Credit: ©The Royal Society
    Image number: RS.21082

    November liturgical calendar

    Object type
    Archive reference number
    height (sheet): 194mm
    width (sheet): 1488mm
    height (compartment): 97mm
    width (compartment): 62mm
    Content object
    Liturgical calendar for November from a medeival almanac, marking important festivals in the Christian calendar, with a sideways portrait head of the saint against their feast day, along with an attribute identifying them. Ruled and illustrated in red, green, blue and black- brown inks.

    The liturgical calendar for November marks the following holy days:

    1 November, All Saints’ Day ‘Dium Sanctori’. Also known as All Hallow’s Day. Celebrated on November 1st across the western Christian church from the 9th century. Illustrated by two saintly heads, one with a papal tiara. The column with the illustrations is topped, at 90 degrees to the heads, with a large crown in red ink. The name of the feast is entered in blue ink, reserved for the most important festivals.

    2 November, All Souls’ Day ‘Animarum’. A day of prayer for the faithful dead. Illustrated with a decorative motif of patterned bars in black-brown and red perhaps representing a ladder to heaven.

    6 November, Feast of Saint Leonard, Abbot of Noblac ‘Leonardi Abbis.’ Illustrated by the saint with hair shaved into a monastic tonsure and accompanied by the crozier of an abbot.

    11 November, Feast of Saint Martin Bishop of Tours ‘Martini epi.’ [episcopal]. Saint Martin’s Day is also known as old Halloween or Martinmas and in Germanic regions marked the end of harvest, much like Michelmas in England. It is illustrated with the head of the saint, clean shaven and with the mitre and staff of his office as bishop.

    16 November, Feast of Saint Edmund of Canterbury ‘Edmundi archiepi.’ [Arch episcopal]. One of four beatified Archbishops of Canterbury to feature in the almanac, suggesting a strong connection with the city. He is illustrated with the cross-topped staff that accompanies them all, and wearing a bishop’s mitre.

    20 November, Feast of Saint Edmund the Martyr ‘Edmundi Regis’ King of East Anglia. This Edmund is illustrated with the crown and sceptre of a king. He is the patron saint of pandemics and was invoked for protection from the plague

    22 November, Feast of Saint Cecilia ‘Cecilie virginis’ shown with long hair beneath a faded palm of martyrdom; a green tree or branch with red fruits, symbol of her virginal purity and martyrdom.

    23 November, Feast of Pope Clement I ‘Clementis paepas’. Illustrated by his portrait head, wearing a papal tiara and accompanied by a mariner’s cross; a stylized cross in the shape of an anchor. During the Reformation in 16th century England royal edicts by Henry the VIII following his split from the Church and Pope in Rome mandated that popes no longer be venerated and be struck out of religious texts. As this almanac has not suffered this iconoclasm its owners may have continued to follow Roman Catholicism over the new Church of England but the edict was widely ignored so it is not conclusive.

    25 November, Feast of Saint Catherine ‘Katerine virgis a martir’. Illustrated wearing a hood topped with a breaking wheel or ‘Catherine wheel’ the intended instrument of her martyrdom.

    30 November, Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle ‘Andree aptle’ illustrated with the saltire, the diagonal cross on which he was crucified, now commonly known as a St Andrew’s cross.

    The preceding columns of data for each day are populated with the dominical letter (by which the day of the week could be identified for a given year, relative to one known day) and by numbers written in a cipher formed of a circle (10), bracket (5) and dot (1). Arabic number 30 in red at the top of the calendar indicates the number of days in the month.

    There is a historical stitched repair across the first compartment for the month, the date of which is unknown.
    Object history
    Robert Moray FRS donated the manuscript to the Royal Society library in 1668 (JBO/3/104: Journal Book, vol. 3 p.232). The provenance of the manuscript, before it came into the hands of Moray, is unknown.

    The presence of the feast day ‘Translacio Edwardi Regis’ (13 October) entered on the calendar as a red letter day shows an importance being attached to Edward the Confessor great patron of Westminster Abbey where his relics were a popular site for pilgrimage, this may suggest a London origin. While the inclusion of ‘Translacio Mildride’ (13 July) honouring the Anglo-Saxon princess Mildred, suggests Kent. Mildred was Abbess of Minster-in-Thanet, where she was first buried and her relics were later moved to Canterbury. Four Archbishops of Canterbury also feature in the liturgical calendar, strengthening the connection with Kent as a possible place of origin. The inclusion of cultivation activities early in the annual calendar of labours (digging/planting in February), a later hay harvest (July rather than June) and viticulture (March and September) suggests a temperate southern English climate in support of one of these locations rather than a warmer Mediterranean location or a cooler northern one.

    The calendar has been dated to the late 14th century based on the textual content and analysis of the pigments used. Saint George’s feast (23 April) written into the calendar in brown-black ink demarcating it as a lesser feast, indicates the calendar was produced before the elevation of the feast to a red letter day after the battle of Agincourt in 1415. Whilst the presence of the feast of St. Anne, which was not promulgated until 1383 suggests this as the earliest likely date. The presence of the yellow pigment orpiment supports a date in the late 14th century as it was widely replaced by use of lead-tin Yellow around 1400.

    An example of a mid-quality almanac. The range of pigments used demonstrate it was produced economically but not with the cheapest available materials. No gold leaf is present and indigo dyes are used for blue rather than more expensive minerals, however vermilion red is employed over cheaper organic sources. The uniformity and selection of pigments (gallo-tannic black rather than carbon-based) suggests that there was a single creator, rather than a scribe and an illustrator as would be expected for a finer document. This is borne out by the fairly crude rendering of the illustrative material and mistakes or omissions in the layout of information, see for example figures missing feet where these would have extended below a ground line and numbers missing from zodiac headings.

    Conserved in 2021 with the support of the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust.

    Video demonstrating the format of the almanack and relationship of the calendars available here:

    See P Robinson, 'A 'very curious Almanack'; the gift of Sir Robert Moray FRS, 1688', Notes and Records, 2008 vol 62 pp 301-314.
    Related fellows
    Robert Moray (1608 - 1673, British) , Natural Philosopher
    Associated place
    <The World>
       > Europe
          > United Kingdom
    Powered by CollectionsIndex+/CollectionsOnline