A Descriptive Catalogue of the Musical Manuscript Collection of the National Library of Greece: Byzantine Chant and Other Music Repertory Recovered (review)


A Descriptive Catalogue of the Musical Manuscript Collection of the National Library of Greece: Byzantine Chant and Other Music Repertory Recovered. By Diane H. Touliatos-Miles. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010. [x, 632 p. ISBN 9780754651680. $134.95.] Appendices, bibliography, glossary, indexes, plates. Scholars, researchers, students, and anyone interested doing research on the musical sources of Byzantine music at the National Library of Greece have to face a frustrating reality: the lack of an current, accurate, and scholarly descriptive catalog that brings to light the holdings of one of the richest repositories of Byzantine music manuscripts in the world. The music manuscript collection of the National Library of Greece in Athens consists of 242 centuries-old manuscripts, mainly of Byzantine music but including some Western music as well, 149 of which were never published or properly inventoried before. All previous attempts to organize the materials yielded partial results since none of the people involved in the projects of putting the sources in order was a trained musicologist. Consequently, the release of this updated descriptive catalogue came as a gratifying surprise to all users interested in the wealth of music housed in this library. Diane H. Touliatos- Miles undertook this painstaking task with exceptional results. The author is a researcher, scholar and professor of Western and Byzantine musicology who has published extensively on such topics as ancient Greek music, Eastern medieval chant, and women composers. Her goal in publishing this book was twofold. The first of these was to create an invaluable resource tool in order to make available music sources of noteworthy significance for music research. She accomplishes this by enriching this catalog with notes, bibliography, plates, appendices, and indexes in order to present the repertory of these manuscripts as comprehensively as possible. Second, in order to make these sources available to a broader audience, she makes use of two languages, Greek to describe the contents of the sources and English to comment on and provide information about the particular source with relevant bibliographic references for further research. The catalogue is well structured and easy to use. It starts with a checklist organized by manuscript accession number according to the National Library of Greece (EBE), and its corresponding pages in the book. Following this is an informative preface that provides an overview of the collection and its contents, an annotated list of the collection’s highlights, and an account of the author’s objectives and aspirations. The actual descriptive catalogue begins by providing in succession the following information: the name/number of the manuscript, the type of liturgical book, descriptive notes regarding the type of paper, measurements, number of folios, type of notation used, date of creation and provenance. Then Touliatos-Miles describes the contents of each folio in Greek (following the recto and verso fashion), frequently accompanied by English transliterations as well as interpolated translations.