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Walters Ms. W.83, Breviary

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This small breviary, composed of more than 500 folios, is extraordinary for its length, considering it is the summer portion of a two-volume breviary for the use of Liège. The manuscript was completed for ecclesiastical use at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame and St.-Lambert in Liège ca. 1420. This attribution is suggested, for instance, by the petitions to the congregation of this cathedral (fols. 114v-117v), as well as the armorial shield of the family of Surlet de Chokier of Liège represented at the opening of the Psalms. The manuscript has modest, but interesting, decoration with historiated and decorated initials marking the liturgical texts, and occasional angels playing instruments in the margins. The most notable pictorial effect is found in the initials inhabited by transparent figures on rich blue ground. The technique is found, for instance, on fol. 156r with the gold monstrance held by translucent angels for the feast of the Corpus Christi.


Ca. 1420 CE









The primary language in this manuscript is Latin.

Support material


Thin to medium-weight, standard preparation; notably grimed from use; gilded and stamped edges


Foliation: iii+537+iii

Front flyleaves consist of a bifoliate, antique laid paper, with a crowned eagle watermark at the spine-edge, and a parchment flyleaf; three paper flyleaves at the end; foliation in modern pencil top right corners; number skipped after 429


Formula: Quire 1: 6 (fols. 1-6); Quires 2-8: 8 (fols. 7-62); Quire 9: 8, with the eighth folio cancelled (fols. 63-69); Quires 10-16: 8 (fols. 70-125); Quire 17: 4 (fols. 126-129); Quire 18: 10 (fols. 130-139); Quires 19-67: 8 (fols. 140-530); Quire 68: 4 (fols. 531-534); Quire 69: 2, with the first folio tipped in (fols. 535-537)

Catchwords: None

Signatures: None



11.4 cm wide by 17.3 cm high

Written surface

7.1 cm wide by 10.7 cm high

  1. Columns: 2
  2. Ruled lines: 27
  3. Ruled in purple ink through fol. 251v, in dark brown ink thereafter; layout does not apply to calendar: 5 columns, 33 lines, ruled in purple ink

