A large number of leaves in our collection come from service books, or books that were used during the Catholic mass and liturgical year. Service books are often fragmentary; either they are richly decorated and ideal for individual sale, or they contain oudated forms of the mass and are ideal for binding fragments.
Service books could be quite large, like the Antiphonal shown at left, so that several people could read them at once. This leaf measures over 50 cm tall and over 30 cm wide. In the case of this antiphonal, it was likely much less expensive to produce one manuscript for a group of people to sing from than to produce individual manuscripts for each singer. Larger pages were probably also useful due to dim lighting in churches and the often poor eyesight of the singers! Larger manuscripts, however, were also more prone to being dismembered, because of their ability to fetch a good price.
Other service books, like books of hours, were designed to be small and were personalized to the owner. The size of the books allowed readers to keep them close, perhaps in a pocket or a small bag. They were also often richly decorated, and personalized to the owner. Each of the fragments pictured at left display distinct styles: at upper-left is an early Renaissance Book of Hours made by Italian scribe Bartolomeo San Vito with minimal decroation; at upper-right is an Italian Book of Hours showing the characteristic rotunda script, at lower-left is a French Book of Hours with rich illumination and decoration from the workshop at Tours, and at lower-right is a fifteenth-centur Book of Hours that may come from Low Countries, now present-day Belgium, which experienced a brief vogue for undecorated manuscripts.