Item volumen evangeliorum coopertum de corio in quo legitur cotidie

Many of the items profiled in the Features section of DALME are remarkable because they are unusual or unexpected within the corpus, and thereby offer new insights into the spaces inhabited by medieval people and the things they possessed. Some items, however, are so common that they may go unnoticed and are skipped over in favor of what is instead novel and unforeseen. One item from the inventory of Amiens cathedral, however, is notable precisely for its plainness. The object's simplicity is underscored in the inventory, since it is listed as "one volume of the gospels, covered in leather," and its status further qualified with the small addition that it "is read daily."

The information on this seemingly humble volume—what might be the cathedral's daily lectionary—is recorded under the inventory heading entitled, "Volumes of Books," and appears among many other manuscripts that were certainly more costly and elaborate. One of these volumes is described as "new, meant for the high altar," while a second is both "beautiful," and "complete;" a third is encased in a cover made of silver, and yet another contains pages adorned with gilded lettering and fine images. Although the descriptions of these books spark visions of flashing beauty and luxury, the record of the simple, leather bound gospel inspires its own set of understandings. Keeping the plainness of the volume in mind, the act of daily worship at the cathedral may suddenly become easier to picture, since an unadorned volume of readings was sure to encourage familiarity and routine far more than a very precious though perhaps unwieldy one. Its inclusion in the inventory attests to both its use and its necessity. In an inventory filled with sacred, luxurious, and unique objects, the humble volume attracts attention if only because it highlights the practical realities of ongoing veneration, what might be necessary to carry out the serious task of worship, and the limitations inherent in books of prayer that may have been more beautiful than they were functional.