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The term antiphonary (sometimes written as antiphonal) was originally used to describe liturgical books that contained the basic songs for mass or canonical hours (antiphons, responsorials, hymns). The meaning of the term has now been expanded to include books with liturgical chants in general.
There is evidence that the responsorial of the Psalms has existed in the Roman Church since the 1st Century. The chants for the mass and canonical hours ("Antiphonarium missarum" (first published in 1571) and the "Antiphonarium officii" (also called "liber officialis", which appeared in printed form for the first time in 1686) have been familiar since the 6th Century. Pope Gregory I (called "the Great", 540-604) integrated the "Antiphonar missae" and the "Antiphonar officii". Since approx. 900, the frequently large-format antiphonaries have usually been richly illuminated. Illustrated antiphonaries have been handed down since the 11th Century. The term graduals has also been used for the collections of antiphonary and responsorial chants for the mass since the 12th Century. The frequently more extensive antiphonaries of the monastery "Cursus monasticus" have also been subdivided into a section for the daytime chants ("Antiphonarium diurnale") and a section for the chants during the nightly vigils ("Antiphonarium nocturnale") since the 12th Century. The antiphonary by Charlemagne from the 9th Century is seen as the oldest preserved book. The three-volume Würzburg Antiphonary from 1496-99 by G. and M. Reyser is considered to be the most extensive work of printed music from the period of the incunabula.

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