fols. 1r - 537v:
  1. Title: Breviary
  2. Hand note: Littera batarda; additions in same script, except fols. 128v, 532v-533r, and 537r, written by several hands in cursive or irregular textura
  3. Decoration note: Nineteen historiated initials; the initial for the first Psalm is nearly full-page, while the others are 6 to 9 lines high and mark major divisions of the text; decorated initials with abstract and foliate ornament throughout (3 to 8 lines); red or blue flourished initials at secondary text divisions throughout the book; rubrics in red; text in black ink
fols. 1r - 6v:
  1. Title: Calendar
  2. Rubric: Iani prima dies et septima fine timetur.
  3. Contents: Calendar for ecclesiastical use at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame and St.-Lambert in Liège; near-full; two or more feasts often written on same date; Major feasts in red, others in brown; notable saints include Macarius (abbot, Jan. 14), Macarius (martyr, Jan. 23), Hadelin (Feb. 3), Adalbert (Apr. 23), Floribert (Apr. 25), Lambert (Apr. 28, translation), Walburga (May 1), Domitianus (May 7), Servatius (May 13), Gallicanus (June 25), Monegund (July 2), Ulric (July 4), Goar (July 6), Monulf and Gondulf (July 16), Fredegand (July 17), Glodesindis (July 25), Afra (Aug. 5), Aegydius (Sept. 1), Remacle (Sept. 3), Amalberta (Sept. 7), Theodard (Sept. 10), Remigius (Oct. 1), Amor (Oct. 8), Lambert (Oct. 13, triumph at the Steppes in 1213), Monon (Oct. 18), Oda (Oct. 23), Rumold (Oct. 27), Quintinus and Foillan (Oct. 31), Perpetuus (Nov. 4), Bertuin (Nov. 11), Cunibert (Nov. 12), Severus (Nov. 18, translation), Gelasius I (Nov. 19), Trudo (Nov. 24), Peter of Alexandria (Nov. 25)
  4. Decoration note: "KL" with fillets painted in blue on rectos, red on versos
fols. 7r - 7r:
  1. Title: Psalm 94
  2. Incipit: Venite exultemus Domino
  3. Contents: Contemporary addition
fols. 7v - 113r:
  1. Title: Ferial Psalter
  2. Incipit: Beatus vir
  3. Contents: Ten-partite Ferial Psalter: fols: 7v-113r: Psalms, with antiphons and hymns interspersed; fols. 111v-113r: Canticles
  4. Decoration note: Historiated initials fols. 7v, 21v, 31v, 39v, 41r, 50r, 62r, 73r, 74r, and 85v
fols. 113r - 122r:
  1. Title: Litany, Petitions, and Prayers
  2. Rubric: Letania
  3. Incipit: Kyrieleyson
  4. Contents: Fols. 113r-114v: Litany for use of Cathedral of Notre-Dame and St.-Lambert, Liège; fols. 114v-117v: Petitions specify pope, clerics, and congregation of Notre-Dame and St.-Lambert; fols. 117v-118v: Collects; fols. 118v-119r: Prayer "Prece minores"; fols. 119r-122r: Psalms
fols. 122r - 128v:
  1. Title: Office of the Dead
  2. Rubric: Incipiunt vigilie pro defunctis. Antiphona
  3. Incipit: Placebo domino
  4. Contents: Fols. 122-126v: Office of the Dead for use of Liège, nine lessons; fol. 126v: Antiphons, Psalms, Versicles in Lauds; fols.126v-128r: Collects; fol. 128v: Prayers added early
  5. Decoration note: Historiated initial fol. 122r; in the bottom margin of the same page is a horizontal band with pictures of hell
fols. 130r - 139v:
  1. Title: Hymns
  2. Rubric: In sancto festo Penthecostes. Ymnus.
  3. Incipit: Veni creator
  4. Contents: Fols. 130r-138r: hymns; fol. 138v: contemporary addition: antiphons, collects, and versicles
fols. 140v - 280v:
  1. Title: Temporale
  2. Rubric: In vigilia Penthecostes.
  3. Incipit: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
  4. Contents: Fols. 140v-141r: Pentecost vigil; fols. 141r-151r: Pentecost; fols. 151r-156r: Pentecost octave; fols. 156r-280r: Antiphon for Vespers of Corpus Christi through the xxiv week after Pentecost octave
  5. Decoration note: Historiated initials fols. 140v and 156r
fols. 281r - 497r:
  1. Title: Sanctorale
  2. Rubric: Urbani episcopi et martiris.
  3. Incipit: Si extra tempus paschale eveniat
  4. Contents: Sanctorale, 25 May-29 November; fol. 285v: John the Baptist; fol. 292r: Peter and Paul; fol. 302r: Visitation; fol. 346v: Assumption of the Virgin; fol. 379r: Nativity of the Virgin; fol. 396v: Lambert; fols. 493r-497r: dedication of a church
  5. Decoration note: Historiated initials fols. 285v, 292r, 302r, 346v, 379r, and 396v
fols. 497r - 530v:
  1. Title: Common of Saints
  2. Rubric: Incipit commune sanctorum.
  3. Incipit: In cuius inicio generaliter est notandum
fols. 530v - 537r:
  1. Title: Additions
  2. Rubric: De sancto Dyonisio ad vesperas. Antiphona.
  3. Incipit: O beate Dyonisi
  4. Contents: Texts added by the early sixteenth century; fols. 530v-532r: Office of St. Dionysius; fols. 532v-533r: Collects to SS. Christina and Pantaleon; fol. 537r: Collects to SS. Christina and Martha


fol. 7v:

  1. W.83, fol. 7v
  2. Title: Initial "B" with David playing the harp, and heraldic shield
  3. Form: Historiated initial "B," 24 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 1
  5. Comment:

    Inscription around the frame reads, "[B]eatus vir qui no[n] abiit"

fol. 21v:

  1. W.83, fol. 21v
  2. Title: Initial "D" with God blessing laic
  3. Form: Historiated initial "D," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 26

fol. 31v:

  1. W.83, fol. 31v
  2. Title: Initial "D" with hunter
  3. Form: Historiated initial "D," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 38

fol. 39v:

  1. W.83, fol. 39v
  2. Title: Initial "D" with massacre of an innocent
  3. Form: Historiated initial "D," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 51

fol. 41r:

  1. W.83, fol. 41r
  2. Title: Initial "D" with the fool
  3. Form: Historiated initial "D," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 52

fol. 50r:

  1. W.83, fol. 50r
  2. Title: Initial "S" with Christ, and Jonah escaping the whale
  3. Form: Historiated initial "S," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 52

fol. 62r:

  1. W.83, fol. 62r
  2. Title: Initial "E" with David playing bells
  3. Form: Historiated initial "E," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 80

fol. 73r:

  1. W.83, fol. 73r
  2. Title: Initial "C" with elevation of the Host, and man kneeling
  3. Form: Historiated initial "C," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 97

fol. 74r:

  1. W.83, fol. 74r
  2. Title: Initial "D" with Godhead above David in prayer before an altar
  3. Form: Historiated initial "D," 9 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 101

fol. 85v:

  1. W.83, fol. 85v
  2. Title: Initial "D" with God enthroned and blessing
  3. Form: Historiated initial "D," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 109

fol. 122r:

