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Psalter of Frederick II
This remarkable illuminated psalter decorated in the Byzantine style was commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Sicily (1194–1250) for his third wife, Isabella of England (1214–41). Frederick married Isabella in 1235. By design and execution, the manuscript illuminations combine the color palette of Byzantium with the stylistic rendering of the plasticity of the human body common to the Italian school of the period. Probably executed at the scriptorium in Acri, a hill town in Calabria, the manuscript is decorated with a full-page initial letter encompassing ...
Book of the Passion of Saint Margaret the Virgin, with the Life of Saint Agnes, and Prayers to Jesus Christ and to the Virgin Mary
This volume is a compilation of three manuscripts produced in Bologna at the end of the 13th century. It begins with the Passion of Saint Margaret of Antioch, in Latin. This is followed by two texts in Italian, one describing the life and devotion of Saint Agnes and one containing prayers to the Virgin Mary. Each manuscript is written in a different hand; evidence suggests that the three parts were brought together and bound at the beginning of the 14th century. The only part of the book that is illustrated ...
The Compendium of Graces and Fountain of Charms
This 17th-century manuscript contains the text of Majmoo’a al-Latā’if wa-Yanbu‘ al-Zarā’if (The compendium of graces and fountain of charms), a collection of esoteric and mystic prayers. The work is divided into many chapters, unnumbered and typically only a few pages long, with rubrications indicating the beginning of each chapter. The work discusses the spiritual expediency of praying in a certain manner; on a certain Islamic month, day of the week, or religious occasion, citing sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and other Islamic tradition as supporting arguments. The ...
This chasoslovets (book of hours or horologion) is the first book printed by the first Bulgarian printer, Iakov (Jacob) Kraikov. It is a collection of prayers, eulogies, saints’ lives, and apocrypha that both served as a daily handbook for priests and was valued by lay readers in search of knowledge and enlightenment. Kraikov printed the book in Venice, at the largest Slavic Cyrillic printing-house for Serbs and Bulgarians in the city, which he acquired in 1566. The selection of font, typesetting, pagination, and the rich artful decoration (more than 30 ...
The Book of Fridays
The first book printed in Armenian was the Urbathagirq (The book of Fridays), which was published in Venice in 1512 by Hakob Meghapart (Jacob the Sinner). Little is known about Hakob Meghapart, or why he styled himself “the Sinner” (or “the Sinful”). Armenia was at that time under the rule of the Ottoman Turks, and the Diaspora community played a critically important role in keeping alive the Armenian language and literary tradition. Written in Grabar (Classical Armenian), the book consists mainly of prayers and remedies for the sick, together with ...
This Flemish Psalter from the library of the Irish College in Paris was made in Bruges (present-day Belgium) around 1500. The manuscript is written in Latin on vellum, and it has a 19th-century binding. Psalters are religious books, especially popular in the Middle Ages, containing the psalms (poems that are sung) from the Bible, often with other devotional texts. Richly decorated, the Psalter includes a fully illuminated page depicting the Tree of Jesse and a miniature of King David, the main author of the psalms. Twelve illuminations, each composed of ...
Prayers for Safety and Success
This calligraphic fragment includes verses in Persian praying for the patron's personal well-being and the prosperity of his kingdom. The verses read: "May the world be (your) fortune and the firmament (your) friend / May the World-Creator (God) protect (you) / May all your works be successful / May God of the World look after you / May your heart and your kingdom be collected and well-frequented / May division stay far away from your realm." The verses are executed in black nasta'liq script on beige paper. They are framed by cloud bands ...
Hours of Notre Dame
Books of hours are collections of prayers used for private devotion. They were the most common illuminated works of the Middle Ages. Heures de Notre-Dame (The book of hours of Notre Dame) was made in Bruges (present-day Belgium) around 1470. The manuscript, written in Latin and on vellum, is most likely the work of William Wyelant or his studio. Wyelant, also known by the Flemish spelling of his name, Willem Vrelant, was an influential illuminator who was active in Bruges from 1449 until his death in 1481. The leaves of ...
A Guide for the Good
This Muslim prayer book is a 1785 copy of an original 15th-century manuscript. The work includes a panorama of Mecca and Medina, the holy cities of Islam in Saudi Arabia. Mecca, where the Prophet Muhammad was born and lived for the first 50 years of his life, is the most sacred city in Islam. It is also where the Ka`bah is found, the holiest sanctuary in Islam and called the "house of God" (Bayt Allah). Muslims throughout the world pray facing in the direction of Mecca and the Ka ...
One Million Small Wooden Pagodas and Dharani Prayers
Hyakumanto Darani (The one million pagodas and Dharani prayers) is the oldest traceable publication in the world whose production date is clearly identified. In 764, the Empress Shōtoku (718-770) ordered the donation of Hyakumanto Darani, each containing a small scroll printed with four Buddhist Dharani sutras, to ten major temples. The National Diet Library holds several of the scrolls that were donated to the Hōryūji Temple in Nara prefecture in western Japan. These three-tiered pagodas were painted with white clay. It is unclear whether the printing blocks were of wood ...
Iberian or Georgian Alphabet with Prayers
Alphabetum ibericum, sive georgianum: cum Oratione (Iberian or Georgian alphabet with prayers) is one of the first two books printed in Georgian using moveable type. In the 1620s, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the body of the Roman Catholic Church established in the early 17th century for the purpose of spreading Catholicism in non-Catholic countries, began to train monks going to Georgia for missionary work. The monks were taught Georgian by Niceforo Irbachi Giorgiano, the ambassador of the Georgian king, Teimuraz I, in Rome. The sacred ...
