c. 1150 decorated Missal leaf, neumes music notation


Monastic Missal leaf,

Southern Germany/Austria.

including music notation in neumes


Recto: 28 lines of text in Latin written in dark brown ink in one column on vellum.  A fine mid-12th century proto-gothic script in two sizes, rubrics in red.  The Recto is decorated with 6 initials of various sizes in bright red.  There are no signs at all that the leaf has been ruled. In the top margin are some words and a date, 1629, in a 17th century hand and a large ‘X’ in pale brown.

6 lines include music notation in St Gall neumes (see Notes). The Gradual and Versus, (in the smaller script) are set to music using neumes written without staves.  Where words of the chant are split to relate to the melody of the neumes, the parts are connected by red lines. 


Verso:  As Recto with a further seven lines with music notation and seven red initials.  The word ‘Marcelli’, omitted from line 7 has been inserted above it in red.


Source:  Probably Southern Germany, Salzburg, but possibly Austria (see Provenance).  


Date:  Mid-12th century, c. 1150 - 60.


Content:  The text is from the Sanctorial part of the Missal and includes the masses for Saint Felix (14th January) and Saint Marcellus (16th January.)


Condition: This leaf has been recovered from being used as a cover for a later pastedown.  Folds can be seen around all four edges and the edges have been trimmed, presumably to remove unsightly damage.  The vellum has browned and there is a degree of surface dirt but overall the leaf is in remarkably good condition for its extreme age.


Size:  Size of leaf: approx. 325x210mm.


Provenance:  There is little doubt that the leaf has a Germanic origin and that it is mid-twelfth century in date.  One feature of this leaf enables it to be more specifically attributed.  This is the style of the ampersand and the letter ‘g’ which are exactly the same as on the leaf that was Lot 1 of the Korner sale at Sotheby’s, 19th June 1990.  That leaf was attributed to the workshop that supplied manuscripts for St. Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg during the period 1147-1167. The scribe of this leaf may either have worked in this workshop, or very close to it.  One noted authority has suggested the leaf may be of Austrian origin.


Notes:  Beginning in the ninth century, signs with musical meanings were added above plainchant texts as a mnemonic tool for the melodies linked to the text. These symbols, called neumes, range from a dot (punctum) or a diagonal line (virga) for one note, to figures representing a melodic movement linked to a syllable. The plainchant neumes acted as a memory aid, suggesting (but not precisely indicating) intervals between pitches within the melody. Hence they are called adiastematic neumes (Greek, lit. ‘without intervals); the exact pitches of the melodies still had to be learned by heart.

A true revolution in the transmission of liturgical chant was introduced by a Benedictine monk, Guido d’Arezzo (995-1050). He put the neumes on horizontal lines, enabling the representation of intervals between pitches. Initially, only two lines were used, but soon the staff with four lines was introduced, a notation system that has been used in Gregorian chant up to the present day. These neumes are called diastematic neumes: neumes that can represent the intervals between notes. The transmission of chant melodies became possible ‘by the book’ instead of via the individual interpretations of adiastematic neumes by local cantors.

From their earliest appearance, neumes took on distinct shapes in different areas of Europe.  St. Gall neumes, which originated at the Benedictine monastery of St. Gall near Lake Constance in Switzerland, are one of the earliest forms of musical notation, and owing to the great influence of the monastery they became widespread throughout central Europe and beyond.


Translation:  A section of the text on Recto. beginning on the third line with the red initial ‘O’ reads (without the abbreviations): 

Os iusti medita bitur sapientiam et lingua  In Natus felicis confessoris.

eius loquetur idi cium lex dei eius in corde ipsius Noli aemulari i ma

Concede quaesumus omnipotens deus ut ad meliorem vitam sanctorumtuorum exempla  OR

lnos provocent quatenus quorum sollepnia agimus etiam actus imitemur  P. 

Dedit dominus confessionem sancto suo et excelso in verbo   -l- libri sapientiae

gloriae ex omni corde laudavit domini et dilexit eum qui fecit illim

Dedit illi contra inimicos potentiam et stare fecit cantores contra altarium:

in sono eorum dulces fecit modos.  Dedit in celebrationibus decus et

ornavit tempora usque ad consumationem seli.  Xristus purgavit pec

cata ipsius et exaltavit in aeternum cornum ipsius…




The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom and his tongue shall speak judgement.  The law of his God is in his heart.   Be not emulous of evildoers.



Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that the example of thy saints may urge us to amend our lives; so that we may imitate the deeds of those whose festivals we celebrate.  Through.



He gave thanks to the holy ine, and to the most High, with words of glory.  With his whole heart he praised the Lord, and loved God that made him; and he gave him power against his enemies.  And he set singers before the altar and by their voices he made sweet melody.  And to the festivals he added beauty and set in order the solemn times.  The Lord took away his sins, and exalted his horn forever…


Item No:  MMI025


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