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HIST 2170 - History of Christianity (Jobin) - Rare Books Collection

A Selection of materials highlighting the history of Christianity to the Reformation from the Rare Books Collection, Rare and Distinctive Collections, CU Boulder Libraries.

Medieval Manuscripts, 1100-1500


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Latin Bible, Psalm 51, or Psalter.  c. 1210-1220?
Rare Books Collection, CU Boulder Libraries

The Rare Books Collection holds the S. Harrison Thomson, the James Hayes, and Otto Ege Collections as well as a number of miscellaneous manuscripts. These range in date between the 12th and 16th centuries and include both full codicies - or bound volumes - and individual leaves - or pages - of Latin Bibles, Graduals, Breviaries, Psalters, and Books of Hours (for Books of Hours, see the following section of this guide) copied and illustrated before 1600.

This section highlights just a few of the medieval Bibles, Missals, Graduals, Psalters, and Breviaries held in the Rare Books Collection. Some background:

  • Latin Bibles:
    • Although the Rare Books Collection holds one spectacular late twelfth or early thirteenth-century bible leaf of a large Latin Bible - our 'Dragon Leaf,' seen below - and several highly illuminated smaller bibles, the majority of our bible leaves come from small, study or scholar's bibles that were made in Paris in the early thirteenth century. 
    • The smaller Paris bibles - such as ours below - were meant to be portable.  Often commercially produced, they are illuminated with the typical blue and rose pigments of Paris bibles
  • Latin Missals: 
    • Missals serve as a guide for the priest to use in conducting Mass.  Our missal below includes a charming illustration of a hand reminding the priest to elevate the Host so that all can see, a medieval, religious form of 'stage directions.'
  • Latin Graduals: 
    • Like missals, graduals, which include musical notations for chants or hymns, were used for the celebration of the Eucharist during the Mass. The term 'gradual' refers to the steps of the altar upon which the choir stood. 
  • Latin Psalters:
    • Psalters feature the Book of Psalms, though they differ in the addition of liturgical guidance provided for the reader for the specific Psalms to be read at certain hours of each day. 
    • The example below features a leaf from a very modest Psalter.  For a significantly higher-end Psalter, see that of Geoffrey Luttrell, created in the early fourteenth century.  The Rare Books Collection holds a facsimile of the Luttrell Psalter but for an online view, please see the British Library's Virtual Book and the British Library's Collection Item. 
  • Latin Breviaries: 
    • Breviaries feature the daily service for the divine office, including the psalms, readings, and hymns to be recited at the hours of each day. As suggested by the name, a breviary is brief, a condensed, portable codex.  Our breviary below from fifteenth-century England is especially interesting for its later, post-Reformation notation, which highlights the re-use of this small manuscript following the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the conversion of much of England to the English Church.  Many medieval manuscripts were destroyed during the this period; some of these were re-used for any number of purposes including bookbinding, wrappings, and even cleaning.  The notation reads: 'A Booke of Receipts from my Brother Cole: 1626.'
    • For a high-end, highly illuminated breviary, see the British Library's Breviary of Isabella of Castile, which dates c. 1497.

To browse or search our collection of 182 medieval leaves spanning the 12th-17th centuries, see the CU Boulder Digital Library Medieval Leaves Collection. Note, this site does not include the Rare Books Collection's bound codices: two thirteenth-century Latin Bibles and one complete, bound, fifteenth-century Book of Hours.

Latin Bible, 'Dragon Leaf,' Northern France, c. 1240, MS 314
Rare Books Collection, CU Boulder Libraries

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Latin Bible (Jerome, Prologue to Job - Job 5: 9). Paris, c. 1220-30, MS 317
Book of Job, depicting naked, diseased Job on dung heap, with his wife, three sons, and the devil,

Rare Books Collection, CU Boulder Libraries


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'Conversion of Paul,' Latin Bible, Paris, c. 1235, MS 360
Rare Books Collection, CU Boulder Libraries


Latin Missal, Amiens, France, 1266-1300, Ege 13
Rare Books Collection, CU Boulder Libraries


Latin Gradual, 15th century Italy, Ege 27
Rare Books Collection, CU Boulder Libraries


Latin Psalter, recto: Psalm 40: 7-12; verso: Psalms 40: 13--41: 4, Netherlands, 1301-1333, Ege 20
Rare Books Collection, CU Boulder Libraries


Latin Breviary, 15th century England with early 17th century handwriting, Thomson 74
Rare Books Collection, CU Boulder Libraries

Digitized Collections of Medieval Manuscripts

For medieval manuscript leaves held in the Rare Books Collection, see:

For medieval manuscripts held in other collections, see: 

Rare and Distinctive Collections


Classroom: Norlin M350B

Reading Room: Norlin E1B43



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