Neumed Chant Manuscript
Holdings in Oxford University

  Working Notes
§ I. Overview
§ II. Important Sources
§ III. Catalogues of Latin Holdings
§ IV. Enumeration of Neumed Latin Manuscripts
§ V. Neumed Greek & Russian Manuscripts
§ VI. Definitions
•   References Cited

I. Overview

At this juncture one can make only an educated guess about the extent and nature of neumed manuscripts in the Oxford collections. Our general impression is that the holding of notated music in the Bodleian Library together with bits and pieces in the Oxford College libraries, is not large (the British Library has more manuscripts), but that collectively it amounts to a significant body. The main neumed Latin MSS [manuscripts] are the Selden and Douce MSS together with MS Bodley 775, plus a few of Flotzinger's [1] Austrian sources and a few from other European countries. But, there are many large MSS with only a small amount of notated music, and also many fragments of what may in some cases have been large MSS.

It is impossible, really, to be sure of the full extent of the notated music in this or indeed any other library without going through every page of every MS book. Regarding neumed Latin sources (including square-neume and early neume notations), it is absolutely certain that it is a five-figure number. We suppose that if one were to say "at a conservative estimate, 10,000 pages containing notated music at the very least," one would be safe enough. A comprehensive list of neumed sources would need to add to this number the neumed Greek and Russian sources in the Oxford holdings.

Colour photography is essential, and digital imaging of complete manuscripts is of wider usefulness to the scholarly community than are isolated pages. One could easily justify the imaging of complete MSS on musicological grounds – ie, to provide the documentary context (normally liturgical but occasionally literary or historical). There are instances of isolated neumation that have nothing at all to do the the main contents of the host manuscript.

II. Important Sources

A. MS Douce 222 Novalese

Table 1. Source MS Douce 222
Language Latin
Chant text Sequences and tropes for the Mass
Notational family North Italian, unheighted
Origin Benedictine: Breme and Novalesa in northern Italy (made up of more than one original source)
Date 11th century
Length 420 pages (iv + 210 leaves)
Page size (height x width) 140 x 84 mm ( ≈ 5.5 x 3.3 inches)

MS Douce 222 Novalese dates from the 11th century and contains sequences and tropes. The manuscript is Benedictine (as far as we know in all its parts) from Breme and Novalesa in northern Italy, and is made up of more than one original source. (Douce was a 19th-century collector who gave his library to the Bodleian.) It is an unheighted source, ie, having no 'staff' lines. (Figure 1 shows a small excerpt.) The notational styles of the different parts differ somewhat, though in general they are similar. We don't know that one could define them (collectively) more precisely than as north Italian. The MS is in very small format and has iv + 210 leaves, hence 420 pages.

Bodleian Library, MS Douce 222, excerpt
Figure 1. University of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 222, excerpt. 


B. MS Selden supra 27

Table 2. Source MS Selden supra 27
Language Latin
Chant text Sequences and tropes for the Mass
Notational family German, unheighted (similar to St Gall)
Origin secular canons: Heidenheim or Eichstädt (Germany)
Date late 11th century
Length 188 pages (ii + 94 leaves)
Page size (height x width) 171 x 147 mm ( ≈ 6.7 x 5.8 inches)

MS Selden supra 27 dates from the late 11th century and contains sequences and tropes. The manuscript originated at St Winnibald in Heidenheim, a college of secular canons, or perhaps from Eichstädt. (Selden was an antiquary and collector who gave his library to the Bodleian in the early 17th century.) We are not sure what the up-to-date view would be about the notational "family." It is an unheighted source, ie, having no 'staff' lines. The neumatic symbols are German, similar to St Gall in general form and apparently copied from a St Gall exemplar, but not actually from there. The MS is in a very small format and has ii + 94 leaves, hence 188 pages of the original MS. It is one of the key sources for tropes and sequences in the Eastern Frankish region. It includes 66 sequences, all but eight also associated with the monastery of St Gall. In these the notation, in unheighted neumes, is written in 'melismatic' form in the margins opposite the relevant texts (see, Figure 2).

