One component of the project is a digital full facsimile of the two-volume gradual (New York, Pierpont Morgan Library M. 905) known as the Geese Book. All of the 560 parchment folios, with their 1120 pages replete with liturgical texts, musical notation, marginal decoration, historiated and foliated initials, as well as provocative bas-de-page illuminations are digitized and will be made accessible over the Internet.Those wishing to peruse the manuscript on their computer screens will be able to “leaf through” both volumes from cover to cover and to locate specific items via electronic searches. This full facsimile will allow experts and students in many fields to experience the work in its entirety rather than as isolated extracts of music, image, or text. Currently the book can only be studied at the Morgan Library in New York. Making this one significant work available will be an important first step to enable comparisons with other medieval music manuscripts.

The central goal of the project is a Web site containing not only the full facsimile but also accompanying descriptions, annotations, commentary, appendices, technical analyses, and essays on topics relevant to the manuscript, as well as associated historical documents and sound recordings of Latin chants for selected feast days together with their translations. All verbal materials, whether written texts or spoken voice overs, will be provided in English and German. Two “paths” through the explanatory and interpretive information on the Web site are being developed. One will offer a chronological history of the work, beginning with its precursors and sources, followed by practical concerns and political motivations that engendered the commissioning of the volumes, the production of the Geese Book – including planning and compilation, the site-specific liturgical uses of the manuscript, and finally its subsequent post-Reformation history and reception. The other path will lead users through the two volumes taking them from one holiday to the next, following the cycle of the church year in the parish of St. Lorenz in Nuremberg.

Both paths will amply employ links and cross references and thus exploit the many benefits of electronic media. For example, those accessing the web site will be able to hear sound recordings of selected chants and read English translations of the Latin texts while their eyes follow the corresponding musical notation and/or while they view the accompanying illuminations. Additionally they may call up a wealth of historical information, including ancillary source material through which the book can be contextualized. Thus it is hoped that scholars will be able to free themselves from the bonds of the two-dimensional surface, and that, through electronic media, the Geese Book may once again be studied as a work that is multi-dimensionally performed and experienced.

The project facilitates an in-depth study of one work within its historical contexts. As such, the endeavor belongs to the realm of interdisciplinary particular history. Special emphasis will be placed on the human aspects of this book – those who commissioned, made, and used it. From colophons and other sources it is known that the volumes were made during the tenure of two priors, Sixtus Tucher and Anton Kress, that three prominent civic officials – Andreas de Watt, Heinrich Schustab, and Jacob Groland – were instrumental in commissioning the work, and that the cleric Friedrich Rosendorn took responsibility for the writing. Art historians have attributed the illumination to the painter Jakob Elsner. Questions about the motivations of the makers as well as those of various recipients will be central. Attention will be focused on multiple viewpoints.

The study strives to facilitate future scholarship by making this important manuscript and its various contexts available to those who study cultural history -- including art historians, musicologists, codicologists, Latinists, Germanists, and historians. Further it is hoped that this project will generally encourage the interdisciplinary study of medieval rituals with multisensory components.

Those interested in retrieving information about the planning and compiling of the volumes, will be able to access photographs showing earlier manuscripts from which material was drawn. Likewise, for the selection of chant texts that are translated and analyzed, users will also be provided with the sources for the texts, whether in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Apocrypha, or hagiographic writings. Where appropriate, contemporary pictorial sources for the texts will likewise be reproduced.

Those probing the patronage of the work will be able to find a contemporary biography of one of the men who was instrumental in authorizing the work. It will likewise be possible to peruse excerpts from the writings of the clerics under whose tenure the book was commissioned, as well as examine photographs of and sources on various related donations.

Anyone wishing a more complete picture of the liturgical fabric of which the chants in the Geese Book were a part will be able to peruse portions of the Kress Missale, that was produced at nearly the same time for the same church and which contains the liturgy chanted by the priest. Additionally users will be able to view images of eucharistic vessels, reliquaries and small portable objects as well as altarpieces, all of which provided visual components that functioned to complement and amplify the music and texts of the chants for specific days. In this respect the feast days for saints Deocarus, Martha, and Monica will be singled out for special scrutiny. Some of these objects have survived and can be photographed, others will be illustrated through photographs of similar examples or generic depictions in contemporary paintings and prints. The specifics about the usage of these objects as well as the practices of burning incense, ringing bells, lighting candles, donning vestments, hanging paraments, and placing greenery or floral decorations for given feast days will be provided through translations of the instructions for the sacristan. Fortunately these sources are richly abundant in Nuremberg, although their survival in other localities is very rare.

An audio compact disc was produced as a ancillary component of this project in 2005. The chants for several particularly significant local feast days were selected and recorded by the Schola Hungarica. They consist of the Feasts of the Holy Lance, St. Sebald, and St. Martha, the sequence and offertory for the Feast of St. Monica, and the alleluia for St. Deocarus and St. Laurence. These chant recordings are also integrated on the Web site. This enables musicologists to hear and study selections and whole mass formulas. Perhaps even more notably, it provides the necessary step between the representation of the chants in notation and the auditory experience, which is particularly important for teaching.

Yet another component was the concert that took place on September 8, 2002. The complete program of selected chants for the project was performed by the Schola Hungarica in the church of St. Lorenz in Nuremberg. After nearly 500 years the sounds from the Geese Book once again filled the space for which they were intended. It was important for the project to reestablish this connection, since many chants and rituals recorded in the surviving liturgical books can only be understood in a multisensory context that combines visible and acoustic elements. Even though 3D computer reconstructions have enabled viewers to imagine space using the surface of the two dimensional computer monitor, and hardware and software currently being developed continue to move toward true 3D viewing, this emulation of multisensory perception will never recreate in situ experiences (and in situ experiences will never "reconstruct" history). The concert was well received in Nuremberg and has served to attract attention to the subsequent components of the project.

Radio broadcasts resulted from the project: Bavarian Radio broadcasted a radio feature about the Geese Book and its history on its classical music channel (BR4 Klassik) on November 1, 2004. For this purpose a panel of scholars from various disciplines was brought together in a studio of Bavarian Radio to record interviews that served as basis for the production. Excerpts frin the Audio CD were broadcasted August 13 2011 on Bavarian Radio (BR Klassik).















One very welcome aspect of all components of the project is the digital repatriation of the manuscript. Through digital media the manuscript will be accessible world wide, and German as well as English-language versions of texts will be available on the Web site. It is thus hoped that this endeavor will further international understanding and good will. The Geese Book had remained in Nuremberg where it was made and used, until 1952 when it was presented to Rush Kress out of gratitude for his financial support of the rebuilding of the church of St. Lorenz following the destruction of World War II. Through electronic media it is possible to share cultural treasures across international boundaries.


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© 2004-2012 by Corine Schleif and Volker Schier