Glasgow Incunabula Project update (13/1/12)

Two important first editions of illustrated treatises on music by Franchinus Gafurius are included in this batch. They are from the collection of William Euing (1788-1874), a prosperous Glasgow insurance broker and bibliophile who amassed a wonderful library of some 17,000 books. Euing was a music enthusiast (so passionate, in fact, that he formed a glee club that met at 6 a.m.); his collection includes around 2,500 volumes of early printed music (8 incunabula), with particular strengths in theoretical and liturgical works.

Early printed music

Printed music from the Practica Musicae (Sp Coll Euing E.x.59)

Gafurius (1451-1522) has been referred to as the “father of modern music”.  He was born and lived in northern Italy, and his writings were hugely influential in the 16th century. Study of his works offers an understanding of the theory and practice of Renaissance music to this day.

The Theorica musicae (Naples: 1480) was his first major work; according to Irwin Young* it is to be accorded the honour of being “the first book printed before 1500 to treat in broad dimenson the study of music theory”.  He brought out a considerably altered second edition in 1492 (of which we also have a copy, already catalogued). The Practica musicae (Milan: 1496), as the title implies, puts Gafurius’s theoretical ideas into practice: it explains how to read, compose, and play Renaissance compositions. As Young* states, “more than any other work of its period, … [it] helped bridge the gap between music as a philosophical science and as a secular art.”

* Irwin Young: The practica musicae of Franchinus Gafurius (Madison/London: University of Wisconsin press, 1969) : copy at Level 4 Music C10 GAF



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