Bodleian Library, MS Selden supra 27, excerpt
Figure 2. University of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Selden supra 27, excerpt (showing neumation in left margin).


The manuscript also contains an important series of tropes for the Proper and Ordinary of the Mass, notated also in unheighted neumes but conventionally deployed above the related texts. The notation, of an Eastern Frankish type related to that of St Gall, has not been studied in depth (though the MS was described in some detail by E.W.B. Nicholson [3]); apart from being one of the three or four oldest complete musical MSS in the Bodleian, MS Selden 27 is of paramount significance in the early history of the chant in East Francia.

We have four full-page images from Selden, listed below. These images are 'third-generation' and consequently of poor quality (scanned from photocopies of published photos). The images have been colorised for clarity.
folio 75 verso (221 kB) folio 28 verso (262 kB)
folio 76 recto (297 kB) folio 29 recto (328 kB)
As a guide to the neumes, see the neume roster for the Sequentiary of Šibenik [4] (which is a manuscript smiliar to Selden).

A facsimile edition is now in-print [5]:
Halftone of a small-format codex containing a collection of sequences, proses and tropes, written in the mid-11th c. at the Monastery of Heidenheim in the diocese of Eichstätt. Its physical size and repertoire suggest that it was meant to be used as a private handbook of a cantor. The folios show signs of everyday use and there are later corrections and additions by several hands from the 12th and 13th c. The ms consists two clearly delimited parts: the prosarium (66 sequences and proses, and two additional sequences at the end of the book; and the troparium, with 492 pieces, including five parts of a Missa Graeca.
Although the edition is black-and-white (possibly from microfilm), the scholarship of the introduction is sound. A digital photographic record in colour would no doubt complement rather than conflict with the hard-copy edition, especially if the digital photos were freely-accessible via the Web.

C. MS Bodley 775

Table 3. Source MS Bodley 775
Language Latin
Chant text Sequences and tropes for the Mass, etc.
Notational family Anglo-Saxon, unheighted
Origin Winchester (England)
Date 11th century
Length 378 pages (189 leaves)
Page size (height x width) 273 x 169 mm ( ≈ 10.7 x 6.7 inches)

MS Bodley 775 dates from the 11th century; it is a troper with sequences and other things from Winchester. It is neumed like MSS Douce and Selden. The MS is in large format and has 189 leaves, ie, 378 pages, most of which will have neumed chants. We think the Bodleian holds a photographic copy, but it is not digital.

III. Catalogues of Latin Holdings

It would be useful to compile an up-to-date inventory of MSS containing musical notation. It would be best done by in situ inspection of sources, but there are some helpful publications.

S.J.P. van Dijk [6] typed a catalog of Oxford's liturgical manuscripts in the 1950s, which is now out-of-date due to new acquisitions. It is in unpublished form and housed in the Bodleian (Duke Humphrey's Library). The complete document (in several volumes) lists a great deal of material that by no stretch of the imagination is likely to contain music. The van Dijk catalogue would be an obvious starting-point, but one would have to examine at least a proportion of MSS in which notation is not mentioned to see whether in fact notation is included on any of the pages.

E.W.B. Nicholson [3] describes about thirty MSS (including Selden and Douce) in painstaking detail. By "oldest" he meant up to the middle of the 12th century, though there is one 13th-century MS described. This does not seem very much, and it includes tiny fragments, but of course there are also some later MSS, and acquisitions in the century or so since he wrote.

W.H. Frere [2] described hundreds of liturgical MSS in the Bodleian and elsewhere in Oxford, but most of these are non-musical (in fact his list must have been van Dijk's starting point). Again this was at the very beginning of the 20th century.

Flotzinger in 1989 [1] published a short catalogue of chant MSS of Austrian provenance in the Bodleian Library: he describes eleven complete MSS and five fragments. As far as we can see none of these were mentioned by Nicholson, although they were bequeathed to the library by Canonici in the 18th century. Some, however, are late medieval, and some contain only small amounts of notated chant.