  1. W.83, fol. 122r
  2. Title: Initial "P" with the bosom of Abraham, and small miniature of hell
  3. Form: Historiated initial "P," 5 lines, and small miniature, 9 lines
  4. Text: Office of the Dead: Vigil

fol. 140v:

  1. W.83, fol. 140v
  2. Title: Initial "L" with Holy Spirit as dove
  3. Form: Historiated initial "L," 8 lines
  4. Text: Temporale: Pentecost vigil

fol. 156r:

  1. W.83, fol. 156r
  2. Title: Initial "S" with angels holding gold monstrance
  3. Form: Historiated initial "S," 8 lines
  4. Text: Temporale: Corpus Christi

fol. 285v:

  1. W.83, fol. 285v
  2. Title: Initial "E" with John the Baptist holding the Lamb
  3. Form: Historiated initial "E," 8 lines
  4. Text: Sanctorale: John the Baptist

fol. 292r:

  1. W.83, fol. 292r
  2. Title: Initial "P" with Peter and Paul
  3. Form: Historiated initial "P," 8 lines
  4. Text: Sanctorale: SS. Peter and Paul

fol. 302r:

  1. W.83, fol. 302r
  2. Title: Initial "E" with the Visitation
  3. Form: Historiated initial "E," 8 lines
  4. Text: Sanctorale: Visitation

fol. 346v:

  1. W.83, fol. 346v
  2. Title: Initial "O" with the Assumption of the Virgin
  3. Form: Historiated initial "O," 8 lines
  4. Text: Sanctorale: Assumption of the Virgin

fol. 379r:

  1. W.83, fol. 379r
  2. Title: Initial "O" with the Virgin of Humility
  3. Form: Historiated initial "O," 8 lines
  4. Text: Sanctorale: Nativity of the Virgin

fol. 396v:

  1. W.83, fol. 396v
  2. Title: Initial "E" with St. Lambert
  3. Form: Historiated initial "E," 8 lines
  4. Text: Sanctorale: St. Lambert


The binding is not original.

Seventeenth-century Flemish stiff-board vellum; sides bent to form 8-mm flap at fore-edge; re-backed; re-sewn on four double cords; gilt fillet frame, corner fleurons, centered oval formed of gilt laurel; gilt armorial shield inside oval surmounted by crest with horned man, flanked by monogram "R C;" modern endbands; brown leather fore-edge tabs


Probably made in Liège for laymen, ca. 1420; completed for ecclesiastical use of Notre-Dame and St.-Lambert in Liège; armorial shield worn by black-haired, bearded man with horns in Beatus initial on fol. 7v; layman portrayed on fol. 21v; shields in the borders of fols. 39v, 85v, 396v, and 459v are erased or altered by overpainting

Rebound in the seventeenth century for a member of the Surlet de Chokier family of Liège (armorial shield and monogram on binding)

Owned by Albertus of Liedekerke, 1725 (ex libris, his collection number "1543" on first front flyleaf recto)

Henry Walters, Baltimore, purchased between 1895 and 1931


Walters Art Museum, 1931, by Henry Walters' bequest


De Ricci, Seymour, and W. J. Wilson. Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada. Vol. 1. New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1935; p. 778, cat. no. 135

Bowles, Edmund A. "A Checklist of Musical Instruments in Fifteenth-Century Illuminated Manuscripts at the Walters Art Gallery." Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 32 (1976): 719-726; p. 723.

Oliver, J.H. Gothic Manuscript Illumination in the Diocese of Liège (c. 1250-1350). Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts from the Low Countries, 3. Vol. 1. Leuven: Peeters, 1988; p. 83, 97 (n. 23), 202.

Randall, Lilian M. C. Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery. Vol. 3, Belgium, 1250-1530. Baltimore, London: Johns Hopkins University Press in association with the Walters Art Gallery, 1997; pp. 97-104, cat. no. 228

Dückers, Rob, and Roelofs Pieter. The Limbourg Brothers: Nijmegen Masters at the French Court, 1400-1416. Exhibition Catalogue: Museum Het Valkhof Nejmegen, August 26, 2005. Antwerp: Ludion, 2005; p. 334.


Principal cataloger: Randall, Lilian M.C.

Cataloger: Valle, Chiara

Editor: Herbert, Lynley

Copy editor: Dibble, Charles

Conservators: Owen, Linda; Quandt, Abigail

Contributors: Emery, Doug; Izer, Emily; Noel, William; Schuele, Allyson; Tabritha, Ariel; Toth, Michael B.; Wiegand, Kimber


The Walters Art Museum


Licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Access Rights, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode. It is requested that copies of any published articles based on the information in this data set be sent to the curator of manuscripts, The Walters Art Museum, 600 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21201.