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Cantorinus; Calendar and Antiphonary for Carthusian use

In Latin and Italian, with musical notation, decorated manuscript on paper
Northern Italy, c. 1597

TM 590

i (modern paper) + 159 (laid paper) + i (modern paper), on paper, apparently without watermarks, chain lines running horizontally 35 mm apart, missing one leaf (collation, i-xix⁸, xx8[-5, with loss of text (originally pp. 283-284)], includes original pagination and quire signatures A-S (beginning, however on f. 17r; first two quires are original but lack signatures or pagination; modern foliation every ten folios, counting from f. 1), catchwords, ruled in blind (prickings visible) with single full-length vertical bounding lines and with double rulings for text lines, running titles and catchwords (justification, 105 x 80 mm), layout of nine long lines of text running underneath four-line staves (nine per page), text in black ink, written in a rounded late-Gothic script, rubrics and staves in red with square musical notation in black, running titles and original page numbers in pale red, one- to two-line calligraphic initials in blue and red,, pages cut down (see especially f. 158r), slight distress in leather between boards and spine, iron gall ink beginning on f. 134 causing burn through paper in some areas (ff. 143, 144, 157), vestige of excised fifth folio (pp. 283-284) from last quire visible in gutter. Bound in nineteenth-century vellum over pasteboard, title on spine in ink, “Cantica Sacra AD 1596,” in good condition. Dimensions 135 x 101 mm.

A rare example of a manuscript Cantorinus combined with a calendar and Antiphonary for Carthusian use. This portable, personal manuscript includes the basic Chants explaining musical theory, as well as the chants for the Divine Office. By this time the text and music of the Cantorinus were printed (no comparable examples in the Schoenberg Database), but the present manuscript was customized with additional texts for a Carthusian user. An interesting chart on f. 10 illustrates the relationships among the hexachords, echoing the shape of an organ.


1. The support, script, and style of decoration in the manuscript suggest a date of origin from the late sixteenth century, confirmed by a chart for determining the date moveable feasts from the year 1597 to 1680 (ff. 7-8v). The calendar (ff. 1-6v) points to a Carthusian as the original owner and includes the feast and octave of St. Bruno (6 October, 13 October), founder of the Carthusian order, the feasts of St. Hugh of Grenoble (1 April), St. Hugh of Lincoln (16 November), and a day of “Commemoration for our deceased brothers” (9 November) (Moustier, 1957). A short sequence of chant (ff. 151-152v) for the “commemoration of the community” also includes a sung prayer to St. Bruno. Many of the feasts support an Italian origin: St. Anthony of Padua (13 June), St. Nicholas of Tolentino (10 September), St. Januarius (19 September, patron of Naples), St. Anastasia (25 December, venerated at Verona). Regionalization to northern Italy may also be supported by the addition of Saint Mark (25 April, patron saint of Venice), not included in the Carthusian calendar compiled by Moustier (1957). Two pages of text in Italian (ff. 150 r-v) confirm, an Italian origin; the text paraphrases another manual of music, Bonaventura da Brescia, Regula musice plane, Brescia, 1497 (Seay, 1979, p. 39).

2. On f. 158v, book plate with coat of arms of Conte Domenico Levera (1738-1817) of Bologna, who is buried there in the Certosa or former Carthusian charterhouse (Zecchi, 1825-27, vol. 4, no. 145; Gelli, 1908, p. 221).

3. Front flyleaf, f. i, inscription in pencil in a modern hand: “Cantica sacra.” Underneath this, in a different hand, in pen, an inscription in modern German: “Aus der Calendar Benutzung lässt sich schliessen, dass das Buch um 1596 geschrieben ist.” Inside back cover, inscription in the same hand as flyleaf i, in pencil, “Lire 120.-- / Marks;” a second set of inscriptions, in a different hand, in pencil, “T.C.” and “657 MK.


