HAVE often spoken of what I call “the lazy historian.” That is someone who foolishly assumes everything that’s ever taken place in the galaxy has been carefully documented and preserved for future historians. Such a view—although it is complete lunacy—is unfortunately rampant in too many colleges and universities. Sensible people realize that reliable and impartial documentation is as rare as hen’s teeth. Furthermore, sensible people realize that even when documentation was kept, most of it has been lost or destroyed through the centuries.
I mention this because I recently published an article about the Pontifical Commission for the Editio Vaticana. Much of the information with regard to this topic comes from Dom Pierre Combe, who was an archivist at the Abbey of Solesmes and published a 425-page book in 1969. It is absolutely crucial to remember, when reading Combe, that his story is told entirely from the “anti-Pothierist” perspective (to use a term coined by an astute author in 1906). In other words, he only tells one side of the story, and does so in an extremely partisan way. I have always been in search of documentation providing “the other side of the story,” and Monsignor Francis P. Schmitt is hardly the only one we can consult. For example, Dr. Peter Wagner called Mocquereau’s rhythmic signs “an untraditional garment draped over the melodies.” And when Saint Pius X was presented with editions by publishers lacking rhythmic markings—Pustet, Mechlin, Schwann, and so on—Cardinal Merry del Val wrote a letter (dated 9 June 1906) saying: “His Holiness was pleased to receive this gracious gift and had, furthermore, words of praise for publications of this character which, in not presenting any sort of additions, are in true conformity with the aforementioned Vatican Edition.”
As far as I know, the most apropos document regarding the Mocquereau rhythmic signs is from January of 1906. Here it is in two translations from the French:
I find those two translations utterly fascinating. Moreover, I have taken the liberty of marking several important phrases in red ink, for your consideration!
Having read this letter, you will know exactly what Monsignor Francis P. Schmitt was talking about in his 1950s editorial: