31 Days of Medieval Manuscripts

A Fourteenth-Century Italian Choir Book – Day Three of Medieval Manuscripts

Manuscript Leaf with the Assumption of the Virgin in an Initial V, from an Antiphonary by Niccolò di ser Sozzo c. 1340. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Today, I decided to feature a larger-scale manuscript to contrast yesterday’s pint-sized Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux. I recently read a past issue of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin about illustrated Italian choir books and thought that it would make a perfect subject for today’s post. Choir books tend to be fairly large, since their contents have to be easily visible to numerous singers at once. The page shown above measures 22 5/8″ x 15 7/8″, or more than five times the size of the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux. Also unlike books of hours, which were owned by an individual person, choir books were commissioned and utilized by religious institutions like churches or monasteries. However, the two types of manuscript do have some similarities. The page shown above comes from a category of choir book known as an antiphonary, which includes songs to be sung during the same daily prayers (called the Divine Office) that were included in a book of hours. Therefore, the two types of manuscripts include related content and are illustrated with similar subject matter. This page from a 14th-century Sienese antiphonary by Niccolò di ser Sozzo (c. 1334-1363) depicts the Assumption of the Virgin, a popular subject for religious art and illustrations of every variety.


Boehm, Barbara Drake. “Choirs of Angels: Painting in Italian Choir Books 1300-1500”. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin Vol. LXVI, No. 3 (Winter 2009)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Manuscript Leaf with the Assumption of the Virgin in an Initial V, from an Antiphonary”. Online collection database. Accessed October 3, 2015.

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