In 1945 the Friends of the State Library of South Australia presented
the Library with a magnificent 13th century Italian antiphonal.
It is written on vellum, and contains the text and music for the
sung responses proper to church services for the Temporal cycle
of the Christian church year from Christmas Eve to the end of
the feast of the Epiphany, as they were celebrated in a central
Italian monastery. The beginning of each service is marked with
a richly illuminated initial letter, the largest, the letter H,
occupying half a page.
This very large (570 x 395 mm) manuscript was purchased in 1945
for £77.10.0 at the sale of the library of Arthur Bryant Triggs,
grazier and antiquarian collector, in Yass, New South Wales. The
manuscript originated in central Italy, possibly near Bologna.
In 1992 it was reluctantly withdrawn from public access for essential
conservation treatment. Because the manuscript is written on animal
skin, which flexes and moves with changes in temperature and humidity,
this, along with the wear and tear of time, causes the text to
A project to stabilize and conserve the work began. For this it
had to be disbound, and when the treatment, a fascinating mix
of old and new technology, was finished, the unique opportunity
was taken to record the entire work in high resolution photographs
and store them digitally on compact disc.
This has made it possible, in 1998, to make the whole manuscript and selected parts of the live performance of the Antiphonal accessible in virtual reality through a computer, and to release
it on the Internet complete with transcription, translation and
notes. It is now both far more widely accessible, and also more
Research continues, and so the site is still developing, but we
look forward to learning more about our Antiphonal from response
to this project. We hope it may also provide useful information
for other institutions with similar works.