Guide to the Research Collections

- Section -- II: -- THE HUMANITIES
- 19 -- RELIGION


Jewish Liturgy and Ritual

The collection of materials on liturgy and ritual in the Jewish Division is representative rather than comprehensive. There are examples of the

-------------------------------------------- page 74
prayer and festival books for the Sephardic and Ashkenasic rites, and for Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed Judaism, with the variations within these rites and groups. A description of particularly noteworthy manuscripts and books is found in chapter 10 of this Guide.

Christian Liturgy and Ritual

The General Research and Humanities Division maintains a collection of current books of devotion in the Main Reading Room for the Christian religion as practiced in the United States. The division is careful to acquire new materials that reflect changes in ritual. Among materials collected comprehensively by the division are the breviary, the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church, and the Prayer Book of the Reformed Episcopal Church.

The general collections include standard works and publications devoted to liturgy, such as those of the Henry Bradshaw Society. Denominational hymns and the poetical works of individual hymn writers are numerous; the collection of hymn books in the Music Division holds much associated material. Sunday observance is well covered and is particularly interesting for its historical materials. There is a noteworthy collection of devotional and meditative works. Reports and other publications of theological schools in the United States are interesting mainly for the older material. Homiletics is extensively covered.

Books of Hours

Approximately 40 manuscript books of hours are found in the Manuscripts and Archives Division, the larger number French fifteenth-century illuminated works on vellum. The Spencer Collection manuscript horae include distinguished examples of English, French, Flemish, Dutch, and Italian work.12 Outstanding among the 15 examples in the collection is the Wingfield Hours (Spencer Ms. 3), 2 distinct manuscripts bound together, the first consisting of a calendar and Latin prayers, the second being a Latin psalter. This is a mid-fifteenth-century illuminated English manuscript on vellum, the second part of which was written for Lady Anne Neville, wife of the first Duke of Buckingham; its name derives from a later owner, Sir Richard Wingfield. Another fine book of hours is that written and illuminated on vellum for Blanche de France, Duchess of Orleans (Spencer Ms. 56). This is northern French work, probably Parisian, from the end of the fourteenth century. Of 23 printed books of hours in the Spencer Collection, one of the most celebrated is the Hore in Laudem Beatissime Virginis Marie printed in Paris by Simon du Bois in 1527 with woodcut illustrations and borders. There are other books of hours in the Arents Collection.

Psalters and Psalm Books

The earliest manuscript psalter in the Spencer Collection is in Latin, written and illuminated on vellum in South-Western Germany, perhaps Augsburg or Bamberg, about 1235 (Spencer Ms. 11). The La Twyere Psalter (Spencer Ms. 2) is a fine example of English work on vellum, with thirteen pages of miniatures, dated around 1320 and possibly from Yorkshire. Perhaps the greatest treasure of the collection is the Tickhill Psalter (Spencer Ms. 26), so called because it was written and gilded by John Tickhill, Prior of the Abbey of Worksop (now Radnor) near Coventry in the early fourteenth century.13 With its wealth of illuminations, some in various states of completion, it is one of the most important surviving examples of English Gothic illumination. It was purchased in 1932 from the libraries of the Marquess of Lothian through the Spencer Fund and with the generous aid of an anonymous trustee. Another outstanding psalter (Spencer Ms. 130) was written and illuminated on vellum by Matteo Felice of Naples about 1475. In the Manuscripts and Archives Division there are 4 psalters of the thirteenth through the fifteenth centuries.

There are notable examples of printed psalters and their descendants, psalm books, in both the Spencer Collection and the Rare Book Division. The famous "Bay Psalm Book," The Whole Book of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre (Cambridge, Mass., 1640), was the first book printed in what is now the United States, and forms a cornerstone of the Americana collection of the Research Libraries. The Rare Book Division's example is 1 of 11 known copies.14 A later version also in the division, entitled The Psalms Hymns and Spiritual Songs of the Old and New Testaments (Cambridge, Mass., 1651), is the only copy known to exist of 2,000 originally printed.15 The first psalm book of John Wesley, A Collection of Psalms and Hymns (Charleston, 1737), is 1 of 2 copies known to have survived.16


The Manuscripts and Archives Division owns a folio missal on vellum of the fourteenth century. It is written in large Gothic letters in black and red and illuminated with a single large illustration, historiated initials, and leaf-scroll decorations. Three other missals on vellum date from the fifteenth century. In the Spencer Collection a magnificent and richly ornamented missal from Bologna (Spencer Ms. 64), dating from the latter half of the fifteenth century, has miniatures and initial letters by Bartolommeo Bossi and others. The Spencer Collection printed missals range from incunabula (such as Missale Brixinense ) to illustrated examples of the eighteenth century.

-------------------------------------------- page 75

Other Devotionals, ars moriendi, etc.

The Spencer Collection houses numerous fine examples of illustrated devotional books, both manuscript and printed, including such interesting items as a "girdle book" breviary written by Brother Sebaldus of the monastery of Kastl, near Eichstätt, Germany, dated 1454 (Spencer Ms. 39). Psalms, hymns, prayers, and canticles are found in an Armenian manuscript dated before 1489. A Melchite horologion printed in Fano, September 12, 1514, is the first book printed in Arabic characters. The Spencer Collection's copy is printed in red and black with woodcut borders. An ordinarium printed in Mexico in 1556 in the Rare Book Division contains the first music printed in the New World, and is one of two known copies. There are also manuscripts from Ethiopia, and a book of prayers of the seventeenth century.

Among 7 fifteenth-century ars moriendi printed in Germany and France are a block book printed in Latin in Germany in 1470 (Rare Book Division) and a Leipzig printed version of 1495 (Spencer Collection). Other examples span the sixteenth century.

Book of Common Prayer

The collections of the Church of England Book of Common Prayer begin with the edition of 1604. The Protestant Episcopal Church of America editions include those of 1790 and 1793 and many later editions. Three eighteenth-century translations made by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts into the Mohawk (Mahaque Indian) language are of note, the earliest dated 1715 and printed by William Bradford. Decorated copies of the seventeenth century are to be found in the Spencer Collection.