Italian Paleography


Chicago, Newberry VAULT Case MS 5087
Choirbook of Hymns and Motets
Italy, between 1600 and 1699

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This is a single manuscript “part-book”, containing the music for one line only in multi-voice [“polyphonic”] compositions, and probably dating from early seventeenth-century Italy.  It originally would have been compiled together with other similar volumes for the other voice-parts, as most of its contents are for three or four voices.  Case MS 5087 transmits most of a single voice-part (some pages have only texts or incipits without copied music) for a collection—some 146 pieces–of devotional songs (laude or canzonette spirituali), along with a few Latin hymns and motets (these last are sacred pieces to be sung in and out of liturgy).  Many of the vernacular items are taken from late sixteenth-century printed Roman collections of such largely strophic pieces, and here, as was the norm, the texts of successive stanzas are often written below the music.  Although all the pieces are anonymous in MS 5087, the original prints are by Roman composers, including Giovanni Animuccia, Ruggiero Giovanelli, and others.  Such published volumes were meant for a flourishing market of confraternities, male and female monasteries, and domestic libraries in Catholic Italy.

The ownership stamp on p. 1 is that of the house of the (male) Discalced Carmelite order in Milan.  This can only be the now-destroyed monastery and church of San Carlo (later: “e Santa Teresa”), founded in 1614 and dissolved in 1804.  The remains of the church, in today’s Via Moscova (the “Porta Nuova” district) were demolished after damage in World War II.  However, two music-theory treatises now in the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice bear the same or a similar stamp, and so the house must have had some musical interests, despite the order’s overall diffidence towards complex polyphony (there is no direct evidence for a professional musical ensemble in residence at S. Carlo).  The unreformed Calced Carmelites were far more open to music.

The volume was a posthumous gift from the personal library of Howard Mayer Brown (1930-93), one of the great historians of his era for early music and a long-time faculty member at the University of Chicago.  Its whereabouts after 1804 and before his acquisition are not known, nor is the point at which its companion volumes went astray.  Brown’s collection of scores and libretti was a major addition to the Newberry’s music holdings.


Spartito: Corsiva veloce e poco curata caratterizzata dalle iniziali filigranate di tradizione gotica.
Da notare: la t in un sol tempo (2, r. 2: strugge); la o in legamento con il titulus (4, r. 2: no(n)).
Testo: Corsiva formale, di modulo piccolissimo, aste alte concluse da bottoni.
Da notare: la e disarticolata in due tratti (1, r. 3: Damelo); la z sovrmodulata in un sol tempo (2, r. 1: strazi).

Selected Bibliography:

Item fully digitized here.