Digital Survey of Manuscript Musical Heritage (before 1600)

Project funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (POCTI / EAT / 46895/2002), 2005-2008. TEAM: Manuel Pedro Ferreira, Diogo Alte Veiga. INSTITUTIONAL PARTNERSHIP: Spanish Religious Music Research Center, Colegio de los Augustines, Santiago de Compostela.


Contrary to the majority of European countries, in Portugal an exhaustive survey of the manuscript musical heritage is yet to be carried out, this failure being especially serious with regard to the oldest period, that is, until 1600. The documents are scattered, many of them to be cataloged or to serve as a cover for bindings, being difficult to consult, especially in the smaller archives and outside centers such as Porto and Lisbon.

The scientific project “Digital survey of manuscript musical heritage (before 1600)”, an initiative of the Center for Studies in Sociology and Musical Aesthetics (CESEM) of the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences of Universidade Nova de Lisboa, with the support of the Foundation for the Science and Technology, it is proposed to make an inventory and digital reproduction of manuscripts with music existing in museums, district, municipal and ecclesiastical archives and other places outside the Lisbon and Porto area, including even some Spanish cities, linked to the Portugal’s history, such as Tuy, Ciudad Rodrigo and Olivença.

Project objectives

The primary objective is to lay the foundations for a digital library of ancient musical manuscripts, consultable by the scientific community.

In this sense, a photographic campaign has been developed accompanied by the elaboration of descriptive sheets of the manuscripts, adapted, on the one hand, to the current documentary norms and to the specific object and, on the other hand, to the current electronic media.

So far, 170 codices and around 1080 fragments have been fully digitized, with their respective inventory.

The undeniable value of a project like the one presented here is justified for several reasons:

a) First of all, due to the knowledge of the musical heritage, not only by the national and foreign scientific communities, but also by the Archives themselves, often depositaries of documents whose value and content they are unaware of.

b) On the other hand, the appreciation of the heritage that results from this may stimulate the Archives to seek new, more appropriate ways of conserving that.

c) Finally, the studies that develop from here may shed new light on musical and liturgical history, both at national and European level.

Research team

Coordinator and responsible: Manuel Pedro Ferreira


Research assistant: Diogo Alte da Veiga