1614 ‘Antiphonarium Romanum’ book donated to UNL Libraries Special Collections

Left: Anita Breckbill displays the title page for "Antiphonarium Romanun," published in 1614. Right: An inside page from the book, donated by Karen R. Lusk to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries Special Collections. Photos by Justin Mohling..
Left: Anita Breckbill displays the title page for "Antiphonarium Romanun," published in 1614. Right: An inside page from the book, donated by Karen R. Lusk to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries Special Collections. Photos by Justin Mohling..

Karen R. Lusk has donated a copy of the book “Antiphonarium Romanum,” published in 1614 in Tournai, Belgium, to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries Special Collections.

There is only one other known copy of the book, which is located at Yale University, per WorldCat, a global catalog of library collections.

“Antiphonarium Romanum” is a book of Gregorian Chant for the Roman Catholic Church. Its music dates back to the early Middle Ages, although this copy of the book reflects the major reforms of the Council of Trent, held in three parts between 1545 to 1563, which revitalized the Roman Catholic Church in many parts of Europe during the Renaissance.

“Quite specifically, it’s the Liturgy of the Hours rather than for mass,” said Professor of Music History Peter Lefferts. “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.”

“It’s fascinating,” said Professor and Music Librarian Anita Breckbill. “I’m personally interested in this artifact because I took a chant class in graduate school and a class in history of the book. This combines those two interests. I once did a project on a piece of chant, a page from a book that is framed on my wall at home and that was a gift. I researched its history, its provenance and who might have created it. 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.”

Lusk donated the book in honor of her husband, Dr. Larry H. Lusk, the founding dean of the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.

“This book was given to Larry by my sister and brother-in-law when they lived in Belgium,” Lusk said.

Her brother-in-law was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) near Mons, Belgium, just outside of Brussels, in the early 1970s.

“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,” she said. “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.”

The book has some cellophane tape on the binding and other pieces of paper inserted into the book.

“Another part of the story is that there’s plenty of evidence, including the tape and also these kinds of things stuck in it, that means this book was probably used steadily from then until the reforms of the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1964,” Lefferts said. “For a very long time, this book would have had great functional value. It has lived a long and useful life.”

Under those reforms, the church reformed the liturgy to allow people to perform it in their local languages instead of always in Latin.

There are two parts included in the book.

“The first part is devoted to major feasts of the church, especially surrounding the birth and death of Christ starting in Advent, and including Easter, Christmas, Epiphany, Ascension, and so on,” Lefferts said. “The second half is the saints, which includes the Common of the Saints. This is a very useful book that way.”

The book was meant for choral singing.

“Thus, some of these books are quite large so that you can read the music from a distance,” Breckbill said. “The score is in square notation, which was used for hundreds of years, because it’s very visible.”

Lefferts said the book was a wonderful gift for the university.

“It’s a very special item. The value is in its near uniqueness,” Lefferts said. “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. It is potentially something that a scholar would want to travel to Lincoln to look at and spend a couple of days with if they were interested.”

The book is also special being donated in honor of Lusk.

“Larry wasn’t just a performer or an administrator, but he was an educator,” Lefferts said. “He was a classroom teacher, and so he had a breadth of knowledge and a breadth of interest that was special. He was a man with broader cultural interests and curiosity about the history of the arts.”

Mrs. Lusk thought Nebraska was a fitting place to donate the book.

“I graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and so did my sisters. We’re Nebraskans,” she said. “The undergraduate school that Larry went to and his graduate schools, each one was exceedingly important in his ultimate career, and they all would have been fine recipients. But this is where Larry’s life was. Plus he was extremely interested in music history. I just felt this is where it should be.”

Breckbill is glad the book made it to the UNL Library.

“It was printed in Belgium back in the 1600s, so it might have been floating around in Belgium for those 400 years, but now it’s in Nebraska,” Breckbill said. “It is very nice to have this in honor of Larry Lusk.”