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Misunderstanding breviaries: a case from Bologna University Library

I recently had the chance to work in the extraordinary University Library in Bologna, an institution that keeps a great manuscript collection. Despite the fact the the opening hours are limited (9 to 13.30 from Wednesday to Saturday), librarians are really nice and open and they did whatever was possible to facilitate my researches. Looking for breviaries, I previously had my manuscript list done on the basis of the Inventory of Ludovico Frati, published in 1908 and 1909. It is not infrequent to discover that part of the manuscripts that have been catalogued as breviaries are in fact other types of liturgical book: more often, psalters or diurnals are misunderstood for breviaries. But Ms. Bologna, Biblioteca Universitaria, 345 is quite another.

L. Frati, «Indice dei codici latini conservati nella R. Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna», Studi italiani di filologia classica, 16 (1908), p. 103-432: 197.

Frati’s catalogue describe it as a Roman Breviary of the 14th century. It has 234 folia, written in the two columns, and it mesure 195 x 118 mm.

When I looked at the first page of the manuscript, it was clear to me that it wasn’t a breviary, but a sermonary. It contains the sermons for the Temporal and the Dedication of the church; a quick check at the Schneyer’s Repertory has revealed that it is the series of sermons by Antonius de Azaro de Parma (J. B. Schneyer, Repertorium der lateinischen Sermones des Mittelalters, vol. 1, Münster, 1969, p. 290). I gave here a short description of the manuscript.

But I still have this question in mind: how could a cataloguer mistake a sermonary for a breviary? They seem to me so different in content, layout, presentation, that there is no way one could fail to recognize it. However, if someone is not at all familiar with liturgical books, he could have been thrown off by the rubrics of the manuscript, which follow the order of liturgical feasts of the Temporal. He could have missed the fact that, under each rubric, there is only a ‘sermon theme’ (or biblical quotation) followed by a long commentary, and nothing else, while a breviary usually has the series of the proper texts – antiphons, collects, readings, responsories, hymns… – for each feast. Furthermore, the general aspect of the script suggests that the manuscript has been copied in France and not in Italy.

I hope that this little contribution could help scholars and students in their researches, even though lot of work has still to be done. Messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci.

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