IV. Enumeration of Neumed Latin Manuscripts

Some other sources in unheighted neumes:
  • lat. liturg. e. 38 (two fragments of missals, 10th cent.)
  • Keble College, fragment 2 (about six pages or parts of pages)
  • Bodley 579 ('Leofric Missal', really a composite MSS, mostly 11th cent.)
  • Bodley 38 (11th cent., various fragments)
  • Bodley 572 (fragments of various dates within a large MS; 11th/12th cent.)
There are neumes scattered in a number of literary MSS from the 9th to the 11th centuries, amongst them Laud lat. 118, D'Orville 145, Auct.F.1.15, Auct. F.3.6. Later examples of such isolated pieces occur e.g. in Rawl. liturg. d. 3 (for the main MS see below), Bodley 343, Bodley 937, and Bodley 79. There is monophonic music to French and/or English texts in Rawl. g. 22, and Rawl. g.18, Douce 139, Tanner 169, Ashmole 1285. Not all of this would qualify as 'chant', but notationally it is indistinguishable from it.

There are some large MSS of later date that contain musical repertories in square pitched notation or something similar. Amongst them are:
  • lat.liturg. a 4 (Milanese chant-book, dated 1399)
  • Canonici liturg. 342 (Missal from Ragusa in Dalmatia, 13th cent.)
  • Rawl. liturg. d.3 (Sarum Gradual, 13th cent.)
  • Hatton 3 (Sarum Gradual)
  • lat. liturg. b 5 (York Gradual)
  • Rawl. c 892 (Gradual from Ireland)
  • Bodley 948 (Antiphonal, ca. 1400)
  • lat. liturg. b. 14 (Antiphonal, 14th-15th cent.)
  • Laud misc. 299 (Noted breviary)
  • Jesus College MS 10 (antiphonal and hymnal)
  • Douce 381 (fragment of hymnal, 13th cent.)
  • Laud lat. 95 (psalter with noted hymns)
  • St John's College 60 (hymnal, 15th cent.)
  • e Musaeo 126 (processional from York, 15th century)
  • Ten or eleven other processionals with music at least intermittently. Two or three of these are fragmentary
  • Corpus Christi 134 (Office of St Oswin, 13th century)
  • University College 78a (Missal, Hereford; only priest's music)
These are just the items that have found their way into our cumulative hand-written notes: we are sure there are many more, including all the ones described by Flotzinger. But the above collectively (assuming that one includes the MSS in square notation) amount to many thousands of notated pages. Rawl. lit. d. 3 has 224 pages (112 folios). Laud misc. 299 is much larger, but there is a considerable number of pages with little or no notation on them.

We have not mentioned the melodic accents sometimes added to lectionaries: Keble College 48 and Trinity College c. 77 are examples of these. Some MSS of theory will have neumed examples – there are at least a few important ones in Oxford – as well as, in some cases, alphabetical notations.

V. Neumed Greek & Russian Manuscripts

The Bodleian, with some other Oxford libraries, has a number of manuscripts containing Byzantine chant notation, which we are interested in. A catalogue published in 1963 [7] listed twenty-seven such Greek manuscripts, and another two in Russian. Some of these are of the 17th, 18th, and even early 19th centuries.

VI. Definitions

A. Neume notations are forms of musical notation developed for the purpose of recording liturgical chant, although they were also used (to a considerably lesser extent) to record secular song and non-mensural polyphony. In modern scholarship, the term "neume" is commonly applied to square notes on the (typically 4-line) staff as well as to earlier, unheighted forms. Although the latter have been the main focus of our interest to date, we have always intended the NEUMES Project to embrace all forms of chant notation. In fact, it includes non-mensural polyphony as well (whether notated on the staff or not), since notationally there is no distinction between that and non-mensural monophony.

