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Antiphonary
This antiphonary (a book containing the choral parts of the Holy Office) was transferred to the Biblioteca comunale degli Intronati di Siena in 1811 from its place of origin, the Augustinian monastery of San Salvatore in Lecceto near Siena. By virtue of its specific liturgical function, the antiphonary, designed for the use of the monastic community, contains both the daytime and the nocturnal services. It was illuminated in 1442 as part of an extensive artistic program within the monastery promoted under priors Bartolomeo Tolomei and Girolamo Buonsignori. A bull by ...
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Municipal Library Intronati
Poem Concerning the Departure of the Magi
This 15th-century manuscript, in Renaissance script, contains a poetic composition (De profectione Magorum adorare Christum et de innocentibus interfectis ab Herode) by a "Gabriel Volaterranus." The author was in all likelihood Gabriello Zacchi da Volterra, the archpriest (acting dean, vicar to the bishop) of the cathedral, who was from a culturally sophisticated background and died in 1467 at the age of 33. The author dedicates the work to Tommaso del Testa Piccolomini, the secret assistant of Pope Pius II (folio 132r), to whom Pius had granted the privilege of kinship ...
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Municipal Library Intronati
Meditations, or the Contemplations of the Most Devout
Meditationes, seu Contemplationes devotissimae (Meditations, or the contemplations of the most devout) by Cardinal Juan de Torquemada (1388–1468) is thought to be the first Italian book illustrated with a series of woodcut images. The first edition was printed in Rome in 1467 by the German printer Ulrich Han. Presented here is a 1479 edition, printed in Mainz by Johann Neumeister (circa 1440–circa 1512), a German cleric and printer who claimed to have been a student of Johann Gutenberg. The designs of the 33 woodcuts, although considered rough by ...
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Library of Congress
Hebrew Bible
This manuscript Hebrew Bible with full vocalization, accentuation, and Masorah annotation was created in Spain in around 1300. The Bible is illustrated and decorated in color, silver, and gold. The books of the Bible are arranged in the conventional order later adopted in Hebrew printed editions, with the exception that Ecclesiastes precedes Lamentations. Written on parchment in Sephardi square script, the manuscript has three columns per page, with 35 lines per column. The Masorah Magna notes are written in micrography. Masorah refers to the collection of critical notes, compiled in ...
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National Library of Israel
The Tianyuan Jade Calendar in Verse Prose on the Auspicious and Unusual Signs
The author of this calendar is unknown. Traditionally it was attributed to Liu Ji (1311–75), an early Ming military strategist and statesman. This copy was issued in the 13th year (1477) of the Chenghua reign of the Ming. Several other editions were made, such as the one printed in 1619, a number of which are held by the National Central Library in Taiwan. Presented here is a one-juan handwritten copy, a rare early manuscript that is slightly damaged. The work lists 60 items, with four-character headings, such as “Heaven ...
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National Central Library
Revelations of Saint Bridget of Sweden
Saint Birgitta (or Bridget) of Sweden (circa 1303–73) was known for her revelations, which she reportedly wrote down in Swedish and then had translated into Latin by one of her two confessors. When she took ill, she changed her usual practice, and dictated her revelations to one of the confessors, who then translated them into Latin. In the manuscript collection at the National Library of Sweden is preserved a document that offers a unique insight into the origins of Birgitta’s revelations. It consists of three leaves of paper ...
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National Library of Sweden
Abridged Version of “De arte phisicali de cirurgia”, “Fistula in ano”, Including an Obstetrical Treatise
Manuscript X 188 in the National Library of Sweden dates to around 1425–35 and contains two works by John Arderne (active 1307–70), an abridged version of De arte phisicali et de cirurgia (Of the physical arts and surgery) and Fistula in ano. Also included is a tract on obstetrics by another author, Muscio. De arte phisicali et de cirurgia is a textbook on medicine and surgery; Fistula in ano deals with rectal disorders. The manuscript is written in two long columns on a parchment roll that is 542 ...
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National Library of Sweden
Kyiv Gospel
The Kyiv Gospel was created in 1411 by a monk called Makarii in the Pustynno-Mykolaivskyi Monastery in Kiev, by order of the monk Ionah Bolakyrev, as recorded in one of the historic inscriptions on the work. This copy is one of the few 15th-century manuscripts from Kiev that specifies where it was made. The Gospel is known as a paleographic specimen of the “younger” semi-uncial script in Ukraine. Two headpieces of simple composition, headings, and initials are executed in dark-brown ink and vermilion. The manuscript was restored and bound in ...
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V.I. Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine
The Diary of Mansai
Mansai (1378−1435) was an abbot of the Daigo-ji Temple in the early Muromachi period (14th−15th centuries). Born into an aristocratic family, Mansai was adopted by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and ordained into the priesthood. He served three shoguns, not only as a priest but also as a political adviser and close associate. Mansai witnessed many important events in politics, foreign relations, literature, and society and was privy to the top secrets of the nation. Mansai jugō nikki (The diary of Mansai) is thus an important historical source. The National ...
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National Diet Library
Lotus Sutra
The practice of printing Buddhist scriptures on the reverse of letters from the deceased to pray for the repose of his or her soul became common from the end of the Heian period (late 12th century) onward. The scrolls shown here contain the text of a Buddhist sutra called Myōhō renge-kyō (Lotus sutra). They are printed on the reverse of letters sent from Daitō Genchi, the second abbot of Kakuon-ji Temple in Kamakura. It is believed that Hōjō Sadatoki’s wife, to whom the letters are addressed, and some others ...
