Decorative Text

Breviary v2 p1.jpeg
One particularly unique element found within the pages of both Breviary volumes that sets them apart from other manuscripts is the decorative designs found on each page. These decorations are found on the vast majority of the pages of both volumes and vary in size as well as function. For certain Latin psalms or hymns, the first letter of each line is highlighted in either blue or red following what is know as littera duplex style; the purpose of this was to make the text easier for the reader to follow.
The text is written in Latin, but the penwork displayed in both Breviary volumes is significantly more unique than the language it is written in. The style of penwork utilized within these Breviary volumes is an "Aubergine" style that incorporates eggplants and radishes amongst thickets of acanthus vines, fleur de lys medallions, and the occasional cluster of flowers. These designs are interwoven with the text, highlighted letters, and the margins.
These Aubergine designs are displayed in a way that was customary of the medieval Netherlands. These designs are showcased in elaborate initials surrounded by Aubergine vines. They are also displayed in the margins of certain pages, where the Aubergine vines flow like rivers or veins horizontally or vertically across the margins. These designs add a flourish of colour to a text of religious doctrine. However, the designs were not only meant to be visually unique and aesthetically pleasing; they also aided the author in organizing the text and would have aided the reader in navigating it.

Source: Stijnman, Ad, and Elizabeth Savage. Printing Colour 1400-1700: History, Techniques, Functions and Receptions. Leiden: Brill, 2015. 

The library is committed to ensuring that members of our user community with disabilities have equal access to our services and resources and that their dignity and independence is always respected. If you encounter a barrier and/or need an alternate format, please fill out our Library Print and Multimedia Alternate-Format Request Form. Contact us if you’d like to provide feedback: