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Assoc. Prof. Michael Noone studying the works of Renaissance era church music composer Tomas Luis de Victoria (Photo by Ana Ponce and Ivo Rovira)

Toledo Cathedral's Polyphonic Choir Books

Michael Noone

Professor, Chairperson, Music Department

The Spanish primatial cathedral in Toledo houses possibly the world’s largest collection of superbly illuminated musico-liturgical sources. Comprising over 230 atlas-sized parchment choirbooks copied in and for the cathedral between the 15th and the 19th centuries, the vast majority date from the 16th century. These archival sources fall into six categories: a) complete sets of payments to scribes, illuminators, and bookbinders for the period 1500-1800, b)minutes of cathedral chapter meetings beginning in 1466, c) prolix manuscript ceremonials closely documenting the changing minutiae of local liturgical observance, d) liturgical sources (breviaries, missals, processionals, graduals, etc.), e) library inventories dating from 1503, 1539, 1580, 1600, and 1790, and f) documents notarization of contracts with scribes, illuminators, binders and book dealers.

Our project is the first attempt to draw together the extensive metadata recorded in the archival documentation and relate it directly to every phase of the production of the series of polyphonic manuscripts. Images of the archival documents, together with transcriptions and translation will be linked to the manuscripts at the level of a) the physical folios, b) the physical books, c) and the individual works.

This ATIG application proposes

1) to create a new permanent archive of low resolution images of Toledo’s music manuscripts to facilitate their study and cataloguing

2) to create a parallel archive of the entire corpus of historical manuscripts that document all aspects of the choirbook collection’s manufacture, alteration, storage, restoration , and use.

3) to create a descriptive and analytical inventory/catalogue of the physical properties of the choirbooks

4) to create a catalogue of the musical works preserved in the choirbooks

5) to construct an interactive website for the choirbooks that includes musical transcription and sound files.