Music Palaeography


The aim of this course is to introduce the student to styles of polyphonic musical notation from the 15th century onwards, with an emphasis on important centres of manuscript production in northern Europe, Italy, Spain and Portugal. We will consider vocal and instrumental music preserved in both manuscript and (from c. 1500 onwards) printed sources. The student will be guided through copious examples available in photographs and facsimile editions, learn how to read these early musical sources, and also how to transcribe and edit them into modern score format.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Available soon


Weekly - 3 letivas + 1 tutorial

Total - Available soon

Teaching language





AAVV (2001). Notation. In S. Sadie (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. London: Macmillan.
Apel, W. (1953; R/1961). The Notation of Polyphonic Music, 900-1600. Cambridge, Mass.: The Mediaeval Academy of America.
Caldwell, J. (1985; R/1995). Editing Early Music. Oxford: OUP.
Ferreira, M. P. (2012). Harmonias do Céu e da Terra. Lisboa-Guimarães: CESEM.
Rastall, R. (1983). The Notation of Western Music: An Introduction. London: J. M. Dent.
Rees, O. (1994). Newly identified holograph manuscripts from late-Renaissance Portugal. Early Music 22(2), 261-77.
Suñol, G. M. (1935). Introduction a la Paléographie Musicale Grégorienne. Tournai: Société de Saint Jean L´Évangéliste.

Teaching method

30% theoretical exposition and 70% practical work. Lectures and demonstrations by the teacher; practical work by the students, including recognition of notational uses, and transcription/retroversion of given musical illustrations. Close examination and interpretation of musical sources. The student will be guided through copious examples available in photographs, ppt presentations, facsimile editions, and in modern scores available in the FCSH; will learn how to read, transcribe and edit them. Discussion in class of key texts.

Evaluation method

Evaluation: 1. Participation (20%). The students will regularly be given short assignments to be discussed in class. 2. Short test halfway through the course, concerning chant notations (40%) 3. Final test, concerning short polyphonic examples, or preparation of a critical edition of a piece of music (40%).

Subject matter

The following topics will be covered: an introduction to the history of musical notation from the earliest sources; types of musical sources, and classification of vocal repertories; presentation of vocal polyphony in late medieval and renaissance sources (including choir-book and part-book format); an introduction to the principles of white mensural notation used for vocal polyphonic music (note values, proportional time-signatures, coloration); calligraphy, conventions of script, and textual underlay; systems of instrumental tablatures; an introduction to the principles of musical transcription and editing.


Programs where the course is taught: