Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Caligula Troper

This is a page from the Caligula Troper (British Library, MS Caligula A XIV). A troper is a collection of tropes, which were new music inserted into the chants of the mass for special feast days. This book was intended to be used by a soloist, and was of a small scale. The opulence of the decoration indicate that it was made for an important patron. The tropes included in the manuscript indicate that it may have been made in Winchester or Worcester. It was made in about 1050. This page has an image of the Wise Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) as an illustration for the mass for Virgin Saints. The Virgins hold the lamps and torches from the parable, along with branches, which may represent the the palms of martyrdom. The Hand of God blesses them from above. The Virgins' robes are abstracted into a geometric pattern and the are placed against a gold background which gives an unworldly, spiritual feel to the illustration.

The manuscript names comes form its position in the Cotton Library. Robert Cotton was a 17th century bibliophile. He kept his manuscripts in case above which were busts of Roman emperors and Ladies. These busts were used to Catalog the manuscripts. This manuscripts shelfmark, Caligula A XIV meant that the manuscript was in the case under the bust Caligula, on the first shelf, and 14th book from the left. When the Cotton Library became one of the foundational collections of the British Library, its shelfmarks were retained.

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