Book of Hours
The Book of Hours was a prayer book for the laity that developed in late medieval Europe and that was used for private devotion. These works were often personalized for individual patrons and illuminated with miniature paintings depicting the life of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and individual saints. The text included a calendar of liturgical feast days and a series of prayers to be recited eight times a day, according to established practice. By the early Renaissance period the popularity of the Book of Hours demonstrated the growing interest of ...
The Life of the Prophet
Maghāzī al-Nabī (The life of the Prophet) depicts the life of the Prophet Muhammad in poetical form. The original work was composed by a famous Arabic and Persian scholar of Kashmir, Ya‘qub Ṣarfī (1521–95). The unique poetic and biographical work, transcribed in two columns on each page of manuscript, includes some supplications and eulogies for the Prophet of Islam. Each column is bordered in lines inlaid with gold. The writing of the manuscript is clear and vivid.
Manifestations of Goodness
Dalā’il al-Khayrāt (Manifestations of goodness) is a manuscript by Abu Abdullah Muḥammad ibn Sulaymān al-Jazūlī, a Moroccan Sufi and Islamic scholar who died in 1465. The contents of this work are known to Muslims as one of the best compilations of litanies of peace and blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad. The book was often given to pilgrims on their voyage to Mecca. The beginning of the manuscript shows the varied names by which Allah is called, and several pages portray the names by which the Prophet Muhammad is ...
The Drogo Sacramentary
The sacramentary was a liturgical book used for prayer during the High Middle Ages, containing the prayers, prefaces, and canons for mass. Drogo (801–55), bishop of Metz, son of Charlemagne, and famous patron of his era, had a gorgeous copy of the sacramentary made in Metz around 845–55. The manuscript, which is on vellum, is the work of several artists employed by the imperial court. It is written in a clear Latin script and includes some of the most beautiful fleurons ever produced in Metz. The illumination is ...
Surat al-Nas and Du'a
This fragment contains on the top line the last two verses of the final surah (chapter) of the Qur'an, Surat al-Nas (Chapter of mankind). This chapter extols seeking refuge in the Lord from Satan, who, like al-jinn (the spirits), whispers evil things in the hearts of people (116:5–6). The verses at the top of the folio are separated by two verse markers shaped like gold disks with five blue dots on their peripheries. Immediately below the last verse appears a prayer in five lines praising God, the ...
The Key to Success, Also Known As the Medium to All Parties and Attainment of Prosperity
This illuminated manuscript is of a wird (prayer) called "Miftāḥ al-najāḥ al-mukanná bi-al-wasīlah ilá kull ḥizb wa-falāḥ", attributed to ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, the fourth caliph of Islam. According to the colophon, this work was completed by Shaykh Kamāl ibn ‘Abd al-Ḥaqq al-Sabzawārī, the calligrapher and illuminator, in Astarabad (present-day Gorgan, Iran) in 941 AH (1534 AD). The text, divided into five compartments, is in calligraphic vocalized Naskh script in black ink and vocalized Thuluth in gold ink outlined in black. Illuminated rosettes with colored dots serve as verse markers ...
The Guide to Benevolent Deeds and Rising Lights in the Prayers on the Chosen Prophet
This illuminated manuscript is a copy of Dalā’il al-khayrāt (Collection of prayers for the Prophet Muhammad), which was composed by Muḥammad ibn Sulayman al-Jazūlī (died 870 AH [1465 AD]). It was written in black Naskh script in the 11th century AH (17th century AD) in Ottoman Turkey. The prayers ask for blessings for the Prophet, and the individual reciting the prayers would also receive God’s blessings. Like many copies of this text, this manuscript includes additional devotional material, such as lists of al-asma al-sharifa (the noble names). It ...
This late-17th-century volume in Arabic is a Euchologion, the prayer book and book of ritual for the Byzantine Rite. The text includes Arabic and Greek prayers side by side, along with extra notes and instructions in Arabic. Not surprisingly, there are a number of Greek loanwords in the text, for example: qundāq, from the Greek kontakion, referring to the liturgical book itself; aghrubnīya, from the Greek agrupnia, meaning “vigil”; and afšīn, from the Greek euchēn, meaning “prayer.” The Byzantine Rite is the liturgical rite used by the Eastern Orthodox churches ...
This liturgical manuscript is the daily office (Šḥimto) of the Maronites, partly in Syriac, but with some of the prayers in Garshuni (Arabic in Syriac letters). Each page has the text blocked off in red ink. At the end of the manuscript, the ink has bled through in several places, and within the text, several folios have missing pieces (for example, folio 144v). The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in communion with the Holy See in Rome. Centered in Lebanon, the church takes its name from Saint Marun ...
This 17th-century manuscript is a liturgical book in Arabic. It includes the prayers for vespers and matins, as well as the Eucharistic repetitions written by two early fathers of the Christian church, Saint John Chrysostom (circa 347–407) and Saint Basil the Great (circa 330–379). The manuscript is written in a clear Naskh script with rubrication. While there is some damage from worms, very little of the text is lost. Decorative circular designs adorn the front and back covers. The manuscript is from the library of the Monastery of ...