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Stanley Boorman, John A. Emerson, David Hiley, David Fallows, Thomas B. Payne, Elizabeth Aubrey, Lorenz Welker, Manuel Pedro Ferreira, Ernest H. Sanders, Peter M. Lefferts, Ursula Günther, Gilbert Reaney, Kurt von Fischer, Gianluca D’Agostino, Charles Hamm, Jerry Call, and Herbert Kellman

A manuscript source is one that is written by hand. Before the invention of printing, music was preserved either by oral transmission or by MS copies. There is no reason to believe that oral transmission preserves the same music for more than a few centuries, at least in the West, so that all our knowledge of medieval and early Renaissance music depends on MSS. From the start of printing until the work of Petrucci in 1501, almost all printed music was monophonic, mostly chant: even thereafter, however, there has remained a living tradition of the MS copying of certain repertories where printing would not have been economically feasible.

The present article comprises a preliminary discussion of the nature of MS sources and their significance for present-day musical research, followed by a series of sections that review the character and repertory of the main classes of MS in use before 1600...