The Montpellier Codex

Catherine A. Bradley and Karen Desmond, eds., The Montpellier Codex: The Final Fascicle. Contents, Contexts, Chronologies. Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music (The Boydell Press, 2018).

The Montpellier Codex (Bibliotheque interuniversitaire, Section Medecine, H.196) occupies a central place in scholarship on medieval music. This small book, packed with gorgeous gold leaf illuminations, historiated initials, and exquisite music calligraphy, is one of the most famous of all surviving music manuscripts, fundamental to understandings of the development of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century polyphonic composition. At some point in its history an eighth section (fascicle) of 48 folios was appended to the codex: when and why this happened has long perplexed scholars. The forty-three works contained in the manuscript’s final section represent a collection of musical compositions, assembled at a complex moment of historical change, straddling the historiographical juncture between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. This book provides the first in-depth exploration of the contents and contexts of the Montpellier Codex’s final fascicle. It explores the manuscript’s production, dating, function, and notation, offering close-readings of individual works, which illuminate compositionally progressive features of the repertoire as well as its interactions with existing musical and poetic traditions, from a variety of perspectives: thirteenth- and fourteenth-century music, art history, and manuscript culture.

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Reviews

[A]n illuminating and engaging volume, with discoveries not only beneficial for early musicologists, experts, and performers, but also for connoisseurs of early music and others curious about the traditions, transmission, and performance of music in Medieval France.

Samantha Bassler, Early Music America

This book will find itself on musicologists’ shelves and will be a must-order for all academic libraries with music collections. Many of its chapters will quickly become standard citations in research on the medieval motet, and the book as a whole will stand as a central authority on the Montpellier Codex (and not solely on its final fascicle). It is well- planned, skillfully executed, and a testimony to the strengths of the editors and the individual contributors.

Mary Caldwell, The Medieval Review

[T]he volume features ample dialogue and healthy disagreement among authors, and cross-references abound, all marks of a well-planned, carefully executed collection of essays. The book will assuredly spark further scholarship on this monumental manuscript while simultaneously serving as a go-to resource for decades to come.

Jared Hartt, Speculum

A rich and varied crop of compelling scholarship, admirably executed and skilfully assembled by some of the finest minds now working on the music of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.

Thomas B. Payne, Plainsong and Medieval Music