Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Music from Christmas service in Corpus Iuris

I recently did a presentation in our Rare Book Room for students, and one of the items on display was a beautifully bound Corpus Iuris Civilis, 3 vols, Paris, 1559. The set was bound for one "RB", whose initials are gold-stamped into the lovely leather bindings, and the printing is magnificent. Another notable feature is that all three volumes have scrap sheet music as endpapers.

One of the students, 2L Stephen Kelly, was fascinated by these endpapers and took a photo. Stephen, a regular in the Rare Book Room, forwarded the photo to his former professor, Dr. Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak, a medieval studies professor in the NYU history department. Dr. Bedos-Rezak in turn made an inquiry to Dr. Consuelo Dutschke, Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at Columbia. Dr. Dutschke identified the endpapers as English and from the first half of the 15th century. The leaf was formerly part of a breviary with musical notation and part of the service for Christmas. She noted that this type of evidence of the Catholic liturgy didn't survive well due to the actions of Henry VIII. This makes it even more exciting that these beautiful leaves made their way into our collection!

These little discoveries make my job so thrilling! I'm so grateful to Stephen, Dr. Bedos-Rezak, and Dr. Dutschke for shedding some more light onto this treasure from our collection. Happy Holidays!!

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