The Cinderella of Complete Elizabethan Partbooks Sets

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'The Cinderella of Complete Elizabethan Partbooks Sets: A New Look at the Hamond Partbooks (GB-Lbl: Add. MSS 30480-4)' with Katherine Butler (University of Oxford), as part of the Seminar in medieval and renaissance music, convened by Margaret Bent. 

Abstract: There are only three sets of manuscript partbooks copied primarily during the reign of Elizabethan that survive complete, and the least studied of these are the ‘Hamond’ partbooks. Unlike those of John Sadler and Robert Dow, or the near-complete set of John Baldwin, these books cannot be firmly linked with a particular copyist, or even an institution or geographical location. Instead they are named for their first known owner – Thomas Hamond of Hawkedon in Suffolk in 1615 – by which time the books were already c.50 years old. In contrast to the neat calligraphy and decorative elements found in Dow, Sadler and Baldwin, the Hamond partbooks were the work of numerous scribes: some competent but copying for utility rather than elegance, others probably new to music-copying with awkward and ill-formed scripts. Add to this a copying span of 40-50 years with multiple sections and infilling, not to mention the recopying of pieces as the books became damaged, and the challenges of unravelling the chronology are quickly apparent. Moreover the books contain an unusually diverse set of contents: Protestant service music, anthems, consort songs and textless music that includes Latin motets, chansons, madrigals and an In Nomine. Where the Hamond partbooks have been an object of study, it has typically been with a focus on just one of these constituent repertories.

Yet if these features have made the Hamond partbooks a less than attractive prospect for researchers, they are also what makes this collection significant, challenging preconceptions about the nature of partbooks that arise from the better known sets. The Hamond partbooks present a divergent picture of the copying partbooks: one that is collaborative, work-a-day, combines the liturgical, devotional and secular, and is full of corrections and signs of use. Indeed this suggests that they were copied and used in quite different context. This paper shares some initial thoughts from my on-going attempts at a holistic study of these partbooks, exploring the evidence for the chronology of their compilation and use, and offering some suggestions for the kind of musical communities that might have given rise to these partbooks.

All are welcome.


Oxford Medieval Studies

Contact name: Margaret Bent
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Audience: Open to all