Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/17

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SUMER IS ICUMEN IN (continued from Tol. iii. p. 768).

While receiving with due respect the judgment of the writers already quoted, we cannot but feel that, in most cases, their authority is weakened, almost to worthlessness, by the certainty that it rests on evidence collected entirely at second-hand. Neither Forkel, de Coussemaker, nor Ambros, ever saw the original document ; their statements, therefore, tend rather to confuse than to enlighten the enquirer. Still, great as are the anomalies with which the subject is surrounded, we do not believe them to be irreconcileable. Some critics have trusted to the peculiar counterpoint of the Kota, as the only safe guide to its probable antiquity. Others have laid greater stress upon the freedom of its melody. We believe that the one quality can only be explained by reference to the other, and that the student who considers them separately, and without special reference to the caligraphy of the MS., stands but a slender chance of arriving at the truth. We propose to call attention to each of these three points, beginning with that which seems to us the most important of all the character and condition of the MS.

1. The style of the handwriting corresponds so closely with that in common use during the earlier half of the 13th century that no one accustomed to the examination of English MSS. of that period can possibly mistake it. So positive are the indications, on this point, that Sir Frederick Madden—one of the most learned palaeographers of the present century—did not hesitate to express his own conviction, in terms which leave no room for argument. The whole is of the thirteenth century,' he says, 'except some writing on ff. 15-17.' And, in a later note, comparing this MS. with the 'Cartulary of Beading' (MSS. Cott. Vesp. E. v.), he states his belief that, 'in all probability, the earlier por- tion of this volume' i.e. that which contains the Rota—'was written in the Abbey of Read- ing, about the year 1240.'[1] The present librarian, Mr. E. Maunde Thompson, unhesitatingly endorses Sir F. Madden's judgment; and the Palaeographical Society has also corroborated it, in connection with an autotype facsimile—Part VIII, Plate 125 (Lond. 1878)—referred to the year 1240.

Fortunately the MS. is in such perfect preservation that the corrections made during its preparation can be distinctly traced. In a few places, the ink used for the Antiphon on the preceding page can be seen through the vellum : but, apart from the spots traceable to this cause, there are a considerable number of evident erasures, clearly contemporary with the original handwriting, and corrected by the same hand, and in the same ink. The second note on Stave I was originally an F. The first and second notes on Stave 4 were originally two Cs; the fourth note^was a D; and the fifth, a C. Between the sixth and seventh notes, in the same Stave, there are traces of a D, and also of an F: the D has certainly been erased to make room for the present notes; the appearance of the F is pro- duced by a note showing through from the opposite side. The eighth note on this Stave was an E. Over the ligature which immediately follows, there are traces of a C; and, towards the end of this Stave, a last erasure has been made, for the insertion of the solitary black square note.[2] The marks which show through the vel- lum are to be found near the beginning of Stave 3, and in several other places. Neither these, nor the erasures, are to be seen in our facsimile, though traces of both may be found in the auto-type of the Palaeographical Society.

2. The mixed character of the Part-Writing has puzzled many an able commentator; for, side by side with passages of rudest Discant, it exhibits

  1. See vol. iii. p. 268 a (note) ; and 765 6 (note).
  2. Compare with facsimile. rol. iii 9. 269.