Europe, Spain, ca. 1520s to 1530s CE. A hand inscribed hymnal leaf in red and black on vellum (a high-quality sheet made out of stretched and scraped calfskin). Just like a modern hymnal page, it presents the music needed for religious services. The page is covered with black noteheads on red music staff lines, underlaid with black calligraphic text. The hymnal features an elaborately designed letter R in black, red music staff lines, and lyrics in Latin. Set in a custom mat and wooden frame under glass. Size: visible piece measures 17.75" L x 13" W (45.1 cm x 33 cm); 25.875" L x 22.875" W (65.7 cm x 58.1 cm) with mat and frame
According to the Glencairn Museum's article about a very large 16th century Spanish hymnal in their collection, "As a musical tool, the manuscript occupies a different place than a book of music produced today would hold. Like a modern liturgical hymnal, it is a collection of the music required for religious services. This music was sung by monks at several services each day, and the reason for the large size of the book becomes apparent when one considers that the entire monastic choir was singing from the same copy (see Figure 3) (figure 3 is an illuminated letteer C showing a group of monks singing from a single choirbook). Even at 3.5 times the size of the average modern hymnal, that seems a difficult undertaking. However, the monks were not strictly reading from the book—it served instead as a memory aid. Less in keeping with the highly-literate classical music tradition we know today, early forms of music notation bear more similarity to the modern pop tradition of writing the names of chords above the notes. Much of what we think of today as “Gregorian chant” existed as an aural tradition for several centuries before it was written down for the first time. Although this particular manuscript comes from a time when music notation was becoming commonplace and highly developed, it was created in a monastic tradition of singing that was primarily based on memory. It has been estimated that monks in Benedictine monasteries, where they sang around six hours a day, would have had around 80 hours of plainchant memorized." (Glencairn's Two-Foot Tall Medieval Hymnal" August 3, 2016; Glencairn Museum News, Number 7, 2016, source: Anna Maria Busse Berger, Medieval Music and the Art of Memory, Berkeley: University of California Press: 2005, p. 49; https://glencairnmuseum.org/newsletter/2016/7/27/glencairns-two-foot-tall-medieval-hymnal)
Provenance: private Ventura County, California, USA collection
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