Period: 1520 (circa)
Color: Hand Color
6.4 x 9.1 inches
16.3 x 23.1 cm
The origins of liturgical music traditionally date back to St. Gregory the Great (d. 604), who was inspired by the Holy Dove to record the principles of 'Gregorian' chant. The Gradual contained the musical parts of the Missal and was sung from the steps (gradus) of the altar. The Antiphoner contained the musical sections of the Breviary. These terms have become interchangeable in modern times. Because of their size and complexity, these manuscripts were still being handmade in the traditional way for centuries after the introduction of printing. They were boldly hand-written and illuminated on large sheets of sturdy vellum so that the entire choir could read from one book.
This unusual vellum leaf is from a French antiphonal. It was produced during the transitional period when both manuscript and printing methods were employed. In this example the surrounding decorative border is printed and the music is written by hand in black and red ink. The pin pricks used to rule the vellum are strongly in evidence. Beginning with the red "O" on recto at top is part of "O Vos Omnes," a responsory that is often part of Roman Catholic liturgies for Holy Week. The verse translates as:
O all you who walk by on the road, pay attention and see:
if there be any sorrow like my sorrow.
Slight soiling and cockling in the borders.