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Musical Notation, in the Caligula Troper

Musical Notation, in the Caligula Troper

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1060

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Caligula A XIV

Item number: f.37r

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

Made up of fragments from a late Anglo-Saxon liturgical chant book plus a fragment of a late 12th-century musical manuscript, the Caligula Troper's illuminations introduce songs which would be inserted into the mass on special feast days and sung by a soloist, hence the book's small scale. The pictures' geometric abstraction of form and use of vibrant colours embellished with gold give an opulence that speaks of manufacture for use by an important figure. It is named for its 17th-century position in a bookcase supporting a bust of Caligula in the Cotton rare books library. Its selection of tropes (songs) and where it was in the Middle Ages suggest origins at Winchester or Worcester.

The late 12th-century troper is typical for its time. It begins with troped kyries (hymns with musical notations) with latin texts. By this time, musical notation using lines to indicate specific pitches was in use in England. The 11th-century troper's musical notation as well as its texts had become outdated soon after it was made. This suggests that the two fragments of musical books were bound together fairly soon after the late 12th-century troper was made.

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