Introduzione generale

Francesco Stella


This is the website of the textual and musical philological database of the earliest medieval Latin songs called Corpus Rythmorum Musicum: the printed and cdrom edition of the I series (songs from non-liturgical sources) has been published by SISMEL Florence in 2007, including digital reproductions of the manuscripts that here cannot always be displayed for copyright reasons. From 2011 the data of the next editions (computistic poems, rhythmical hymns) will be uploaded as they will be produced and processed by the research team to music. It presents for the first time, in print and in a digital format, texts along with the relevant music. It deals with the first Latin compositions in verses that are no longer quantitative, but rhythmic – that is to say based upon accentual and syllabic criteria. This tradition begins in the fourth century with the Psalmus responsorius of the Barcellona Papyrus and the Psalmus contra Donatistas by Augustine. It finds its first mature systematization in the Carolingian era before exploding a few centuries later into the outpouring of European lyric song (both in Latin and the vernacular) that reaches high points in texts such as the Carmina Burana up to the Fleurs du mal. From within this tradition, which forms the precursor to modern western poetry, the Corpus firstly collects those verses that have a musical tradition – that is to say those in which we find neumatic notation in the codices that record the songs; we can define this material, in a certain sense, as the first "songs" from a European lyric tradition that have left a written trace.


This project was born out of the confluence of research undertaken in musicology at Cambridge and philological research pursued at Arezzo and Florence. These two parallel developments found fertile common ground at the Euro-conferences Poetry of early medieval Europe held with the support of European Union funds between 1998 and 2000. This programme enabled the formation of a team of international researchers as reflected in the composition of the Scientific Committee and in the list of editors and editorial collaborators. It also led to the publication of two volumes comprising fortyfour preparatory studies presented in three conferences held in Arezzo, Ravello and Munich (the results of which were examined in a workshop held in Burgos in 2003); these papers, whose scope reflects the international dimension of the project, all demonstrate significant innovation in the study of rhythmical poems. We consider these studies as the true and proper prolegomena to this edition, addressing as they do the history of versification, comparisons with contemporaneous literature, the history of the manuscript tradition, linguistic theories, appropriate philological methods for working with these kinds of texts, analyses of individual lyrics, some editiones principes of the Corpus, the relationship between music and the scientific potential of information technology, and other such themes relevant to this edition. To this body of studies, which can be found in the volumes Poesia dell’alto medioevo europeo (2000), Poetry of the early medieval Europe (2003) and Poesía medieval 2005, one can also add the general introductions to the edition written by myself and Sam Barrett, the introduction to the manuscripts by Patrizia Stoppacci and the preface to the modern transcriptions of the music as recorded on the CD-ROM with suggested criteria for their sung interpretation by Giacomo Baroffio. In addition, a study of the composition and diffusion of the larger manuscript collections and an analysis addressing language and metre will be included at the end of the Corpus.



The agreed starting point for this publication was religious or secular poetry transmitted in non-liturgical collections, which was to be edited both in this volume/CD and the next (dedicated to rhythmical computus and calendars set to music) before continuing with hymns and other liturgical compositions that possess a rhythmic character. This framework is liable to change subject to decisions made by the Scientific Committee and the availability of resources. It has been shaped primarily by recent research, especially by that of Sam Barrett on the music of the great Latin song-writers of the early middle ages, and is hence a way of valorizing, if not fully reconstructing, the secular dimension of the musical-poetic production of the Latin and European early middle ages. One can read more about this and the scientific motivations for this study in the musical edition prepared by Barrett himself.

Each issue will contain one printed volume, with a "reconstructed" (commonly called "critical") edition of the texts and the musical notations, as well as introductory passages of both a particular and general character. There will also be a CD-ROM with the transcriptions, reproductions of the manuscripts (if resources will permit their acquisition) and the musical, metric and linguistic tables, with a search engine that will function as a generator of indices of any type. The transcriptions are accompanied on the CD with general observations on the graphics, mise en page, strophic division and punctuation.

Where melodies have been reconstructed and transcribed into modern notation, as is the case for several songs included in this first volume, the musical sections of the CD-ROM also contain images of the songs as transposed onto a five-line staff and audio recordings of the sung performances, which are usually limited to the first of the first two strophes (see the preface by Giacomo Baroffio). This is a possibility that no printed book could have offered, and it certainly contributes to a better understanding of the originals.

The order of the texts is provisionally alphabetic, inside each volume, according to the incipit. The CD-ROM will be able to create chronological or other types of order, as well as indexes of words, lists of manuscripts and other data.


