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Chant Books for the Office

An antiphoner (or antiphonary or antiphonal) contains the sung parts of the Divine Office that are specific to Sundays, feasts, and the Common of Saints. The chants found in an antiphonal include the antiphons sung with the psalms and canticles, the responsories of Matins and Vespers, and sometimes the hymns. Antiphoners were divided into two sections, the first encompassing the Proper of Time or the temporale (beginning with the first Sunday of Advent), and the second organized around the Proper of Saints or the sanctorale.

The large-format antiphoners of the later Middle Ages contain the chants for only part of the church year, however. Designed for several singers to view at the same time, these choirbooks were typically produced in sets of multiple volumes. The full photography of a fifteenth-century Benedictine choirbook from Perugia (Columbia, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, MS Plimpton 041) is available in Columbia University Library’s Digital Library Collections. For a complete inventory of the chants in the manuscript consult the Cantus database.

Such manuscripts may contain the feasts of saints special to certain religious orders; for instance, the feasts of Saint Francis are found in a Franciscan antiphoner of the fourteenth century, possibly copied in Siena (Barnard College Library, MS 1), available in the DLC here. All the chants in the manuscript are listed in the Cantus database.

Hymns can appear in an antiphoner or breviary at their place within each service, but they were also often copied together in an independent collection called a hymnary, which can be a separate book or a section of a book for the Office (often a psalter).

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