VERY BEAUTIFUL and exceedingly rare 1661 edition of the Graduale Romanum is now being hosted in the St. Jean de Lalande Library of Rare Books. This tome of sacred music was printed in Antwerp by Cornelius Woons, and is a treasure to behold. Many intricate hand drawn pieces of artwork appear throughout.
We have something special in store for those who wish to study this Graduale Romanum (1661AD) deeply and thoroughly. For this special edition, we have employed high end camera equipment and lenses that are more typically used in professional studio photography, in order to capture crisply focused, full color and high resolution imagery of this manuscript, and we are happy to make this available online, free of charge.
It is amazing to find an antique book of this age in good condition that is nearly complete. There appears to have been 678 pages originally, and only about 16 pages from a section in the back containing devotional hymns were missing. The Proper of the Mass for the Temporal and Sanctoral Cycles, and many other Masses for various special occasions, and the Kyriale appear to be complete. Some “interesting” artifacts are present such as where the page numbers repeat on consecutive pages, and where some page numbers were skipped entirely without any apparent effect upon the contents.
We have only had this book in our possession for a few weeks, during which time we were actively working on getting the pages ready to share with all of our readers. Based on the few comparisons I have made so far, the melodies are strikingly similar to those found in the Editio Vaticana. Let’s take a look at the Puer Natus Est. There are a few differences, but overall we hear a very familiar chant:
The viewer used for the book includes thumbnails at the left hand side, an option to make the viewer full screen in the lower right corner, page navigation controls at the top, and the ability to zoom in very deeply using the mouse or the top buttons to examine the typesetting and even the imperfections of the paper! Here are a few more samples of the view and zoom functionality in action:
When I saw this book of sacred music for the first time, it struck me how much history has transpired during the time it has been in print, and that it had to survive countless sources of danger and destruction. I have wondered how fragile it might be, or how susceptible the pages would be to the wear applied by my hands. The flimsy string that binds each group of thick papers has held strong, but they are weary. While so many generations have come and gone, and the territories where this book has found domicile have even exchanged hands in the throes of war, the book has made its way here to continue doing what it was meant to do, namely the permanent communique of our liturgical music heritage.
I find it greatly edifying and fulfilling to observe the consistency of our Catholic form of worship encoded within these pages, and feel a strong sense of connection at least to the morality and creed of its former owners. This book was certainly great consolation to someone near Antwerp named N. van Warmerdam, who inscribed their name twice upon the pages, and frequented the choir stalls of a sanctuary in what is present day Belgium.
Upon seeing this manuscript for the first time, Jeff Ostrowski had this to say about this new addition to the Library (reprinted with permission):
Matthew, this discovery of yours is beyond fantastic! First of all, the way you’ve presented it in your online viewer is pristine. I see that you provided a thumbnail view to quickly go through the entire book, but you can also immediately (no lag!) and instantaneously zoom in all the way, as if one’s nose were pressed against the page in real life. Unlike so many manuscripts I’ve seen online—which are laggy, temperamental, and frequently go offline inexplicably—the viewer you have created is flawless.
Now, regarding the music: This is what’s really important. As we know, sometimes narratives get created and then repeated ad infinitum. An example dealt with the Editio Medicæa. Those who wanted to attack it insisted vehemently that Palestrina had absolutely nothing to do with its creation. The truth is much more complicated. The pope, in fact, commissioned Palestrina to corrupt the chants (“corrupt” according to our sensibilities) and anyone who takes the time can view the papal document commissioning him. It is true that Palestrina died before it was completed, but his son continued (somewhat) the work. Regardless of Palestrina’s personal involvement, which has been argued over for a century, the simple reality is that his students and colleagues completed the work—and nobody disputes this. In other words, regardless of what Palestrina personally touched, his colleagues and students (we know) are generally in line with his sensibilities and thinking on the matter of plainsong simplification.
Why does any of this matter? In essence, we have always been told the Editio Medicæa (and its continuation by Pustet and Haberl) was basically the only edition in circulation until the restoration from Solesmes Abbey. This is not true. To put in another way, we have always been told everyone before the Editio Vaticana was singing from editions that were totally corrupt and worthless in every way.
Your discovery, which you have made available so freely to the world in such a splendid way—at least from the samples I have seen so far (and I look forward to carefully examining each page with relish)—demonstrates that their narrative cannot be maintained. Your edition does not truncate and corrupt and mutilate and destroy the Melismata, Melodies, Rhythm, and Tonality as did, for example, the very popular editions of Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers (d. 1714).
For example, the Aspérges Me and Vidi Aquam are surprisingly similar to what we have in the Editio Vaticana. And the Kýrie Eléison from Mass I preserves the TI in a more “authentic” way then the so-called Teutonic dialect adopted by Abbat Pothier at the urging of Dr. Peter Wagner.
To sum up, my cursory examination of your manuscript from 1661 A.D. almost knocked me off my feet, because so many of the melismata and so much of the tonality are barely corrupted at all.
— Jeff Ostrowski
I hope and pray that you, dear reader, may browse or sing from this book and find the same kinship with these our brethren, separated from this world before us who lived in the 17th Century, prayed the Mass with this chant edition and may still be numbered among the Poor Souls, via this our initial foray into high resolution, full color publication of rare Sacred Chant books.
|1661 Graduale Romanum|
This very beautiful and exceedingly rare 1661 edition of the Graduale Romanum was printed in Antwerp …