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Anthologies of Musical Works from the 15th-17th Centuries in the Library of Congress Music Division

17th-Century Anthologies

“The daies are daies of shaking, daies of trouble… The shaking is universall…”                                                                                                                                                                                        Jeremiah Whittaker, 1642

Three-quarters of the pre-1700 printed anthologies held in the Music Division are products of the 17th century. In stark contrast to our primarily Italian 16th-century holdings, England and France account for a full 81% of the Music Division’s 17th-century inventory, leaving the remaining 19% to be distributed among Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain. Dozens of studies have proffered explanations for the geographic shift in publishers’ productivity, including the impacts of extreme religious turbulence and political upheavals such as economic hardships, peasant uprisings, plagues, wars, beheadings, restrictive printing monopolies, patents, etc. The strains of unrest, sometimes referred to as the ‘general crisis’ of 17th-century Europe, were widespread (Trevor-Roper, "General Crisis of the 17th Century," Past & Present, 1959) External. Decades of revolution bore irreversible results for a post-Renaissance society.

A summary of the Music Division’s 17th-century English anthologies has been divided into three sections, arranged chronologically by publisher:

  • 16th-century precursors and the English madrigal school
  • Anthologies of John and Henry Playford
  • Miscellaneous works of note

16th-Century Precursors

The highest number of 17th-century anthologies in the Music Division, 87 in total, were produced in England. Their chronological distribution parallels that country’s unique history of music publishing, a history that reflects the turmoil of the ‘general crisis’ followed by the blossoming of a culture that embraced domestic music-making and the rise of the amateur music-lover.

English secular music publishing only began in the 1570s with printer Thomas Vautrollier (an assigné of patent-holder and composer William Byrd). The Music Division holds a copy of his best-known anthology, Cantiones sacrae (1575), containing music by Byrd and Thomas Tallis. Identified as a commercial failure, this volume was unaffordable by most English households, nor did it serve a liturgical function, and the music required a high level of skill to perform.

After a twelve-year hiatus, printer Thomas East (first as assigné of William Byrd, then of Thomas Morley), altered the course of English music with his anthologies of Italian madrigals in English translation. Reminiscent of Antwerp’s Pierre Phalèse’s 1583 books of madrigals (Musica Divina and Harmonia Celeste) in size, format, and content, these Elizabethan anthologies not only helped solidify an already established fascination with the Italian madrigal but also demonstrated how musical ‘Englishing’ meant much more than a simple linguistic translation. They represented a loftier goal: the assimilation of these Italian models was an essential part of the progression in establishing an English musical style pleasing to English tastes in the early 17th century.

Musicologist Joseph Kerman has singled out five 'Englished' anthologies (four are included in the Music Division’s collections), according them a degree of responsibility for ushering in a surge in productivity. Links to the Library of Congress Online Catalog are provided when possible.

The story of the English school of madrigal composers has been described by musicologist Edmund H. Fellowes as one of the strangest phenomena in the history of English music, citing the long delay of its appearance, how much it lagged behind the Italian school, the suddenness of its development, the extent of its output, the variety, originality and fine quality of the music, the brevity of its endurance, and the completeness with which it finally collapsed by 1620 (Fellowes, Orlando Gibbons, p. 77).

John and Henry Playford

Image of John Playford. An introduction to the skill of musick, 8th edition. 1679. Library of Congress Music Division.

A thirty-year silence of the music presses - years embroiled in ‘general crisis’ – finally came to a close in 1650 with the emergence of music publisher and bookseller John Playford, who almost single-handedly revived music publishing in England, an achievement due in part to an unequaled business acumen that earned him the title of “the first great capitalist of music history” (Krummel, English Music Printing, p. 112). According to Stephanie Carter, John and his son Henry Playford were by far the largest contributors to the English music publishing industry; numbering upwards of fifty works in nearly a hundred different editions, the Playford family’s output represents roughly two-thirds of the music printed in England between 1650 and 1686’ (Krummel, English Music Printing, p. 125).

Playford understood the advantages of producing music for targeted audiences, and adopted marketing strategies that included title pages with eye-catching illustrations, personalized prefaces scripted to entice the growing number of amateur musicians, and accentuating the ‘newness’ factor of his music; he also took the liberty to reserve space in his publications for advertisements of his previous works.


Music Division's Playford Holdings

The Music Division’s collection of John and Henry Playford’s anthology output is formidable, only second in extent to items the Music Division holds from the Ballard firm in France. Anthologies in single and multiple volumes were Playford’s publication of choice. Carter has categorized these volumes into four types:

  • Secular vocal books (subdivided into accompanied and unaccompanied works)
  • Books of devotional songs
  • Beginner instrumental lessons
  • Other instrumental music and miscellanies

Examples from the first three categories are summarized below.


Secular Vocal Books (With Accompaniment)

After assessing the market appeal of various music miscellany, Playford’s primary output concentrated on secular vocal repertory: solo songs and duets for the amateur to perform either at home or at informal gatherings. To boost sales, some books introduced a figured bass and others included optional instrumental parts as an alternative to singing. The Music Division has collected the majority of these publications by Playford including, but not limited to, the following. Links to the Library of Congress Online Catalog are provided when possible.

Secular Vocal Books (Unaccompanied)

Within this category, the stand-out opus is Playford’s anthology Catch that catch can, subsequently titled The Musical Companion, and later The Pleasant Musical Companion. The first published edition from 1652, compiled by John Hilton, has been labelled ‘transitional,’ in that it seamlessly leads into the age of the Restoration catches.

Playford’s catch collections were immensely popular – with at least sixteen editions issued by 1700. Overall, their contents revealed a more robust, bawdier, sophisticated style, in contrast to Thomas Ravenscroft’s three earlier anthologies, Pammelia [1609], Deuteromelia [1610] and Melismata [1611], that represented the first age of catch singing in England. (Eric Ford Hart, "The Restoration Catch," Music & Letters, Vol. 34, No. 4, Oct. 1953) External.

The Music Division holds copies of four significant editions of Playford’s catch anthologies cataloged in the M1490 and M1578 classifications. Links to the Library of Congress Online Catalog are provided when possible.

Books of Devotional Songs

Playford’s anthologies dedicated to sacred music were far fewer in number compared with his secular output. Seven publications held in the Music Division’s collections fit into this category, five anthologies of devotional songs (both single and multiple volumes), and two books related to psalm-singing. Links to the Library of Congress Online Catalog are provided when possible.

Instrumental Lessons for Beginners

With the restoration of Charles II in 1660 came the resumption of social events including musical gatherings and a renewed interest in music pedagogy. Playford’s response to these promising developments was both astute and calculated – he recognized a time-sensitive opportunity to nurture a growing class of amateur musicians who, with targeted training, would broaden the pool of consumers interested in his merchandise. His strategy was to produce anthologies with less advanced repertoire and to pair the musical contents with lessons on how to easily play or sing them.

“The Treble-Violin is at this present the only Instrument in fashion, and the delight of most Young Practitioners in Musick for its cheerful and sprightly Sound, in setting forth the new Airy Tunes of these Times….” - Your Friend John Playford/ Apollo’s Banquet, 1690

Four examples of Playford’s anthologies that include musical lessons are for the lyra-way, the cithern, the virginal or harpsichord, and the violin, respectively. Links to the Library of Congress Online Catalog are provided when possible.

Other Miscellaneous Works of Note

Other prominent English publishers whose anthologies are among the Music Division’s collections include:

  • Thomas Adams
  • William Barley
  • Samuel Briscoe
  • John and Robert Carr
  • Richard Davis
  • John Forbes
  • Joseph Hindmarsh
  • John Hudgebut
  • George Loew
  • Humphrey Mosley
  • John Smith
  • John Walsh

At the close of the 17th century, the demand for new music had grown to such a degree in England that a new format was created: a periodical of music scores. Not unlike the many ambitious series published by the Ballard firm in France, the idea of a periodical publication for music scores only appeared in England in 1699 with the first issue of Mercurius Musicus or, the Monthly Collection of Teaching Songs, published by Henry Playford. The Music Division holds issues from January through December of 1700.

