Antiphonal Leaf


Antiphonal Leaf

European, 15th century

Language: Latin

Single leaf

oil on parchment
height 44.5 cm
width 32.5 cm

Portland Art Museum, Lloyd J. Reynolds Memorial Collection of Calligraphy, 84.66.1
Gift of Hazel Plympton


Caleb Hardy, Medieval Portland Capstone Student, 2016

The large size of this leaf  (445 x 325 mm or 17.5 x 12.7 inches) fits with the function of being viewed by a choir. 

The Text:

The text is the Latin Vulgate Bible’s Lamentations 4:10-12. In English, these verses read (KJV translation):

10 The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people. 11 The LORD hath accomplished his fury; he hath poured out his fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof. 12 The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem. (Lamentations 4:10-12)
On this leaf the text begins on the recto, part way through verse 10 with the words “cibus earum”, meaning “their food”, and goes through verse 12. The verso begins in verse 12 part way through the word for “believed,” with the“derunt” from “crediderunt.” 

In the original Hebrew, the Book of Lamentations contains a series of acrostics. Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 each contain an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet. So, in the text of this chapter in Hebrew, the first line begins with the first letter of the alphabet, and each successive line begins with the next letter through all twenty-two letters. In the Latin Vulgate translation, this subtlety of the Hebrew is acknowledged by including the names of the Hebrew letters in the text. Verse 11 begins with the word “Caph” the 11th Hebrew letter, and verse 12 begins with Lamed, the 12th letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Both words appear on the verso and are written in red. These Hebrew letter names have music written out for them and are sung along with the rest of the text.

After the conclusion of the biblical Lamentations passage, the chant continues, set with the words “Ierusalem Ierusalem, convertere ad dominum deum tuum.” Meaning “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto the Lord thy God.”

Liturgical Use:

Liturgically, portions of Lamentations appear as readings in the Tenebrae offices of the Roman rite during Holy Week. (Hornby, P. 89) Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Holy Week, the first reading of Matins is traditionally taken from Lamentations (Viladesau,  P. 126) and each reading ends with the words “Jerusalem convertere ad dominum deum tuum” (Viladesau,  P. 127) That this leaf is a Lamentations passage with this phrase appended indicates that this is where it fits in liturgically, but I have not found any particular mention of this passage of Lamentations being sung in Tenebrae, or anywhere in the Roman rite. 


Musically the chant on the leaf is, with slight variations, the same chant as that which Liber Usualis has for “Quomodo Sedet” (the beginning of Lamentations) - to be sung at Matins on Maundy Thursday, (Church, P. 631). A recording of this can be heard here. Listen for the sung Hebrew letters at the beginning of each verse of the text.  

Unlike Liber Usualis which begins the chant on F and has a Bb written in, this leaf has no accidentals written in, and begins the chant on C. It is the same tune, but in C rather than F. The final tone of the chant is C (the note it will finish on - the tonic) and the reciting tone (the note most of the words will be chanted on) is E. 

The chant tone on this antiphonary leaf follows this pattern: The verse begins by singing the Hebrew letter (E-D-C-D-C), after which, it steps from C, the ‘final tone’, up to E the ‘reciting tone’ and remains there until cadencing. It alternates its cadences between an internal cadence F-E-D-E, that ends on the reciting tone, and a final cadence that goes from the reciting tone to the ‘final’ thus: F-D-C-B-D-C. This second cadence is slightly different from Liber Usualis’ final cadence which goes to the final tone with this cadence: D-C-D-C. Also different is that, while in Liber Usualis the internal cadence is used over again in each verse until the very last cadence before the next Hebrew letter, in this leaf, we see in verse 11 a strict alternation: first the internal cadence, then the final cadence again, followed by another internal cadence, followed by the final cadence again for the end of the verse.

The Notation, Lettering and Origin:

The notation is square notes in brownish ink on red lines. The brownish color suggests it is iron gall ink, which turns brown over time (especially when fewer galls are used). (Van Gulik, P. 292) It appears that a 7mm nib was used to calligraph the notes and the clefs, a 4mm nib for the text of the chant, and a 3mm nib for the words “Sequentia inter solemnia natalis domini” which are written in red in the space left at the end of the music.

