Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pre-Reformation Eton Choirbook to be Published in Full Colour Facsimile Edition

Those of our readers who are more particularly specialized in their sacred music interests may be interested in this forthcoming offering from the Digital Imaging Archive of Medieval Music at the University of Oxford.

The price is not for the faint-hearted I would forewarn, but for those of you who have a particular academic or specialized interest in this, you would probably do well to order a copy sooner than later as this sort of title is often seen to be printed in limited runs, only to disappear.

The Eton Choirbook

A full-colour facsimile edition of Eton College Library, MS 178

One of the most iconic of music manuscripts, the Eton Choirbook is of unique importance, both in its own right as a cultural artefact and as a source of English choral polyphony composed during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Had it perished, along with so many other (less fortunate) pre-Reformation music manuscripts, our knowledge of a critical moment in the history of English music would have been immensely diminished.

Ever since it was first copied for use in the college chapel in the early 1500s, the choirbook has been continuously in the possession of Eton College. Several composers whose works were included in it had close associations with the college, not least Robert Wylkynson, who served as the college’s informator choristarum from 1500. Other composers represented include Banastre, Browne, Cornyshe, Davy, Fawkyner, Fayrfax, Hygons, Lambe and Turges. Most of its original contents (67 out of a total of 93 pieces) were votive antiphons, or devotional motets of prayer and praise, sung each evening to the Virgin Mary, the college’s dedicatee. The Salve ceremony, familiar to worshippers throughout Catholic Europe, lay at the heart of Eton College’s raison d’être as a chantry college: the Eton Choirbook is an eloquent witness to this flowering of devotional culture on the eve of the Reformation.

The manuscript is also a work of consummate artistry, copied by an experienced scribe on large vellum leaves, and illuminated by a professional limner. Even in its in-complete state (nearly half of its original 224 leaves have been lost), the Eton Choirbook is the undoubted queen of early Tudor music manuscripts.

The Choirbook will be presented in full colour facsimile on heavy matt art paper, hard bound, with an introduction by Magnus Williamson (Newcastle University) and published by the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (University of Oxford)

Pages: 60 (introduction) +vi + 252 + vi
Format: 427 x 306 mm (reduced from 590 x 420 mm)

* Pre-publication prices (payments received before 1 March 2010): Standard buckram binding £150; Full-leather binding £200
* After publication: Standard binding £180; Full-leather binding £250
* Postage UK £10; Europe £18; Elsewhere (except N America - see below) £28. Copies collected from Oxford or Eton will not incur postage charge.

UK/Europe etc. orders or enquiries should be sent to:

DIAMM, Faculty of Music, St Aldates, Oxford OX1 1DB, enclosing a cheque (payable to ‘Oxford University’) for the appropriate amount plus postage, and including all contact details for despatch or notification if collected, or purchased directly through our online shop.

All orders for USA/Canada should be made through OMI Facsimile sales

Orders and payment may also be made electronically in any currency via PayPal, to, or via our online shop.

Please contact DIAMM or OMI if you wish to make multiple purchases to enquire about discounts, or if you are a retailer.

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Those who would simply be interested in hearing the liturgical music found within the Eton Choirbook will be interested to know that The Sixteen (who are absolutely excellent) have recorded the music found within the Eton Choirbook within a wonderful box set edition.

Samples of their work and the music found within the Eton Choirbook may be found by visiting the link above.

Eton College itself has made some longer samples available here, sung by the Eton College chapel choir and directed by Ralph Allwood:

Magnificat (Nesbett)
Nesciens Mater (Lambe)

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