Anna Maria Busse Berger. Mensuration and Proportion Signs: Origins and Evolution. Clarendon Press, 1993. xiii, 271 pp.

Stone, Anne J.

Explaining the necessity for his own book, the anonymous author of
the late fourteenth-century Tractatus figurarum quoted above was prescient
in articulating the main rhythmic notational problem for the next two
centuries: how to combine different mensurations in a single composition,
thereby expanding the range of available rhythmic durations and proportional
relationships between notes. Yet his solution, which was to codify a
new set of strangely-shaped note forms to represent proportional shifts
within different mensurations, was obsolete by the second decade of the
fifteenth century; the contemporaneous practice of using signs to indicate
proportions, while leaving the note shapes unaffected, became the method
of choice for ensuing generations of composers. The author of the Tractatus
furthermore could not anticipate the myriad ways different mensurations
would be combined and the degree of variation in interpretation that was



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