"I look from afar, and behold I see the Power of God, coming like as a
cloud to cover the land . . ." This response to the first reading in Advent is
what normally determines the iconography of its historiated initial. It seems to
have been the inspiration for the present illumination, but here, instead, the
vision of God's power is incarnated in the Virgin and Child.
While the iconography is unusual on medieval terms, the late date of
production of this manuscript may explain a loosening of traditional image
patterns. The manuscript was copied in or after 1514/15, when the Carthusian
order received authorization to celebrate the feast of their founder, St. Bruno.
In the calendar of this manuscript, in the hand of the original scribe, we find
the feasts of Bruno (6 October), Hugh of Lincoln (a bishop of that order; 17
November), and the feast of the relics, celebrated by Carthusians on 8 November.
The three feasts are to be honored cum candelis, with candles, just as
we might put candles on a birthday cake to signal the importance of the day.
The codex itself is a celebration of Milton McC. Gatch, librarian of the
Burke Library for many years. The library's Friends purchased the manuscript in
his name, in recognition of his studies on Leander van Ess (1772-1847), a German
who had owned this same manuscript some one hundred and fifty years earlier.