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​Rare Book Room Features

Take a peek into the unique collections of Phoenix Public Library's Rare Book Room.

​Music Manuscripts of the Middle Ages

A Leaf from a Choir Book

13th century; origin unknown

This Gregorian chant is for the feast of the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It is quite large at over 2 feet tall and 1½ feet wide.  This type of large manuscript was displayed before a choir as they chanted.

A Leaf from a Small Antiphonary

15th century France

An antiphonary is a chant in which one choir responds to another or to a priest (call and response).  Written in gothic hand, this manuscript features square notes on four line staves and is beautifully illuminated with brushed gold background and an initial entwined with a blue flower.

​A Leaf from the Divine Office

1370 Switzerland

This 14th century leaf is from the Divine Office, which is an official set of prayers to mark the hours of each day.  This manuscript was written in Latin with horseshoe music notation which was named after the basic note shape that resembles a small nail.

A Leaf from the Divine Office

15th century France

This second leaf from the Divine Office is much more elaborate.  It features Gregorian notation (notice the square notes) with sweeping gold initials and finely detailed flowers.

A Leaf from a Breviary

14th century Germany

A breviary is a book of the prayers, hymns, psalms, and readings for the day's canonical hours, which are divisions of the day marked for prayer. 

A Leaf from a book formerly in the convent of St. Isabella, Granada


This manuscript leaf is from the Monastery of Santa Isabel la Real which stands on the site of a former Moorish palace in Granada, Spain which was founded by Queen Isabella of Castile during the Spanish Inquisition.

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