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MS 33: Gradual, 15th century

Identifier: MS 33
f. 1r
f. 1r

Scope and Contents

A Gradual (or graduale) is a book which contains the chants sung during the Mass. It includes the music notation together with the words. Like the Breviary, it is divided into distinct parts according to the two main cycles of the liturgical year, which contain respectively all the parts of the liturgy which vary in accordance to a specific observance (proprium de tempore, 'proper of time' and proprium santorum, 'proper of saints') and those which are common to a specific category of saints, such as martyrs, confessors, virgins and so on (commune sanctorum, 'common of saints').

Each celebration includes different chants: the Introitus (the entrance chant, sung when the priest apporaches the altar); the Gradual Psalm (a responsorial chant which follows the reading of an epistle or other lection); the Alleluia; and the Sequence (sung before the reading of the Gospel; on certain occasions, such as during Lent, a Tract, a series of psalm verses, is sung instead of the Alleluia); the Offertory (sung during the offering of bread and wine at the Eucharist); the Communion (sung during the distribution of the Eucharist).

Proprium de tempore (Advent to Easter): starts on f. 1r. The 'proper of time' (or temporale) includes all the chants related to the moveable feasts of the year. The liturgical cycle begins with Advent and ends with Trinitytyde (the longest season, from the first Sunday after Pentecost to the first Sunday of Advent).

Inserted between ff. 6 and 7 is a slip of vellum containing what looks like a different musical notation for the tract of the fourth Saturday of Advent (f. 7r). There are later notes in Dutch containing instructions on the chants to execute pasted on the margins of f. 17v and 91r.

After f. 61, four folios have been added. They containg songs for Easter and in particular a number of versions of the Alleluia. Some of the explanatory rubrics are in Dutch: Allelüias tüsschen paschen en pinsteren, 'Alleluia between Easter and Pentecost' (on f. 61br); and Nae pinsteren, 'after Pentecost' (on f. 61cr ). These are followed by the Credo Cardinale, beginning with the words Patrem omnipotentem factorem celi (f. 61d), also known as Credo IV.

The same hand that has written the pages inserted after f. 61 has added an Alleluia and versicle for Saint Ursula at the end of this section, on f. 91v).

Proprium Sanctorum: starts on f. 92r. The 'proper of saints' (or sanctorale) includes all the chants for the feasts dedicated to specific saints; they are fixed feasts, as they fall on the same date every year. In this manuscript, alleluias and versicles following the Use of Rome have been written over erasures for Saint Paul (ff. 92v-93r), Saint Philip and Saint James (f. 96r), the Finding of the Cross (f. 97r), Saint Agnes (ff. 97v-98r), the Visitation and Saint Martin (ff. 105v-106r).

In Dedicatione Ecclesia: starts on f. 107r with the words Terribilis est locus iste. It is the service performed on the anniversary of the dedication of a specific church. Alleluias and versicle following the Use of Rome have been written over erasures for All Saints (f. 108r) and added for Saint Agnes, Saint Barbara and Saint Katherine (f. 108v).

Commune Sanctorum: starts on f. 109r. The 'common of saints' contains the chants which pertain to an entire categories of saints, such as martyrs, apostles, confessors, virgins, and so on.).

Votive Masses: start on f. 133r. The Mass for the Dead has been written according to the Use of Rome over an erasure (ff. 136r-136v).

Ordinary of the Mass: starts on f. 136v. The ordinary indicates those parts of the Mass which are invariable: with regards to the chats, these are the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Hosanna, Agnus Dei, Ite, missa est. The musical settings have interlinear rubrics which distinguish parts for choor ('choir') and orgel ('organ'). Further rubrics on the margins signal occasions for use of the different musical settings.

Sequences: start on f. 143v. The sequence is the hymn sung just before the reading of the Gospel. This manuscripts includes sequences dedicated to Saint Agnes, Saint Monica, Saint Anne, the Nativity and Octave of Saint Augustine, Saint Michael, Octave of Saint Michael, the Translation of the relics of Saint Augustine, Saint Ursula, Saint Martin and Saint Elizabeth.

Later additions: start on f. 176r. These have been executed by the same hand who is responsible for the other additions throughout the manuscript. The original foliation starts once again from 1. The additions consist of: two more sequences, dedicated to the dead (Dies Irae and Audi tellus audi magni maris nimbus; ff. 176r-177v); an anthem for the blessing of the candles at on Candlemas day (Lumen ad revelacionem gencium et gloriam plebis; ff. 177v-178v); the Sanctus and Agnus Dei for Virgins and Apostles, an additional Alleluia and other chants with marginal references, all according to the Use of Rome (ff 178v-180r); part of the Benedictio et Consecratio Virginum (Veni creator spiritus), not according to the Use of Rome (ff. 180v-182r). The last additiona are the hymn Kyrie fons bonitatis and a Credo (ff. 183r-184v); these have been executed on paper on a even later date.


