National Gallery of Art, Masterpieces in Miniature: Italian Manuscript Illumincations from the J. Paul Getty Museum
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The choir book containing the musical portion of the Divine Office.

Book of Hours
The most popular prayer book of the late thirteenth through sixteenth centuries, the book of hours was designed primarily for the laity. It is composed of a number of different texts, but the core text is a cycle of daily prayers dedicated to the Virgin Mary and recited at eight fixed hours during the day, hence its name. These books were usually illuminated, often by the most gifted artists of the period.

The book used by monks, nuns, and clergy containing all the texts of the Divine Office.

A fragment cut from a manuscript leaf, usually containing a miniature or a historiated initial.

Divine Office
The series of eight prayer services that regulated the daily lives of monks, nuns, clergy, and devout members of the laity. The services begin with matins (before daybreak), followed by lauds (at sunrise), prime (the first hour of daylight), terce (the third hour of daylight), sext (the sixth hour, or noon), nones (the ninth hour), vespers (at sunset), and compline (at nightfall).

A single manuscript page. Unlike modern books, which are numbered sequentially on both sides of the page, manuscript folios are given a new number only on the front side (recto) of the page. The reverse side is assigned the same number, followed by "v" for verso.

The choir book containing the musical portions of the Mass--the Christian rite in which bread and wine are consecrated and consumed. It takes its name from a chant by the same name performed on the steps (gradus in Latin) leading to the altar.

Historiated Initial
An oversize initial letter containing a narrative scene or figures, usually related to the text. Historiated initials first appeared in manuscripts of the early 800s and remained popular throughout the Middle Ages.

The painted decoration of a manuscript. The word is derived from the Latin illuminare ("to light up") because of the glow created by the radiant colors of the images, especially gold and silver.

A single detached folio from a manuscript. It was common among collectors of the seventeenth to nineteenth century to cut individual leaves from manuscripts so that the illuminations could be displayed like paintings.

A collection of songs of praise in the vernacular rather than in Latin. Such hymnals were used by confraternities, groups of lay people who met to pray and do good works in addition to gathering at church services.

Written by hand or the resulting handwritten document or book. Most European manuscripts of the Middle Ages were made of durable parchment.

From the Latin miniare, referring to the red pigment minium that is often used for special lettering and decoration in manuscripts. The term originally referred to the paintings in medieval illuminated manuscripts, some of which can be quite large. Only later, when the word miniature came to be used for portraits mounted in lockets and brooches, did the term become associated with small size.

The book that contains the prayers said by the priest and the chants sung by the choir at Mass, sometimes with and sometimes without musical notation.

Animal skin, especially sheep, goat, and calf, specifically prepared for writing. According to legend, parchment, also called vellum, was developed in the second century A.D. in Pergamon, the modern city of Bergama, Turkey.

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image: National Gallery of Art image: Manuscripts in Miniature: Italian Manuscripts Illumination from the J. Paul Getty Museum