State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 51 & 52 1993



This Spring number of the La Trobe Library Journal is devoted to the splendid medieval manuscripts of the State Library's Rare Book Collection. It will certainly enhance the national and international reputation of Melbourne and its Library's treasures. Not least among Melbourne's fortunes is the fact that it also numbers in its population scholars of international repute whose research is enhanced by these works of art and who in turn can communicate to the broader public both the nature and significance of these manuscripts.
But the Journal arrives at an opportune moment to celebrate the addition to the Library of a medieval manuscript, the first for many years. The Franciscan order has generously made available on permanent loan a thirteenth-century Missal, the Codex Sancti Paschalis, which they had acquired because it is a manuscript of Franciscan origin. As Margaret Manion tells us it shows the growing importance of Gothic art, and documents liturgical reforms.
Brian Hubber, the Rare Books Librarian tells the story of the State Library's medieval collection from the first purchase in 1902. After this, the Trustees made further acquisitions until 1949, sometimes under the terms of the Felton Bequest. The manuscripts presented and discussed in this issue range from the thirteenth century to the early sixteenth century. They are invaluable for what they reveal about the histories of art, music, liturgy, and literature.
Amongst the main liturgical books are the Missal (containing the prayers, readings and Order of the Mass); a Breviary which contains the established set of prayers — the Office — to be recited at the canonical hours (i.e. every third hour of the day) by priests and those in religious orders; and an Antiphonary or Antiphonal, which contains the sung parts of the Office. A Psalter is essentially a book of Psalms but it can also be part of a Breviary. A Book of Hours was designed to help the user in the daily round of prayer
In addition to Margaret Manion's article on the Codex Sancti Paschalis, Judith Oliver has written on a thirteenth-century Psalter from Liege; John Stinson and Joan Naughton on a fourteenth-century Antiphonal from Poissy; Nigel Morgan and Michael Michael on a fourteenth-century Breviary (part of which is in the Baillieu Library and the other in the Bodleian Library, Oxford); Vera Vines has compared three Books of Hours from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, one of which is from Bruges, and the others are conjectured to have come from St Omer and Paris.
Hilary Maddocks gives an account of The Pilgrimage of Man, a fourteenth-century work by a French Cistercian monk: it falls into the genre from the Middle Ages which recounts man's spiritual journey through life in allegorical terms. In contrast, Cecilia O'Brien's subject is a Renaissance manuscript commissioned by Lorenzo de' Medici, the ruler of Florence renowned as patron and practitioner of the Arts.
This number of the Journal highlights one of the special collections of the State Library, collections which ensure that as well as fulfilling its vital role as a reference tool for the citizens of Victoria, it takes its place among the world's great institutions.
Finally this Preface would be incomplete without the Friends' sincere thanks to both Mr Ron Bourke and Mobil Oil Australia. Without Mobil's generous sponsorship, the Journal could not have been produced in colour.
Teresa Pagliaro