From singing to writing

The written surviving testemonies of Galician-Portuguese medieval lyric are no more than five: three songbooks (the Ajuda Songbook (A), a rich but unfinished illuminated medieval codex, and two sixteenth-century italian copies (B and V) of a large medieval songbook, now missing) and two fragments, both a single folio, the Vindel parchment and the Sharrer parchment. The historical and cultural importance of their legacy (the troubadours songs) is in sharp contrast with the gaps that remain in regard of almost every aspect of the production, path and owners of these manuscripts. Through an innovative and multidisciplynary approach, the aim of this project is therefore to fill those gaps by means of a research that will join: 1) for the Ajuda Songbook, molecular analysis of the illuminations and writing inks, complemented by analysis of the same type to be carried out in similar Iberian manuscripts (such as the Cantigas de Santa Maria, among others), in order to elucidate essential but still unknown aspects of the codex, such as its dating, conditions and making site, as well as its subsequent path, among others; 2) as for the Italian codices, we will proceed to internal analysis (collection of all traces present in these copies and which are likely to provide information on the original manuscript), as well as external analysis (systematic searches on archives and libraries, public and private, namely Angelo Colocci papers and also Dom Miguel da Silva, bishop of Viseu’s, some of them still unpublished). In the final phase of the project, and from the data collected in 1 and 2, we hope to be able to better understand both the parameters of the passage from the Iberian troubadour oral art to written form (agents, dates, sites) and the little known history of the troubadour manuscripts (including the missing ones), in particular the role that important figures of Renaissance Italian and Portuguese humanism played in this Stemma. The application of these precious and fragile manuscripts to UNESCO's program "Memory of the World", an application to be presented next year by the National Library of Portugal, with the scientific support of this team, reinforces our goals.

With a team that brings together, for the first time, highly specialized experts in laboratory analysis of illuminated manuscripts (with particular emphasis on molecular analysis of color and pigments), and some of the best researchers of the areas most directly related to medieval literature, art and culture, this project certainly will be able to reach these goals.

Finally, we must stress that our aproach, namelly Ajuda’s colours, will be a unique one, both at an European and worldwide level. Therefore, the data collected on Ajuda’s colours (which will be shared in an open access database) will also represent a crucial tool for all the researchers that deal with medieval art.