Medieval Manuscripts in Law Book Bindings, no. 6

February 16, 2010

Fragment: Antiphonal (Italy)
Date: c. 1050-1150
Found in: Denari, Odofredo. Refugium advocatorum. Milan: Giovanni Giacomo da Legnano, [1522].

The unassuming example presented here is one of the more unusual medieval items in the Law Library’s collection. Originally, this 16th-century book was covered with a piece of parchment from a medieval antiphonal with music for the divine office on the feast of Saint Paul (January 25). At some point the parchment fell off or was removed, leaving behind a remarkably clear ink transfer of the music and text on the board beneath. Although the writing appears in reverse as a result of the transfer, it is possible to make out the text as well as a series of musical notes (called “neumes”). These neumes are arranged around a single red line which, according to letter-clefs in the margin, marks the F-line. Approximately fifteen different styles of medieval neumes have been identified, and this fragment has characteristics of the Beneventan and Messine varieties. Much of our understanding of the history of medieval musical notation has relied on fragments found in localized bindings.

   – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Richard Rouse (UCLA) for clarifying the origin of the manuscript fragment.

Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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