Breviary (Lat. breviarium, abridgment, epitome), the book which contains the offices for the canonical hours, i.e. the daily service of the Roman Catholic Church. As compared with the Anglican Book of Common Prayer it is both more and less comprehensive; more, in that it includes lessons and hymns for every day in the year; less, because it excludes the Eucharistic office (contained in the Missal), and the special offices connected with baptism, marriage, burial, ordination, etc., which are found in the Ritual or the Pontifical. In the early days of Christian worship, when Jewish custom was followed, the Bible furnished all that was thought necessary, containing as it did the books from which the lessons were read and the psalms that were recited. The first step in the evolution of the Breviary was the separation of the Psalter into a choir-book. At first the president of the local church (bishop) or the leader of the choir chose a particular psalm as he thought appropriate. From about the 4th century certain psalms began to be grouped together, a process that was furthered by the monastic practice of daily reciting the 150 psalms.
This took so much time that the monks began to spread it over a week, dividing each day into hours, and allotting to each hour its portion of the Psalter. St Benedict in the 6th century drew up such an arrangement, probably, though not certainly, on the basis of an older Roman division which, though not so skilful, is the one in general use. Gradually there were added to these psalter choir-books additions in the form of antiphons, responses, collects or short prayers, for the use of those not skilful at improvisation and metrical compositions. Jean Beleth, a 12th-century liturgical author, gives the following list of books necessary for the right conduct of the canonical office: - the Antiphonarium, the Old and New Testaments, the Passionarius (liber) and the Legendarius (dealing respectively with martyrs and saints), the Homiliarius (homilies on the Gospels), the Sermologus (collection of sermons) and the works of the Fathers, besides, of course, the Psalterium and the Collectarium. To overcome the inconvenience of using such a library the Breviary came into existence and use.
Already in the 8th century Prudentius, bishop of Troyes, had in a Breviarium Psalterii made an abridgment of the Psalter for the laity, giving a few psalms for each day, and Alcuin had rendered a similar service by including a prayer for each day and some other prayers, but no lessons or homilies. The Breviary rightly so called, however, only dates from the 11th century; the earliest MS. containing the whole canonical office is of the year 1099 and is in the Mazarin library. Gregory VII. (pope 1073-1085), too, simplified the liturgy as performed at the Roman court, and gave his abridgment the name of Breviary, which thus came to denote a work which from another point of view might be called a Plenary, involving as it did the collection of several works into one. There are several extant specimens of 12th-century Breviaries, all Benedictine, but under Innocent III. (pope 1198-1216) their use was extended, especially by the newly founded and active Franciscan order. These preaching friars, with the authorization of Gregory IX., adopted (with some modifications, e.g. the substitution of the "Gallican" for the "Roman" version of the Psalter) the Breviary hitherto used exclusively by the Roman court, and with it gradually swept out of Europe all the earlier partial books (Legendaries, Responsories), etc., and to some extent the local Breviaries, like that of Sarum. Finally, Nicholas III. (pope 1277-1280) adopted this version both for the curia and for the basilicas of Rome, and thus made its position secure.
The Benedictines and Dominicans have Breviaries of their own. The only other types that merit notice are: - (1) the Mozarabic Breviary, once in use throughout all Spain, but now confined to a single foundation at Toledo; it is remarkable for the number and length of its hymns, and for the fact that the majority of its collects are addressed to God the Son; (2) the Ambrosian, now confined to Milan, where it owes its retention to the attachment of the clergy and people to their traditionary rites, which they derive from St Ambrose (see Liturgy).
Till the council of Trent every bishop had full power to regulate the Breviary of his own diocese; and this was acted upon almost everywhere. Each monastic community, also, had one of its own. Pius V. (pope 1566-1572), however, while sanctioning those which could show at least 200 years of existence, made the Roman obligatory in all other places. But the influence of the court of Rome has gradually gone much beyond this, and has superseded almost all the local "uses." The Roman has thus become nearly universal, with the allowance only of additional offices for saints specially venerated in each particular diocese. The Roman Breviary has undergone several revisions: The most remarkable of these is that by Francis Quignonez, cardinal of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (1536), which, though not accepted by Rome, formed the model for the still more thorough reform made in 1549 by the Church of England, whose daily morning and evening services are but a condensation and simplification of the Breviary offices.