ff. 1-6v, Calendar;

ff. 7-8v, Tabula festorum mobilium, table to determine dates of movable feasts, 1597-1680;

f. 9r, Chart demonstrating the tonal relationships among the eight modes of music;

f. 9v, Chart demonstrating the use of the principal clefs: G, C, F, Γ (gamma);

f. 10r, Gamut chart demonstrating the tonal relationships among hexachords;

ff. 10v-16v, Text from the Compendium musices (ed. Crawford, 1985, pp. 37-57):

ff. 10v-11r, Incipit, “Quisquis ad canendi scientiam erudiendus accedis, dispositionem, vim, et ordinem litterarum, per quas omnis cantus habet discretionem, cordi memoriter inprimas … et habent principium in secunda iunctura medii, finem vero in tertia iunctura eiusdem a tergo”;

ff. 11r-12r, Incipit, “Praeterea sciendum est quod B rotundum in disposition litterarum … Septima habet principium in g acuto, finem vero in EE superacuto, et cantatur per ## quadrum superacutum”;

ff. 12v-14v, Brevis et utilis regula pro fiendis mutationibus, “Mutatio est alicuius vocis vel notae unius proprietatis in alteram … Quartusdecimus mutationis locus DD superacutum et tertium”;

f. 15rv, De intonatione psalmorum dantur hi versus, videlicet, incipit, “Primus cum sexton, fa sol la semper habeto … Qui uelut autentus conscenderit, utque plagalis Depressus fuerit tonus, ipsum dicito mixtum”;

f. 16, De Tono, incipit, “Tonus qui omnium prima et integra dicitur esse coniunctio …”; De Semitonio, incipit, “Semitonium minus est duorum sonorum inaequalium … acutis, et superacutis, ut hic patet exemplo”;

f. 16v, Sancta Brigida, incipit, “Clericorum cantus non sit remissus … audientes quam propter Deum,” Hic modus cantandi reuelatus fuit a Domino Jesu Christo sancte Brigide vidus ut habetur in suo volumine et in Libro Extravaganti cap. iiii;

St. Bridget of Sweeden (c. 1303-1373), was the founder of the Brigittine Order, and the author of a number of works, including the work cited here, the Revelationes extravagantes.

ff. 17-22, Invitatories for the year, including one for the dedication of a church;

f. 23v, blank;

ff. 24-31v, Variations on the invitatory, “Venite exultemus domino,” Psalm 94;

ff. 32-69, Chants for the divine office, Sundays and feasts of the Temporale, Advent through the octave of Corpus Christi, then Sundays after Pentecost, August through November;

ff. 69- 133v, Chants for the divine office, feasts of the Sanctorale, from the Conversion of Paul (25 January) through the end of the Common of Saints;

ff. 133v-134, Variations on the Gloria Patri, one for each of the eight modes;

ff. 134v-149v, Chants for the Divine Office, Sunday through Saturday;

f. 150rv, Del modo d’intuonare nelli chori, in Italian, written in red, ending in lines of diminishing length, as in a colophon; text paraphrases Bonaventura da Brescia, Regula musice plane (Seay, 1979, p. 39).

ff. 151-152v, Sequence of chant for the commemoration of the community, including prayers to the Virgin (Salve Regina), St. John the Baptist, St. Jerome, and St. Bruno;

ff. 153-154v, Singing exercises, De octo Tonis regularibus and Modus cantandi in Matutinis”;

ff. 155r-157v, Miscellaneous chants, including the collect for Good Friday, “Oremus dilectissimi nobis,” and “Credo quod redemptor meus vivit” from the Office of the Dead;

f. 158, Index, added later;

f. 158v, blank, with added Book plate, Conte Domenico Levera of Bologna (see Provenance, above);

f. 159rv, blank.


This music manuscript includes an unusual full-page miniature on folio 10r that presents a chart which outlines the relationships among the hexachords. (We thank Professor Nancy van Deusen for assistance with the theoretical portion of the manuscript.) The image suggests the pipes of an organ, stacked in increasing heights toward the center, and is based on a woodcut used to illustrate editions of the Cantorinus published by Giunta (Crawford 1985, p. 35b). The unknown artist presents an abstract but lively interpretation of sound vibrating through an instrument. The illustration is too schematic to provide a clue to its date or localization, but the attractive, calligraphic cadel initials used throughout the manuscript are characteristic of late sixteenth- century, broad-nibbed penwork represented in contemporary calligraphy manuals, such as that published in 1554 by the Venetian writing master Vespasiano Amphiareo (“Born to Please,” online).

