In the early 13th century, a new format of bibles was developed: one-volume, portable manuscripts containing the complete biblical canon, in contrast to larger, multi-volume bibles which were previously the norm. In addition to the biblical texts, a significant number of 13th-century bibles also include texts for the celebration of the Mass, constituting a hybrid genre of Bible Missal. While most of these volumes provide only the texts of the liturgical services, three Bible Missals also include musical notation for the prefaces and certain other chants of the Mass: Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Lat. 163, Sheffield, Collection of the Guild of St George, Museums Sheffield, CGSG03638 (Olim R.3546), and the ‘Wellington Bible’ (now in a private collection). Although previous scholarship on Bible Missals has reached contradictory conclusions regarding the practical liturgical use of these books, the presence of musical notation in these three manuscript provides helpful evidence for understanding the form and function of Bible Missals in medieval liturgical practice.
Chaucer’s Boece in London, British Library Add. MS 10340 presents a minor mystery and a unique case for studying the late medieval interaction between literature, music, and the functions of memory. In this manuscript, a 30-note musical fragment on a 4-line stave is written in the marginal space just above the beginning of Book 2. No other musical notation appears in Add. MS 10340, nor in the remaining nine extant ‘Boece’ manuscripts. The placement is especially interesting, coming just before Lady Philosophy’s introduction of the character of Musica in the narrative. Here music and literature are combined on the manuscript page, presenting a uniquely mnemonic musical moment in a musico-literary work.
My paper will examine the scribal context of an untitled narrative verse dating to ca. 1250-1275 and commonly referred to as ‘The Ballad of Judas’. Its 33 lines, mostly in long couplets, occupy most of f.34r of Cambridge University, Trinity College MS B.14.39. There is no musical notation for the verse, and there has been much debate over whether it really is a ballad (the first in English)–or why, since it narrates a unique and non-scriptural version of Judas’ betrayal, it was copied, along with other religious verses and bits of prose, into what appears to be a miscellany of source material for preaching friars. At least four, possibly up to 13 scribes contributed to the 87-folio manuscript. My paper, which relies on examination of the recently digitalized MS B.14.39 and on Karl Reichl’s 1973 publication of that manuscript’s texts, will argue that ‘Scribe B’, who transcribed Judas, along with several intricately metered poems to the Virgin and the most elegant of six extant manuscript versions of a verse life of St Margaret, was a compiler of unusual skill and literary sophistication who included Judas because, despite its lowly folksong origins, it tells the story of Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’’ foreknowledge of it with economy and a moving sense of the tragic implications.