Some parts of the prefaces at the beginning of the English Prayer-Book are free translations of those of Quignonez. The Pian Breviary was again altered by Sixtus V. in 1588, who introduced the revised Vulgate text; by Clement VIII. in 1602 (through Baronius and Bellarmine), especially as concerns the rubrics; and by Urban VIII. (1623-1644), a purist who unfortunately tampered with the text of the hymns, injuring both their literary charm and their historic worth.
In the 17th and 18th centuries a movement of revision took place in France, and succeeded in modifying about half the Breviaries of that country. Historically, this proceeded from the labours of Jean de Launoy (1603-1678), "le dénicheur des saints," and Louis Sébastien le Nain de Tillemont, who had shown the falsity of numerous lives of the saints; while theologically it was produced by the Port Royal school, which led men to dwell more on communion with God as contrasted with the invocation of the saints. This was mainly carried out by the adoption of a rule that all antiphons and responses should be in the exact words of Scripture, which, of course, cut out the whole class of appeals to created beings. The services were at the same time simplified and shortened, and the use of the whole Psalter every week (which had become a mere theory in the Roman Breviary, owing to its frequent supersession by saints' day services) was made a reality. These reformed French Breviaries - e.g. the Paris Breviary of 1680 by Archbishop François de Harlay (1625-1695) and that of 1736 by Archbishop Charles Gaspard Guillaume de Vintimille (1655-1746) - show a deep knowledge of Holy Scripture, and much careful adaptation of different texts; but during the pontificate of Pius IX. a strong Ultramontane movement arose against them.
This was inaugurated by Montalembert, but its literary advocates were chiefly Dom Gueranger, a learned Benedictine monk, abbot of Solesmes, and Louis François Veuillot (1813-1883) of the Univers; and it succeeded in suppressing them everywhere, the last diocese to surrender being Orleans in 1875. The Jansenist and Gallican influence was also strongly felt in Italy and in Germany, where Breviaries based on the French models were published at Cologne, Münster, Mainz and other towns. Meanwhile, under the direction of Benedict XIV. (pope 1740-1758), a special congregation collected many materials for an official revision, but nothing was published. Subsequent changes have been very few and minute. In 1902, under Leo XIII., a commission under the presidency of Monsignor Louis Duchesne was appointed to consider the Breviary, the Missal, the Pontifical and the Ritual.
The beauty and value of many of the Latin Breviaries were brought to the notice of English churchmen by one of the numbers of the Oxford Tracts for the Times, since which time they have been much more studied, both for their own sake and for the light they throw upon the English Prayer-Book.
From a bibliographical point of view some of the early printed Breviaries are among the rarest of literary curiosities, being merely local. The copies were not spread far, and were soon worn out by the daily use made of them. Doubtless many editions have perished without leaving a trace of their existence, while others are known by unique copies. In Scotland the only one which has survived the convulsions of the 16th century is that of Aberdeen, a Scottish form of the Sarum Office, revised by William Elphinstone (bishop 1483-1514), and printed at Edinburgh by Walter Chapman and Andrew Myllar in 1509-1510. Four copies have been preserved of it, of which only one is complete; but it was reprinted in facsimile in 1854 for the Bannatyne Club by the munificence of the duke of Buccleuch. It is particularly valuable for the trustworthy notices of the early history of Scotland which are embedded in the lives of the national saints. Though enjoined by royal mandate in 1501 for general use within the realm of Scotland, it was probably never widely adopted.
The new Scottish Proprium sanctioned for the Roman Catholic province of St Andrews in 1903 contains many of the old Aberdeen collects and antiphons.
The Sarum or Salisbury Breviary itself was very widely used. The first edition was printed at Venice in 1483 by Raynald de Novimagio in folio; the latest at Paris, 1556, 1557. While modern Breviaries are nearly always printed in four volumes, one for each season of the year, the editions of the Sarum never exceeded two parts.