Cabinet 02: Manuscript Initials

Book of Hours

This beautifully illuminated text is a leaf from a book of hours (a devotional book) and is a tribute to the skilled craftsmen of the 15th century. It contains a delicately decorated initial with a background of gold. Real gold was used to illuminate manuscripts, especially those of a religious nature. The information sheet accompanying this sheet states that once gold was adhered to the vellum (calf skin) it was "burnished by briskly rubbing with a suitable implement, often a dog's tooth (mounted on a handle)". This manuscript has been identified as being written in Latin, in western France. The text is from the penitential psalms; part of Psalm 50 and Psalm 101:1-5.

[Leaf from a medieval Bible]. Ms. written in Latin in Germany in the 14th century. DeBeer MS 38


Image one

Sermones aurei de sanctis was printed by Peter Drach in Speyer and was a popular work in the Middle Ages. He was well-known for his use of heavy Gothic typeface. Sermones aurei de sanctis is illuminated according to manuscript tradition, with decorated initials and rubricated text. The broken clasp, worn leather, exposed cords and worm-eaten boards of the cover disguise the beautiful manuscript initials inside. Unfortunately, due to preservation concerns this item is unable to be displayed open for an extended period of time. On display is a photograph of the opening text which is partially framed by ornamental flourishes sprouting from a decorated initial.

Leonardus, Sermones aurei de sanctis f[rat]ris Leonhardi de Utino, sacre theologie doctoris, ordinis predicatoru[m] feliciter incipit prologus.[349a] Finiu[n]t aurei sermones de sanctis per anni circulu[m] ... fratris Leonhardi de Utina ... iam denuo correcti et cum tabula noua inuentoria postposita arte et industria Petri Drache ciui Spiren. Impressi 1478. Shoults Gc 1478 L