A notation knife

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Etched, engraved and gilded steel knife with ivory, brass and silver handle, by an unknown maker, Italy, 1500–50. Museum no. 310-1903

Left & right views of an etched, engraved and gilded steel knife with ivory, brass and silver handle, by an unknown maker, Italy, 1500–50. Museum no. 310-1903



Knives with musical notes on the blade, known as notation knives, are extremely rare. This example is etched with notations expressing gratitude for a meal. The inscription on one side of the blade reads 'The blessing of the table. May the three-in-one bless that which we are about to eat.'  This would be sung before the meal was taken. On the other side the inscription gives thanks after the meal: 'The saying of grace. We give thanks to you God for your generosity.' The point of the knife allowed meat to be skewered and offered to a diner or guest.

Recordings of the notations

The recordings provided below are based on the musical notation on the blade of the knife. They were made by the Royal College of Music especially for the V&A's Medieval & Renaissance Galleries thanks to an award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Grace (Version 1)
Download: mp3 | ogg
Benediction (Version 1)
Download: mp3 | ogg
Grace (Version 2)
Download: mp3 | ogg
Benediction (Version 2)
Download: mp3 | ogg

A gift in your will

You may not have thought of including a gift to a museum in your will, but the V&A is a charity and legacies form an important source of funding for our work. It is not just the great collectors and the wealthy who leave legacies to the V&A. Legacies of all sizes, large and small, make a real difference to what we can do and your support can help ensure that future generations enjoy the V&A as much as you have.

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