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illuminated letter from page 250
    Hodie et in aeternum: today and for ever

    In 1945 the Friends of the State Library of South Australia presented the Library with a magnificent 13th century Italian antiphonal.

    It is written on vellum, and contains the text and music for the sung responses proper to church services for the Temporal cycle of the Christian church year from Christmas Eve to the end of the feast of the Epiphany, as they were celebrated in a central Italian monastery. The beginning of each service is marked with a richly illuminated initial letter, the largest, the letter H, occupying half a page.

    This very large (570 x 395 mm) manuscript was purchased in 1945 for £77.10.0 at the sale of the library of Arthur Bryant Triggs, grazier and antiquarian collector, in Yass, New South Wales. The manuscript originated in central Italy, possibly near Bologna.

    In 1992 it was reluctantly withdrawn from public access for essential conservation treatment. Because the manuscript is written on animal skin, which flexes and moves with changes in temperature and humidity, this, along with the wear and tear of time, causes the text to flake.

    A project to stabilize and conserve the work began. For this it had to be disbound, and when the treatment, a fascinating mix of old and new technology, was finished, the unique opportunity was taken to record the entire work in high resolution photographs and store them digitally on compact disc.

    This has made it possible, in 1998, to make the whole manuscript and selected parts of the live performance of the Antiphonal accessible in virtual reality through a computer, and to release it on the Internet complete with transcription, translation and notes. It is now both far more widely accessible, and also more protected.

    Research continues, and so the site is still developing, but we look forward to learning more about our Antiphonal from response to this project. We hope it may also provide useful information for other institutions with similar works.