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Art History Resources in Special Collections

15th-16th Century

Manuscripts were a primary artistic medium in the medieval period, and the prominence of manuscripts would continue into the 15th and 16th centuries. The advent of the printing press in 1440 would later result in increasing numbers of books in Europe. These manuscripts were used during Divine Office. The Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office or Work of God are the canonical hours, often also referred to as the breviary, of the Latin rites of the Catholic Church. The Liturgy of the Hours forms the official set of prayers "marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer."

Breviary, 15th Century

Breviaries contain all the text used to perform the Divine Office, including a program of psalms, readings, prayers, and hymns organized according to the canonical hours. This type of Breviary is called a Matutinal and includes only the material needed for the performance of Matins, which takes place in the early morning hours. The Breviary in our collection is a decorated manuscript on parchment from either Bavaria or Austria, dating back to approximately 1475-1500.

Leaf from a Printed Book of Hours

The book of hours is a Christian devotional book used by laypeople for daily prayers. They were based on manuscript style and tradition, essentially printed to look like manuscripts. These books were popular in the 15th-16th century, especially in France. They were printed, and the blue and red coloring was added in later by hand. 

Rodler's Perspective, 1546

This book is a second edition; the first edition was printed in 1531. It's illustrated with 60 woodcut scenes. In the preface, Hieronymous Rodler stated that he found, "the perspective methods presented by Dürer too difficult for practitioners, for which reason he had decided to publish a book by an author who knew how to address this group.” This book exemplifies the idea of perspective and the desire to accurately portray space and depth in art, a hallmark of the Renaissance.

Antiphonal, 16th Century

An antiphonal is a liturgical chant book that contains the music for the Divine Office.  In contrast to Breviaries, Antiphonals omit the spoken texts and include only the texts and music for sung portions of the Office. According to the bookseller's description, the book was made for the well-connected abbess of a Franciscan convent in Seville. This massive, decorated Antiphonal is signed and dated by the scribe and was used in the same convent over two hundred years.

English Armorial, 16th Century

This manuscript contains rolls of arms (or armorials) which are collections of coats of arms, usually consisting of rows of painted pictures of shields, with each shield accompanied by the name of the person bearing the arms and in some cases the blazon. A blazon is a formal description of a coat of arms, flag or similar emblem, from which the reader can reconstruct the appropriate image.