Close XYL-2 Almanac

[England, first quarter 16th century, c.1522/3]. Woodcut with xylographic and handwritten inscriptions in Latin.

 A complete copy of this almanac would have consisted of a single long narrow strip of parchment approximately 770 × 126 mm (printed area c.740 × 103 mm) that could be folded to form a small rectangular book. The strip was to be folded down the middle with the calendar on the inside, and then again in concertina fashion into about 15 compartments. An unfolded section (approximately 13 cm) was to be left at one end, which could be used to wrap round the book to form a protective cover. The overall dimensions when folded would have been approximately 65 × 45 mm. Slits extending across half the width, either to the right or to the left, were made at the beginning of every second month, so that two panels could be folded out, making it possible to the view the calendar for two months at a time; see Børthy, ‘En dansk billedkalender’, 71, with an illustration of a Danish calendar of similar design; Gumbert, ‘In plaats van zakagenda’s’, ill. 2, Latin calendar for the diocese of Utrecht. These details can be inferred from complete copies of an almost exactly identical xylographic edition printed by ‘M. S.’ and preserved in copies dated by hand to 1537, 1538, and 1542 in London BL, C.36.aa.5, C.41.a.28, and C.29.c.6; four further copies in private and institutional collections are cited by Bosanquet, English Printed Almanacks, 78, who does not distinguish between the different editions. One of the London BL copies (C.36.aa.5) is kept in a small leather pocket, which is likely to be contemporary, and could have been used as a pocket-book. In the complete copies the recto (to be folded inwards) begins at the top with a lunar table, then a rota computistica, divided into 24 segments, with an image of the crucifixion with Mary and John at the centre and the symbols of the evangelists in the four corners, beneath which the 12 months are presented in horizontal blocks to form a perpetual calendar. The information for each month is set out in five rows: a list of principal saints’ days, a pictoriated representation of the saints’ days as busts or emblems, the dominical letters, and two sets of golden numbers (represented by pentadic symbols), the first handwritten in red for calculating the ecclesiastical new moon, and the second, printed in black, for calculating the real new moon. The calendar is followed by a table of eight items, listing the notable eras and reigns, with the years given both in roman numerals (with spaces to be filled in by hand) and in symbolic form (thousands in black, hundreds, tens, and single years in red). The verso has 12 compartments, occupying half the width of the almanac when opened, with conventional pictures illustrating the occupations of the months and the names of the months in Latin. Opposite each picture, to the right, is a circle with lines radiating from the centre in red and black, indicating the number of daylight and night-time hours during the month. That the xylographic almanac is derived, in content and layout, from an earlier manuscript tradition is clear from a continental manuscript copy dated 1432, almost identical in design with the xylographic editions, MS. Douce 71, with which this item was formerly bound together; Watson, Dated and Datable MSS Oxford, no. 452 and ill. 349. Bosanquet, English Printed Almanacks, 9, refers to another such manuscript, dated 1433, in his own collection, now New York PML, M 941. For further manuscript precursors and parallels to the xylographic folding calendars, see Koledarček iz leta 1415. (Orig. in the Possession of the National and University Library of Ljubljana. <Ms. 160>). Pocket Calendar for the Year 1415, ed. K. Rapošša. Text by J. Dolar. English translation by M. Cregeen (Ljubljana, 1986); J. P. Gumbert, ‘Über Faltbücher, vornehmlich Almanache’, in Rück–Boghardt, 111–21; A. von Euw, Die Handschriften und Einzelbla«tter des Schnu«tgen-Museums Ko«ln: Bestandskatalog (Koln, 1997), 94–9, colour plate no. 12; “The Art of the Book from the Early Middle Ages to the Renaissance: A Journey through a Thousand Years”, catalogue Dr. Jörn Günther Antiquariat (Boston and Hamburg, 2000), no. 24 (colour pl.); Spiegel der Seligkeit: Privates Bild und Frömmigkeit im Spätmittelalter, exhibition catalogue of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum 2000 (Nuremberg, 2000), 346–8 no. 169 (colour pl.); Gumbert, ‘In plaats van zakagenda’s. Laatmiddeleeuwse kalenderhandschriften’, Madoc, 17 (2003), 215–22, at 219–22 (with ills 2–3).

