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Rare Book Collections: Bruno Psalter

Bruno Psalter

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Bruno Psalter

Bruno Psalter

Bruno Psalter of 1475, Beatus Vir pageThe Bruno Psalter of 1475 is the oldest printed book (incunabulum) at Gonzaga. The book's attractive layout presents the text of the psalms in one column alongside a second column with the commentary of Bruno, Bishop of Würzburg (d. 1045), who was learned in Greek and Hebrew. Historically this was the first work printed in Würzburg, by Reyser. As shown here, the first page of the Psalter was illuminated, that is, it was decorated by hand with gold as well as colored ink. In this way the printer continued the practice of medieval scribes of adorning the first word of the first psalm, which begins with the words "Beatus vir" (Blessed is the man...).  

rubrication in the Bruno PsalterThe volume was printed in black with red ink used for initials and paragraph signs. This use of red ink is called rubrication, from the Latin word rubor, "redness."

Front opening of Bruno PsalterIn book construction, a sheet of material is "pasted down" on the inside of the cover and can extend onto the first page of the text block. In later books, in which paper is used for the pastedowns, they are usually called "endpapers." In many incunabula, however, these "pastedowns" are actually folios from medieval manuscripts. 

Antiphonary leaf with miniature of St. Martin Gonzaga University's copy of the Bruno Psalter is enhanced with pastedowns from a medieval vellum antiphonary (13th/14th century), written in red and black, with floral borders. The original antiphonary was made on a large scale so that it could stand on a lectern in the midst of a schola and all the singers could read the words and notes. An illuminated miniature depicts St. Martin seated on his episcopal throne receiving a goose and a vessel of wine from two peasants. The miniature fills the initial M, the first letter of the first word of the antiphon: "Martinus abrahe sinu letus" ("Martin, happy in the bosom of Abraham..."). The text appears to be the antiphon for First Vespers of November 11.

ThAntiphonary leaf as "pastedown" in Bruno Psalter, backe manuscript pastedown at the back of the Bruno Psalter is possibly from the prior page of the same antiphonary. The antiphon Te gloriosus Apostolorum is used for All Saints (November 1), and here seems to be used for November 9 as well, given that there is a reference to Theodor, who is mentioned in the Oratio for the Dedication of the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior (Lateran?) on November 9. Liturgical instructions are often called rubrics because of the custom of writing them in red, as seen here. [Antiphonary details from Professor Edward Schaefer]  



The contemporary or near-contemporary binding of
pigskin over pine boards is richly blind-tooled.

Full spine and green edges of Bruno Psalter
Title on spine of Bruno Psalter Detail of toolwork on cover of Bruno Psalter

This book has brass clasps and green edges

Brass clasp, Bruno Psalter

Worm hole in margin of Bruno PsalterLiteral bookworms do exist and have for centuries: here is evidence of one, in the margin.
Early printed books imitated the abbreviations used in manuscripts. The text shown beside the worm hole is "Ego autem in domino et non in mea iusticia, sed in fide divine protectionis gaudebo." In several places, abbreviations have been used, including a "suspension mark" above a word, to mark the omission of one or more letters, usually an m or n. An example is the word autem which appears simply as aut with a suspension mark. Names for God and the saints, nomina sacra, are frequently abbreviated. The standard abbreviation for dominus (Lord) is dn plus the final letter of the word, to indicate its grammatical case.



The volume has call number: SPEC COLL BS1425.L3B7 1475