An antiphonary or antiphonal is a liturgical song book that contains antiphons. These are brief chants sung by a choir to accompany psalms.
The Tsgrooten Antiphonary is a beautiful example of such a hymn book. It was commissioned in 1522 by Antonius Tsgrooten, the abbot of Tongerlo. For centuries the choir book was kept in this Belgian abbey. Recently it has been acquired by the Flemish Community.
Since antiphonals usually contain the chants for Sundays and feast days as well as the chants for the saints’ days, they are thick books. This one is no exception. It contains over three hundred pages. The cover with leather spine features two locks with locking straps.
From the tenth century onwards the musical notation system represented up to four note lengths. This example shows that vertical bar lines were already in use to divide the staff into sections.
Even after the invention of movable type scribes created books such as this one. The Tsgrooten Antiphonary is from the hands of Franciscus van Weert who worked for several abbeys during the first half of the sixteenth century.
Since this antiphonary was created during the last important era of miniature painting in Flanders, its artwork is quite exquisite.
A typical characteristic of the so-called ‘Ghent-Bruges style’ is the border decoration which contains naturalistic motives that cast a shadow onto the colored background.
You can find more information and browse this wonderful book on the Antifonarium Tsgrooten web site. I recommend to try the full page viewer which allows you to zoom in and admire the artwork.