The Connolly Book of Hours, a fifteenth century illuminated manuscript held by the John J. Burns Library, is now available online to scholars, students and admirers everywhere. Digital imaging of illuminated manuscripts requires advanced photographic techniques in order to maintain color accuracy of both the gold leaf and the diverse pigments. Each page was imaged twice under different lighting scenarios, once to optimize the capture of the gold and then to optimize the pigments and the vellum. The two images were then “blended” in PhotoShop. To avoid stressing the bound manuscript, the volume was never opened more than 90 degrees during the imaging process. All imaging work was completed in Andover, Massachusetts at the Northeast Document Conservation Center.
A workshop, probably in Northern France, created this work circa 1440. The text of 159 leaves contains 15 large and 14 small miniatures with foliate borders. It consists of the following: Calendar, Obsecro te, O intemerata, Hours of the Virgin, Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany, Hours of the Cross, Hours of the Holy Spirit, Office of the Dead, Fifteen Joys of the Virgin, Seven Requests to Our Lord, Prayer to the Holy Cross, Suffrages of the Saints. The texts of the Calendar, the Fifteen Joys of the Virgin, the Seven Requests to Our Lord, and the Prayer to the Holy Cross are written in French.
Books of Hours or lay prayer books were popular among the “burgeoning late medieval bourgeois class.” These books are often “dubbed the medieval ‘best seller.’” (Reflections on the Connolly Book of Hours, ed. by Timothy M. Sullivan and Rebecca M. Valette, Boston College, 1999). The Connolly Book of Hours is named after Terence L. Connolly, S.J., who donated the manuscript to Boston College. Father Connolly served as University Librarian from 1946 – 1959 and is best known for his work in building the Francis Thompson Collection.
In the “Suffrages of the Saints” section of the Connolly Book of Hours, the miniature depicts St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas lived during the fourth century in Asia Minor and became Bishop of Myra. In one legend, Saint Nicholas, during a period of famine, encountered an innkeeper who had murdered three children and pickled their bodies so as to have food for his guests. St. Nicholas restored the children to life. In this miniature, you can see St. Nicholas raising from their pickle vat the children who had been slain, chopped up and pickled by the evil innkeeper. Bishop Nicholas, crosier in hand, blesses the children with the sign of the cross. Patron of Children, Saint Nicholas has today become associated with Christmas and the giving of gifts.
On the opposing page, St. Catherine of Alexandria denounces the Roman Emperor Maxentius. Princess Catherine of Alexandria was only 18 years old in 310 A.D. when she rebuked the Emperor Maxentius for his persecution of Christians. The Emperor assembled 50 philosophers, but Catherine converted them to Christianity. In anger, the Emperor ordered her to be tied to a wheel spiked with swords. Since the wheel miraculously broke, the Emperor ordered her beheading. After her death, angels carried St. Catherine’s body to Mount Sinai. St. Catherine was the most popular female saint in the Middle Ages and is one of the “voices” who spoke to Joan of Arc. In this miniature, she stands next to a broken wheel, scoffing at the Emperor. She holds a book in her right hand and the sword of her martyrdom in the left. St. Catherine is the patron of students, teachers and philosophers.
To learn more about the Connolly Book of Hours, read Reflections on the Connolly Book of Hours, peruse the Finding Aid or contact the John J. Burns Library at 617-552-4861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Connolly Book of Hours is accessible online at http://hdl.handle.net/2345/2873 or in the Burns Library Reading Room. The text of this blog post is made up of content from the book Reflections on the Connolly Book of Hours. Many thanks are due to Digital Imaging & Curation Manager William Donovan and Digital Library Head Betsy McKelvey, for writing the paragraph about the digital imaging of this manuscript at NEDCC.