Monday, August 03, 2009

Fifteenth-Century Dominican Breviary in Digital Form

A kind friar has called it to my attention that three incunabula containing Dominican liturgical materials are now available in digital form on the web. Perhaps these would interest some of our readers. These items have been made available by the Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek in Munich, Germany, as part of their digital library project.

First are two breviaries, both published in Venice, one dating from ca. 1477 and the other from about that date but undated. The dated volume may be found here. And the undated one here. The texts they contain are very similar, if not identical. The third item is the Diurnale Fratrum Predicatorum published by Andrea dei Toresani at Venice in 1490 according to the colophon. It is available here.

For those interested in the medieval Dominican Office these are an important resource since the 1477 edition is the second oldest printed version of the Dominican Breviary–only the edition printed at Milan the year before (and virtually identical) is known to be earlier. Although they have the excessively crowded calendar of the later middle ages (at least in comparison to the exemplar of Humbert–1254), they are fairly representative of early Dominican practice.

These printed volumes are historically important because they represent the Office as it was celebrated before the revision mandated by the General Chapter of Salamanca (1551), in which the lessons of Matins were purged of much material judged legendary and Biblical lessons were, for the first time, introduced in Feasts of Nine Lessons. One can see in these digital versions that they also have the numbering of Sundays “after Trinity,” the Dominican medieval practice, as opposed to “after the Octave of Trinity” as found in all Dominican books after the Salamanca reform–except the Missal of 1965, which adopted the Roman style of “after Pentecost.”

For those who would like to compare these texts to that of a medieval Dominican Breviary, one is available in digital form here, showing an exemplar from the Czech Republic. As images from the printed versions are not available for reproduction, this post is decorated with a page of the calendar of this manuscript.

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