Screenshot of echemata listed in LmL

Since some years the LmL has used the database technology once developed for Grimm's historical dictionary of German language. I checked from time to time, how far the alphabet was filled, and it seems that it is complete now.

Please, everyone who asked for tactustempustonussonus or absonia, try the new technology of cross-references for any terminus you would like to know more about. About the corpus of texts quoted here, please read the preface.



The goal of the Lexicon musicum Latinum medii aevi (LmL) is to record and investigate the technical Latin musical vocabulary of the Middle Ages. The necessity for a comprehensive treatment of this field arose mainly from the fact that technical aspects can not be examined in general dictionaries to the extensive degree required by specialists, and the temporal limits covered by these dictionaries usually extends only to the 13th century.

The LmL was founded in 1961 at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences following the initiative of the musicologist Thrasybulos Georgiades (Munich) and the medievalist Walther Bulst (Heidelberg). Originally planned as a common undertaking of the Bavarian and Heidelberg Academies, LmL was situated in Munich, where, because of the presence of the Thesaurus linguae Latinae and the Mittellateinisches Wörterbuch , the most favorable conditions conceivable were offered. Shortly thereafter, however, the Heidelberg Academy had to give up its participation in the project, since neither staff nor funding could be put at its disposal. Ernst Ludwig Waeltner and Hans Schmid were trusted with carrying forward LmL, and these two scholars presented the project and described its potential and goals in two articles. The collection of sources and terms was finally handed over to E. L. Waeltner, who directed the LmL over a period of fifteen years.

Ernst Ludwig Waeltner had wisely foreseen the potential of computers; from the beginning he designed the LmL in view of the consequent use of electronic data processing. At that time the use of computers represented unexplored territory for humanistic disciplines and lexicography. After the first years of laborious explorations and attempts, which hindered the progress of work more than helped, electronic data processing increasingly began to develop into an effective instrument, without which such an extensive textual basis could never have been gathered by such a modest staff. The enormous progress in this technique now makes it possible to produce professional camera-ready copy (PC-TEX) through a conversion program directly from the manuscript of the article prepared on the computer with a word processor (Microsoft Word). This copy then only needs to be printed using the offset process.

In 1975 Ernst Ludwig Waeltner died unexpectedly. At his death the treatises of Guido of Arezzo and excerpts from Isidor's Etymologiae were stored on about 30,000 punch cards. Moreover the works of John Scottus Eriugena were excerpted on note cards. Studies on Aurelian and Johannes Scottus, as well as the Wortindex zu den echten Schriften Guidos von Arezzo, have appeared as fruits of Waeltner's labors on LmL. In 1976 the undersigned assumed editorship of LmL, and since 1988 a second position has been allocated to the project. Presently over 500 texts have been recorded, encompassing approximately 3 million words.

One faces many obstacles when working with the music of the Middle Ages. Research in this field is dependent on two kinds of sources: the music itself, which has been handed down to us through notation, and texts from the Middle Ages dealing with music. Other sources can supplement these two principal sources only to a very limited degree. Direct access to the music of the Middle Ages is closed to us, the tradition irrevocably interrupted. The discussions of music recorded in numerous medieval texts serve as key to this music. There are some spheres of medieval music which are only known through theoretical witnesses, for example, early organum, the earliest form of polyphonic music. We know something about this practice from treatises as early as the ninth century, thus from a period in which no unambiguous, generally accepted form of musical notation was available.

The quantity of medieval sources for music theory is so large that it can not possibly be surveyed by a single scholar. Moreover, a thorough sifting and interpretation of terminology is a precondition for understanding these sources. Accomplishing these tasks is the goal of the projected Lexicon musicum Latinum.

The fundamental consideration for compiling a dictionary rests first of all on a very judicious selection of the textual material which is to form the basis for the articles. Certain limits in this area were obviously necessary to allow processing materials within a reasonable period of time.

The textual basis for the LmL is limited to the technical literature, that is, the music-theoretical texts. In this realm our goal has been the complete collection of all printed texts. There are, of course, also passages treating music in non-technical literature, yet such references are problematic in many respects: it is often difficult to demonstrate the competence of an author; moreover explanations of the terms used are normally missing, whereby an exact interpretation becomes difficult if not impossible; and finally, in the majority of cases only basic terminology is used, terminology which is otherwise known through the technical texts. Exceptions naturally occur, and LmL will make note of these cases should they arise.

Besides the purely musical treatises, however, those texts have also been considered which contain larger sections devoted to music, such as, for example, the commentaries on Martianus Capella, or the chapter on organ building in the Schedula diversarum artium of Theophilus Presbyter. On the other hand, the presentations on music in works of an encyclopaedic nature have not been included, for they are, in the main, compiled from older sources and they yield little of lexicographical significance. Likewise the late medieval texts mixed from various languages have not been included.

