These knives, which have musical scores engraved in their blades, brought a table together in singing their prayers, and may have been used to carve the lamb or beef in their â€œstriking balance of decorative and utilitarian function.â€ At least historians think such â€œnotation knives,â€ which date from the early 1500s, were used at banquets. â€œThe sharp, wide steel would have been ideal for cutting and serving meat,â€ writes Eliza Grace Martin at the WQXR blog, â€œand the accentuated tip would have made for a perfect skewer.â€ But as Kristen Kalber, curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which houses the knives at the top of the post, tells us â€œdiners in very grand feasts didnâ€™t cut their own meat.â€ Itâ€™s unlikely they would have sung from the bloody knives held by their servants.
The knivesâ€™ true purpose â€œremains a mystery,â€ Martin remarks, like many â€œrituals of the Renaissance table.â€ Victoria and Albert Museum curator Kirstin Kennedy admits in the video above that â€œwe are not entirely sureâ€ what the â€œsplendid knifeâ€ she holds was used for. But we do know that each knife had a different piece of music on each side, and that a set of them together contained different harmony parts in order to turn a roomful of diners into a chorus. One set of blades had the grace on one side, with the inscription, â€œthe blessing of the table. May the three-in-one bless that which we are about to eat.â€ The other side holds the benediction, to be sung after the dinner: â€œThe saying of grace. We give thanks to you God for your generosity.â€
Kristen Kalber, at the Victoria & Albert Museum, discusses these knives.
Maya Corry discusses the Fitzwillian Museum’s musical notation knives starting at 2:30.