As noted in the section on 'Provenance' in this research guide, many of our English anthologies were purchased at the auction of the William Hayman Cummings estate in 1917: e.g., Apollo’s Banquet, 180 Loyal Songs, Locke’s Melothesia, The Banquet of Musick, Cantica Sacra, Musick’s Delight, Catch that Catch Can, Musick’s Hand-maid, Ravenscroft’s Psalms, Deuteromelia, The Genteel Companion, Scelta di canzonette italiane, Synopsis musicae, and Thesaurus musicus.

Three brief discussions highlight the variety of materials from the Music Division’s collection of French anthologies:

  • Examples of musical contrafacta used for catechismal pedagogy
  • The Gaultier lute book of 1672
  • The extensive anthology collections from the presses of Pierre, Robert and Christophe Ballard

Music for Teaching Catechism

When the Music Division purchased a portion of the Landau Collection in 1949, reference staff member Richard S. Hill commented on the books under the heading “Song and Hymn Books:”

“It is difficult to describe briefly books such as these. On the average, they contain 450 pages with songs of many types, some for one voice but many for up to four voices. In some instances the songs were written specifically for the collection of which they are a part, but in general they are selected from various sources, or, as in La pieuse alouette, the compiler has supplied new words for an "air mondain." When musicologists come to realize more fully that a sociological history of music is a necessity before any real understanding of the art is possible, then these books will have to be given a far greater share of attention. Until that day comes, however, it will perhaps be sufficient to say that the books are here, and that they contain all sorts of interesting material." (Library of Congress Annual Report, 1949).

That realization and subsequent “understanding of the art” has indeed been achieved over the past decades as the role of musical contrafacta, (the air mondains et plus communs) associated with the teaching of Christian doctrine in early 17th century France have attracted substantial scholarly attention. In her article on ’Chaste Chansons,' Dorothy S. Packer reports on how rapidly this practice spread: “An avalanche of cantiques, chansons spirituelles, odes spirituelles, and paraphrases of psalms and hymns, all intended for singing in the French-speaking home, was published between 1613 and 1633.“ (Packer, Dorothy S. “Collections of Chaste Chansons for the Devout Home (1613-1633).” Acta Musicologica, 61, no. 2 (1989): 175–216) External. These collections, typically published in the north of France and neighboring Franco-Flemish cities, assembled newly-composed sacred French verses intended to reinforce lessons from children’s catechisms and paired them with melodies from existing airs de cours of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

Daniele Filippi tracks the spread of this phenomenon from mid-16th Spain to Italy and then on to France; he credits the fact that these contrafacta flourished in early 17th century France to the pastoral efforts of the Society of Jesus, especially French Jesuits Michel Coyssard and Guillaume Marc(i), catechists whose work relied on music as their principal didactic tool (Filippi, Daniele V. “A Sound Doctrine: Early Modern Jesuits and the Singing of the Catechism.” Early Music History, 34 (2015), pp. 1-43) External. A comparison of these editions shows that literary contents were often shared; and, although most works appear without composer attributions, the borrowed music is gradually being identified, many located in one of the abundant volumes of airs by the publisher Ballard.

Four outstanding examples of collections of spiritual chansons in the Music Division, some with multiple editions, are described below; most are cataloged under the LC class number M2137, identified as "Sacred vocal music – hymns – Christian – published in Europe – France."

