As I'm continuing my work with the liturgical fragments at the library of University of Southern Denmark, I find myself learning more and more about the books from which the fragments come, as well as the texts that they contain. As these fragments mostly come from liturgical material, they contain texts that are common to all of Latin Christendom, and this makes it easier to track down the full text of what survives in perhaps only a line or a few scattered words. In some cases I have learned to expect certain chants to appear together, either one following the other or as part of the same feast. I have also learned just how much it is possible to glean from a very small amount of information. This is part of why working with fragments is at times immensely exciting and rewarding, and it is what sometimes makes you peruse long lists of possible matches in databases, because you know that there is a great possibility that it will pay off.
Other times, however, it becomes clear that there is very little that can be done due to the scarcity of information. One such case became apparent yesterday as I was photographing some of the fragments in the library reading room. I had been given a set of photos taken by a colleague, and once I had exhausted the information available from those pictures I wanted to have a closer look to see if there was anything missing. It turned out that there was indeed something missing, but much more than I had expected.
The fragment in question has the shelfmark RARA Musik L 43 and contains materials for mass, meaning that the original manuscript was likely a missal or a gradual, which are books containing chants for the mass. The book with which the fragment was bound, contained namely a sister volume which had once upon a time been bound in the same way and likely with a fragment from the same manuscript as in the first volume. Of this second fragment, however, only the tiniest shred remained - enough to indicate the type of notation, and that the halved letter was an initial in red and black - possibly a versicle or an antiphon, as can be seen below. Sometimes, although grudgingly, I have to admit that I most likely will never be able to work out which part of the original manuscript this fragment came from. How much information has been lost in this, can be seen when comparing the rich and clear textual material from the surviving fragment of its sister volume, as seen below.
RARA Musik L 43, Syddansk Universitetsbibliotek