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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Compilation of classical, late antique and medieval poetic works (including the 'Cambridge Songs')

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'><b>Introduction: the history of the manuscript</b></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Copied by perhaps four scribes during the mid-11th century, this manuscript contains a wide variety of classical, late antique and early medieval poetic texts. Alongside works by such authors as Juvencus, Sedulius, Arator, Boethius, Rabanus Maurus and Aldhelm, the manuscript also preserves a variety of other kinds of text, including several prayers transliterated from Greek, prose medical texts, and riddles and hymns. One part (ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(867);return false;'>432r-443v</a>) perhaps more than any other has been the focus of scholarly attention over the last century and a half: a collection of forty-five works, most of them poems, and some set to music, which has prompted the application to this manuscript of the epithets 'Carmina Cantabrigiensia', 'Cambridger Lieder' and the 'Cambridge Songs'.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Contrary to these denominations, the manuscript had no medieval connection with its present home; rather, a 13th-century ownership inscription and pressmark (f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(12);return false;'>iii verso</a>) prove that it belonged to the Benedictine Abbey of St Augustine, Canterbury, where it was almost certainly produced and where it remained through the fifteenth century and until the abbey's dissolution in 1538. The presence of German and macaronic German-Latin poems in this section - including six in praise of Frankish emperors Henry II (973-1024), Conrad II (c. 990-1039) and Henry III (1017-1056), as well as others that mention archbishops Heriger of Mainz (d. 927), Heribert of Cologne (d. 1021) and Poppo of Trier (d. 1047), among other material - indicate that these contents derived from a continental, probably German exemplar. The mention in one of these works of the death of Conrad II means that the production of this portion of the manuscript must have post-dated 1039. The manuscript thus bears witness to the continuation to the very cusp of the Norman Conquest of a cultural and intellectual exchange between Anglo-Saxon England and the German lands - an exchange truncated by subsequent political events and the development of much closer ties between English monasteries and foundations in northern France.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Various theories have been advanced to explain the rationale behind the production of this manuscript, its compilation and the arrangement of the texts it contains (see Ziolkowski (1994), pp. xx-xxv for full details). A suggestion that the 'Songs' part had belonged to a peripatetic poet-musician and were only bound later into the manuscript was disproven by the material evidence: the texts are not confined to one quire but extend into another, and moreover were copied by the same scribe responsible for many other parts of the rest of the manuscript. That these contents are unlikely to have derived from such an exemplar is indicated by the narrow subject-matter - references to various emperors, and to four nuns in a specific German convent, for example - that would have been unlikely to appeal to foreign audiences; moreover, some of the songs were intended for performance not by a single person but by multiple voices, including a pair of choirs. Others have argued that the songs may have been compiled as a manual of instruction for such an aspiring performer, but whether that role was ever performed by or in the context of a monastic institution has not yet been demonstrated.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>That the manuscript represents a compilation of a wide variety of (often incomplete) poetic works has lent weight to the proposal that it was a florilegium, a gathering of many different literary genres, topics and themes from a variety of sources and exemplars, by an enthusiast for both ancient and contemporary poetry. The glossing of some of these texts with neumes - a form of medieval music notation - has further prompted others to argue that it was their musical rather than literary characteristics that inspired their compilation. Adopting a broader scope, seeking to understand the contents of the manuscript as a whole, A.G. Rigg and Gernot Wieland in 1975 proposed instead that the manuscript originally comprised three 'classbooks', to which the 'Songs' component was soon after appended: the compilation of poetic works were "graded according to difficulty", in order to fulfil a distinct pedagogical purpose, and therefore offer "a remarkable insight into educational practice in the late Anglo-Saxon period". Plentiful interlinear and marginal glosses provided additional instruction or clarified the meaning of the texts they accompanied, with the songs added "either because of their interest as a lyric collection" or because they had been copied by the same hand as other parts of the manuscript. Alternatively, the manuscript may have been made not as a book for teaching in the classroom, but for reference use as a convenient compilation of a wide variety of poetic texts.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Though the manuscript was seen at Canterbury by John Leland shortly before the abbey's dissolution, its provenance thereafter is unknown, as are the precise stages by which it reached the University Library. There is evidence, however, to suggest that it did not stray far from its original home. It was purchased in 1672 using funds raised from the sale of duplicate books bequeathed to the Library by John Hacket (d. 1670), bishop of Coventry and Lichfield. Four other such purchases contain evidence of former ownership by the scholar Meric Casaubon (d. 1671), who had lived and died in Canterbury. Three others whose purchase was funded by the Hacket sales had belonged to another Canterbury resident, Sampson Kennard (d. 1635), and four others are also of Canterbury provenance.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript is now no longer complete, nor was it when the book was foliated by the 15th-century librarian of St Augustine's, Clement Canterbury. For example, in quire 45, Clement's numbering indicates the presence of two leaves between those he numbered <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(885);return false;'>*441</a> and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(889);return false;'>*444</a>. However, at the time of his numbering, neither of these leaves can have been conjoint with another in the second half of the quire, where Clement's numbering runs without interruption from <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(895);return false;'>*453</a> to <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(897);return false;'>*454</a>, indicating that these two leaves had already been lost by that time. Further portions have been lost since then, including at the end of the manuscript a quire or quires containing a text entitled 'Oraciones ciceronis' in the 12th-century contents list on f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(12);return false;'>iii verso</a>, and found on 'ffo. *455 usque in finem' according to Clement's annotation. Between the end of Quire 27 and the beginning of Quire 33, a discrepancy occurs in the contemporary quire signatures: <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(548);return false;'>Quire 27</a> is numbered 'XXVII' but <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(662);return false;'>Quire 33</a> is 'XXXIIII' (no quire signatures are visible on the intervening leaves). This may simply reflect an error in numbering; however, taken with the loss of the three final leaves from Quire 28 (after f. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(562);return false;'>276</a>), it is possible that a whole quire is missing from the manuscript between Quires 28 and 29. The loss of the three leaves from Quire 28 must post-date Clement's foliation: its last leaf, was numbered *277 by him - and the next leaf, the first of the next quire, *281. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>A further loss occurred in more recent times. In March 1981, Margaret Gibson encountered a leaf during a search for manuscripts containing texts of Boethius, at the Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek in Frankfurt-am-Main, where it was known as Fragm. lat. I 56. A collaboration between Prof. Gibson, Christopher Page and Michael Lapidge subsequently confirmed its identification as a missing leaf from the present manuscript (see Gibson et al., 'Neumed Boethian <i>metra</i>' (1983) for a full account).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The much-faded Arabic numerals in the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(887);return false;'>upper right-hand corner of the recto side</a> of this leaf prove that it was in place when the volume was foliated by Clement Canterbury during the 15th century. The leaf was still bound with the rest of the manuscript in 1839, when it was examined by Georg Pertz. By 1896, however, it had gone missing, since Robert Priebsch noted the absence from the manuscript of the Boethian <i>metra</i> described by Pertz over half a century earlier. Alerted to the possibility that the leaf might have been alienated from a manuscript in Cambridge, investigations were undertaken by Dr Gerhardt Powitz, Leiter der Handschriftenabteilung at Frankfurt. The leaf, along with fragments from other manuscripts, had been bequeathed to Frankfurt by the scholar Theodor Oehler (1810-43). From correspondence preserved at Frankfurt, Oehler is known to have visited Cambridge in 1840 and doubtless examined the manuscript at that time. The structure of Quire 45 and the sequence of Clement Canterbury's folio numbers prove that the leaf conjoint with this one had been missing since the 15th century. It is likely, then, that this leaf was already loose, possibly even detached, by the time Oehler came to Cambridge.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Papers kept in the running file for MS Gg.5.35 in the Department of Rare Books and Early Manuscripts at the University Library relate the return of the leaf. On 2 September 1982, Dr Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, Director of the Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek Frankfurt, wrote to Mr F.W. Ratcliffe, then University Librarian, to offer to return the fragment to its rightful owners. Noting Pertz's recording of the contents of the leaf in 1839 and the fact that 'the fragment appears among the papers of Theodor Oehler only shortly thereafter', Dr Lehmann concluded that 'one can assume that he did not come by it legally'. On 15 November that year, Arthur Owen, Senior Under-Librarian and Head of Manuscripts, wrote to Powitz confirm the safe arrival of the leaf in Cambridge. 'My first action on opening the parcel was to compare the leaf with our manuscript Gg.5.35, and to confirm beyond any doubt that they belong together,' Owen wrote. 'We are deeply grateful to Dr Lehmann and to yourself for your generous action in returning this leaf to the manuscript from which it was removed.'</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In his letter to Powitz, Owen stated, 'We shall now arrange for the leaf to be bound into the manuscript so as to prevent any future mishap of a similar kind.' This did not occur, however, and for forty years between its return in 1982 and 2022 the leaf remained separate from the rest of the manuscript. It was housed for the latter part (or perhaps all) of this period in a separate melinex folder, within the same box as the rest of the manuscript. Images of the leaf in this state were previously displayed at the end of the sequence on the Cambridge Digital Library, in order to reflect the leaf's storage as a physically discrete item. The inclusion of the manuscript in the Wellcome-funded project, <i><a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Curious Cures in Cambridge Libraries</a></i>, afforded the opportunity to release the leaf from its melinex folder and rebind it in its correct place in the manuscript, which work was completed in late 2022 by Marina Kruger-Pelissari, Project Conservator. The leaf was then photographed again, in its proper place in the manuscript, by Raffaella Losito, Project Photographer. The reunion of the leaf with the rest of the volume is now reflected in the updated description and display on the Cambridge Digital Library.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The description of the contents of the manuscript is divided into five main parts, following the structure proposed by Rigg and Wieland on the basis of the manuscript's collation, changes in hand and layout, and similar details, as follows: <div>I(a): ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(13);return false;'>1-209</a>;<br />I(b): ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(431);return false;'>210-276</a> (seven supplementary quires);<br />II: ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(563);return false;'>280-369</a>;<br />III: ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(743);return false;'>370-431</a>;<br />IV: ff. <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(867);return false;'>432-446</a>.<br /></div><br /></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr James Freeman<br /> Medieval Manuscripts Specialist<br /> Cambridge University Library</p><br /><br /><p style='text-align: justify;'><b>Singing Boethius’ Lost Songs</b></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The prospect of recovering the music of lost songs of the distant past is tantalising, even more so when traces survive in unfamiliar notations that cannot be fully reconstructed. This is the case for much of the early medieval Latin song repertory, which has long been considered lost because the notational signs employed record only melodic outlines, relying on oral traditions that have now died out to supply missing details.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Research conducted by Dr Sam Barrett of the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with the Medieval Ensemble Sequentia, has enabled the reconstruction of part of this repertoire. This series of videos introduces some of these reconstructed songs from Boethius' sixth-century De consolatione philosophiae (On the Consolation of Philosophy), one of the most widely read books of the Middle Ages. A single source, the ‘Cambridge Songs’ Leaf, held in Cambridge University Library, is taken as a focus for exploration.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The opening video introduces the project. Six subsequent short videos allow the viewer to follow the notation (neumes) in the manuscript as the melody for the opening lines of each song notated on the leaf is sung in turn.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>More information about the processes of reconstruction and how to read neumes is provided on the <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>project website</a>.</p>

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