Apart from the last two pages, two hands are distinctly indicated, both good, uniform Gothic. The first is responsible for the main portions of the manuscript, the second for whole folios occasionally inserted, and for the replacing of the original text in places. The Dutch rubrics are by the second hand, which can very readily be distinguished by the particularly black, lustrous ink used.


The ordinary capitals are of two types: Gothic line initials with penwork ornament, and plain blue and red verse initials. There are also three types of illuminated initials: blue and white, filled and surrounded by penwork in red and pale green; large initials floriated in colour, blue, lake, vermilion, and green, on burnished gold grounds (very characteristically Dutch); and historiated initials. The last two types are combined with magnificent borders of wild flowers and fruit, beasts, birds, snails, butterflies, and grotesques, etc., with acanthus scrolls, gold roundels, and delicate gold scroll work on the plain vellum. Some of the grotesques are interesting. On f. 1r, two monkeys winding wool on a winder; f. 10v, a man playing bagpipes; on f. 107r, a bird in a cage with bath beside it, and a pig wheeling a roller.


Miniatures (in initials):

  1. Advent (f. 1r) – Annunciation. The Virgin kneels before a draped stool on the left, the angel with lily rod kneels is on the right. Canopied couch in the background, tessellated pavement, glimpse of landscape through doorway.
  2. Christmas (f. 10v) – Nativity. Virgin, with two angels and Saint Joseph behind her, kneels adoring the Child, who lies naked in a halo of rays. The stable, a thatched building, is behind, and the ox and the ass can be seen. Surrounding all is a ruined wall with windows and doorway, through which one can see the shepherds on a distant hill, and a flying angel in a gold cloud with scroll. Over the stable itself are two flying angels with trumpets in cloud.
  3. Easter (f. 62r) – Christ in crimson robe, bearing Resurrection banner, steps from the tomb, on the parapet of which kneels a white angel adoring. Two soldiers on either side asleep, hilly landscape.
  4. Pentecost (f. 74r) – Virgin kneels at desk, apostles grouped round in room furnished with settle, dresser, two windows, two doors, one opening on to a loggia, the other into a bedchamber. Rayed dove descends.
  5. Saint Andrew (f. 92r) – Saint, numbed, carrying cross and book, stands in an apsidal chamber, a screen of crimson and gold behind him.
  6. Assumption (f. 103r) – Coronation of the Virgin. Virgin and Child within sun-coloured mandorla, two flying angels above holding a crown, two on either side with instruments, two upholding a crescent resting on a brazen dragon upon which the Virgin stands.


  • Creation: 15th century

Language of Materials

Latin with marginal annotations in Dutch.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to all. The manuscripts can be consulted in the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Main Library.


1 bound MS volume

Custodial History

Originally the Gradual must have been written for a House of Augustinian Canonesses in Holland. The canonesses were women who formed a religious community and followed the Rule of Saint Augustine, observing a very simple life, reciting the Divine Offices and often educating the young daughters of the nobility. From the Sequences (see Ulysses Chevalier, Repertorium Hymnlogicum) the text contained in the manuscript appears to follow the Use of Utrecht. The conjunction of Augustinian Use with that of Utrecht suggests the Congregation of Windesheim, a specific branch of the Augustinians which was at the heart of a movement of reform of the Church before the Protestant Reformation. The Augustinian origin is clearly shown both in the Sanctorale and in the Sequences, and the rubrics are all written for a nunnery. All evidence, both internal and external, points to Holland.

Apparently in the 16th century the Gradual has been adapted to Unreformed Roman Use, partly by marginal alterations, partly by additions on inserted folios or written over erasures. The Augustinian parts remain unaltered, however, and it seems possible that it passed into the hands of nuns following the rule of the Augustinian Friars, who would use Roman books.

Certain of the additions are, however, not Roman (as it is indicated in the contents) and their significance is not clear. The sequence Audi tellus audi is noted by Chevalier as found in an Antiphoner of Nôtre Dame de Lorette at Bois-le-duc (1491).

From a note on the inner board the book seems at some time to have been sold for £17.

Custodial History

Laing 486

Physical Facet

Material: Vellum (with insertion in paper)

Binding: Original, oak boards covered stamped leather, 5 lead bosses on front board, 4 on back (one missing), 2 fine brass clasps of interlaced design, brass corners and back, 4 lead rests. The title Ave on vellum is let into a small brass frame on front board.

Collation: a8-h8, i4 (inserted between h5 and h6), k8-o8, p10, q8-v8, x6, y8, z8, A2, B3, C3 (paper) = 188.


42.23cm x 30.80cm


Secundo folio: Populus Syon.

Foliation and number of lines to a page: ff. 188 (foliated by original scribe to f. 136, with 4 folios inserted between 61 and 62, and now numbered 61a, 61b, 61c, 61d), 10—13 lines of music to a page.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
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Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
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