The exhibition entitled The Great Books of Music in the Historical Building of the National Museum and the National Library of the Czech Republic presents the most beautiful and precious musical manuscripts of literary fraternities of the times before the Battle of White Mountain from the collections of both institutions. Because of their value, they are exhibited only rarely and for a short time, and the exhibition therefore offers a unique opportunity to see them.

The six-week exhibition runs concurrently in both institutions. The part presented in the National Museum is devoted to the Codices of the literati in Bohemia, with the exception of Prague, while the part exhibited in the National Library focuses only on the manuscripts of the Prague congregations. In total, it presents 16 manuscripts and manuscript fragments from the 15th-17th centuries, which at first glance impress with their remarkable size and decoration, which often represents the pinnacle of contemporary book painting. The books are also an important testimony to the musical life of the literati, especially the Czech choirs.

Averaging half a metre in height and weighing over 20 kg in the case of parchment, the manuscripts were used by the singers of the aforementioned brotherhoods to perform music in churches, and it was for the purpose of group singing that they assumed such dimensions. They gave their users and subscribers the opportunity not only to express their religious feelings, but also to present themselves appropriately. The financially and time-consuming work of scribing, decorating and binding the books was done by renowned workshops, funded directly by the fraternities, municipalities, guilds or specific donors.

You can see a selection of Codices preserved in the two largest manuscript collections in the Czech Republic. Among the oldest ones, for example, is the monumental Pilsen Gradual by Martin Stupník - a book with a height of 68 cm and a weight of almost 32 kg, an excellent work of the workshop of Valentin Noh from Jindřichův Hradec. Several manuscripts document the work of Jan Táborský of Klokotská Hora, the owner of the most important Prague scribal workshop of the 16th century, and his collaborating illuminated manuscript artists, such as Fabián Puléř, Matyáš Hutský of Křivoklát and Matouš Ornys of Lindperk. Of their works, the richly decorated Old Town, Křižovnický, Českobrodský and Lomnický Graduals can be particularly highlighted, the last of which was created in another important Prague scribal workshop of Jan Kantor called Starý.