FAQs

Acanthus:

A plant from the Mediterranean region with ample curling leaves. These colorful leaves are used as a constant theme within decorative borders of medieval manuscripts.

Adoration of the Magi:

The three wise men or also known as Magi, bearing gifts for the thirteen day old Christ Child and usually typifies SEXT of the Hours of the Virgin.

Advent:

The period of the Christmas season that begins on November 30 to commemorate the coming of the Christ Child.

Annunciation:

It is that time when the angel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that she is to give birth and usually illustrates Martins of the Hours of the Virgin.

Annunciation to the Shepherds:

That moment when angles announce the birth of Christ to the shepherds tending their flocks.

Antiphonal:

A choir book used in church containing the words and music of the Divine Office. This consists of eight individual services of public prayer. The larger the book the larger the choir.

Atelier:

The studio or workshop of a medieval illuminator consisting of multiple artist working under the direction of that master artist.

Bar border:

Ornamentation in the margin composed of a colored perpendicula band usually slightly curved and that often serves as a stem for foliate decoration.

Bas-de-page:

A French term that refers to illustration, ususally narrative scenes and sometimes humorous figures, at the "bottom of the page".

Bestiary: Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts A Guide to Technical Terms, Michelle P. Brown

The Book of Beasts consists of descriptions and tales of animals, birds, fantastic creatures and stones, real and imaginary, which are imbued with Christian symbolism or moral lessons. The rising of the phoenix from the pyre, for example, is related to Christ's Resurrection.

Bible: Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts A Guide to Technical Terms, Michelle P. Brown

A number of Latin versions of books of the Bible, translated from Greek and Hebrew, were used in the early Christian Church: these are known as Old Latin versions. To establish uniformity among these various translations, Saint Jerome, encouraged by Pope Damasus I, undertook a new translation of the whole Bible, working from the Greek and the Hebrew for the Old Testament. The translation he produced, began about 382 and completed in 404 is known as the vulgate. It was common in the Middle Ages for books of the Bible to be contained in separate volumes.

Book of Hours: Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts A Guide to Technical Terms, Michelle P. Brown

This is a book for use in private devotions with its main text, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin or know as the Hours of the Virgin. The Book is modeled on the Divine Office and represents a shorter version of the devotions performed at the eight canonical hours.(Matins (2:30 a.m.), Laudes, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers(6:00 p.m.), Compline (9:00 p.m.) Only ecclesiastics originally read the text, known from the tenth century. It entered into more popular use by the end of the twelfth century, many times being annexed to a Psalter. The Psalter was the book more commonly used for private devotion before the emergence of the Book of Hours. The private recitation of the Little Office of the Virgin is an expression of the lay person's desire to imitate the prayer-life of the religious. Books of Hours were medieval best sellers and have survived in relatively high quantity. They are nearly always illuminated, in a manner commensurate with the patron's budget. They often contain a miniature or set of miniatures for each major textual division. Decorated letters as well as images can be found in Books of Hours.

Border: Illuminated Manuscripts, The Shuster Gallery

Continous foliate and floral design in the margins around the text (type of borders: panel border, bar border, border extensions).

Border extension: Illuminated Manuscripts, The Shuster Gallery

The part of an illuminated initial that extends into the border and often contains figures, grotesques and sometimes narrative scenes.

Breviary: Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts A Guide to Technical Terms, Michelle P. Brown

A service book containing the texts necessary for the celebration of the Divine Office. A breviary is often adorned with decoration or historiated initials and more luxurious copies may contain miniatures depicting bible scenes or the performance of the office. The breviary's contents were divided into temporal, sanctorale and Common of Saints. All members of monastic orders and the clergy in major orders are committed to the daily recitation of the breviary.

Calander

A list of the major feast days of the Church, including the saints venerated on the different days of the year. A Book of Hours almost always opens with a calander of the Church year, listing the Saint's days for each month and headed with an illuminated "KL" at the top of each page. The ordinary saint's day are usually written in black ink and rhe special feasts are in red ink. Per Christopher de Hamel's Book A History of Illuminated Manuscripts this is the origin of the term 'red letter day'.

Decretals: Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts A Guide to Technical Terms, Michelle P. Brown

Decretals are collections of letters containing papal rulings of local or universal application, often made in response to an appeal and frequently relating to matters of canonical discipline. Decretals may be illuminated with scenes germane to the text.

Epistolary: Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts A Guide to Technical Terms, Michelle P. Brown

A Service Book containing the Epistle readings for the Mass arranged according to the liturgical year. The Epistle reading is generally taken from the New Testament Books. Epistle lists were occasionally attached to Bibles or to New Testament Volumes. They listed the various feast days by opening words, according to the liturgical year.

Gospel Books: Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts A Guide to Technical Terms, Michelle P. Brown

The full text of the Gospels (the four accounts of Christ's life attributed to Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, respectively) often accompanied by introductory matter such as the Prefaces of Saint Jerome.

Gradual: Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts A Guide to Technical Terms, Michelle P. Brown

A gradual is the response and versicle to the Epistle reading that constitutes one part of the Mass. The name derives from the practice of singing the gradual on the steps of the raised pulpit. More commonly the term refers to the principal Choir Book used in the Mass. For Low Mass, the contents of the gradual were incorporated in the Missal and performed by the celebrant rather than the choir.

Leaf:

A single page of a book or manuscript.

Lectionary: Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts A Guide to Technical Terms, Michelle P. Brown

A volume containing readings for use in the Liturgy

Missal: Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts A Guide to Technical Terms, Michelle P. Brown

A service book is containing the texts necessary for the performance of the Mass (including chants, prayers and readings), together with ceremonial directions. The prayers and other texts recited by the priests were originally contained in the sacrementary, which was used together with the Gradual, the Evangelary and the Epistolary for the performance of high or solemn mass.

Psalter: Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts A Guide to Technical Terms, Michelle P. Brown

The Psalter is the Book of Psalms. Medieval manuscripts of the Psalms were used in liturgical as well as private devotional contexts and often contained ancillary texts such as Calendar, Canticles, creeds, a Litany of the Saints and prayers.

Sacramentary: Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts A Guide to Technical Terms, Michelle P. Brown

A service book contains the prayers recited by the celebrant during High Mass (collect, secret, Post communion and the cannon of the mass). The texts of the Sacramentary are divided into the unchanging elements (the canon and ordinary of the mass) and the variable texts, the later arranged accordingly to the liturgical year.