Monday, November 05, 2007

Music: Three sheets of Gregorian Chant

The New Liturgical Movement is also watching this.

[Update: thanks to the helpful comments below (and at NLM), I'll be expanding this blog post to include the explanations for the "incomplete" parts of the sheets (such as versicles that seem to stop mid-word).]

Below you'll find images of three double-sided sheets of vellum with Gregorian Chant. I bought them at the Golden Nugget antique market (just outside Lambertville, NJ) this past Sunday, for a mere $150. They measure about 20" by 11" and are in varying states of disrepair.

Sheet 1A-B
The drifting et clamate at the beginning of this page will be explained later. The front of the first sheet includes references to Isaiah 7:14 (Ecce, virgo concipiet), Isaiah 9:6 (Admirabilis deus), Isaiah 9:7 (Super solium), and Exodus 4:13 (Obsecro inquit), and then a text I cannot find in the Bible (vide afflictionem) which continues to the back of the sheet.
... et clamate. V. Salva: R. Ecce
virgo concipiet et pariet filium dici-
t dominus et vocabitur nomen eiu-
s. ?. admirabilis deus fortis: ?.
Super solium david et super re-
gnum eius sedebit in eternum.
?. admi: R. Obsecro inquit domine
mitte quem missurus es vide affli...
The back of the first sheet completes the phrase from the front. It also contains a reference to Psalm 105[104]:4 (Memento nostri) and Isaiah 49:13 (Laetentur caeli).
...ctionem populi tui. R. Sicut locu-
tus es veni et libera nos. V. Me-
mento nostri domine in beneplacito
populi tui visita nos in salutari tu-
o. R. Sicut: ????? Allelu-
ya alleluya alleluya: seculo?:
Laetentur celi et exultet
terra jubilate montes laudem quia...

Sheet 2A-B
This sheet has larger margins than sheets one and three, so I suspect it is from a completely different manuscript. I can tell the front from the back because of a few clues. The first image (the front) has an F-clef and is clearly continuing from some other page, whereas the second image (the back) has a C-clef at the bottom and is finished with its last word. In addition, the first image (the front) has a C-clef at the bottom, and the custos -- the fragment of a neume (or note) at the end of a staff -- is a "C", which matches with the leading "C" neume of the second image (the back). This page appears to be part of a requiem.

The front has three initials in the upper-right corner (SLO or JLO). The text starts by completing what I assume is an alleluya. Then it refers to Sirach 45:9 (Induit eos dominus) and the apocryphal work 4 Ezra 2:35 (Lux perpetua lucebit).
...luya. V. Induit eos
dominus stola glorie et corona-
vit eos. P. Indie. R. Lux
perpetua lucebit sanctis tuis do-
mine et eternitas tem-
porum alleluya alleluya.
The back begins with Psalm 117[116]:15 (Vox exultationis) followed by a reference to Revelation 11:4 (Isti sunt due olive). The last word on the page is Habent (with the n omitted) which is the continuation of the antiphon (habent potestatem claudere...).
Vox exultationis et
salutis in tabernaculis iu-
storum. P. Et eter. R. Isti sunt
due olive et duo candela-
bra lucencia ante
dominum alleluya. Habent...

Sheet 3A-B
Given the wear at the bottom-right corner of the first image, I've assumed that's the front. It (the front) begins with a fragment of Luke 1:34 (virum non cognosco, Mary speaking to the angel Gabriel); in the middle there is a brief excerpt of Micah 1:3 (Domino egredietur) followed by Philippians 3:20-21 (Salvatorum expectamus); it ends with Titus 2:12-13 (Sobrie et iuste et pie) which is continued on the back side (vivamus in hoc seculo).
... virum non cognosco et respondens
angelus dixit ei R. Spiri:
In secdo noctno ?? alla? Domino. V. Egredietur Do.
Salvatorum expectamus
dominum ihesum xristum qui reform*a-
bit corpus humilitatis nostre confi-
guratum corpori claritatis
sue: V. Sobrie et iuste et pie...
The back refers to Jeremiah 31:10 (Audite verbum domini gentes) and has the phrase Salvator noster adveniet; it concludes with Jeremiah 4:5 (Annunciate et auditum facite loquimini). From what Google has told me, the next two words of this phrase should be... et clamate! Which are the words on the first page I deciphered! I have two consecutive sheets!
...vivamus in hoc seculo expectantes bea-
tum spem et adventum glorie ma-
gni dei: qui refor*. R. Audite
verbum domini gentes et annuncia-
te illud in finibus terre et in in-
sulis que procul sunt dicite: P. Salvator
noster adveniet. V. Annun-
ciate et auditum facite loquimini...