The Portland Art Museum’s website categorizes this antiphonary leaf as “15th century unknown European,” however, features of the lettering and notation strongly suggest that it is Spanish. 

There are three main features that point to Spanish origin:
1. The Gothic Rotunda script
2. The clef
3. The five-line staves. 

A gothic rotunda script is distinct from the angular blackletter of northern Europe of the 15th century, but the question of where in southern Europe this originated remains. Can a Spanish gothic rotunda be distinguished from an Italian gothic rotunda? 

I believe more roundness and less serifs characterize Spanish gothic rotunda. In these examples observe the i’s for straightness (the italian i being curved by a big curved serif at top and bottom), and the ps ms and ns for serifs. For roundness observe the ‘m’s arches and the tops of the ‘e’s for roundness in these examples:

Spanish Examples:

Italian examples: 

Clearly the lettering of this ‘Unknown European’ antiphonal leaf is more akin to the Spanish examples.
Another aspect that can be compared is the clef. In our leaf the clef appears to be three pen strokes (each stroke diamond-shaped, the pen held at a steeper angle than in the lettering). 

There are three interlocking diamonds, one on the centerline and one diagonally above to the left and below to the left. Chant clefs are there to tell you either where C or F is. These three diamonds slightly resemble a C and they are a C clef. I have only seen a clef of this description in one example of Italian chant (Venetian - c. 1400), but I have found this clef in Libro 31, Seville - a manuscript from the second half of 15th century,  This early 16th-century Spanish antiphonary leaf in the Library of Congress, and, in the University of Sydney’s collection of Spanish liturgical manuscripts, one can see this style of clef in four manuscripts: Fisher RB add Ms. 327, 335, 344, and 357. (Hardie) This clef, then, would appear to be characteristically Spanish.

Lastly, there is the feature of 5 line staves. This is referred to by Jane Hardie as a “Spanish feature” ( p.215).  Only one (A28904) of the eight Italian examples in my sample pool has five-line staves. Of the seven Spanish examples that contain notation, all have five-line staves (Fisher RB add Ms. 357 also contains four-line staves). These are some of the reasons that this leaf, in the collection of the Portland Art Museum, should be labeled “Spanish (?).”


Church, Catholic, and Benedictines Congregation De France (Solesmes). Liber Usualis - with Introd. and Rubrics in English Edited by the Benedictines of Solesmes. Tournai (Belgium), NY: Desclee, 1961, 1961.

Hardie, Jane Morlet. "Spanish Liturgical Music Manuscripts at the University of Sydney: A Preliminary Report." Fontes Artis Musicae 55, no. 1 (2008): 205-22.

Henry, Hugh. "Antiphonary." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907.27 Oct. 2016 <>.
 Hornby, Emma, and Rebecca Maloy.  Music and Meaning in Old Hispanic Lenten Chants: Psalmi, Threni and the Easter Vigil Canticles. Vol. 13. Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2013.

Van Gulik, R., and N. E. Kersten-Pampiglione. "A closer look at iron gall ink burn." Restaurator 15, no. 3 (1994): 173-187.

Viladesau, Richard. The Pathos of the Cross: The Passion of Christ in Theology and the Arts-the Baroque Era. Oxford University Press, 2014


Wilma Fitzgerald, PhD, SP - Quoted with permission from an unpublished study

Antiphonale. Lamentationes / Threni 4, 10-12 Saec. XV. One folio, trimmed, 445 x 325 mm. Music of one column, six lines, brownish ink neumes on five red line staves. Gift of Hazel Plympton for Lloyd J. Reynolds Memorial collection of Calligraphy.

// [Iod: Manus mulierum misericordium Coxerunt filios suos Facti sunt] cibus earum in contritione filiae populi mei .../... Lamed Non crediderunt reges terre et universi  habitatores orbis ... per portas Ierusalem. Ierusalem Ierusalem convertere ad dominum deum tuum.  Sequentia inter solemnia natalis domini //