Logo der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

Lexicon musicum Latinum medii aevi (LmL)


Procedures in Composing a Dictionary

The first principal for compiling a dictionary rests on a very judicious selection of the textual matter which is to form the basis for articles. Certain limits in this area were obviously necessary to allow working through the materials within a reasonable period of time.

Defining the Material Basis

The textual basis for the LmL is limited to technical literature, that is, to music-theoretical texts. In this realm our goal has been to bring together the complete collection of all printed texts. There are, of course, passages treating music in non-technical literature as well; 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 usually absent, whereby an exact interpretation becomes difficult if not impossible; finally, in the majority of cases only elementary terminology is used, terminology which is otherwise known through technical texts themselves. Exceptions naturally occur, and LmL takes note of such cases.

Fundamental for dictionary work with the LmL: all musicological texts were not only imported into the database but also conventionally copied and organised alphabetically in folders according to their internal sigla.

In addition to the strictly musical treatises, however, those works have also been considered which contain larger sections devoted to music, 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, presentations on music in works of an encyclopaedic nature have not been included; for they are primarily compiled from older sources and yield little of lexicographical significance. Likewise, late medieval macaronic texts have not been included.

Defining the Temporal Limits

The temporal limits for the collection of references spans the the early 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 very starting point of Western music history. Yet since music theory did not spring from nothing, but rather incorporated the inheritance of ancient Latin theory, works that fundamentally shaped the thinking of the Middle Ages were included as background. These ancient texts devoted wholly to music or containing 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 not actually used in the Middle Ages is given no attention in LmL. The Thesaurus linguae Latinae offers sufficient information concerning these terms.

The later limit of 1500 seems reasonable because a clear break in the tradition of theoretical thinking can be established in at this moment. In the late 15th century a final apex of theory truly medieval in character is reached in the writings of Tinctoris and Gafurius. The theory of mensural notation becomes fully developed, and from this point on is only simplified and rendered more practical. Vernacular languages increasingly gain prevalence over Latin -- the language which had dominated learned discussion up to that time. In later writings the medieval terminology is either being abandoned or only retrospectively reiterated.

Extensive Preparatory Work

Before work on the dictionary itself could begin extensive preparatory work had to be completed, particularly in instances where only less than adequate 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 erroneous.

In addition to critical evaluation of printed texts, extant theoretical manuscripts were surveyed and evaluated with respect to important treatises that might supplement already published materials. These treatises -- unpublished or available in unsatisfactory editions -- were in turn made available in the publications of the Musikhistorische Kommission. Additional unedited material is not considered; on the one hand, the manageability of the references is of paramount concern, and, on the other, 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 perseverance of terms, will clearly require the efforts of several other generations of scholars.

A final task was the collection and evaluation of, secondary literature treating music theory.

A customised database program was developed for the recording and evaluating textual material.  The database enables the systematic management of all secondary literature cited, in particular the gathering and  searching of secondary sources  according to various categories. 

Choice Of Lemmata

The choice of lemmata to be included in LmL is based essentially on two criteria: first, all technical terms in the strict sense of the word will be included, that is, all words which have a proper, specific meaning in the field of music theory; compound terms -- e.g., musica ficta or cantare super librum -- will be treated more extensively than in other dictionaries. Secondly, lemmata are included that have played a prominent role in musical literature, and thus play a predominant role through their usage in broad tradition of medieval Latin literature. The boundaries of technical connotation cannot be rigidly defined, and thus the choice of lemmata will remain open to criticism.

Citation Of 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, thereby offering a broad picture of the geographical distribution and temporal duration of the term. Citations from earlier theorists are indicated in most cases only through textual references plus the word inde. An important secondary aspect of the LmL arises through this process, namely the documentation of citations in music theory.

Consequently within a completed entry an extensive range of information is provided, particularly with reference to formation of the term and its chronological transformations.