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Norwich folio links two eras

29 April 2016

Photos Archant

In plain sight: the medieval manuscript page as it was found

In plain sight: the medieval manuscript page as it was found

A PAGE of a medieval plainsong has been discovered inside an antiquarian volume in the library of Norwich Cathedral, the Eastern Daily Press has reported.

The Latin chant was written in square notation in or around the 14th century.

The piece, written on sheep- or cow-skin parchment, was probably plundered by Henry VIII’s commissioners during the dissolution of the monasteries, and survived because it was used to help bind the later book, which was created in 1548. A piece of paper was stuck over the manuscript page, and it became visible only as the glue weakened over time, and the leaves separated.

It was discovered last month by a conservator, Lorraine Finch, as she surveyed the cathedral library’s collection. “I think this is a really significant find, and it is only because the book was falling apart that I managed to see it,” she said.

“If you think what this has been through: if it is from the 14th century, it could be 700 years old, and has survived all of the biggest events in British history. It is the largest reused music manuscript in a binding that I have ever seen in my 20 years as a conservator.”

The book, Erasmus, had originally belonged to the parish of Shipdham, near Dereham, Miss Finch said. The chant is thought to have been used for the feast of Epiphany.

The librarian and curator at Norwich Cathedral, Gudrun Warren, said: “It is certainly the biggest bit of manuscript we have got here. It is exciting, as it belongs to a parish church, and it is a link between pre-Reformation books and post-Reformation.”

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