The Mystery of the Rosary Cantorales: A Study in Attribution
In 1989 Yale University acquired from a Connecticut book dealer an impressive manuscript that has since been identified by nothing other than its call number, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Ms 710.1 Initially, the size of this manuscript is its most striking feature. It measures an extraordinary 96 x 62 cm and contains 103 folios of vellum, each of which required the use of a full calfskin. The opening folios (fig. 1 and 2; the illustrations are found on the accompanying CD) are magnificently decorated with a large illuminated letter featuring the Virgin and Child, splendid marginalia depicting the Labors of Hercules, and a border painting (fig. 3) modeled after Albrecht Dürer’s engraving, Das Meerwunder. The model engraving is datable to 1498 and provides a useful terminus post quem for the compilation of Beinecke Ms 710.2 This accords well with other features, such as script and the overall style of decoration, which reflect a date of production near the turn of the sixteenth century.
The large codex is mostly made up of all the chants necessary for singing the Ordinary of the Mass. Thus it is a liturgical choir book, one generally referred to as a Kyriale. Beinecke Ms 710 also transmits a polyphonic work of special interest: a four-part Et incarnatus est from a Credo attributed to “Jusquin.” It is, in fact, from the Missa sine nomine by Josquin Desprez. However fragmentary a portion of the complete Mass, this “new” Josquin source provides the fifth known manuscript concordance for the Missa sine nomine, and is at present the only Josquin Mass material preserved in an American library.3
A formidable and sumptuously decorated volume, the Beinecke Kyriale has rarely failed to engage the attention of anyone who sees it. For well over a decade specialists in a variety of fields including codicology, art history, and musicology have attempted to discover something about its provenance with little success. To some it has seemed Flemish, to others Italian. The book dealer from whom it was purchased in 1989 was himself unsure of its origins. His description notes only that the choir book was said to have come from Switzerland.4
The Kyriale is in fact Spanish. Several features might have suggested this immediately were it not that Spanish chant sources beyond the medieval period have generally received little attention from scholars. The very size of this manuscript might have been noticed as an obvious starting point. While large choir books can be found in other regions, it is mostly among Spanish sources that we find such enormous tomes of almost exaggerated proportions. Indeed, this Kyriale comes across as a fairly modest example when we consider the sizes of over two hundred chant books now at the former Hieronymite monastery of El Escorial, near Madrid. Each of the Escorial’s chant books measures what must be a record 108 x 75 cm, and comes mounted on four small wheels along the lower edge to make it somewhat easier to manage.5
Another distinctive feature is the use of a five-line staff instead of the more common four-line staff for the notation of plainchant. The five-line staff is occasionally found in northern Italy, but this, again, is a predominantly Spanish feature. Furthermore, the curious text division found in words such as “a-lme” (as opposed to “al-me”), and in many other places where a consonant is separated from a vowel it would normally accompany in non-Spanish sources, might have provided a clue. Andrew Hughes observed this peculiar manner of text underlay while working with Catalan liturgical manuscripts,6 and it is one I have encountered frequently in Castilian chant sources as well.
While carefully studying each folio in the Beinecke Kyriale I found more secure evidence to bolster these general observations on a Spanish provenance. First, there is the use of a corrector’s mark often found in Iberian sources. Initially, it closely resembles a percentage sign (%), but it is actually the word ojo (Spanish for “eye”), an appropriate directive to indicate that attention is warranted. Of course, one might expect to find this sign in Latin American manuscripts as well. More certain are two geographical references that became visible in the underlayer of a palimpsest with the help of ultraviolet light: “...ta in illustra recepit hyspaniam [v.] Hoc matutino sidere claro fulgas hyspania lumine” (responsory in the underlayer of a palimpsest. New Haven, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. Ms. 710, fol. 103v).
The two references to Spain, hyspaniam and hyspania, are obviously most consequential. But the nature of this chant is also suggestive. Its overall form and contentthe indication for a verse, the reciting tone, and particularly the reference to the “morning star” (Hoc matutino sidere)suggest that it is responsory for Matins. Furthermore, the inclusion of extra-liturgical references, such as “hyspania,” may well indicate that what we have here is an example of a verbeta, a special trope found in medieval Spanish books for the morning hours.7
All evidence to this point indicates that the Beinecke Kyriale presents a good example of a Spanish chantbook from the early sixteenth century, a good example of what Spaniards call a cantoral. This term is generally used to distinguish plainchant volumes like Ms 710 from libros de coro (“books of the choir”). The latter term indicates a large manuscript codex, consisting mostly of polyphonic music, that is usually liturgical.
Once assured of its Spanish origin my next question was: where exactly in Spain did this cantoral come from? That question directed me initially to two distinctive features in the illumination. One was the large initial inhabited by the “Virgin and Child” plus two men, one kneeling, the other standing. The second was the device of the Five Wounds on a white cloth, displayed very much like a heraldic emblem in the borders. Each device is inscribed along the bottom with the words Miserere mei in gold paint. My interest grew as I learned of five other leaves sharing precisely these two characteristics (table 1). One is also at Yale’s Beinecke Library, catalogued there as Ms 794. Others are preserved at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, the Detroit Public Library, and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The fifth leaf appeared recently in an exhibition by the antiquarian dealers Bruce Ferrini and Jörn Günther. The Morgan leaf is of particular interest since, like Beinecke Ms 710, it too depicts Hercules in its marginal decoration.
BEINECKE MS 710 AND FIVE RELATED LEAVES
New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Ms. 710
Kyriale. 103 folios
Illumination: Initial “R” with the Madonna and Child (El Cavaller de Colunya); border painting after Albrecht Dürer’s Das Meerwunder (1498); emblems with Five Wounds and inscription “Miserere mei”
1. Detroit, Detroit Public Library, Burton Historical Collection
Incipit: Nos autem gloriari
Liturgical Use: Introit for Solemn Evening Mass on Maundy Thursday
Illumination: Initial “N” with the Madonna and Child (El Cavaller de Colunya); emblems with Five Wounds and inscription “Miserere mei”
2. Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 61
Incipit: Judica me deus et discerne
Liturgical Use: Introit for Mass on First Sunday of the Passion
Illumination: Initial “J” with the Madonna and Child (El Cavaller de Colunya); emblem with Five Wounds and inscription “Misere mei” (sic)
3. New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book & Manscript Library, Ms. 794
Palimpsest. Gradual leaf (originally from an Antiphoner)
Incipit: Intret in conspectu tuo. Originally Sacerdos et pontifex
Liturgical Use: Introit for a Mass of Two or More Martyrs out of Paschal time. Originally antiphon preceding the Magnificat.
Illumination: Initial “S” with the Madonna and Child (El Cavaller de Colunya); emblems with Five Wounds and inscription “Miserere mei”
4. New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, M. 887-1
Incipit: Ad te levavi animam meam
Liturgical Use: Introit for First Sunday in Advent
Illumination: Initial “A” with the Madonna and Child (El Cavaller de Colunya); emblems with Five Wounds and inscription “Miserere mei”
5. Jörn Günther and Bruce P. Ferrini, Overlooking the Ages: A Private Exhibition of Illuminated Manuscripts, Miniatures and Printed Books (Hamburg, 1999), cat. no. 28.
Incipit: Quasi modo geniti infantes
Liturgical Use: Introit for Mass on Low Sunday
Illumination: Initial “Q” with the Madonna and Child (El Cavaller de Colunya); emblem with Five Wounds and inscription “Miserere mei”
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