A notation knife

View transcript of video


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

The Château de Juvisy Appeal

We need your help to raise £500,000 to acquire the Baroque oil painting of the Château de Juvisy, by Pierre-Denis Martin, court painter to Louis XIV in time for the opening of the Europe 1600-1800 galleries.

Help us buy The Château de Juvisy

Shop online

High Street

High Street

First published in 1938, this classic book introduces the British high street, pairing the timeless illustrations of Eric Ravilious with an engaging t…

Buy now