The Corpus wishes to be innovative not only in its contents, but also in the form of the materials that accompany the printed volume in digital format. For the first time, one can find beside the critically reconstructed text in one or more versions, transcriptions of all surviving witnesses to the text (more than 175) and photographic reproductions of each manuscript; all of this was made possible by the authorization granted by 46 libraries throughout Europe. It allows the researcher not only to verify the primary source of each proposed text (a condition that is becoming increasingly necessary for an edition that wishes to be truly critical), but also to acquire the materials for any study of, or any alternative edition to, the texts and music provided within the volume. All these elements, framed in more than 150 fields, are equipped with an analytic filing of palaeographic, musicological and linguistic data that can be consulted only through the CD-ROM (as is also the case for the transcriptions and photographs), and which can be searched by means of a programme specially elaborated by Luigi Tessarolo. These tables, the work of scholars of various European universities, are constantly updated on the Corpus website ( This website is intended to be used as fertile ground for an open discussion of scientific themes related to the edition: the study of the Latin language in the period of transition to the proto-romance languages and the study of Latin versification in a period of transition from metre to rhythm. These are topics about which data and interpretative hypotheses follow each other, as testified by the triennial conferences on Late and Vulgar Latin and its immense background bibliography, or by the contrasting theories of Pighi, Meyer, Norberg and Klopsch, as well as Romanists such as D’Ovidio, Paris, Avalle and Spanke. In regard to such systematic points of view, we would like to underline the utility of an edition of texts that takes more into consideration the multiplicity of versions and the performative, musical and somehow oral contexts documented by the manuscript tradition. To this end, the Corpus makes available all the relevant critical material and philological information. In fact, a very uneven and confused situation has been seen to emerge right from the first surveys of the texts, with tendencies towards anisosyllabism that are typical of the primitive phases of a new versification (one has only to think of the history of Italian, French and Spanish poetry). One can also, however, appreciate a propulsive force created by the rhythmic impulse from the beginning to the end of the verse, as well as a certain conditioning through music that some of the contradictory hypotheses put forward by Norberg have perhaps obscured.

The tables can also serve as means to cross-reference information with other general information on the text (author, dates, manuscripts, bibliography) in order to undertake research that would be impossible through more conventional methods. For example, one could isolate the areas of major diffusion of particular melodies or of particular themes, the periods of development of certain metrical schemes or of certain linguistic phenomena, the presence of any particular element in a certain author or in a particular geographic area etc.


The criteria for the tables have been drawn up by the Scientific Committee specifically for the Corpus project. They work on two levels. At the first level they record the most evident divergences in the text from the conventional grammar of classical and postclassical Latin. This level is subdivided into traditional phonetic sections (vocalism, consonantism, accentuation), morphological sections (noun and verb) and syntactical sections, based on a list of phenomena suggested by Peter Stotz, integrated by myself, and constructed by Lucie Dolezalova and Nadia Togni; where we thought it possible, this analysis was conducted not only on the reconstructed text but also upon the different versions offered by each single source. A second level undertakes an experimental analysis of diachronic linguistics, produced by Michel Banniard, which is useful in making suggestions about the Latin of these poems with respect to the level of sophistication of the language and, as a possible evolution, to their distance from or proximity to the development of Romance languages: socio-linguistic status (the cultural level of the author, the audience, linguistic zone); the frequency of prepositions in relation to the number of those enunciated and the number of cases; the statistics on verbal disjunctions (the degree of separation between the subject and the verb), nominal disjunctions (separations between the elements of SN = noun/adjective/participle), the study of topological relationships (the position of the accusative block = SN2 with respect to the verb, the position of the SN block in the oblique case dative/ablative = SN3 with respect to the verb, the position of the SN4 = genitive or dative block with respect to the SN block that it completes), phrasing (idiomatic expressions in short segments of 2 to 4 words or in longer segments, and successions of long segments), and possible intersections between these pieces of information and those on accentuation and rhythm, which can be contextualized within the analysis of versification. This table has been put together by Francesca Sivo and Nadia Togni. The computer programme allows for searches on all these phenomena and also on every term in every edition and every transcription, although it should be said that one is dealing with searches on individual forms and not on words, as it would be risky to fix those in a definite way on material such as this.

Once we have assembled all the relevant pieces of information from across the whole Corpus, the linguists on the Scientific Committee (Banniard, Stotz, Spaggiari) will propose their own interpretative hypotheses on the basis of the results of these studies. Preliminary samplings (e.g. in F. Stella, Prossimità al protoromanzo, 2006) reveal interesting correlations between the lower values of some of the indices of proximity and authors credited with a greater traditional culture. At the same time, the studies bring to the fore some contradictions that might be able to supply material for reflection upon the history of the Latin language and poetic style.