Denis and Ennemond Gaultier: Livre de tablature des pièces de luth, 1672

The Publishing Firm of Pierre, Robert, and Christophe Ballard

In 1910, knowing first-hand the scope and caliber of the collection of Jean-Baptiste Weckerlin, and having sufficient funds in pocket, the Music Division entered into the auction sale of Weckerlin’s musical treasures with the firm intention of securing a large portion of the event’s offerings. Weckerlin was a renowned scholar of early French chansons and over his lifetime he had amassed one of the premiere collections of early French imprints, especially an unparalleled number of anthologies from the presses of Pierre, Robert, and Christophe Ballard, France’s most prolific publisher of the 17th century. Sixty-six Ballard anthologies, dating from 1608 to 1700, were successfully bid on that day along with countless other treasures, an outcome that positioned the Music Division as one of the leading repositories for Ballard materials worldwide, with these anthologies surpassing in numbe those of all other music publishers within the Division's collections.

Music publisher Pierre Ballard (?1575–80; d. Oct 4, 1639) carried on his father’s business (formerly LeRoy & Ballard) in partnership with his mother after the death of Adrian Le Roy. In 1607, Henri IV officially made him music printer to the king, a privilege that was extended to 1633. Pierre’s ‘bread and butter’ were anthologies of airs de cour and chansons composed by the finest court composers - Pierre Guédron, Antoine de Boësset, and to a lesser degree Vincent, Bataille, Auger, and Moulinié. (S. Pogue/ J. Le Cocq; Grove Online) Composer attributions were included less than 8% of the time; however, identities of many anonymous composers have been ascertained and made available through various online websites, e.g., External and External, and in the print literature.

The Music Division owns seventeen anthologies from three separate series, dating from 1608 through 1639, from Pierre Ballard’s firm. Pierre’s son, Robert, assumed responsibility for the company after his father’s death and completed the series Chansons pour dancer et pour boire. Links to the Library of Congress Online Catalog are provided when possible.

M1490.B28 Case

M1730.A2 A2 Case

M1730.A2 C35 Case

Robert Ballard (c1610; d Paris, before May 1673), son of Pierre Ballard, was granted a privilege from Louis XIII in October 1639, naming him “sole printer to the King for music, the first of the Ballards to have exclusivity specified in the title.” (Grove Online) Besides completing his father’s Chansons pour danser et pour boire series, he also introduced his own series in 1658: Airs de différents autheurs à deux parties was an immense undertaking that would span over three decades. Published annually, the 37 volumes comprised a total of over 1200 chansons making it the firm’s largest series.

The Music Division’s twenty-six anthologies by Robert Ballard are listed below.

M1730.A2 C35 Case

M1730.A3 Case

After Robert Ballard’s death, publishing of the Livre d’Airs de différents autheurs series was continued by his eldest son Christophe Ballard (1641; d Paris, before May 28, 1715), named sole music printer to the King immediately in 1673. As the Bibliothèque Nationale points out in their online presentation External, from 1658 to 1684 the airs from this series were presented in separate parts, without bar lines: the top part printed on the left page, the bass part on the right page (see images below). Beginning in 1685, Christophe Ballard changed this format with the parts now superimposed in systems comprising two or more staves. He also introduced vocal ornaments, included figures in the basso continuo and made the transition from foliation to pagination.

“Que ces vastes forêts,” in XXVII Livre d'Airs de differents autheurs, à deux et trois parties. 1684. Library of Congress Music Division.
“Une jeune et tendre beauté,” in XXVIII Livre d'Airs de differents autheurs, à deux et trois parties. 1685. Library of Congress Music Division.

The Ballard firm grew substantially under Christophe’s direction, increasing the size of their staff and maintaining four presses, that still, however, used the old (and perhaps somewhat outmoded) movable type method of printing (Krummel, English Music Printing, p. 162)

There are twenty-three anthologies from Christophe Ballard’s presses in our collections that are listed below. Links to the Library of Congress Online Catalog are provided when possible.

M1730.A3 Case

M1490.R29 Case

M1730.R5 P3 1696 Case

M1507.B23 P3

M1450.P65 A4 Case

M1730.A2 C35 Case