The boundaries between the non-mensural and the mensural are jagged in both cases (ie, for both monophony and polyphony). Since the scope of the DIAMM project is photography of all polyphony, whether mensural or non-mensural, we have tended to exclude non-mensural polyphony from our consideration. Nevertheless, we would include non-mensural polyphony (defined as best we can) in any census of Oxford library holdings of neume notation. There may not be very much of it in any case, but it needs to be taken into account. We would also record instances of non-mensural alphabetical notation, in theory books and elsewhere, even if unassociated with neumes.

Of course the printed chant books are also relevant to chant research, but whereas manuscripts are unique to the holding library, identical printed books may exist today in more than one location; hence the bibliographical discipline is a quite different one.

B. Unheighted neumes. In their earliest form, neume notations were unspecific as to pitch, unless they were supplemented by an alphabetical notation. In Western Europe at a later date, and especially from the middle of the 11th century onwards, they were adapted to the cleffed staff with its ability to indicate specific pitches (but not the mensural values associated with mainstream polyphony in manuscripts of the 13th century onwards). While neume-notation on the staff has continued in use to the present day to record liturgical chant, the Project is concerned essentially with manuscripts (but not printed chant-books) compiled prior to the introduction of the reformed liturgy in the Western Church following the Council of Trent (1545-1563).

Byzantine notational history ran on a different time-scale from the West, and the major reforms were instituted only during the course of the 19th century.

C. Notational family. Regarding classification of notational "families" and "species," the notational 'map' of early medieval Europe is not yet a very precise instrument.

D. Sequences and tropes would be a correct general description of the contents of MSS Douce 222, Selden supra 27, and Bodley 775. Other MSS in the Bodleian Library also contain sequences and tropes, as indeed do a large number of chant sources in many libraries. A full description of the musical contents of a liturgical MS is usually a complex operation, since most contain additions of one sort or another, either of the same general type as the main body or in some cases of a quite different type.

E. "Page" is the correct term for a single side of a leaf, although scholars more usually refer to folios; in most MSS, the leaves are numbered on the recto, and scholars therefore refer to pages as such-and-such a folio recto or verso. Early pagination or foliation often contains mistakes, and librarians have usually supplemented any old numberings with a more accurate foliation. Small Roman numerals refer to modern flyleaves at the beginning of a manuscript.

F. Page size conventionally gives the dimension from top to bottom first. The precision of these dimensions is a little misleading: the actual page-size often varies slightly from one leaf to another, either because the original parchment was irregular, or because of trimming for binding, or both.

References Cited
[1] Flotzinger, Rudolf, Choralhandschriften österreichischer Provenienz in der Bodleian Library/Oxford, (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1991).
[2] Frere, Walter Howard, Bibliotheca Musico-Liturgica: A Descriptive Handlist of the Musical and Latin-liturgical MSS of the Middle Ages Preserved in the Librarires of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, (London: The Plainsong and Mediaeval Music Society, vol. I, 1894 and 1901, and vol. II, 1932).
[3] Nicholson, Esward Williams Byron, Introduction to the Study of Some of the Oldest Latin Musical Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (London: Novello, 1913). Reprinted as Early Bodleian Music, III, (Farnborough, UK: Gregg, 1967).
[4] Smoje, Dujka, (ed.), Liber sequentiarum et sacramentarium de Šibenik, (Ottawa: Institute of Mediæval Music, 2003), "Publications of Mediæval Musical Manuscripts," no. 28.
[5] ------, (ed.), Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Selden Supra 27; Prosaire-Tropaire de Heidenheim, (Ottawa: Publications of Mediaeval Musical Manuscripts, Nr 33, 2006).
[6] van Dijk, S.J.P., unpublished, typewritten list in five volumes, housed in the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
[7] Wilson, N.G., and D. I. Stefanovic, Manuscripts of Byzantine Chant in Oxford, (Oxford: Bodleian Library, 1963). Appendix I is "Manscripts in Other British Libraries," and Appendix II is "Two Russian Manuscripts."

Revision: 9 July 2006
© 2003-2006, Louis W. G. Barton