CARTHUSIAN LITURGICAL PSALTER

with Canticles, Pater Noster, Te Deum and Office of the Dead

North-western Italy, perhaps Asti, mid-15th century.

204 leaves, collation i–xii10, xiii9 (-1, probably blank) , xiv–xx10, xxi5 (-1, probably blank) (290 x 200 mm), numbered in an early hand up to f. 32 and thereafter in modern pencil, single columns written in 18 lines in two sizes of a fine liturgical bookhand, ruled with plummet and ink, music in square notation on a four-line red stave, very large eight-line initial ‘B’ (Beatus vir) on first leaf in blue with elaborate penwork in red, green, blue and purple extending the full height of the inner margin, four five-line and four four-line initials with similar penwork, numerous two-line initials with contrasting penwork, several calligraphic initials with penwork sometimes incorporating human profiles, one-line initials alternately in red and blue, rubrics, catchwords set within ornamental pen-strokes; modern (probably early twentieth-century) miniature of the Crucifixion within elaborate border in late medieval style on verso of f. 129; some soiling and wear, occasional slight cockling, a few openings dust-soiled, but generally in very good condition in early sixteenth-century Italian blind-stamped panelled calf over wooden boards, brass corner-pieces (possibly recycled from a previous binding) stamped with a ‘YHS’ monogram and the Agnus Dei, brass catches and remains of clasps, vellum pastedowns, green silk tabs stitched to outer edges of seven leaves; rubbed, short splits in joints, front and rear free endleaves cut away.

£17500

Approximately:
US $22833€19411

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A substantial and attractive office book of Carthusian Use, bearing the medieval ownership inscription of the major charterhouse at Valmanera (Asti) in Piedmont and probably made for them.

Originally founded as a Vallombrosan monastery in the first half of the twelfth century, Valmanera was given over to the Carthusians in the late fourteenth century. The monastic complex was enlarged and came to embrace an imposing church and a large cloister, around three sides of which were ranged the individual cells of the monks. A catalogue of the library (Vatican Library, Cod. Vat. lat. 11276) lists 354 volumes. The charterhouse was suppressed by Napoleon in 1801 and its contents confiscated.

The austere life of Carthusian monks meant that most of the day was spent in the isolation of their cells. They followed the same daily round of eight offices as monks of other religious orders but, uniquely, they celebrated only the night offices and the afternoon office of Vespers together regularly in the church, and Mass less frequently. Otherwise they said their offices and celebrated Mass in the privacy of their cells. The present Psalter, containing only the long night offices of Matins and Lauds and the afternoon office of Vespers, was thus the volume around which they would have gathered in their church. The size of the script and musical notation is large enough to be read at some distance. By contrast, every Carthusian monk would have possessed his own diurnal, containing only the day offices, and these are thus more frequently encountered.

The majority of the manuscript comprises a liturgical Psalter, with numerous inserted antiphons (ff. 1–173r). This is followed by Canticles (ff. 173r–184r), Credo (f. 184r–v), Te Deum (f. 184v–185v), Athanasian Creed (ff. 185v–187v), Office of the Dead (Carthusian use, with responses ‘Credo quod redemptor’; ‘Induta est caro mea’; ‘Memento mei, Deus, quia ventus est’; ff. 187v–193v), and further Canticles (ff. 193v–204r).

On several leaves are preserved contemporary instructions to the decorator to supply initials in gold (‘fiat hic l[i]t[er]a de auro’), instructions which were not, however, followed.

Provenance:

From the medieval library of the Carthusians of Asti in Piedmont (also known as the Charterhouse of Valmanera, dedicated to SS. James and Philip), with their classmark ‘CCLXXVI Cartusie Ast[. . .]’ at foot of first leaf in a fifteenth-century hand, ‘Cartusia Astensis’ in a later hand at head of the same leaf; nineteenth-century printed book-label on rear pastedown bearing an erased inscription; Falk Simon (1874–1957) of Göteborg, Sweden; Kvalitetsauktion, Malmö, 10 November 1979, lot I:3, bought by Mellgrens Antikvariat; Roman Kaczmar, bought from Mellgrens in 1982, his MS. 2-3.82, with his inkstamp on rear pastedown.