Darcy said...


Just based on the text, the first sheet looks like the Communion antiphon for the 4th Sunday of Advent.

I wish I had more time to look these up, but I'm sure some people on The New Liturgical Movement could identify them off the top of their heads.


TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Wow very cool stuff. I'm jealous.

Our schola just got fired from our parish - we're no longer welcome doing Gregorian chant in the mass - it confuses the people and is just "entertainment" in the words of our new music director. The choir will go back to singing more appropriate mass songs like "Shine Jesus Shine" "You Raise Me Up" and "Wind Beneath My Wings".

Go figure :P

japhy said...

darcy - yeah, the first and third sheets (the consecutive ones) are certainly Advent-oriented, given the numerous references to Isaiah and the Luke passage. The weird thing is that it's a smattering of Scripture, a mix-and-match if you will.

GFF - I'm terribly sorry about your parish's poor decision. It's unfair to you and the rest of the schola, as well as the rest of the faithful. Instead of sound liturgically oriented music, now they'll banality.

AV said...

I think 3 A-B are the responsories at Matins sung after each lesson, found the Advent Office of many breviaries. The red if you look says “In Secdo Noctno” – In the Second Nocturn. The order doesn’t appear to be the same as in the Roman breviary so I'm speculating that it must be from another one. The last part of the Responsory appearing on the first sheet is

R. Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Spiritus sanctus superveniet in te, et virtus altissimi obumbrabit tibi: quod enim ex te nascetur sanctum, vocabitur filius Dei. V. Quomodo fiet istud quoniam virum non cognosco? et respondens angelus dixit ei. R. Spiritus sanctus superveniet in te, et virtus altissimi obumbrabit tibi: quod enim ex te nascetur sanctum, vocabitur filius Dei.

The next entire responsory is

Salvatorem expectamus Dominum Jesum Christum * Qui reformabit corpus humilitatis nostrae configuratum corpori claritatis suae. V. Sobrie et juste et pie (next sheet)vivamus in hoc saeculo, expectantes beatam spem et adventuri gloriae magni Dei. R. Qui reformabit corpus humilitatis nostrae configuratum corpori claritatis suae.

The next one is

R. Audite verbum Domini gentes, et annuntiate illud in finibus terne: et in insulis quae procul sunt dicite: Salvator noster adveniet. V. Annuntiate, et auditum facite: loquimini et clamate. R. Salvator noster adveniet.

The “V. egredietur” I think stands for

“V. Egredietur Dominus de loco sancto suo. R. Veniet ut salvet populum suum a peccatis corum”

Though in the Roman breviary it appears in the Third Nocturn

AV said...

Whoops...I just looked at the NLM comments and Prof. Dobzay identified it as Cistercian.

I think the question marks in 1-B stand for "Ad Cantica Ant."

japhy said...

AV - thanks for helping fill in the blanks.

I have no idea how the scholars posting comments at NLM can figure out that it's probably a Cistercian work. The age of it is awesome, though. At least 300 years old!

carola said...


I'm doing some research in digital image processing of ancient musical manuscripts, and looking for plainchant images I got yours in my search results. Actually, the first experiments I performed on this topic were using your picture of sheet 3A, before using the Digital Scriptorium database.

And here I want to ask you a favor...I need at least one public domain image to publish as an example on a technical meeting paper, and I just want to ask if it's possible to use one of yours.
Is just for academic purposes, and no profit will be made from it.

Thanks in advance, and best regards.

japhy said...

carola - Absolutely! Feel free to use my pictures of my chant manuscripts. :)

carola said...

Thank you so much :)
Your pictures are very nice examples.