There was never anyone present in the cathedral of the most learned Charlemagne to remind each reader which passages should be recited; and when he reached the end of his own piece no one marked the place with wax or made even the slightest indent with his finger-nail... He made it clear when he wanted the reading to stop by clearing his throat. Everyone listened very carefully for this sound. Whether it came at the end of a sentence, or in the middle of a clause, or even in a sub-clause, none of the subsequent readers dared to begin farther back or farther on, however strange the beginning or end might seem.


Notker the Stammerer (Monk of Saint Gall), Charlemagne, from: Einhard and Notker the Stammerer, Two Lives of Charlemagne, translated by Lewis Thorpe, Penguin Classics, Great Britain, 1969, p.100-101.

PLACE: Carolingian Empire

TIME: 8th century A.D.

CIRCUMSTANCE: Public readings initiated by Charlemagne. "They all took such care to acquaint themselves with what was to be recited that, when they were called upon to read unexpectedly, they performed so well that the Emperor never had occasion to reproach them. He indicated which of them he wished to read by pointing with his finger or his stick, or, if it was someone sitting far off, by sending a messenger from his entourage."

(p. 100)