Manuscripts of medieval chant are usually of large format, originally created in order to be read by a whole choir at one time. This manuscript, however, breaks from that tradition because it was created to be portable and meant for individual use. More usually found as a printed text, this book of chant represents a rare manuscript version of “the most practical and basic of all music books in the sixteenth century,” known as a Cantorinus (Judd, 2002, p. 368). Cantorinus texts were produced as pocket-sized books designed to teach music theory to monks, nuns, clergy, and choir boys who needed to learn to sing the Roman Catholic liturgy. A Cantorinus outlines the principles of solmization, a technique for singing the pitches of the western scale developed by Guido of Arezzo in the eleventh century (Murray, 2010, p. 25-36). It also explains the basics of medieval music theory, including relationships among intervals, hexachords, and modes in music (Van Deusen). The section on music theory of a Cantorinus is usually followed by a manual of selective or basic chants. Venetian printers including Lucantonio Giunta offered this text in about 29 editions from 1499 to 1597 (Crawford 1985, p. 16). Beginning in 1513, Giunta used an anonymous text known as Compendium musices to preface the standard songbook, and other Venetian printers followed his example. Giunta’s editions included diagrams of the Guidonian Hand and a related chart known as the Gamut (Crawford, 35 a-b). (For a digitized example of a printed Cantorinus, see the Gallica database referred below under “Online Resources.”)

This Cantorinus manuscript includes the nearly verbatim text of the Compendium musices (ff. 10v-16v) and the diagram of the Gamut (fol. 10 r) found in printed editions. Thus the manuscript most probably represents a copy of a printed book, although the precise edition remains unknown, reflecting a circumstance of book production not uncommon in the sixteenth century. The theoretical section of the manuscript is followed by an Antiphonary organized according to the liturgical calendar, although the examples are selective and sometimes chosen to support Carthusian practice. The need to customize the chant portion of the text may explain why a manuscript copy was made when a printed Cantorinus would have been available for purchase. As a whole the manuscript not only represents an example of practical music theory and educational methods during the time of the Italian Renaissance, but it also documents the continuity of monastic liturgical practice after the religious conflict presented by the Protestant Reformation in the early sixteenth century. This manuscript also demonstrates how the tradition of writing books by hand persisted long after the invention of printing, and how manuscript texts in the sixteenth century were often created first as books in print.


Bonaventura da Brescia. Regula Musice Plana: A Facsimile of the [Brescia, September, 1497] Edition, New York, Broude Brothers, 1975.

Brown, Patricia Fortini. Art and Life in Renaissance Venice, New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1997.

Crawford, David. The Anonymous Compendium Musices, Venice 1499-1597, Stuttgart, American Institute of Musicology, 1985.

Crawford, David. “A Chant Manual in Sixteenth-Century Italy,” Musica Disciplina 36 (1982), pp. 182-190.

Gelli, Jacapo. 3500 Ex Libris Italiani, Milano, Ulrico Hoepli, 1908.

Grotefend, H. Zeitrechnung des deutschen Mittelalters und der Neuzeit, Hannover, Hahn’sche Buchhandlung, 1892, Vols. 1-2.

Judd, Christle Collins. “Renaissance Modal Theory: Theoretical, Compositional, and Editorial Perspectives,” in Thomas Street Christensen, ed., The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 364-406.

Labalme, Patricia H. Saints, Women and Humanism in Renaissance Venice, Burlington, VT, Ashgate, 2010.

Moustier, Benôit du. “Le Calendrier Cartusien,” Études grégoriennes 2 (1957), pp. 151-161.

Muir, Edward. Civic Culture in Renaissance Venice, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1981.

Murray, Russel E., Jr., Susan Forscher Weiss, and Cynthia J. Cyrus, eds. Music Education in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2010.

Saey, Albert. Rules of Plain Music (Breviloquium musicale), Colorado Springs, Colorado College Music Press, 1979.

Zecchi, Giovanni. Collezione dei monumenti sepolcrali del cimitero di Bologna, Bologna, Giovanni Zecchi, 1825-1827, Vols. 1-4.

Online resources

“Born to Please: the Art of Handwriting Instruction,” University Libraries Rare Book and Special Collections (University of South Carolina


“Cantorinus ad eorum instructionem,” Gallica

Medieval Music Database

Ökumenisches Heiligenlexikon