Tuesday, 24 July 2018


Breaking news out of Italy: a major discovery has been made at the University of Pavia: a manuscript parchment leaf containing primitive annotations of medieval music, which scholars have dated 1100 AD has been located in the University’s library, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (MiBAC) reported Monday.

*CLICK TO ENLARGE* The ancient manuscript, "antifonio IX," c.1100 AD.  Illustrated detail enlarged at R.
| MiBAC, Roma, Italy |

The rare document was discovered purely by chance: it was tucked inside an antique volume of Giovanni De Deis, In Ecclesia Mediolanensi (Milan, Melchiorre Malatesta, 1628), presently undergoing restoration under the financial backing of MiBAC.

Speaking with Italian press, Minister
Alberto Bonisoli highlighted the find, underscoring the importance of literary preservation and the city’s endeavors to fund restorations:

"The discovery of this precious document confirms how important the work of protection and research towards the country's book collection is. Collaboration with the university world and its library system is also fundamental."

The Director-General for Libraries and Cultural Institutes of MiBAC, Paola Passarelli, agreed:

"This discovery is the result of different synergies able to use the tools of the present to rediscover the words and, in this case, the "notes" of the past. The ancient antiphonary is a return to the origins, a fragment of the past that continues to remain in the present, fueling the inexhaustible dialogue with our cultural memory. Because books, and with them libraries, are this: caskets of knowledge, guardians of narratives of knowledge to launch the challenge to our future. The rediscovered parchment has already been inserted into a passe-partout that allows it to read recto-verso, ready to be studied."

A “passe-partout,” for those unfamiliar with the term, is a method of mounting a fragile document in which strong gummed paper is used to bind the material to it’s backing. In this instance, the parchment was smeared with “animal glue” to adhere to a cardboard backing.

The restoration of the Giovanni De Deis volume was carried out by
Alessandra Furlotti, who discovered the relic in the “Salone Teresiano” of the University Library when she noticed a “separation” in the binding of the book near it’s rear. Upon inspection, Furlotti discovered the parchment, tucked away - recycled at some point in the very distant past as material for reinforcement. It was not at all an uncommon occurrence in the early days of bookbinding for bookbinders to use any material made available to them – from music manuscripts, to newsprint, and even pages from other books themselves to re-bind aging books.

Whoever re-bound the Deis volume with the manuscript ensconced the parchment in animal glue of an unknown origin – perhaps aiding in the preservation of the document itself, which is described as a

 “...page, almost complete, of an antiphonary, or a breviary that also included the liturgical parts, certainly one of the oldest that can be studied today, dateable around 1100 [and one which] can be placed in the Novara area.”

The manuscript is also illustrated. 

From the miBAC press release:

“The document is also decorated with a difficult to interpret miniature, which represents a mythological animal with colored legs and snake features.”

The ancient relic was authenticated by French musicologist Dominique Gatté.

There are no further updates at this time. 

Official Press Release (miBAC)

- Rose. 

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