 The Bodleian fragment, which preserves only the calendar and occupations of the months for September to December, and the table of notable eras and reigns, represents an otherwise unattested edition. The black lettering is xylographic, the red lettering and both black and red pentadic symbols handwritten. Evidence of the date of this edition is provided by the table of notable eras, which contains an item ‘A passione s(an)cti thome CCC XXX’, referring to the 330 years from the death of St Thomas Becket in 1170 to 1500, with a space for handwritten additions for the years after this date. That the calendar was designed or, more likely, revised for use in England is evident from the major saints’ days listed in the upper register of the tables for the months, which include Leodegarius (2 Oct.), Eduwardus (King Edward I, 13 Oct.), E(d)mundus (Edmund of Abingdon, 16 Nov.), and Edmundus (King Edmund, 20 Nov.).

ills. Bosanquet, English Printed Almanacks, pl. III.

refs. E. F. Bosanquet, English Printed Almanacks and Prognostications. Bibliographical History to the Year 1600 (London, 1917), 14–16 and 77–8 (no. II); STC 388 (of which STC 392 is another copy); L. Børthy, ‘En dansk billedkalender fra 1513’, Folkeminder, 12 (1966), 57–84; B. Capp, English Almanacs 1500–1800. Astrology and the Popular Press (Ithaca, NY, 1979), 25–6 with n. 24; J. B. Friedman, ‘Harry the Haywarde and Talbat his Dog: An Illustrated Girdlebook from Worcestershire’, in Art into Life. Collected Papers from the Kresge Art Museum Medieval Symposia, ed. C. G. Fisher and K. L. Scott (East Lansing, Mich., 1995), 115–53, at 135; K. Ayre, Medieval English Figurative Roundels, Corpus vitrearum medii aevi: Great Britain – Summary Catalogue, 6 (Oxford, 2002), p. li fig. 5 (xylographic strip calendar in Brideswell Museum, Norwich); Gothic: Art for England, 302–3 no. 169 (with a colour reproduction of a xylographic almanac in the Pepys Library, Magdalene College, Cambridge).

copy Parchment fragment (originally a long narrow strip). 266 × 126 mm (woodcut 260 × 110 mm), when folded 65 × 45 mm. Printed in black ink in a press on both sides of the parchment. Coloured in red, green, and pink. The section that has been preserved was originally folded into 12 panels, with slits to the left after October and December. The calendar is dated variously, by handwritten additions to the table of notable eras (the additions indicated here by italic), to 1507, 1517, 1522, and 1523: ‘Ab incarnacio(n)e domini M vcxxii’, i.e 1522, and in symbolic numbers ‘I +++++ ++ iii’, i.e. 1523, ‘A passione s(an)cti thome CCC XXX vii’, i.e. 1507 (Thomas Becket martyred in 1170), and ‘A coronacione regis xxxiii’, i.e. the 33rd regnal year of King Henry VII, which was 1517. Bosanquet, English Printed Almanacks, 15–16 indicates that such discrepancies are the rule in copies of xylographic calendars.

refs. SC IV 511–12; Douce Legacy, 118.

Binding: Nineteenth-century quarter deep-red/burgundy morocco over marbled pasteboards, made for the Bodleian. 138 × 185 × 7 mm.

Provenance: Francis Douce (1757–1834). Bequeathed in 1834. Probably to be identified with the ‘Runic almanac’ which Douce records in a notebook that he was lent in 1793; MS. Douce e. 74, fol. 1v; see also Douce’s notebook on calendars, MS. Douce e. 20, fol. 51r. The leaf was bound together with a manuscript copy on parchment of the same almanac (Netherlandish, dated 1432; SC 21645; Douce Legacy, no. 176) and a printed pamphlet, The pronosticacion calculed by mayster Jaspar Laet [Gaspaer Laet the Younger] of Andwarpe . . . for the yere of our lorde god. M.D.xxxiij. ([Antwerp? 1533]), STC 482.5, now kept as Douce L 646, which together formed MS. Douce 71. In Oct. 1882 the two printed items were removed from MS. Douce 71 and bound separately.

shelfmark: Douce A 632*.