Table of Contents
Main Sections
I. Function of Books
II. Book Production
III. Book Structure
IV. Typology of Books
        1. The Bible
        2. Liturgical Books
        3. Diverse Book Categories
V. Book Illumination
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2. Liturgical Books

The Mass

The main event in the life of Christian religious life is the Mass. In the early Middle Ages the complete liturgy was not to be found in one volume. A variety of books containing readings, chants, and prayers was used instead.

As early as in the fourth century it was customary to make notes in the margins of the Bible manuscripts, indicating the Sunday or the festival on which that particular passage would be read, and attach the list of such passages and corresponding dates, the Capitulare lectionum, at the end of the manuscript. Very soon the Capitulare developed into the Evangeliary, a special book containing only particular passages from the Gospels, arranged in the order of the liturgical year. The Lectionary, containing passages from both Old and New Testaments, complements the Evangeliary. Epistles of the Apostles were sometimes similarly arranged in yearly order in a book called Epistolary, or Apostle.

The order of prayers to be said by a priest during the Mass was in the early Middle Ages defined by a book called Ordo, or Directorium.

The prayers pertaining to the consecration of the Eucharist were contained in a book called Sacramentary.

Blessings to be said during the Mass were inscribed in the Benedictional. In the earlier period blessings were announced exclusively by bishop. Some Benedictionals were produced for individual bishops and lavishly decorated. In the later Middle Ages any priest holding a Mass was entitled to delivering benedictions; thus Benedictionals became a common product.

Sung portions of the Mass in the early Middle Ages were inscribed in the Antiphonary, or in the Gradual.

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From the tenth century onwards we find the Gospel lessons, together with the Epistles and prayers, united in a new liturgical book, called the Missal. That was an amalgamation within one volume of a number of separate service books necessary for the celebration of the Mass, such as the Sacramentary, the Antiphonary, the Evangeliary, the Epistolary, and so on, arranged in the liturgical order. The appearance of the Missal benefited private devotion: the celebrant received the possibility of saying the Mass alone.

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Pastoral Care

A number of books guided Christian religious rites beyond the Mass. Episcopal offices such as, for example, ordination and confirmation, were contained in the Pontifical. Priests had similar handbooks helping them in taking care of souls. These books contained all the sacraments a parish priest had to perform (batism, extreme unction, matrimony), except the Eucharist. Every local rite had its own books of this kind, and their names were not uniform: Manuale, Liber agendarum, Agenda, Sacramental, sometimes Ritual.

Daily Prayer

The Christian church prescribed the so-called Divine Office, that is, a certain order of prayers to be said in specific time of the day. In the Middle Ages, there existed a number of books containing such prayers, the most important among them being the Breviary. The breviary appeared in the eleventh century as a combination of the numerous numerous volumes used for daily prayer such as the Psalter, Antiphonary, Lectionary, Martyrology. The purpose of the Breviary was to supply poorer communities of canons, who had no means to possess all required books, with all necessary texts and a guide to conducting the order of service. Being, in effect, a voluminous book, initially the Breviary was only used by monks. Further development, especially due to the Franciscans and Dominicans, brought about a portable, handy breviary, to be used in private, even by laity. The contents vary in their details depending on the rite of the order and the usage of that geographic area.

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Yearly Liturgy

Many liturgical books, especially breviaries and books of hours, contained the Calendar: a list of religious feasts in the order of the year. The calendar section is most often attached before the text itself. In the luxury manuscripts, beside universal Christian feasts, calendars usually highlight, in a different colour, feasts pertinent to the patron and the region. The two most popular themes for calendar illumination were the labours of the months and the zodiacal signs.

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