The temporal limits for the collection of references reaches from the beginning of the Carolingian period until the end of the 15th century. The 9th century was chosen as earlier limit because the theory of this period formed the starting point of musical development in the West. Yet since music theory did not spring up from nothing, but rather incorporated the inheritance of ancient Latin theory, those texts that shaped the thinking of the Middle Ages were included as background. Those older texts which were devoted wholly to music, or which contain larger sections concerning musical thought, were thus included in the textual basis of LmL: Vitruvius, Censorinus, Calcidius, Augustine, Macrobius, Favonius Eulogius, Martianus Capella, Fulgentius, Boethius, Cassiodorus, and Isidor. Ancient terminology that was not actually used in the Middle Ages is not treated in LmL. The Thesaurus linguae Latinae gives sufficient information concerning these terms.

The later limit of 1500 seems reasonable because a clear break in the tradition can be established in music theory at this time. With Tinctoris and Gafurius a final apex of theory truly medieval in character is reached. The theory of mensural notation is fully developed and from this point on is only simplified and desystematized (Sebald Heyden). More and more the vernacular languages gain the upper hand over Latin—the language which had dominated learned discussion up to that time—and this gave rise to national terminologies (Gonçalo Martinez de Bizcargui (1508) in Spain; Arnold Schlick (1511), Sebastian Virdung (1511), Martin Agricola (1532) in Germany; Giovanni Spataro (1521), Pietro Aron (1523), Gioseffo Zarlino (1558) in Italy; Pontus de Tyard (1555) in France; Thomas Morley (1597) in England). In the later Latin texts medieval terminology is either discarded or only repeated out of respect for the past. For these reasons the year 1500 quite clearly marks a turning point.

Before work on the dictionary itself could begin extensive preparatory work had to be completed in instances where only unsatisfactory textual bases were available. In order to place the collection of material on a more solid foundation, considerable weight was given to answering questions concerning originality of texts, authenticity of author attributions, and dating. To this end considerable evidence from manuscript sources was also brought to bear. Moreover editions were evaluated from a philological perspective, their texts were collated and, in certain cases, emended according to manuscripts when questionable readings proved to be clearly incorrect.

In addition, extant theoretical manuscripts were surveyed and evaluated with respect to important treatises which would supplement already published materials. These treatises—unpublished or available in unsatisfactory editions—were in turn made available in the publications of the Musikhistorische Kommission. Further unedited material is not considered here; for, on the one hand, the managibility of the references is of paramont concern, and, on the other hand, the stated goal of LmL must remain in focus. A thorough reappraisal of the entire manuscript tradition, as desirable as it would be for determining the geographic dispersion and temporal duration of terms, will surely require the efforts of several other generations of scholars.

Finally, secondary literature treating music theory was collected and evaluated.

A customized database program was developed for the recording and evaluation of textual material, which now makes it possible to manage the recorded texts, to manipulate and search them according to various categories.

The choice of lemmata to be included in LmL is based essentially on two criteria: all terms in the narrow sense of the word will be included, that is, all words which have their own specific meaning in the field of music. Compound terms—e.g., musica ficta or cantare super librum—will be treated more extensively than in other dictionaries. In addition, lemmata are included which have played a prominent role in musical literature and thereby stand out in relation to their usage in the rest of medieval Latin literature. The word morosus, for example, is selected from descriptive adjectives, since musical theorists showed a conspicuous preference for this term; the word suavis, on the other hand, is not included, for it has no definitive connotation in music and is used in the same way in all spheres of Latin literature. The lemma abbreviatio is included, for while it is obviously used exclusively in a metaphorical sense in the literature of the Middle Ages (e.g., as “abridgement of a book”), only Johannes de Grocheio uses it in its original meaning (as “shortening of the string”). The boundaries of technical connotation cannot be rigidly defined, and thus the choice of lemmata will remain open to criticism.

The format of the articles by and large conforms to the proven model of the Thesaurus linguae Latinae and the Mittellateinisches Wörterbuch. The policy of the LmL, however, is to give as few indications concerning inflexion and grammatical or morphological peculiarities as necessary.

The layout of an article is determined by technical considerations. The first level of organization sets out the different meanings of a given word, and these are cited at the beginning of the article as well as at the heads of subsections. In cases of large quantities of material, further subsections are made as necessary. After the definitions, which are given in German and English, Latin synonyms—when they occur in the texts cited—are given in square brackets.

The subsections of each lemma, as well as the citations of references within the single subsections, are arranged chronologically, beginning in each case with the earliest reference. This system is also applied in the case of further subsections.

With respect to chronology, texts with no definite date appear at the end of the period indicated in the Inventory of Sources: a treatise dated as the first half of the 14th century will thus stand directly before a treatise which stems from the year 1450. Likewise treatises which cannot be more precisely dated stand at the end of the corresponding century. Treatises dealing with measurement of the monochord, organ pipes, and bells are handled as exceptions in the chronology: they are always entered at the end of a subsection. Likewise all counterpoint treatises are placed at the end of the 15th-century references.

