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Neumed Boethian metra from Canterbury: a newly recovered leaf of Cambridge, University Library, Gg. 5.35 (the ‘Cambridge Songs’ manuscript)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2008


Frankfurt, Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek, Fragm. lat. I. 56, a single detached leaf written in Anglo-Caroline minuscule of mid-eleventh-century date and containing a number of neumed metra of Boethius, was recently brought to the attention of Dr M. T. Gibson1 by the Keeper of Manuscripts in Frankfurt, Dr Gerhard Powitz.2 Dr C. Page identified it as part of the ‘Cambridge Songs’ manuscript, Cambridge, University Library, Gg. 5. 35 (fols. 432–41). The leaf throws valuable new light not only on the subject of musical notation in late Anglo-Saxon England, but also on the composition of one of the best-known collections of medieval Latin lyrics.3

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1983

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1 During a ‘voyage littéraire’ for the projected census of manuscripts of the works of Boethius (Codices Boethiant). Dr Gibson wishes to thank the British Academy for its continuing support of this project, of which the present note is the primitiae.

2 We wish to thank Dr Powitz, not only for bringing this fragment to our attention, but for unfailing help in answering queries and for generously providing photographs of the Frankfurt leaf.

3 This article was written in collaboration, but M. T. Gibson has been responsible for providing the physical description and account of the leaf's contents, M. Lapidge for discussing its relationship with CUL Gg. 5. 35, and C. Page for the account of the musical notation.

4 A. M. Boethii Philosophiae Consolatio, ed. Bieler, L., Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 94 (Turnhout, 1957).Google Scholar

5 Dr David Ganz very kindly drew our attention to this Corbie manuscript.

6 Lupus' treatise is preserved in numerous manuscripts, most of which are apparently of continental origin; see Boetii Philosophiae Consolationis Libri Quinque, ed. Peiper, R. (Leipzig, 1871), pp. xxivxxix;Google Scholar together with discussion by Brown, V., ‘Lupus of Ferrières on the Metres of Boethius’, in Latin Script and Letters A.D. 400–900: Festschrift presented to Ludwig Bieler, ed. O'Meara, J. J. and Naumann, B. (Leiden, 1976), pp. 6379.Google Scholar

7 The Muri play is preserved in a parchment roll of c. 1200; see Savernik, E. G., Das Osterspiel von Muri (Basle, 1967).Google Scholar Study of earlier Latin Easter plays of the ‘quem quaeritis’ tradition could well have inspired an interest by Oehler in Anglo-Saxon England, for the earliest surviving ‘quem quaeritis’ play is preserved in the Regularis Concordia, composed by Æthelwold at Winchester c. 970 (Regularis Concordia, ed. Symons, T. (London, 1953), pp. 4952Google Scholar); see now Bryan, G. B., Æthelwold and Medieval Music-Drama at Winchester: the Easter Play, its Author and its Milieu, European Univ. Stud., ser. 30. 10 (Berne, Frankfurt-am-Main and Las Vegas, 1981).Google Scholar Unfortunately, there is no evidence that Oehler ever pursued such an interest.

8 Among the fragments in ‘Oehleriana, Mappe XIII’ are nine leaves of this work of Petrarch; see Bredehorn, K. and Powitz, G., Die mittelalterlichen Handschriften der Gruppe Manuscripta Latina (Frankfurt-am-Main, 1979), p. 80.Google Scholar

9 This identification was first suggested by Christopher Page.

10 Rigg, A. G. and Wieland, G. R., ‘A Canterbury Classbook of the Mid-Eleventh Century (the ‘Cambridge Songs’ Manuscript)’, ASE 4 (1975). 113–30, at 114–15.Google Scholar A specimen of scribe A's work may be seen in their pl. I (lines 10–29).

11 There is a facsimile edition of fols. 432–41 by Breul, K., The Cambridge Songs: a Goliard's Song Book of the Eleventh Century (Cambridge, 1915).Google Scholar

12 These measurements vary very slightly from those given by Rigg and Wieland (‘A Canterbury Classbook’, p. 114), who give the written area as 184 × 110 mm; presumably their measurements were made at an earlier point in the manuscript where the ruling is for a single column.

13 See Rigg and Wieland, ‘A Canterbury Classbook’, pp. 116–17 and fig. 2.

14 We owe this identification to Dr Bruce Barker-Benfield. On Clement's activities at Canterbury see Barker-Benfield, B. C., ‘Clement Canterbury, Librarian of St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury’, in Manuscripts at Oxford: an Exhibition in Memory of Richard William Hunt (1908–1979), ed. De la Mare, A. C. and Barker-Benfield, B. C. (Oxford, 1980), pp. 8992.Google Scholar

15 Note especially the way the two 4s are linked at the bottom by a characteristic loop – such as may be seen more clearly in Gg. 5. 35, 441r (see pl. IV).

16 We are grateful to Dr Powitz for confirming this reading and for supplying us with ultraviolet photographs of the foliation.

17 Pertz, G., ‘Bemerkungen über einzelne Handschriften und Urkunden’, Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde 7 (1839), 2271022Google Scholar (discussion of Gg. 5. 35 = bibl. publ. 1552, at 1001–3).

18 ibid. p. 1003.

