Paléographie musicale

Paleographie musicaleOn the website of the Abbey of Solesmes (which is celebrating its 1000th year since its foundation in 1010) we can read:

In 1833, a young priest of the diocese of Le Mans, Dom Prosper Guéranger, undertook the restoration of benedictine monastic life on the site of an old priory at Solesmes, after forty years of silence due to the French Revolution. He seized upon the restoration of Gregorian chant with enthusiasm and began by working on its execution, asking his monks to respect the primacy of the text in their singing: pronunciation, accentuation and phrasing, with an eye to guaranteeing its intelligibility, in the service of prayer. Dom Guéranger also placed the task of restoring the authentic melodies into the hands of one of his monks.

The handwriting, in “thin flyspecks”, of the original manuscripts was indecipherable at the time. But the invention of photography soon brought unforeseen benefits with it. Little by little, an incomparable collection grew at Solesmes, facsimiles of the principal manuscripts of the chant contained in the libraries of all Europe. This was the genesis of the Paleography of Solesmes.

In 1889 the first volume of Paléographie musicale was released. The goal of this edition is the publication of the extant manuscripts of latin liturgical chant. Now, twelve volumes of  the Paléographie musicale are available online thanks to Internet Archive.

These are the available volumes:

  1. Codex 339 of the Saint-Gall Library (Xth Century); this manuscript is also available in the Virtual Library Codices Electronici Sangallenses
  2. Graduale “Justus ut Palma” in reproductions from more than 200 manuscripts from the ninth to the seventeenth century – Part 1
  3. Graduale “Justus ut Palma” in reproductions from more than 200 manuscripts from the ninth to the seventeenth century – Part 2
  4. Codex 121 of the Einsiedeln Library (Xth-XIth century)
  5. Antiphonarium Ambrosianum of the British Museum (XIIth century) Codex Additional 34209
  6. Antiphonarium Ambrosianum of the British Museum (XIIth century) Codex Additional 34209 – Transcription
  7. Antiphonarium Tonale Missarum (XIth century) Codex H. 159 of the Bibliothèque de l’Ecole de Médecine de Montpellier
  8. Antiphonarium Tonale Missarum (XIth century) Codex H. 159 de la Bibliothèque de l’Ecole de Médecine de Montpellier, Facsimiles
  9. Monastic Antiphonary (XIIth century) Codex 601 of the Bibliothèque capitulaire de Lucques
  10. Gradual Laon 239 – joined in one file with Volume XI – This manuscript is also available online in Bibliothèque municipale Ville de Laon
  11. Gradual Chartres 47– joined in one file with Volume X
  12. Monastic Antiphonary (XIIIth century) Codex F. 160 of the Worcester Cathedral Library

There is a booklet included in the beginning of the first volume about the history of the edition. From this booklet we quote:


The editors of this compilation are greatly indebted to Dom Jacques Froger for his patient willingness to explain many details of the original publication. Without his help it would have been impossible to piece together the information that is given here on the history of this series.


The original plan was to publish Paléographie as a sort of periodical, with issues appearing quarterly. Vols. I-XVI were published in issues with consecutive numbering, bearing also the Année of publication and an indication of the year and month (for example: Paléographie musicale, Année 1, no. 1, Janvier 1889).

Vols. I-XV were published in quarterly issues (except in time of war) from 1889 until 1956 (published in January, April, July and October). On the cover of the first eight issues (Années 1-2) was printed “Pour paraître tous les trois mois,” or “Paraissant tous les trois mois.” This was changed on nos. 9-62 (Années 3-16) to read “Recueil trimestriel.” Beginning with no. 63 (Année 16, 1904) such an indication does not appear on the cover; the series was nevertheless still published in quarterly issues. The Année of publication was given on the cover only until Année 44 (no. 184); after this number only the number of the issue and the year and month of publication were given (for example, no. 185, Janvier 1955).

The following numbers were published together as double Issues: nos. 15-16 (Juillet/Octobre 1892); 34-35 (Avril/Juillet 1897); 68-69 (Octobre 1905/Janvier 1906); 173-174 (Janvier/Avril 1951); 175-176 (Juillet/Octobre 1951); 177-178 (Janvier/Avril 1952); 179-180 (Juillet/Octobre 1952); 181-184 (Janvier/Octobre 1953, a quadruple issue); issue no. 103 contains Juillet l914, Octobre l914, and Décembre 1921.

