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Illuminated manuscript - Missal, in Latin

Missal, in Latin

  • Object:

    Illuminated manuscript

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)
    Milan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1400-1420 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Tomasino da Vimercate (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ink, pigments and gold on parchment. Vellum binding on pastboards, sewn on leather thongs.

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by George Reid.

  • Museum number:

    MSL/1902/1699 (Reid 66)

  • Gallery location:

    National Art Library

A Missal is a liturgical book containing all the texts, chants and prayers necessary for the celebration of the Mass. This example was written and illuminated in Northern Italy, probably Milan, in the early 15th century. Its calendar includes numerous Milan saints, such as Satyrus, Galdinus, Maternus, as well as Pavian saints, such as Syrus of Pavia. The manuscript is unusually small for a Missal, which may indicate that it was a priest’s personal copy or made for use at a subsidiary altar.
Beautiful historiated initials extend their foliage and flowers into the borders and introduce the main events of the liturgical year. The Nativity (f. 38r), for instance, illustrates the main Christmas Day Mass, while the Feast of Saint John the Baptist begins with a depiction of the saint holding a book on which lies the Agnus Dei (f. 305v).
The stylistic characteristics of these initials argue for an attribution to the Master of the Modena Hours, usually identified as Tomasino da Vimercate. This artist, active in Lombardy from ca. 1390 to the 1420s, worked on several manuscripts made for the Visconti family, rulers of Milan, and their entourage.

Physical description

Foliation: parchment. i-ii (18th-century or 19th-century paper, watermark) + 369 (foliated 1-187, 189-276, 278-317, 317a-370) + iii-v (as ff.i-ii) ff.

Number of lines: 18 lines.

Language: Latin.

Script: rounded Italian Gothic bookhand.

Textual content:
ff.1r-6v: Calendar, with saints specific to Milan.
ff. 7r-7v: Order for the blessing of water and salt.
ff. 8r-15v: Votive Mass for the Trinity.
ff. 16r-291v: Temporale and a series of prefaces (ff. 289v-291v), with a litany (ff. 254v-256v) for the Office on Holy Saturday.
ff. 292r-297v: Canon of the Mass, lacking a folio (for the Vere Dignum).
ff. 298v-323v: Sanctorale, Proper of the Saints.
ff. 323v-349r: Common of the Saints, Masses asking for the protection of saints, for sinners, angels, the Holy Spirit and the Cross.
ff. 349r-360r: Masses to the Virgin Mary for various seasons.
ff. 360r-369r: Masses for the Dead.

Decoration: 16 historiated initials (ff. 8r, 16r, 38r, 47r, 258v, 273r, 280r, 283r, 292r, 300v, 303r, 305v, 314r, 316v, 320v, 360r), with large leafy scrolls spreading into the borders in orange, green and blue, with gold discs. Display script and penwork in brown and red used on the first lines adjacent to most historiated initial. Numerous 2-line initials alternating blue body with red and blue penwork flourishingm and red body with lilac penwork.

Artist: Attributed to Tomasino da Vimercate (the Master of the Modena Hours) and assistants.

Binding: 17th century from Italy. Cream coloured parchment over boards. Spine lettered in ink: Missale. 19th-century repairs (stitching of covers to the broken leather thongs; insertion of fly-leaves).

Place of Origin

Italy (made)
Milan (made)


ca. 1400-1420 (made)


Tomasino da Vimercate (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Ink, pigments and gold on parchment. Vellum binding on pastboards, sewn on leather thongs.


Height: 185 mm, Width: 135 mm, Height: 115 mm Text block, Width: 80 mm Text block

Object history note

(1) On the verso of upper cover pastedown, early 19th-century inscription 'DUC[?]OS - GUSSAGO', either a place or personal name.
(2) Inscription on inside upper cover: "Coll. Daw".
(3) Bequeathed by George Reid to V&A in 1902.

Descriptive line

Manuscript, Missal, Milan, ca. 1400-20.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

p. 75
F.S., E. 'The Reid Gift.-II'. The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs Vol. 2, No. 4 (1903), pp. 74-75.
p. 384
Ker, N.R. Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries I. Oxford: 1967.
Radaeli, A. 'Nuovo contributo al catalogo del miniatore dell R.7.3 dell'Estense di Modena', Giornale di Bordo, II, no. 2, 1968, pp. 64-67.
p. 595
Bollati, M. (ed).Dizionario biografico dei miniatori italiani secoli IX-XVI. Preface by Mikós Boskovits. Milan, 2004.
vol. 1, pp. 180-185, cat. 30
Watson, R. Western Illuminated Manuscripts.Victoria and Albert Museum. A catalogue of works in the National Art Library from the eleventh to the early twentieth century, with a complete account of the George Reid Collection. London, 2011.

Labels and date

About 1400-1420

Illumination by the Master of the Modena Hours (Tosamino da Vimercate?) The missal contained the texts needed for the priest to celebrate Mass throughout the year. The illustration introduces a prayer for the Feast of Corpus Christi. It shows a gold monstrance enclosing the Eucharist and placed on the altar. The relatively small format of our missal indicates that it was for an individual priest, or for use at a subsidiary altar.

Italy, Milan
Ink on parchment, with pigment and gold
Bequeathed by George Reid
Museum no. MSL/1902/1699 (Reid 66)


Parchment; Ink; Pigments; Gold; Leather; Wood




National Art Library; Books; Medieval and renaissance; Manuscripts; Bookbinding

Production Type



National Art Library

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