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National Diet Library
Book of Hours
This finely illuminated and iconographically rich book of hours was made in England at the end of the 13th century. The manuscript is incomplete and mis-bound. The original sequence of the parts of the manuscript cannot be reconstructed with certainty. The Abbreviated Hours were followed by the Hours of the Holy Spirit, the Seven Penitential Psalms, the litany and collects, the Fifteen Gradual Psalms, the Office of the Dead, and the Hours of Jesus Crucified. Whether the Prayers to the Crucified Christ, which were followed by the lections in the ...
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Walters Art Museum
Homilary
This richly illuminated 14th-century German homilary is particularly interesting for its rare bifolium of drawings bound in at the front of the book. The headgear worn by the nuns in the drawings is characteristic of Cistercensian and Premostratensian nuns in northern Germany as early as circa 1320. Evidence for dating and localization is also found in the manuscript's relationship with a second homilary in the Bodleian Library (Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ms. Douce 185). Despite minor codicological differences—page layout, text-block dimensions, and ruling—it seems likely that the two ...
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Walters Art Museum
Loftie Hours
This mid-15th-century illuminated book of hours is written entirely in Dutch on fine parchment and is remarkable for its 18 grisaille miniatures. This technique, wherein the figures are modeled primarily in a gray wash, became a favorite in the Netherlands. The hand behind the miniatures in this manuscript has been identified with one of a group of artists known as the Masters of the Delft Grisailles. The manuscript has been grouped with more than a dozen related works, including New York, Morgan Library Ms. M.349; London, Victoria and Albert ...
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Walters Art Museum
Duke Albrecht's Table of Christian Faith (Winter Part)
This manuscript is a document of the first importance in the history of Dutch manuscript illumination and contains an important medieval Dutch devotional text. The Tafel van den Kersten ghelove (Table of Christian faith) is a compendium of Christian knowledge written by a learned Dominican, Dirc van Delf. The text is in two parts, one for winter, another for summer. This manuscript is of the winter part and is incomplete, omitting the prologue and chapters 13, 14, and 35−57; chapters 23−24 are in inverse order. The arms of ...
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Walters Art Museum
Book of Hours
In the Byzantine world, this book would have been known as a horologion, or book of hours. Illustrated books of hours in Greek are extremely rare, and this example is one of only two surviving horologia with image cycles. The manuscript includes many full-page miniatures, which show interaction between the late-Byzantine and Gothic artistic styles. The manuscript may have been copied on the island of Crete, which in the 15th century was under Venetian rule.  Unlike the images found in Western books of hours, which typically are drawn from the ...
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Walters Art Museum
Ethiopian Gospels
This Gospel book was written in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, in the early 14th century, and was once owned by the church of Saint George in Debre Mark'os. It was written by the scribe Mäṭre Krǝstos in the official liturgical language of Ethiopia, Gǝ‛ǝz. Most notable is its prefatory image cycle, which makes references to holy places in Jerusalem, such as Golgotha and the Holy Sepulcher, as they appeared in the sixth century. The manuscript therefore appears to be based on a sixth-century exemplar containing images connected to the ...
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Walters Art Museum
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 ...
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Irish College in Paris
Encyclopedic Manuscript Containing Allegorical and Medical Drawings
In the Middle Ages, medicine was very much intertwined with astrology and other nonscientific superstitions. This manuscript on vellum, produced in southern Germany around 1410, contains pen and ink drawings with explanatory texts in German and Latin. The first drawing shows the earth and seven planets. It is followed by Zodiac-man, a naked man shown with the 12 signs of the zodiac, each relating to a specific part of the body. Next are four bloodletting charts of the human body. Such bleeding charts or calendars were widely used in this ...
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Library of Congress
Sixth Map of Asia
Several editions of Ptolemy’s Geographia (Geography), translated into Latin from the original Greek, were published in Europe in the 15th century. This map is from the 1478 edition, which was published in Rome. Ptolemaic atlases included 12 maps of Asia. The “Sixth Map of Asia” covered the Arabian Peninsula. The outlines of this map are crude, but many geographic features, including the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and different features of the peninsula are clearly recognizable.
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Qatar National Library
Aesop's Fables
This is the second Augsburg edition of the Fables of Aesop, translated from Latin into German by Heinrich Steinhöwel. It is illustrated with 208 woodcuts, cut in the Augsburg style, which is characterized by thick contour lines outlining the figures, a reliance on white space rather than highly detailed embellishment to decorate the image, and little background or landscape to create perspective. The publishing history of the Fables is extensive. Over 150 separate editions of the work were printed between 1465 and 1501. Little is known of Aesop’s life ...
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Library of Congress
Franc à cheval, John II
The franc à cheval was ordered issued on December 5, 1360 to finance the ransom of King John II (born 1319; reigned, 1350–64), who had been taken prisoner by the English at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, during the Hundred Years’ War. The ransom totaled a vast 3 million écus, and the fact that the coin was used to secure the release of the king gave rise to the name by which it was known: franc, meaning free. The value of the coin was set at one livre ...
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National Library of France