Digital fragment collection

Medieval parchment fragments in Bergen University Library and The Regional State Archives in Bergen

Description of UB Bergen MS 1550, 2

The Canon missae fragment


What we have called “the Canon missae fragment” does not come from a manuscript, but from an early printed book, a so called incunable. The large initial T on the recto side was probably painted manually, and the book is printed on parchment, not paper. The contents are the initial parts of the Canon missae, i.e. the prayer after the prefatio in the mass, before Pater noster. While the priest read the Canon prayer (quietly), the bread and wine of the communion was believed to be transformed into the flesh and blood of Christ. The importance of this particular prayer was emphasized in the manuscripts with a large and decorated initial T in the first part of the prayer, “Te igitur”. This letter grew in size during the centuries, and the shape invited to a decoration in form of a crucifixion scene. Eventually it became customary to use a whole page on the crucifixion, and have a simpler, but still large, decorated initial T. In a missal as late as ours, the “Te igitur” was probably originally facing such a crucifixion scene, now lost.

Facsimiles and transcriptions

UBB MS 1550, 2, rectoUBB MS 1550, 2, verso.

Manuscript Identification


Bergen University Library, Art and Humanities Library


Bergen University Library


MS 1550, 2

The Canon missae fragment [Parchment, one leaf from an incunable, 38 x 23 cm, Unknown origin, second half of the 15th century. ]

Manuscript Content

The contents are the first part of the Canon missae, the prayer read by the priest between the prefatio and the Pater noster in the preparation for the communion in mass. The prayer is subdivided into twelve parts, and we have the first three: 1) Te igitur, “accept our gifts, merciful father”, 2) Memento domine, “remember your servants”. In this book the Memento prayer does not stand out in the lay-out, but is linked to the end of the Te igitur. 3) Communicantes, “joining, and honouring the memory of...”. The names to be remembered are the virgin Mary, Christ, twelve apostles and twelve martyrs; Peter, Paul, Andreas, Iacob, Iohannes, Thomas, Iacob, Philip, Bartholomeus, Mattheus, Simon and Thatheus (often spelled Thadeus), then the five popes Linus, Cletus, Clemens, Sixtus, Ciprianus, and seven other martyrs, Laurentius, Crisogonus, Iohannes and Paulus, Cosmis and Damianus.

Physical Description

The size of the fragment is 38 x 23 cm, while the full writing space is 28 x 17,5 cm. One column, 19 lines.


Script: Since this is a printed book and not a manuscript, we should rather be talking about print than script. The letters are rounder than the formal gothic textualis of most of the printed German books, and we should maybe look outside of Germany for the origin. Rubricated. No musical notation. The N where actual names are to be read, have the shape of an H, a trait common in English manuscripts.

Initials: There is one large blue T over 6 lines (8,5 cm) on the recto side, written into a green rectangular frame. The background is light pink with a dynamic acanthus leaf pattern, which is also mirrored in the letter itself. There are traces of gold around the red areas above and below the letter. On both sides lines from the T are exceeding the boundaries of the green frame. On the verso side there is a red, plain C over two lines, which is the initial of the third part of the Canon prayer, Communicantes.

Condition: The fragment is in relatively good condition. It is a little bit ripped in the upper right corner (vertically) and there is a 7 cm horisontal rip over the tenth line from the left side, following edges where the fragment has been folded when used as a book cover. There are traces from the back of the book (ca 3 cm thick) going horizontally across the fragment, and “Im Herbst” is written on what would have been the top of the back cover, now the left margin of the fragment. There is a 1 cm fold around the edges, with what seems to be the remains of pastedowns. The recto side is a bit stained and worn, and the verso side is quite yellow, possibly from glue, but otherwise in good condition.



Origin unknown, second half of the 15th century.


Used as a book cover. In the inner margin is written vertically “Im herbst”, pointing towards Germany, or possibly the German community in Bergen? The folio was part of the book collection of Christian Henrichsen (1825-1898), who was the principal of Bergen Cathedral school 1875-1897. (On the connection between Henrichsen and Bergen Museum, see Bergen museums Aarsberetning 1898, p. 36-37). From October 1899 the fragment was kept in the diploma collection of Bergen Museum (Bergen University Library), in a box marked (Diplom) “Uden Aar” (“Undated”), in an envelope marked “Blade af en latinsk Bønnebog, No B.” (“Leaves from a Latin prayer book, No. B”).


According to a pencil note on the lower margin of the recto page the folio was acquired from the principal Henrichsen’s book collection October 1899 (Okt 1899 Fra rektor Henrichsen bogsamlg)


Kulturhistorisk Leksikon for Nordisk Middelalder (VIII: Kanon p. 209, Kanonbild p. 212), Oslo 1963.

Bergen Museums Aarsberetning 1898, p. 36-37.

Online examples of other mss. with the Canon missae/Te igitur: Look up Codex 151, f. 11r

Tveitane, Mattias et. al.: Bergen University Library Manuscript Catalogue [unpublished]