Notated Manuscript Fragments from Medieval Hungary

The web-site Fragmenta Manuscriptorum Musicalium Hungariae Mediaevalis (Notated Manuscript Fragments from Medieval Hungary) aims to discover, collect, classify and publish notated medieval and early modern manuscript fragments preserved in libraries and archival collections in Hungary and abroad from the territory of the historical Kingdom of Hungary, as well es fragments of foreign origin, survived in today Hungary. The idea of a music-based fragment catalogue with a search engine, containing both images and textual descriptions in an online accessible database was formed as part of the scientific project K 120 643 Codices and Fragments from late Medieval Hungary. Examining, Re-examining and Online Publishing of Notated Manuscripts and Chant Repertories started in 2016 (principal investigator Zsuzsa Czagány) funded by the Hungarian National Research, Development and Innovation Office, and subsequently becoming the main topic of the 2019 established ‘Momentum’ Digital Music Fragmentology research group funded by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The research is closely related to the decades-long musical, liturgical and paleographical examination of sources, repertories, melodic and notation systems of the cantus planus in Hungary and Central Europe at the Early Music Department in the Institute for Musicology of the Research Centre for the Humanities.

Besides the digital facsimiles of the fragments the database provides information on three levels.

I. Basic Data.

Bibliographical data, genre and age are summarized on the first level alongside information on the number of pieces and condition of the source(s). Basic codicological parameters (page size, writing space, column size, number of lines and columns, stave height) are also listed here. These are supported by information on the type of writing and musical notation used. Since the vast majority of processed sources are of Central European origin, we devote particular attention to examining the late medieval gothic types of musical notation characteristic of the region, on a level that surpasses the traditional approaches of musical palaeography. Following a description of the notation further characteristics of the notational system are listed, such as the colours of the staves, the unique shape or even absence of the custos, or special neume forms. The first level is ended with data on the host volume (liber tradens) and the bibliographical references or earlier catalogues. The primary level does not contain detailed information on the liturgical contents of the fragment, only a short indication of it.

II. Content.

The in-depth analysis of the liturgical and musical content is carried out on the second level of the database – all chants in the fragment are identified here. The liturgical content is discribed by means of three or four parameters (depending on whether it is a fragment from a Mass- or Office-manuscript, or from a temporale or sanctorale-part) – the liturgical time (Tempus), the feast (Dies), the hour (Hora), and the genre – musical identification is provided by the Incipit, the Mode and the CANTUS ID.

III. Analytical Description.

At the third level, the content characteristics are explained in a  deeper discursive-analytical way, which predicts the possible monographic processing of the fragment.

The Fragmenta Manuscriptorum Musicalium Hungariae Mediaevalis project is linked to other databases published online with similar goals, and can thus contribute to a virtual reunification of lost or disseminated fragments and groups of fragments that were once dispersed in different libraries, towns or even countries.