Sursee Gal Goes Ital :: Beauty Found in a Songbook

Musical Sursee

One day when we were in Volterra, a beautiful city high on a hill, overlooking the Tuscan hills, we found a little Sursee in a shop that restores antique paper.  Volterra was full of artisans crafting and we just happened upon this shop.  When I walked in, there were two ladies with white gloves on, working with  book bindings.  In the back of the shop I spied a huge song book like one I had seen in Siena.  Only in the Duomo in Siena, the beautifully illuminated book was behind glass, like this.Siena song book

I remembered that the colors were so bright and fresh, looking like they had been painted yesterday.  But, they were carefully sealed behind glass and I oh, so wanted to see them close up.

Here in this tiny shop, the book was just sitting out on a stand.  I wanted to see it up close and personal.

So in my broken English/Italian and excellent sign language, I asked if I could get a little closer and see the music book, making little glasses signs with my fingers circling my eyes.   One of the gals smiled and nodded, and let me walk up right next to it. It was so beautiful, so richly decorated, so much detail and the colors so bright.  I was overwhelmed and moved at being that close to an ancient manuscript, and I started crying. Yes, I did.

songbook 3


The woman stood beside me and showed us how the pages were made out of sheepskin and pointed out the faint markings of where the spine would have been.  In her broken English she said these were songbooks from the Duomo in Pisa and were from the 1500s. I was transfixed by the beauty.

songbook 2

Then she quietly removed her little white gloves and held them out to me in her hands like an offering, nodding for me to put them on.

What?  I will get to touch these pages and actually turn them to find new illuminations???

songbook 4

Look at those colors…the blue of crushed lapis lazuli.  The reds from some berry.  The gold leaf.  She had her phone out trying to translate to me what we where looking at; I just saw Beauty.  Look how the notes are written in for the song, little block-like notes.

I think these books were put on stands at the front of the church so all could see during the service.

songbook 5

Craig was Johnny-on-the-spot and got Sursee Gal on video.  I was just in heaven. I was touching something that was 500 years old.  The pages were thick and a little soft because it was sheepskin.  I turned a few pages and marveled at the moment.

Oh, my stars.  I am so glad that I can share this with you.

Here are the two precious gals that worked at this restoration shop.  They were also working on bindings with needle and thread, sewing old books together in an ancient method.  They restore books from all over Tuscany.  What a job!

songbook 6

So, even as I write this, I can’t believe I had that adventure.  Hope you enjoy this little Sursee from a small town in Tuscany.  xoxo




  1. Anne-Marie says:

    Beautiful!! Thank you for sharing. I would have been just as giddy as you were. 🙂

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