The contents of the various issues was in some respects Irregular. Some issues overlapped and extended into two different volumes of the series, or contained supplementary material for previous issues, material that anticipated as yet unpublished issues, or various inserts (e.g.  errata).

Vol. XVI contains four issues, but as these issues were sent together to the subscribers in October 1956, the dates on the issues are fictitious. Beginning with Vol. XVII the series was issued in complete volumes without numbered issues.

The material in Vols. VII and VIII was originally planned for publication in one volume. However, the preliminary commentary was in the end so extensive that it alone was published in Vol. VII, and the facsimile plates were published in Vol. VIII. This division of text and facsimile plates, however, was done after the fact. Thus it comes that in issues 47-67 a single issue may contain a few signatures of text (belonging in Vol. VII) and a few signatures of facsimile plates (belonging in Vol. VIII).

Vol. XV was first published in issues in the same manner as the previous volumes. However, because of the interruption occasioned by World War II, publication of this volume, begun in January 1937, was not completed until October 1953 (publication of the volume was first resumed after the war in 1951). This volume was also published in toto by Desclée In Tournai in 1953. Because publication of the volume extended over 16 years, the various sections are the work of severa1 hands. The volume was begun by Dom Hesbert and finished and corrected by Dom Hourlier and Dom Huglo. The foreword (pp. 1-15) Is by Dom Gajard; pp. 51-156 (a catalog of Benevantan manuscripts) were begun by Dom Hesbert and finished by Dom Hourlier (p. 71 through the top of p. 74 is attributable to Dom Hesbert, edited before 1938); pp. 157-161 (table of neumes)  were done by Dom Hourlier, as also the description of the manuscript, pp. 162-175.

From time to time, during the 85 years of publication, problems have arisen with regard to the numbering of the Année of publication. The following notes briefly the Années and years that are problematic to bibliographers: (For a more complete listing of Années, see Part III, p.xii.

Année 24 = 1912; through error Année 24 was extended to 1913, so that Année 24 includes 1912-13.
Année 25 = 1914+1921. Because of World War I publication was halted from October 1914 until December 1921.
Année 33 = 1929, and, through error, also 1930.

With no. 145 (April 1932) the error concerning Année 33 was corrected, so that
Année 35 = 1932 (January only)
Année 36 = 1932 (April-October ).
Année 40 = 1936, and, through error, also 1937.
Année 42 = 1939+1951. Publication was halted because of World War II.


The volumes of Séries II were published complete; they are not divided into issues. Although the two volumes of Series II are part of Paléographie musicale, they were conceived as an afterthought, an afterthought that has now outlived its reason for existence.

In its original conception, as reflected in the series title, Paléographie musicale should contain primarily facsimiles of Latin chant manuscripts (“Res, non verba”). However, Dom Mocquereau and Dom Gajard found it necessary to publish, in the Paléographie volumes, substantial essays that were not directly related to the manuscript under consideration. Some of the subscribers to the series reacted negatively to the inclusion of the essays, even to the point of cancelling their subsoriptions. To amend the situation, Dom Mocquereau published L’Antiphonaire de Hartker in a second series of Paléographie musicale. This second series. Series II: Monumentale, was to contain only the monument (the manuscript in question) and necessary material related to it (introduction, tables, etc.). The purpose of this series was explained by Dom Mocquereau in the preface of volume one . (In the reprint of this volume this introduction and the tables of manuscripts have been completely re-edited by Dom Froger.)

Beginning with Vol. XVI the series was returned to its original concept, thus eliminating the necessity for Series II. Vol. XVI and continuation of Paléographie musicale are to contain only material directly related to the manuscript being published in facsimile, including bibliography , discussions of provenance, tables organizing the contents, and the like. The essays on other aspects of chant are now published in the periodical ETUDES GREGORIENNES.


As noted above, the reprint is no longer divided into issues; the issues have been gathered into volumes, the title pages of each issue have been dropped, and the volumes are bound in artificial leather. Other than the necessary omission of now outmoded title pages, the reprint is complete. No integral material has been intentionally omitted. Thirty-one supplementary plates were accidentally omitted from the reprint of Series I, Vol. I, but the publisher has since supplied these plates without charge to those who had received defective volumes.

You can find a detailed table which shows how the issues were gathered into current volumes in Volume I.

Found through Musicologie médiévale

  1. Dear Sir/madam,
    Is there an Englsih edition of the Paleographie Musicale. This publication is so popular with secular music schools. Jeffrey Olsen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *