A Brevarium In CodexSunday, October 18, 2009
A Brevarium In Codex Seven times a day I praise you.
Breviarium for the use of Dominican Nuns
Germany : s.n., ca. 1430
LAT 096 B84g
This breviarium was penned in upright Gothic (lettres batardes) with eighteen lines to the page in black, red and blue; including numerous large initials on the finest vellum. Inside, a twelve page calendar is preceded by a circular sun and moon with double circles in gold, silver, red, blue and green. The first page and page 167 are decorated in gold and other colours, with decorative borders and wide margins. The breviarium comprises 536 pages and has its original cover made of brown calf skin over oak boards. The locking clasps on the cover are missing; it is also surrounded by borders that were blind tooled with the words Ave Maria Gratia plena. This is considered to be a very beautiful German MS. in perfect condition, circa 1430.
The breviarium was purchased for the Vancouver Public Library in the 1930s from a retired janitor in Kamloops; it may have been brought to Canada from Germany by a pioneering family.
Photo Above from Vancouver Public Library Special Collections Web Site
I had forgotten that palpable excitement that would rush through me when in my youth I would enter a good library. For close to 35 years I have frequented bookstores and spent lots of money buying books. There is little space left for them in our house. The public library has become a practical option. I had forgotten the wonder of randomly finding something that would suddenly interest me. I had forgotten that library staple, a stack called “New Books” and the pleasure of picking up each book and reading the book jacket.
On Saturday, after lunch I took Rebecca and Lauren to the main branch of our public library. I had done my homework the day before. I told the girls, “I have a surprise for you on the 7th floor. We could take the elevator but I would rather prolong the mystery by insisting we take the escalators. By the time we got to the 7th floor and on side Rebecca read the sign that said “Special Collections” she asked me what it was we were going to see. “Wait a few minutes and you will see,” I answered.
There were two female librarians. One of them looked extremely serious while the other one did not look like she had ever cracked a smile since books adopted the codex style. I decided she was the better bet and showed her an item that was underlined in a sheet of paper I had brought with me: Breviarium for the use of Dominican nuns.... 096 B846.
Both women disappeared for a while and they returned with a wheeled cart on which lay a smallish black box and a pillow. The more amenable of the two then put on a pair of cotton gloves and gestured to a nearby table. She placed the pillow on the table, opened the box and removed one of the nicest books I have ever seen that close. We all marveled at the sight and I asked the woman if she herself had ever seen it. She told us that she had been asked to show it a couple of times in the past. And she smiled!
We went down the escalators and spent a pleasant afternoon looking at books in the children’s room which is most spacious. As we left for home with our booty (I had found a pop-up book on mummies that Lauren wanted to borrow and Rebecca, this time eschewing teen magazines took out three novels.) I experienced the realization that I had forgotten how exciting it is to visit libraries.
As soon as we got home I told Rebecca we were going to watch a film. She protested and told me she wanted to read. I was not going to argue with that! She lay down on our living room’s psychiatric couch to read her novel.
After dinner we watched from the series (The Artists’ Specials) the film Monet – Shadows & Light. It was beautifully done. As soon as it was over I brought into the den a nice big picture book from my collection called Impressionist Women by Edward Lucie-Smith. Rebecca, Lauren and Hilary looked at the pictures. Some were almost like still images from the film we had seen. Rebecca pronounced the name of the painters in her oh-so-nice French, Berthe Morisot, Eva Gonzales, Mary Cassat, Camille Pissarro, Edouard Manet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, etc. I felt content as I took the girls home.
Lauren had her own prize, too. Before the film we had seen the short film Madeline’s Rescue based upon the book by Ludwig Bemelmans and splendidly narrated by Christopher Plummer.
Of course the two films I checked out from the Vancouver Public Library.