Italian Paleography


Chicago, Newberry VAULT Case MS 171
Paolo Tenorista
Ballate by Paolo da Firenze
Tuscany, between 1400 and 1499

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Donated by Edward Lowinsky to the Newberry in 1982, this fragment consists of two parchment bifolios, one inside the other, for a total of four folios.  Each page is ruled for music with six staves in red ink, filled with black musical notation and underlined with text.  It contains five musical compositions for two or three voices: S’Amor in cor gentil, Dolce mie donna, Doglia continua, Amor tu solo ’l say, and _Amor, de’ dimmi.  _The first and the last are incomplete; therefore, the fragment is lacking at least another external bifolio.

The pieces are transmitted anonymously, but authorship of four of them can be deduced from the concordances with Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds it. 568.  There they are attributed to Paolo da Firenze, a Benedictine composer, singer, and theorist active in Tuscany between the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century.  It is very likely that the fifth piece, the fragment’s unicum Dolce mie donna, is also by the same composer. 
Many elements make this fragment unique when compared to the main collections of early fifteenth-century music, including some of the fragmentary ones.  Its pages are unusually small (170 x 120 mm), and no foliation is present.  Moreover, the first bifolio was reused from a scraped document, as testified by the traces of a small cursive Gothic hand on its internal pages.  These features suggest that the fragment was a so-called fascicle-manuscript, i.e. a pocket book of polyphony copied for personal use and used as a source for copying into larger collections.

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