19 Priebsch, R., Deutsche Handschriften in England 1 (Erlangen, 1896), 24.Google Scholar

20 As is clear from two unpublished letters of Oehler, dated 16 December 1839 and 6 January 1841, now in the library at Frankfurt as MSS. Ff. J. F. Boehmer 1 K 5 ‘O’ Nr. 3 and Ff. J. F. Roth II, respectively. We owe this information to Dr Powitz.

21 Oehler's notes on Gg. 5. 35 form one moderate-sized booklet and are now part of the collection of ‘Oehleriana’ in the library at Frankfurt. Dr Powitz very kindly provided photocopies of these notes. Among the notes are some jottings by the Cambridge scholar John Mitchell Kemble (signed J. M. K.), which mention the Boethian metra in passing.

22 E.g. in the edition by Strecker, K., Die Cambridger Lieder, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, 2nd ed. (Berlin, 1955).Google Scholar

23 See most recently Dronke, P., Lapidge, M. and Stotz, P., ‘Die unveröffentlichten Gedichte der Cambridger Liederhandschrift’, Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch 17 (1982), 5495, at 56–9.Google Scholar

24 Compare e.g. the following variants (F = the Frankfurt leaf; G = Gg. 5. 35): 1, met. i, line 8: facta F, fata G; 1, met. i, line 12: effecto F, effeto G; 1, met. ii, line 3: extremas F, externas G; 1, met. ii, line 12: compressam numeris F, conprensam innumtris G. There exists no full collation of the very numerous manuscripts of the De Consolatione Philosophiae and hence it is impossible to determine the textual affiliations of these two manuscripts.

25 See Dronke, Lapidge and Stotz, ‘Die unveröffentlichten Gedichte’, pp. 68–79.

26 ibid. pp. 56–7. The evidence (very briefly) is that the anonymous eleventh-century German poet who wrote a collection of Latin verse Sermoms under the pseudonym Sextus Amarcius had occasion to describe a performance by a minstrel which included several sequences clearly identifiable with sequences preserved in the ‘Cambridge Songs’ collection; in addition to these identifiable sequences, the minstrel also performed a sequence about David and Goliath; sequences about David and Goliath are extremely rare in earlier medieval Latin poetry; there is a sequence concerning David and Goliath among the poems copied by scribe C in Gg. 5. 35 (443v in the modern foliation); Sextus Amarcius may therefore have been referring to a collection of poems which included both the present ‘Cambridge Songs’ (fols. 432–41 of Gg. 5. 35) and the poems copied by scribe C.

27 One metrum (Nubibus atris (1, met. vii)) is provided with two melodies.

28 For some account of the notations used in England before 1100 see Holschneider, A., Die Organa von Winchester (Hildesheim, 1968),Google Scholarpassim; and Planchart, A. E., The Repertory of Tropes at Winchester (Princeton, 1977) 1, 61–6.Google Scholar For a transcription of a Boethian metrum with music, notated in non-diastematic neumes but largely reconstructable from a continental version in letter-notation, see Page, C., ‘The Boethian Metrum “Bella bis quinis”: a New Song from Saxon Canterbury’, in Boethius: his Life, Thought and Influence, ed. Gibson, Margaret (Oxford, 1981), pp. 306–11.Google Scholar The metrum in question is preserved in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Auct. F. 1. 15 (see below).

29 See Treitler, L., ‘Oral, Written and Literate Process in the Transmission of Medieval Music’, Speculum 56 (1981), 471–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

30 ibid. p. 486.

31 See Suñol, G., Introduction à la paléographie musicale grégorienne (Tournai, 1935). pp. 283–97.Google Scholar

32 The metra in question are listed by Page, ‘The Boethian Metrum “Bella bis quinis”’, p. 311, n. 8.

33 For a facsimile of this piece, see Breul, The Cambridge Songs, 441v; for facsimiles of the continental sources containing versions of this melody (which permit a reconstruction of the Cambridge version), see Traube, L., ‘O Roma Nobilis’, Abhandlungen der königlich bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philos.-philol. Classe 19 (1891), 297395,Google Scholar following 395; and Waesberghe, J. Smits van, Musikerziehung, Musikgeschichte in Bildern III.3 (Leipzig, 1969), pl. 61.Google Scholar For a reconstruction of the Cambridge version see New Oxford History of Music, ed. Westrup, J. A. et al. (Oxford, 19571974) 11, 221.Google Scholar

34 There is a facsimile in Breul, , The Cambridge Songs, 439i–v.Google Scholar

35 See, e.g., all the metra with musical notation in Auct. F. 1. 15. For a brief but well-documented account of some relevant continental materials see The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Sadie, S. (London, 1980) xvii, 636.Google Scholar

36 Page, ‘The Boethian Metrum “Bella bis quinis”’, p. 308.

37 It must be stressed that the above remarks about musical notation on the Frankfurt leaf must be regarded as provisional: given the current state of our knowledge about non-liturgical Latin song in England before 1100 nothing more is yet possible. A principal desideratum is a survey of manuscripts written or owned in England before 1100 that contain musical notation (a desideratum which C. Page is currently working to supply).

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Neumed Boethian metra from Canterbury: a newly recovered leaf of Cambridge, University Library, Gg. 5.35 (the ‘Cambridge Songs’ manuscript)
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