(France [Provence], 1711). 292 x 197 mm. (11 1/2 x 7 3/4"). 14 p.l., 122 pp. Single column, 20 lines of text in a very attractive mix of neat roman and italic hands.
Excellent contemporary black morocco, covers with two double-ruled gilt frames and fleuron cornerpieces, raised bands, spine gilt in compartments with large central complex fleuron and scrolling cornerpieces, densely gilt turn-ins, special gilt-flecked glazed endpapers, all edges gilt. Rubrics and headings in red, a number of pleasing two-line initials in red, title page with hand-painted headpiece containing a medallion showing the dove of the Holy Spirit flying in a sunny sky, this vignette flanked by an olive branch and a ribbon bearing the motto "Virtute Probatur" ("The Proven Power"), and with a pair of crossed quill pens bound by a ribbon above the scribe's name; four other headpieces and two tailpieces, all in floral, foliate, and ribbon designs. Leather with general minor wear, a couple of noticeable abrasions to upper board, but the binding entirely sound, very well preserved overall, and not without appeal. Vellum a bit rumpled, causing the boards to splay a bit (as usual), naturally occurring variations in the color of the vellum, occasional minor dust soiling to head edge, a couple of small, additional insignificant imperfections, otherwise a fine example, the leaves clean and fresh, and the appealing script intact and unfaded.
This is an attractive specimen of an early 18th century Carthusian liturgical manuscript with important monastic origins. The volume begins with a dedication to the prior of the charterhouse (as Carthusian monasteries are called), and continues with a Calendar showing saints days and major festivals. The text provides the Propers and prayers (which change from day to day) for feast (and non-feast) days, as well as the unchanging Common of Saints and prayers for the departed. The manuscript is signed under the title by the scribe, Carthusian priest Bernardus Suzan Albaniensis, which makes it clear that this item came from Chartreuse pontificale du Val-de-Bénédiction at Villeneuve-lès-Avignon (Vaucluse), one of the greatest charterhouses of Europe. Founded in 1358 by Pope Innocent VII in what had been his palace (as Cardinal Etienne Aubert), the Chartreuse pontificale du Val-de-Bénédiction enjoyed both papal and royal patronage, and expanded over time to become the wealthiest charterhouse in France. Our manuscript was produced at the height of the monastery's influence and power: in the late 17th and 18th century, the charterhouse had approximately 40 priests, 30 lay brothers, and an equal number of servants and laborers who tended the extensive vineyards and farmland. It prospered until the French Revolution dissolved all the religious houses in 1790. Suzan, like other Carthusian monks, would have lived as a hermit within a community, housed in his own private cell with a work area, taking all but one meal a week alone. His manuscript would have been written within this cell, rather than in a communal scriptorium. The final line of the title page reads "Iuxta impressum Prisiis. apud Joannem Dupuis," which suggests that the manuscript is a verbatim copy of a printed work, although OCLC seems not to locate a work or publisher with precisely this name. The fact that the manuscript was made at all--on a superior writing surface at the cost of many hours and many sheep--implies that someone of importance and considerable means wanted a luxurious version of a text that must have been readily available in printed form (on paper). The title of the work, "The Service of the Priest of the Week according to the use of the Carthusians of Vaucluse," indicates that the monks took turns leading the daily offices and Mass. Suzan's script is beautifully spaced and carefully written, providing us with an aesthetically pleasing experience as well as a direct link to monastic life three centuries ago. (ST12194)