Through citation of references, the textual basis of LmL is put at the scholar's disposal as extensively as possible, thereby creating a convenient tool for research. In the case of lemmata with up to a hundred points of reference, all references will be cited; if there are more than a hundred, a selection will be made so that each text will be cited at least once for each section of the article in order to convey an approximation of the geographical distribution and temporal duration of the term. Additional references from the same text for a given section will be indicated with the abbreviation al.. Citations from earlier theorists are indicated in most cases only through textual references and the word inde. An important secondary aspect of the LmL results from this process, namely the documentation of citations in music theory.

An attempt has been made to find sigla for texts as intelligible as possible. However, because of the quantity of anonymous texts, it has not always been possible to find a descriptive siglum in each case. Anonymous treatises which by tradition have an unmistakable title are cited with this title, e.g., Alia mus., Mus. ench.. The longer anonymous treatises, those exhibiting more disparate content, or those of particular import are cited according to the first editor or the location of the (single) manuscript when they lack an unambiguous title, e.g., Anon. Couss. IV, or Anon. Emmeram.. Anonymous treatises falsely attributed to an author, commentaries on a work, or compilations of a given author (e.g., the treatises “secundum Franconem”) are cited with this author's name and, if necessary, are numbered consecutively, e.g., Ps.-Theodon., Comm. Guid., Trad. Franc. I..

Certain groups of treatises, especially the small anonymous texts, are combined under one general siglum:

Cant. Plainsong treatises Mot. Motus treatises
Contr. Counterpoint treatises Mut. Mutation treatises
Cymb. Measurement of bells Neum. Tables of neumes
Disc. Discant treatises Org. Organum treatises
Fist. Measurement of organ pipes Organistr. Hurdy-gurdy measurements
Gen. disc. Treatises concerning genres of mensural music Prop. Proportion treatises
Interv. Treatises on interval theory Prop. mens. Mensural Proportion treatises
Mens. Treatises on mensural notation Tact. Tactus theory
Mod. Modal treatises Ton. Tonaries
Mon. Monochord measurements Vers. Versified treatises

In keeping with the principles established for gathering the textual basis, only those references are cited which stem from Latin music theory and are presented in the Inventory of Sources. Further references are given only in those exceptional cases where a certain passage is particularly noteworthy or the original source of a particular meaning for music theory. Texts not contained in the Inventory of Sources are cited either with traditional references (e.g., Verg. Aen.) or according to the bibliography. References to Thesaurus linguae Latinae , dictionaries of medieval Latin, or the Handwörterbuch der musikalischen Terminologie are given only in exceptional instances when a musical meaning is found in these sources which does not occur in the textual basis of LmL.

With respect to textual references, the order will be book, chapter, and sentence number, and only thereafter page and line number. The page number will be indicated by a p. placed before the number. For book, chapter, and sentence numbers only Arabic numerals are used. In cases of editions not readily available—mainly unprinted dissertations—older editions, when feasible, will be cited in parentheses. These editions are also listed in the Inventory of Sources.

Orthography in references follows that of the editions; punctuation is occasionally added for the purpose of better understanding. Textual emendations are incorporated into the quotation; the text of the edition is cited in parentheses as (ed.: ...). Purely graphic variants, such as u and v, j and i, are normalized. Text-critical symbols are used as follows:

< > conjecture [ ] interpolation ( ) explanation clarifying a quotation

Textual omissions in quotations of references are indicated as follows: ... Pitch letters are set within raised periods. A lower case s is used occasionally to indicate the halftone in a series of pitches.

The following abbreviations are used:

a. ante ex. exeunte n. neutrum
ad loc. ad locum f. femininum om. omisit
al. alius, alias fol. folium opp. oppositum
app. crit. apparatus criticus fort. fortasse p. pagina, post
c. columna, circa i. inter p. p. paulo post
cf. confer i. e. id est s. saeculum
cod., codd. codex, codices i. q. idem quod sc. scilicet
coni. coniecit ibid. ibidem sim. similiter
corr. correxit in. ineunte sq. sqq. sequens, sequentes
dub. dubius inc. incertus syn. synonymum
e. g. exempli gratia interp. interpolatio v. vide
ed. editio, edidit m. masculinum var. l. varia lectio

When other dictionaries or secondary literature provide a musical meaning not found in the textual basis of LmL, or offer a significant interpretation of the lemma in question, these references are given at the end of the pertinent section or at the end of the article.

As this work appears in print let me express the hope that LmL may contribute to strengthening the critical basis for the study of music from the Middle Ages—that music which has shaped our Western musical heritage in decisive ways, at its very origins.

Munich, Feast of St. Michael, 1991

Michael Bernhard

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  • The bibliography is a little bit outdated and limited, but like Grimm's dictionary you can improve some articles and continue the work on it, especially in the digital form.

    I expect for the future that also musical examples (such as echemata, psalmody and chant incipits) can be inserted with a direct reference to sources, not just only to editions which often left them aside.

  • Thank you, Oliver, this is a most interesting news, one that will keep many of us busy for years to come. It is a welcome complement to the search function of TML (

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