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“Laver de ses pechiés une pecheresse royale”: Psalm Collects in an Early Fourteenth-Century Devotional Book


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2017

Elizabeth A. R. Brown
Brooklyn College
Cynthia J. Brown
Professor of French, Department of French and Italian, University of California, Santa Barbara
Ardis Butterfield
Professor of English, UCL
Mark Cruse
Assistant Professor of French, School of International Letters and Cultures, Arizona State University (possibly Associate Professor by publication date)
Kathryn A. Duys
Associate Professor, Department of English and Foreign Languages, University of St. Francis
Sylvia Huot
Reader in Medieval French Literature and Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge University
Marilyn Lawrence
Marilyn Lawrence is a Visiting Scholar of the French Department at New York University, USA.
E. Jane Burns
Curriculum in Women's Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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The New York Public Library's manuscript Spencer 56 is a strikingly unusual devotional compilation. I have worked on the volume for a decade, aided and encouraged by a host of colleagues, all of them admirers of Nancy Regalado and her work. I offer this preliminary consideration of one of its many facets as a tribute to Nancy from us all.

Spencer 56 is a small, elegant volume, prepared with meticulous care. Its parchment is thin, smoothly scraped, and virtually flawless; the script is precise, clear, and legible; the text is copied with few abbreviations; the decoration is simple, restrained, and beautiful; the historiated initials and miniatures are exquisite. The pages of the book, written in two columns, suggest its unusual nature, since, aside from breviaries, private devotional books were generally copied in long lines. As its contents reveal, Spencer 56 does not fit comfortably into any of the genres into which early fourteenth-century liturgical books have been divided, when the style of its script and decoration shows it was created. Still, as the inventories of the libraries of Kings Charles V and Charles VI show (and as Victor Leroquais long since remarked), there was enormous variation in the contents of books that included Hours. Some contained one Hours, some several; some had the Psalter, some “various histories of various saints.” A book particularly valued by Charles V (and identified in an inventory as “les très belles grans Heures”) comprised a calendar; a Psalter; Hours of the Trinity, the Virgin, the Passion, John the Baptist, and Angels; prayers to the Virgin; Hours of John the Evangelist, Saint Louis (king of France), Saint Louis of Marseille, and Mary Magdalene; memorials of different saints; vigils of the dead; the seven Penitential Psalms; the Litany; and more memorials of (presumably) other saints.

The original core manuscript of Spencer 56 (fols. 31r–389r) consisted of similarly diverse elements, including a full Psalter (as well as the seven Penitential Psalms, the so-called Psalter of Jerome, and a lengthy prayer composed of excerpts from the Psalms), two Hours (of the Passion and of Saint Louis), litanies, memorials, and, most important, a host of prayers, some traditional, some uncommon, some perhaps unique.

Cultural Performances in Medieval France
Essays in Honor of Nancy Freeman Regalado
, pp. 163 - 178
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2007

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