Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Digital Resources for Liturgical Studies

Following my recent series of posts on the feast and octave of All Saints, I received two requests from people who wanted to know how to get their own electronic copies of the 1529 edition of the Roman Breviary, from which the sermon included in those posts (in English translation) was taken. This seemed like a good opportunity to share some information with all of our readers about some liturgical resources available to anyone on the internet.

The Breviary of 1529, which I have cited in many articles here, is available for consultation and free download in pdf format from Gallica, the digital collections website of the Bibliothèque National de France in Paris; this link will take you to it directly. From there, you can insert the names of various kinds of liturgical books in the search bar at the top of the page, and find all kinds of missals, breviaries, ancient sacramentaries etc. You can use French (missel, breviaire, sacramentaire etc.) or Latin (missale, breviarium, sacramentarium) for the search criterion. There are some really extraordinary treasures at the BnF, such as the Sacramentary made in 869-70 for use at the court of Charlemagne’s grandson, Charles the Bald, from which this incredible image is taken.

The French words “livre(s) d’heures” (book(s) of hours) and the Latin “Horae” (hours) will also lead to some treasures, such as the 14th century Book of Hours, the Très Belles Heures de Notre Dame, from which this image is taken.

The BnF site also provides different views of its books, which are selected with a button on the left side of the page, below the title of the book. This is a very useful feature if you are looking for a particular kind of text or image within a book.

The Bayerische Staatsbibliotek (Bavarian State Library) in Munich also has a very large digital collection, from which one can download anything for free. (When downloading, one must declare that one is doing so for personal use and research, and not for commercial purposes.) One of the highlights is the 11th-century Reichenauer Gospel book, from which this image is taken.

This collection also includes a very large number of breviaries and missals printed in the later 15th and early 16th century, according to the uses of various German sees; not surprisingly, since movable type was invented in Germany, and followed by an explosion of new printed editions of commonly used books. (Fr Thompson noted some links to incunabula printed Dominican missals earlier this year.)

One should know, however, that liturgical books in this era generally have few images, and are printed in different kinds of fraktur type which can be difficult to read and heavily abbreviated. For example, the words seen in this fragment of the 1529 Breviary are “ut resipiscerent a dyaboli (diaboli) laqueis, quibus capti tenebantur, et converterentur ad Christum, verum Deum, cuius fidem et cultum prosequebantur. Illi autem (quorum salutem quaerebant isti) impias manus inferunt in mitissimos agnos”.

It has to be said that the site is not quite as user-friendly as that of the BnF. Nevertheless, there is a real goldmine of stuff to be had, and not just in liturgical studies. Classicists, theologians and medievalists will find enormous numbers of books of interest by an immense variety of authors.

 Lastly, I would remind our readers that there are a huge number of liturgical books of all kinds available for free on googlebooks, such as this 1640 edition of the Ambrosian Missal.

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