A TEMPORARY exhibition of Manuscripts illustrating the history of Musical Notation has been arranged in the Saloon of the Department of MSS. It is supplemented by a smaller number of printed books which are displayed in the King's Library.
The collection of MSS. covers the long period of nearly a thousand years, from the 10th century to the present time. In them can be followed the growth of Musical Notation, through its various stages, from the simple breath-signs, or Pneums, to the system of our own day; and the development of the five-line stave from the adoption of the single line.
In the large upright case, marked A., in the centre of the saloon, are placed the earliest specimens, nearly all being Church service-books. These are supplemented by MSS. of similar character, displayed in Table-case B.; in which will also be found some early examples of secular compositions, those of English origin having a special interest. Part-songs, music for the virginals and lute, and other works of the 16th and 17th centuries, are exhibited in Table-case C. And in Table-case D. is a series of MSS. ornamented with drawings or illuminations, in which the various musical instruments of the Middle Ages are incidentally represented. The Tables E. and F. are fitted with frames, which enclose autograph compositions of some of the most famous modern composers.
Among works which deal with the subjects of Early Music and Musical Notation are—
Chappell's "Popular Music of the Olden Time;" Coussemaker's "Histoire de l'Harmonie du Moyen Age;" Gerbert's "De Cantu et Musicâ Ecclesiæ," vol. ii.; Riemann's "Studien zur Geschichte der Notenschrift"; and articles in Grove's "Dictionary of Music and Musicians," and Stainer and Barrett's "Dictionary of Musical Terms."
E. Maunde Thompson.
Dept. of MSS.
10th June, 1885.