Saturday, 2 January 2016

A Italian Cistercian Breviary, in Newark, NJ


While in New York recently, I not only crossed the East River to go to Brooklyn, but also crossed the Hudson to go to Newark, New Jersey, because I had been in touch with Nadine Sergejeff at the Public Library, and she had kindly agreed to show me their medieval manuscripts. The one I was most interested to see is a Breviary, briefly described by Bond & Faye as being Cistercian, and perhaps from Lombardy:

The calendar has feasts graded with as many as 12 lessons, indicating monastic usage, and contains a number of saints that clearly point to Lombardy such as "Sancti Basiani episcopi et confessoris" (19 January, in red, with 12 lessons):
i.e. St Bassianus, bishop and confessor of Lodi, south-east of Milan, towards Piacenza and Cremona:

The Cistercian Use of the calendar is indicated by feasts including the deposition of St Bernard (20 August, 12 lessons), with an octave (27 August, also with 12 lessons), and Malachi (5 November, 12 lessons). Elsewhere in the volume the Cistercian Use is confirmed by the reading of the Office of the Dead, the saints in the sanctorale (with an historiated initial depicting St Bernard, shown above), and, most explicitly of all, the rubric of the litany:
"Letania more Cysterciensi"
But in the calendar an even more precise origin is provided by the "Dedicatio sancte Marie de Columba" (20 April, 12 lessons):
i.e. the Dedication of the Cistercian abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba, south-east of Milan, somewhat beyond Piacenza and Cremona:


Other calendar entries confirm this attribution, such as the commemoration on 2 June of "Guido abbas columbe.":
and St Ambrose, bishop and confessor of Milan at 4 April (12 lessons):
(according to Bernard Backaert, "L'Evolution du calendrier cistercien", Collectanea ordinis cisterciensium reformatum, XII, 1950), p.92 n.70, Chiaravalle was given permission by a Cistercian statute of 1262 to celebrate this feast on this date).

The manuscript was presumably commissioned for the abbey by the person whose arms appear in the lower margin of the first page of the main text:

I have not yet been able to identify the arms (can any reader help?): [See the update below]
but they seem related to those of the Lombard counts Brancadoro, who had for their arms "D'azur à deux pattes de lion d'or passées en sautoir" (i.e. two gold lion paws, crossed saltire-wise, on a blue ground"; the arms relate to the family name: "branca d'oro" = gold paw or claw). Similarly, the Brancaleone family had for their arms "D'azur au lion d'or au chef du même chargée d'une aigle éployée de sable" (i.e. a gold lion on a blue ground, and at the top a black eagle, with wings splayed, on a gold ground).

If the original patron is the man represented in the right margin of the same page, he was apparently a tonsured monk, but his habit appears to be black (now abraded) rather than the white we would expect of a Cistercian:


Chiaravalle della Colomba was suppressed and its property seized in 1810. Its manuscripts are now scattered; sixteen 12th-century volumes are identified by Mirella Ferrari, “Dopo Bernardo: biblioteche e ‘scriptoria’ cisterciensi dell’Italia settentrionale nel XII secolo”, in Pietro Zerbi, ed., San Bernardo e l’Italia, Milan, 1993, pp.253-306, at pp.273-76 and 297-98.

The manuscript was given in May 1920 to the Newark Public Library by J. Ackerman Coles (1823-1925):
and has his bookplate, with the motto "Deum cole regem serva" (punning on the family surname):
an ink stamp, referring to Coles's more famous father:
as well as a bookplate of the Library:

An account of the manuscript was published by Walter J. Kidd (no relation) in the Newark Sunday Call for May 23, 1920, and reprinted the same year as Rare and Beautiful Books from the Collection of Dr. J. Ackerman Coles, with additional notes and a photograph:

Update: 3 March 2016
Anna Melograni has identified the arms and a possible patron in her blog post here; she identifies them as belonging to the Bripio/Brivio family, of Milan, whose arms are a perfect match for those in the manuscript:
[Source]
Here is another version:
[Source]


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