Liber Usualis On-Line!!

Here’s a tender little-known fact from our courtship days lo these many years ago: the first big purchase that M and I made together–before we were married–was a Liber Usualis reprint from St. Bonaventure Publications. (That probably comes as little surprise to those who know us…)

I’m happy to pass on the news today via NLM that the CMAA is now offering the Liber as a complete PDF download.

What is the Liber, you ask? It’s a big collection of helpful and important plainchant settings for masses throughout the year and the Sunday Offices (and Lauds of Feasts) according to the Roman Use as of 1953. Here’s the technical details from the introduction:

This Edition with complete musical notation includes the following:
1. The Kyriale with Cantus ad libitum.
2. The Mass of the Sundays and Feasts including those of double rank throughout the year, with Vespers and Compline for the same.
3. Prime, Terce, Sext, None, for Sundays and Feasts of the First and Second Class.
4. Matins of Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Christi; Lauds for Feasts of the First Class.
5. The Litanies: the Mass of Rogation Days, Ember Days, Easter and Whitsun weeks; the Vigils of Christmas, Epiphany and Whitsun.
6. The services of Ash Wednesday, the Triduum of Holy Week and Easter Day.
7. The principal Votive Masses and the Offices for the Dead.
In the beginning of the book will be found the Common Tones of the Mass and Office. Chants for special occasions, e. g. the Blessing of the Holy Oils, Ordinations, etc, are included in the Appendix.

If you do anything or have any interest in chant–you need this!! (And at this price, why not? :-D) It is, of course, in Latin with square notation but it has a fine English language introduction to the basics of chant and a full explanation and presentations of the 8+1 psalm tones.

While the Liber is very helpful for people doing research in medieval liturgy, I must warn you that anything you find here must be backed up by properly contemporary evidence as this really is the 1953 rite. For instance, its hymns are the hacked-up reformed versions promulgated by the Renaissance pope Clement VII.

12 thoughts on “Liber Usualis On-Line!!

  1. LP

    Your first major joint purchase was the LIBER?!?!? Dude, if two souls were ever created to be together, it was you and M!

  2. John-Julian, OJN

    I actually found my Liber at a church book sale — and bought it for NINE dollars!

    God just knew I needed it — and no downloading required (for once)!

  3. RFSJ

    Thanks for the tip! I occasionally get asked to help translate a frame page from an illuminated manuscript. The Mass texts i can recognize, but often the Office stuff I can’t, so this will be helpful indeed!


  4. Stephen

    Anyone know of a source where I can get a modern-notation volume of the LIber? A friend of mine is taking over a cantoring gig for me, and he can’t read the Solesmes notation, and the church wants to buy a copy for reference anyway, so I’m trying to direct them towards a good place. Any help is appreciated.

  5. Derek the Ænglican

    Hi Stephen,

    I certainly don’t know of a modern notation version. The square-note notation looks much more challenging than it really is–for most folks it’s worth the very small time investment to learn it. As a quick primer check out the Idiot’s Guide to Square Notes on my chant resource page.

  6. Pingback: Chanting the Gospel, Episcopal Style « haligweorc

  7. Richard

    This link takes you to the only on-line version I’ve seen yet which has the complete Liber Usualis in modern 5-line staff notation. It’s a crude scan, but everything is there. It’s made from the 1924 edition. Text in Latin, rubrics in English. Takes a long time to download and save, and it comes in 100-page segments (breaks sometimes in the midst of a chant!), 17 segments in all.

  8. Marianne Feenstra

    I was looking for one thing, and stumbled upon this most wonderful site. Thank you – I prayed Compline using my preferences from your St Bede’s Breviary. What sheer joy!

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