Chanting has been a common practice for expressing devotion since the beginning of Christianity. However, initially the melodies of these chants were not written down but transmitted orally. A type of notation was developed in the ninth century to annotate the words of the chant with a rough indication of the melody. These predecessors of musical notes were called neumes, and while they did not indicate notes or rhythm, they did function as reminders of the song and showed the general shape of the melody. When a German scribe wrote down a neume he used sharp pen strokes resulting in a mark shaped like a horseshoe nail, explaining why this type of musical annotation is also often called Hufnagel script.
This manuscript was made in or near Germany and was probably meant for a cantor, the person who led prayer and singing, and who was usually in charge of maintaining the liturgical books. It contains songs that were performed at the altars of various saints during what is known as a procession - a ritual in which the sacrament, a holy statue, or relics of a saint were carried through a town. The neumes in this fifteenth century manuscript are written on staves, an addition that was not present in older manuscripts. Someone has added new lines with music, possibly in the seventeenth century, which are now difficult to read because of water damage.
- Users often modified the manuscript post-production, bringing it even more in tune with their needs. How did the readers of this manuscript interact with the texts? Clue: take a look at the margins and the flyleaves.
- Medieval page design entails a wide range of components. The main text is an important part, of course, but so are marginal space, commentaries, reading aids, chapter titles, etc. Everything included on the page was given a specific location and a feature was usually included for a good reason. Make an inventory of the components included in this manuscript’s page design and speculate why the scribe opted for this specific design: why did he or she included these specific elements? If your design is plain, why would this be; if it is complex, what may the rationale have been?
- Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.