Object of the week: Manuscript LXV

POST BY JGraffius

Manuscript LXV c1475-1525
Manuscript LXV c1475-1525

Among Stonyhurst’s medieval manuscripts are some of the most significant and famous books in the College’s collection: a rare copy of Froissart’s Chronicle of the Hundred Years’ War with France, an illuminated book of hours once belonging to Henry VIII’s mother, Elizabeth of York, and an early manuscript copy of Chaucer, among many other pieces. However, this week’s object, whilst not particularly famous, is certainly one of the most beautiful in the collection.

MS LXV (c1475-1525) is an illuminated letter ‘O’ taken from a late-medieval Italian book, thought to be an ‘antiphonale’ or antiphonary. An antiphonary contains the antiphons, or sung chants, to be used in Roman Catholic services such as the Mass.

The seated figure depicted in the middle is St Jerome, with a lion at his feet and surrounded by monks. The inscription on the book he is shown holding, taken from 1 Corinthians 16, reads: Fr[atr]es vigilate, state in fide viriliter agite co[n]fortemini – ‘Watch, brothers, stand fast in faith, act courageously and be strengthened.’

The surrounding decorations are very much in keeping with Italian illuminations of this period; somewhat fanciful features placed into ordered designs. For example, note the long necks of the dragons placed above Jerome’s seat, and the exotic flowers and fruits surrounding the letter ‘O’.