MC318: An Early Music Manuscript

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This is the first of a series of posts from my recent trip to London and Italy.  Starting somewhat backwards, this is a series of pages from a manuscript at the monestary of Montecassino, the birthplace of the Benedictine Order.  This particular manuscript, catalogued as Montecassino 318 (MC318 from now on), is a compendium of musical knowledge thought to have been written by a single scribe in the second-half of the 11th Century.  It includes it in the earliest illustration of the Guidonian Hand, multiple systems of musical notation, each weirder then the last, a list of named musical neumes and many other oddities.  I have only a few pictures from the manuscript, which do not do it justice, but there's so little out there some people might have never seen anything, which would be a shame.  A nice thing about the manuscript is how clear and distinct the handwriting is and how few weird abbreviations there are, assuming, of course, you know Beneventan script.

NB: If you click any of these images, you'll get a somewhat larger one.  If you need a higher-res version for any reason, please contact me


An illustration for some sort of musical theory and a short piece in Beneventan notation, with F-lines in red.

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An early form of staffless notation where the the pitch is indicated by the common alphabetical form (A-G).  The lengths of the notes are not indicated except by duplication of the note-letter.

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Guidonian hand and early form of staffed notation

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A selection of Beneventan (Campo Aperto) neumes and short musical phrases with names.  The names, as far as we can tell, are completely made up and sound vaguely Greek, e.g. "Crodula" and "Ampiriph"

Cassino-Montecassino-Notational  theory0240.jpg

Some sort of musical notational scheme

Cassino-Montecassino-Page of Tones0242.jpg

A bunch of snippets of music in Beneventan neumes


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Some more Montecassino manuscripts, from the same morning as MC318. These are a somewhat random smattering of texts, though mostly musical, written in Beneventan script. Music and related manuscripts Flyleaf removed from the binding of a different manu... Read More

Follow-up to a pair of posts on the manuscripts of Montecassino (here and there), some photos of the monastery proper. Outside Spaces Entrance cloister of Montecassino with the statue of the death of St. BenedictSo-called Bramante Courtyard, the statue... Read More

As part of the same trip that took me to the Monastary of Montecassino (see some manuscripts, more manuscripts or the sights ), I spend about 2 days in the small town of Benevento, about 30 min farther south. Introduction... Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Aaron Macks published on February 15, 2013 4:08 PM.

Van Cleef & Arpels: Ballerine Enchantee was the previous entry in this blog.

More Cassinese Manuscripts is the next entry in this blog.

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