Medieval Music Manuscripts in Austrian Libraries

A cataloguing project (2008–15) on the medieval music manuscripts of the Austrian National Library in Vienna successfully and comprehensively fulfilled a desideratum of medieval music research in Austria. Many previously unknown sources were made accessible for the first time. For a significant number of already known sources, new findings were added or older ones corrected.

In preparing the project’s next phase, centered upon libraries outside Vienna, a comprehensive online database of about 3,000 liturgical manuscripts has been compiled. Even such rudimentary information can give a first impression of the enormous quantity and quality of sources. In addition, the holdings of various monasteries and churches in Austria (St Florian, Klosterneuburg, Mondsee, the German Order, the priestly brotherhood of Ferschnitz, and generally the Benedictine order and the Augustinian canons) were studied.

Over the next few years, around 400 medieval music manuscripts are to be examined and described. Among these sources are many important monuments such as the antiphonaries from Klosterneuburg (mid-12th century), graduals from St Florian and Kremsmünster (12th century) as well as an outstanding gradual from Melk (early 14th century). Another focus will be on the holdings of the Vorau Abbey Library. Several dozen music manuscripts are already available as annotated digital copies on the project websites.

In order to process the large number of codices in a short time, the descriptions must be significantly simplified. Inventories will be automated as far as possible using advanced techniques of optical handwritten text and notation recognition. With the help of deep learning processes, attempts will be made to open up text areas that cannot be recognised due to the technical limitations of optical recognition.