A Medieval Manuscript a Week: Master of the Brussels Initials – MS. 34

Master of the Brussels Initials MS. 34

The “A Medieval Manuscript a Week” series promotes digitized medieval manuscripts that are made available under Creative Commons Licenses, Public Domain or Open Content.

Master of the Brussels Initials

This is a fantastic manuscript from the Getty Museum: Master of the Brussels Initials MS. 34, one of our favorite repository of digitized medieval manuscripts. It is present on the DMMmaps, and one of the digitized folios is also present on one of our walls and you can get one too! One leaf is also present in the “Beautiful Manuscript Leaves” section of this blog. The images are available under the Open Content Program, which allows “all available digital images to which the Getty holds the rights or that are in the public domain to be used for any purpose.” All the info on this page is extracted from the Getty Museum’s pages about the Master of the Brussels Initials MS. 34.

Italian, Bologna, 1389 – 1404
Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, and ink on parchment bound between wood boards covered with blind-stamped sheepskin
13 x 9 7/16 in.
MS. 34

Cosimo de’ Migliorati, diocesan of Bologna and a cardinal, requisitioned this lavishly adorned missal. It was made at some point between 1389 and 1404, the year in which he was raised to the papacy as Innocent VII. A missal holds all the writings utilized for Mass, including all the chants sung by the choir, however without musical notation. Just the musically complex parts sung by the praising minister are supplied with notation, indicating that this book was intended to be utilized by the cardinal himself at the altar as he celebrated Mass. The exquisite illuminations of the missal, comprising of adorned calendar pages, various historiated initials, ornamented margins, and miniatures, put the book inside the style of Bolognese illumination. The manuscript’s unnamed illuminator is known as the Master of the Brussels Initials, was very probably trained in Bologna, a city whose book exchange prospered because of the renown and development of the local university. The Master’s work is portrayed by the utilization of vivid shades, detailed figures, and borders abounding with drolleries, monsters, and acanthus leaves.

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Giulio Menna
Giulio is an MA graduate in Book and Digital Media Studies from Leiden University, the Netherlands. He is also system librarian at Leiden University Library. Founder and developer of Sexy Codicology and the DMMmaps Project; lover of medieval manuscripts and of all things digital.