new local patterns. Individual manuscripts might reflect changes made for functional reasons or as a result of episcopal, synodal, or regional liturgical prescriptions (see Cataloguing Discrepancies: The Printed York Breviary of 1493 (Toronto, 2011), pp. iv-v). Hence, extensive comparison of the rubrics for the hymn Ave maris stella to those of other manuscript breviaries, antiphoners, and ordinals may help to identify the origin of this noble fragment.

Provenance: from an old European collection, with a British export license allowing permanent export.

Condition: recovered from a binding and therefore slightly worn, creased and damaged as depicted. The lighter pigments look rubbed and somewhat chalky, and the gilding is worn or missing in some cases. The fragment has been cut down. It has older paper and glue residue on the verso.

PRICE: $6500

Back to All Manuscripts

Back to Top