Found medieval manuscripts explained.

A detail of one of the found manuscripts.

Not long ago, two medieval musical manuscripts were discovered at Mount Holyoke College, adding to the collection housed in its archives and art museum.

Adeline Mueller, assistant professor of music, recently discussed the pieces and the meaning of some of their features with New England Public Radio’s Susan Kaplan.

Speaking from Abbey Chapel, where a reproduction of one of the original manuscripts now hangs, Mueller explained that medieval musical manuscripts were quite large because they were made to be sung by a group of singers standing at a distance. The ornate lettering and specific designs were once meant to help guide the singers’ eyes as much as to showcase scribes’ talents.

Such manuscripts were collected in books, or codices, said Mueller. But wars, commerce, and chaos led to the books becoming unbound. Many of the individual leaves were scattered around the world. But recently, digital databases have come online in an attempt to codify and catalog the individual leaves, giving hope that some of these pieces may ultimately be reunited.

Hear the story.