Michigan State University

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Special Collections
Main Library Building
Michigan State University
366 W. Circle Drive
East Lansing MI, 48824
Phone: (517) 884-6471
spc@mail.lib.msu.edu

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the Special Collections reading room at the MSU Library

Special Collections was established in 1962 to hold, preserve, build, and make accessible rare materials and special collections in the MSU Libraries. All materials must be used in the Special Collections reading room to protect and preserve them for use today and in the future. Learn more about Special Collections

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Antiphonale

Illuminated Letter of the Antiphonale

Special Collections holds a beautiful and very large “Antiphonale” probably dating from the 15th century. It was donated in 1951 by the E.K. Warren Foundation, but little else is known about the manuscript except that marginal notations suggest it spent a portion of its life in a Spanish monastery and was probably copied for the Benedictine Order of the Catholic Church. An “Antiphonale” is a collection of liturgical chants surrounding the Psalm verses appropriate to the day of the Church year. The chants would be sung in unison by the choir in alternation (antiphonally) with the officiant who would chant the Psalm verses. Although the volume is referred to as an “Antiphonale,” research indicates that it is actually two manuscripts  bound together to form a service book. The first part, approximately 45 leaves, consists of antiphons for the Psalms used in the season of Advent, while the second part of 50 leaves contains Introits, Offertories, and Graduals for the Christmas Masses.  You can listen here to six verses of the Advent hymn, “Conditor alme siderum,” which precedes the antiphons in this manuscript.  It was probably sung on a daily basis at or near the opening of the service and the hymn is still in use today; the most common translation is “Creator of the Stars of Night.”