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Lexicon musicum Latinum medii aevi (LmL)

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Research Project from 1960 until 2016

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 such a comprehensive treatment arose principally from practical experience in this field: namely the technical aspects of medieval music theory cannot be determined with general dictionaries to the extent required by specialists.  Moreover, the temporal span of general dictionaries usually extends only to the 13th century. 

The LmL was established in 1960 at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences on the initiative of the musicologist Thrasybulos Georgiades (Munich) and the medievalist Walther Bulst (Heidelberg).  Originally conceived as a common undertaking between the Bavarian and Heidelberg Academies, the LmL was located in Munich; for given the presence of the Thesaurus linguae Latinae and the Mittellateinisches Wörterbuch within the Munich Academy, Munich clearly offered the most favourable conditions for the project.  Yet shortly after the founding of the project, a lack of personnel and funding forced at the Heidelberg Academy to withdraw its participation.  

Ernst Ludwig Waeltner and Hans Schmid

Ernst Ludwig Waeltner and Hans Schmid were entrusted with carrying forward the LmL, and these two scholars presented the project and described its potential and goals in two articles:

  • Hans Schmid: Plan und Durchführung des „Lexicon Musicum Latinum” I: Erfassung und Erforschung der musikalischen Fachsprache des MA. In: GfMKB Kassel 1962, Kassel usw. 1963, S. 349–350
  • Ernst Ludwig Waeltner: Plan und Durchführung des „Lexicon Musicum Latinum” II: Archivaufbau mit Hilfe maschineller Datenverarbeitung. In: GfMKB Kassel 1962, Kassel usw. 1963, S. 351–352
  • Hans Schmid / Ernst Ludwig Waeltner: „Lexicon Musicum Latinum”. Ein Unternehmen zur Erforschung der musikalischen Fachsprache des Mittelalters. In: Organicae Voces, FS Joseph Smits van Waesberghe zum 60. Geburtstag, Amsterdam 1963, S. 145–148

The organization of the research archive was finally placed in the hands of E. L. Waeltner, who directed the LmL for a period of over fifteen years.  Ernst Ludwig Waeltner had wisely foreseen the potential of computers, and thus had designed the LmL with respect to the consequent use of electronic data-processing.  At that time the use of computers represented unexplored territory for humanistic disciplines and lexicography.

Electronic Data Processing Applied from its Inception

Follow the initial years of laborious queries and repeated attempts – all of which hindered rather than aided progress on the work – electronic data-processing began increasingly to develop into an effective research instrument, indeed an instrument without which the extensive textual basis of the LmL could never have been brought together by such a limited number of workers.

Ernst Ludwig Waeltner died unexpectedly in 1975, and in Michael Bernhard assumed the position of Managing Editor in 1976. A second research position was established in 1987.

Today the Lexicon musicum Latinum medii aevi (LmL) comprises around 700 texts with more than three million words.  In 1993 the first fascicle was published with entries from A – authentus. The final fascicle – tractus – Z – was completed in 2016.  All in all, 3733 entries have been authored by Michael Bernhard, Bernhold Schmid, Christian Berktold, Matthias Hochadel, Daniela v. Aretin (Sadgorski) and Ruth Konstanciak. Calvin M. Bower has translated the definitions into English.

Transfer of the Library to the Institut für Musikforschung of the University of Würzburg

The library of the Lexicon musicum Latinum comprises a collection of virtually all publications treating medieval music theory up to 2016.  It also contains a collection of microfilms of more than 600 manuscripts, plus a database in which are recorded all published Latin music treatises up to the year 1500.  The library and the database offer the modern scholar a unique resource for research in medieval musical theory, a resource recognized and appreciated well beyond the confines of Germany and Europe. 

Now that the research phase of the project has been successfully completed, the library collection and the microfilm archive will be moved to the Institut für Musikforschung of the University of Würzburg (Bruno-Stäblein-Archiv), where scholars are welcomed to use the collection (contact: Dr. Martin Dippon; E-Mail).