Chapter 1 Lessons

1A: Introduction to online chant manuscripts and tools for studying them

Learning the types of books:

As one works chapter by chapter through Music in the Medieval West and the accompanying Anthology, many kinds of medieval books will be referenced. A useful on-line guide to the types of medieval liturgical books and the repertory they contain has been prepared by Professor Susan Boynton of Columbia University and Consuelo Dutschke, using digitized pages from manuscripts in the New York area. This online tool provides plates of the major book types for both the Mass and Office, and has a useful plan showing which kinds of pieces fit where in the Office and Mass liturgy (compare with the Primer).

For this Overview of the kinds of books you will encounter:

World Wide Web exhibition on liturgical manuscripts: (

Finding digitized copies of chant books:

Catalogue of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts
(no longer being kept up as of 2013) You can use this site to located digitized books that contain chants. Hosted at UCLA.

Monastic Manuscript Project: Internet resources, Digital medieval manuscripts.  This site is managed by Professor Albrecht Diem, of Syracuse University.  Has a list of cities, with the digitized MSS found at every library he knows about in that city. Of course, every library has its own way of doing things, so once you get there, you need to play with the search engine, which will often be in a language other than English.  But do check out this site and begin to use it. It opens up a whole world of medieval manuscript for your study and enjoyment:

Digital Scriptorium
Consuelo Dutschke’s Digital Scriptorium is an image database of medieval and renaissance manuscripts that unites scattered resources from many institutions into an international tool for teaching and scholarly research. Hosted at the University of California, Berkeley.

Medieval Manuscripts on the Web
This excellent list (last updated in 2012) is intended to offer quick access to various digitization projects on the web: clicking the project title will take you directly there. Listings are alphabetical by originating institution. Some of the links are annotated on separate pages. Siân Echard, Department of English, University of British Columbia, and reflecting personal interests.

Domnique Gatté
This is a fabulous site, and has many components, so we will be referencing it throughout, chapter by chapter. However, to access it, you need to join the website Musicologie Médiévale (it’s free).

Paléographie Musicale, the set of facsimilies of representative chant manuscripts sponsored by the monks of Solesmes, is indispensable for the study of chant, and the good news is that many of these volumes are now online:

Cantus Planus
David Hiley’s Cantus Planus site, run from the University of Regensburg, will be a useful guide for any researcher into various aspects of the chant repertory.

1B: Working with the sources

Going directly to a medieval image of a chant:

Several versions of the hymns studied in chapters 1 and 2 can be found in on-line manuscripts. The best guide to these is CANTUS, the online database for Office chants, originally founded by Professor Ruth Steiner of the Catholic University, Washington, DC. The URL in 2013 is We will refer to CANTUS in this digital portal frequently when studying Office chants. It is a basic source that scholars use to work across different centuries and regions when studying the office, which is highly variable, depending on region.

To find copies of “Ave Maris Stella” in CANTUS, pull down “search,” and type in Ave Maris Stella in the “text string,” and, then pull down “h” for hymn under “genre.” If you then click apply, you will get two pages of examples, within the nearly 150 manuscripts catalogued on CANTUS. You can read about each source, under “sources” in descriptions written by the scholars who have prepared the index, and so can date and place the manuscript with some assurance. Also you will find that some of the chants have images, although for this famous hymn, the title will often have an asterisk, meaning that only the incipit is given.
A good example to look at is F-Pn lat. 15181, an antiphoner from the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris; look at the example for the feast of the Annunciation. Because this feast falls in early February, it comes first in the church year, so the entire melody is written out. But if you look at other examples of the hymn in this same manuscript you will see the asterisk.

You can click on the image for the hymn in lat. 15181 for the Feast of the Annunciation, and compare it to the example in the anthology, which comes from another Parisian source, this one from a Carthusian monastery also in Paris and from around the same time period (see below). This gives a great opportunity to compare notation styles, texts, melodies, and see if there are any differences.

Anthology 1: Hymn: “Ave Maris Stella”
US-Notre Dame, Univ. Notre Dame, Hesburgh Library, cod. Lat. b. 4, fol 333v
Using the paging tool to find fol. 333v (the verso side of folio 333).

LaTrobe Medieval Music Database
The LaTrobe Medieval Music Database (last updated in 2004). Although many of the links are broken, I list it here so researchers can see what it once did, and remain hopeful that it will somehow be restored.

In the meantime, here are two manuscripts to which it once had functioning links:

The Poissy Antiphoner, for an online article with plates. I am trying to get the library to fix the links so the manuscript can be navigated more easily.

The Dixon Gradual, a late thirteenth-century Cistercian book from the Abbey of St. Stephan in Cornu, Diocese of Lodi, Lombardy (northern Italy)

Using a modern gradual as a guide, you can try to locate Mass chants in this book, and we will reference it below in Chapter 3.

1C Finding chants and their sources on recordings:

Another way to compare versions of “Ave Maris Stella” is by listening to recordings, and here we encounter another wonderful tool, the chant discography, compiled and edited by Fr. Jerome Weber. Eventually this wonderful site will migrate to the University of Notre Dame, but for the immediate future, the URL is:

A short filmed introduction to Jerome Weber’s extraordinary work will be found at

If you search the title under chants, you will find that many recordings use the LU (Liber Usualis) a modern book described in the Primer in both the textbook and the Anthology; and that this is the same melody found in many other modern books. If you pull down “abbreviations,” you will find a very useful list of the standard modern books containing chant, and several other sources as well. You can find many recordings using the music provided in square notation in the LU, but not all will sound the same, as the notation does not indicate precise rhythmic values.

Naxos is a great source for chant recordings, and if your college or university has a subscription you can find hundreds of examples.  Chant is not yet well represented on Spotify.

Finding the chants “Ad Te Levavi” and “Resurrexi” in Laon 239.

You will have noticed that Laon 239 is one of the earliest fully-neumed sources for the propers of the Mass liturgy. If you look at Richard Crocker’s website, which includes his recordings of Gregorian Propers, you will see that he frequently uses it as a guide (although he has to learn the pitched from later sources, as Laon 239 is not precisely heightened, as discussed in the Primer).  Let’s use our tools to find a famous chant in this manuscript!

You can use Albrecht Diem’s list of digitized MSS. Scroll down to the L’s and find, Laon.  Click and you will arrive at the library. There are presently (2018) 30 medieval MSS digitized, and look at the variety!  Scroll down til you hit 239 and click on the cover:

Laon 239

Here is the URL:

Now you can navigate this precious source anywhere, and for free.  As is the case with many manuscripts, later materials have been added at the front on spare leaves. Remember, parchment was precious.  If you start to page through, you will see different notational styles go past your eyes, and then, after several page turns, you will hit an enormous A…you are there, the introit for the first Sunday of Advent, “Ad te levavi. ”

Finding Easter is more tricky, except that this season too in many manuscripts is marked by a huge R for Resurrexi, the first word of the introit for the feast.  Go to Lessons for Chapter 3 to find the page number and more information.