Psalmos, notas, cantus: the meanings of nota in the Carolingian period

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The Latin quotation in the title of this article is taken from the Admonitio generalis, a key document of Charlemagne's reforms circulated in 789. In a well-known passage, to which the title refers, Charlemagne calls for the establishment of schools and adds a set of subjects that might be interpreted as the school curriculum. The whole passage has caused quite a few problems for scholars on account of its seemingly corrupt grammar and ambiguous vocabulary. In this article, I revisit the term 'nota' and provide some new insights in how it should be understood. I argue that the graphic symbols meant by this term include manuscript abbreviations, shorthand as well as technical signs, such as the critical signs to be found in Carolingian pandect Bibles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-457
Number of pages33
JournalSpeculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • early middle ages
  • medieval manuscripts
  • Medieval Paleography
  • Carolingian culture
  • marginal annotations
  • medieval Latin


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