October 18, 2012

The Salzburg Missal

The five volumes of the monumental feast missal of the Salzburg basilica, now in the Bavarian State Library, is among the most lavishly ornate, and probably the most costly, medieval missals in the world. Commissioned by the Salzburg Prince-Archbishop Bernhard of Rohr (1418–87, reigned 1466–82), an art lover and bibliophile, the manuscript was completed by 1494 under the rule of his successors. It contains 22 liturgical texts for the most important religious feasts to be celebrated in the Salzburg basilica. In the late 1450s, the Salzburg painter Ulrich Schreier began work on the magnificent miniatures, but soon after he had started Berthold Furtmeyr (circa 1435/40–circa 1501) was commissioned to continue. Furtmeyr decorated the volumes with splendid miniatures, and the missal is considered his mature artistic masterpiece. The extent of the work and the division of its 680 leaves into five volumes testify to the extraordinary demands of the commission. Written in large textura script, each volume is 38 centimeters tall and 28 centimeters wide, convenient to handle and at the same time impressive. Each volume contains liturgical texts and brightly colored illuminations. The first volume includes the three holy masses: the birth of Christ on December 25th, the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ on January 1st, and the feast of Epiphany on January 6th. The second volume contains liturgies for the Purification of the Virgin, the Annunciation, the Deposition of Saint Rupert, Holy Thursday, Easter, and the Ascension. The third volume includes the liturgies of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, and the Assumption. The fourth volume contains the liturgies of Saint Augustine, the Nativity of Mary, the Translation of Saint Rupert, the Kermis of the Salzburg basilica, and the Translation of Saint Virgil. In the fifth volume, the Solemnity of All Saints, Saint Martin’s Day, and the Deposition of Saint Virgil on November 27th complete the liturgical year.

The Small Mirror of Genji

Genji Monogatari (The tale of Genji) is widely regarded as the pinnacle of classical Japanese literature. It tells the story of Hikaru Genji, son of the Japanese emperor who, for political reasons, is relegated to commoner status and has to start a career as an imperial official. The text covers his entire life, concentrating especially on his private life as a courtier, including his numerous love affairs. The tale was written around the year 1000 at the imperial court of Heian-kyo (Kyoto) by a lady-in-waiting at the court whose real name is unknown, but who went by the pseudonym of Murasaki Shikibu. The complete work is long and complex, spanning hundreds of pages and detailing the life not only of Hikaru Genji but of some 400 characters, so by the Edo period (1603–1867) it became common to use abbreviated versions of the tale. This five-volume illustrated digest was created in the 17th century and is illuminated with brightly colored illustrations.

Ortenburg Armorial

This armorial was probably written and illuminated by different hands in Bavaria between 1466 and 1473. It contains heraldic devices of the Quaternions (Groups of Four, each representing different social groups of the Holy Roman Empire). It also illustrates the crests of (mostly) Bavarian princes, noblemen, territories, bishoprics, and prince-bishops. Despite its somewhat crude execution, it is a valuable resource for the heraldry of Southern Germany towards the end of the 15th century. By 1534 the manuscript had come into the possession of the counts of Ortenburg, near Passau; there, heraldic devices of the Ortenburg family and their ancestors were added. It remained with the family until 1953, when it was sold to the Bavarian State Library, where it is preserved.

Passover Haggadah

This Haggadah Shel Pesach (Passover Haggadah) contains the Hebrew and Aramaic texts that are read and sung on the first evening and, in many households in the Diaspora, on the second evening of the Passover festival. These texts often are richly illuminated and decorated with miniatures. This manuscript from Tegernsee Abbey, a former Benedictine monastery located on the Tegernsee in Bavaria, contains 23 miniatures. The manuscript also contains a very polemical commentary in Latin from a Christian point of view, written in 1492 by the Dominican Erhardus, who clearly possessed some knowledge of Hebrew. The presentation of the text and the artistic style indicate that the manuscript originated in Southern Germany or Bavaria in the second half of the 15th century. After the dissolution of the monastery in 1803, the Haggadah was transferred to the Munich Court Library, the predecessor to the Bavarian State Library, where it is now preserved.

Portolan Chart (Old World)

Among the geographic manuscripts in the Bavarian State Library is a series of the most important portolan charts that have come down to the present. These charts consist of a single piece of sheepskin with part of the sheep’s neck, showing the outlines of the continents and the names of coastal settlements. The maps include several rose compasses and show landmarks, the distances between which could be determined using a pair of dividers. The maps were an important navigational aid to mariners. The holes in the parchment reveal the points where the chart was fastened to a mast or desk. This precious portolan chart of the Old World from around 1505 was made in Italy, which produced, in Genoa and Venice, two important schools of 16th-century geographers. The map was transferred to the Bavarian State Library from the Cistercian monastery of Aldersbach. It is extraordinary for the precise and detailed knowledge of the mountain chain from Spain to the Urals that it reflects, and for its portrayal of the regions of Africa and Asia, whose exotic masters are depicted along with their surnames. The texts accompanying the chart begin with capital letters and underline the importance of the pilgrimage cities of Jerusalem and Mecca.

Collection on the Genealogy of Bavarian Nobility, Volume 27

Johann Franz Eckher von Kapfing (1649–1727), prince-bishop of Freising from 1696 onwards, was keenly interested in history and genealogy. Having amassed material since his youth, he enlisted his Hofkammerdirektor (director of the court chamberlain’s office), Johann Michael Wilhelm von Prey zu Strasskirchen (1690–1747), to help him with his research. Some years after the death of Eckher, a clean copy was made of all the collected material; it was then arranged and bound into more than 30 bulky volumes. The collection, never printed, is the most extensive genealogical-historical compilation on Bavarian noble families ever made. Volume 27 of the collection is one of three volumes detailing the genealogy of the Counts of Törring. Compared to most of the other volumes of the series, it was written at an earlier date (1724) and features a large number of colorful drawings of heraldic devices, family trees, and fictional portraits. Along with the other volumes, it came into the possession of the Bavarian State Library when the prince-bishopric of Freising was incorporated into the territory of Bavaria in 1803.