A 405-year-old tome of Gregorian chants — one of two known copies — is now part of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Archives and Special Collections.
Donated by Karen R. Lusk in memory of Larry Lusk, her husband and founding dean of Nebraska’s Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, “Antiphonarium Romanum” was published in 1614 in Tournai, Belgium. The only other known copy is located at Yale University. The book was given to Larry Lusk by Karen Lusk’s sister and brother-in-law, who lived in Belgium in the early 1970s. The brother-in-law was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force at the time and stationed at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, near Mons, Belgium.
“They were always looking for gifts to send us from there, and they went to antique stores where they knew they would not be duplicating anything we would have.They purposely looked for old manuscripts, old music, old scientific instruments, whatever their interests were. They had their eyes out for things like this, and they knew this was something we would love to have.” said Karen. She said the university was a fitting place for the donation.
Intended for Roman Catholic Church services, music in the book dates back to the early Middle Ages. The printing reflects major reforms made by the Council of Trent, held in three parts between 1545 and 1563, which revitalized the church across much of Europe during the Renaissance Era. Meant for choral singing, the book is divided into two parts — one for major church feasts, including Christmas and Easter, the second dedicated to saints.
“It’s fascinating,” said Anita Breckbill, professor and music librarian. “I love the history of these books, and the feeling of the book or page going through many hands and having been meaningful to a group of people.”
Peter Lefferts, professor of music history, said “Quite specifically, it’s the Liturgy of the Hours rather than for mass,” “There is this day-long cycle of services called Hours, and actually the mass is one of the Hours —it’s the most important. But this is the music of the daily services, except for the mass.” He added that the book was a wonderful gift for the university. “It’s a very special item. The value is in its near uniqueness. It’s a rarity, and yet in its own day, it would have been a very common item. It was meant to be widely distributed so that every parish had one. Now, they’re just gone, and so it’s neat that we have this.”
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