For the most part, the textual editions were realized by philologists who collaborated in the preparation of the project according to individual competencies and inclinations. They are presented in alphabetic order by incipit. The scientific findings of the first three meetings and related publications became the basis for creating a standard of shared knowledge. The goals of the research, both philological as well as linguistic, were associated with the increasingly shared need for texts that would reflect the actual circulation of documents within their historical context, thus providing a text as faithful as possible to the way in which the original was trasmitted, except of course for mechanical errors. With this aim in mind, some working principles were drawn up for this edition, which were then adapted by each of the collaborators, allowing however for various degrees of adaptation according to individual sensitivities and preferences:

Variations in the editorial standard of the Corpus might be noted in the choice of whether or not to insert notations such as analytical comments and discussions about the leading errors: in general, however, we have presented only texts, music, introductions, apparatus, and the "metrical" and linguistic analysis, without annotations. These limits are due to the inevitable physical constraints presented by an edition that requires over 600 pages fully to cover 28 poems. Any further study can begin with this data, and especially with comparisons between the data and the musical edition.

With respect to the whole, it is important to note that this publication is in no way a reworking of the well-edited Strecker volume of the Rhythmi of the Merovingian and Carolingian eras: primarily because this is the first edition that will also contain the music, which Strecker and the other editors have not published, and also because of the 28 texts presented in this volume, many of which were not present in the Strecker edition, either because they were edited by Dümmler or Traube in a previous volume of the Poetae latini aevi Carolini or because they were as yet unknown (Adam, Arbor natus). Generally speaking, previous editions of these 28 poems are dispersed in four volumes of the Poetae, journal editions (Adam), single-author editions (Norberg for Paulinus of Aquileia, Weber for Gottschalk), miscellaneous editions (Aurora) or in anthologies (A solis). The situation is even more extreme in the case of volumes on rhythmic hymns, which Strecker intentionally left out of his volume.


It is, of course, impossible to remember all the debts owed to the infinite number of people and institutions for the creation of a work that is so complex. The institutions that collaborated have been listed in the title pages of the edition, along with the names of the editors and the creators of the CD-ROM. But I cannot omit some words of gratitude to Claudio Leonardi, who had wanted and favoured the creation of this Corpus; to Caterina Tristano and the young palaeographers of the Arezzo CISLAB, who managed to sustain the beginnings; to the "pioneers", who participated at three Euro-conferences; to the unknown colleagues, who have allowed for the realization of this project through their positive evaluations of the financing applications (P.R.I.N.) presented to the Ministry of Education, Research and Universities; to the members of the Advisory Board, and especially to Konrad Vollman, who generously read the whole volume; to the collaborators, Alessandra Terracina, Cristina Cartocci, Elisa Brunoni, Arianna Ciula, Patrizia Stoppacci, who have helped resolve with much competence and patient dedication many of the technical, philological, editorial and technological problems that the Corpus and the initiatives connected to it presented to us; to Luigi Tessarolo, whose technical expertise matches his capacity to understand philological problems; and to others who began with us, but for many reasons could not accompany us until the final moments – their contributions were nevertheless most precious.

When all has been said, the results of this work in its details seem, in the eyes of those who planned it, to be still far away from what one had initially imagined, and might perhaps seem disproportionate to the financial, scientific and human costs it has required. This work is a result of the conviction in philology of the document and of creative reception, both of which resulted in very challenging philological requirements and in two decisions which are relatively new with respect to the ecdotical conventions within the sector: the choice of a publication that, in order to record all of the forms of the "text", required a digital format, which in turn required the formulation of new software – and the necessity to individuate, acquire, arrange, scan, prepare, transcribe, catalogate and publish all of the 140 reproductions of the sources from the 40 libraries that owned them. This was a need that, as one can understand, entailed an enormous quantity of work that was often both technical and bureaucratic. These were decisions that had often blocked previous projects of that kind, and we do not have the assurance of having similar resources in the future in order to create the next volumes in the same way. On the whole, however, this project faithfully reflects the original intentions of its creators and tries to express a new model of edition that will betray to a minimum the creative mobility and the performative context of medieval texts. As the enthusiasm for research starts to dwindle under the pressures of unwieldy and always more improper university tasks, we can only hope that it will be transmitted to those who are yet able to experience the appeal, and help them overcome the convenience of convention.