Viol scrolls by Allen Garvin, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Viol Scrolls by Allen Garvin

The Galpin Society Journal of 1955 contains an article by musicologist Gerald Hayes on The Lutes Apology by Richard Mathew, the only English lute book that is known to have been published between 1610 and 1676. The lone copy of the book was discovered in 1936 in Bedfordshire and deposited in the archives of the Bedford County Record Office. Hayes relates how he prepared a lengthy essay on the book, its author, the original owner, and the history of the lute, for what he hoped would be a facsimile edition. Oxford University Press agreed to publish it; lute scholar Diana Poulton provided transcriptions from the tablature into staff notation; the volume was entrusted to the British Museum where the necessary photographs were made. Hayes writes, “By 1940 everything was ready and the letterpress, duffed-out photographs, and engraved music were all photographed together onto glass, from which the zinc lithographic plates were made: at that stage a bomb fell on the printing works and everything disappeared without a trace.”1

Although Hayes’ edition never saw the light of day, the original volume of The Lutes Apology survived the Blitz, and a microfilm of the British Library’s copy now resides in the Isham Memorial Library, one of 300 new items from the personal microfilm collection of Prof. Emeritus John M. Ward. Now in his nineties, Prof. Ward continues to work as a collector and curator of music, theater and dance material for the Harvard libraries. A few years ago, as part of a general house-cleaning, Prof. Ward donated more than 1400 of his personal microfilms to the Harvard University’s Isham Library, a collection of music primary source material where I work as Associate Keeper. Over a two-year period, I had the pleasure of sorting through all the films in order to identify items that could be added to the Isham catalog; see this Ward Films Inventory (PDF) for a list of these new acquisitions. Duplicate films were claimed by the Music Library at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and the Lute Society of America.

Prof. Ward’s wide ranging research interests include five centuries of British popular and folk music. About 50 of our new items are collections of Scots dance tunes, including manuscripts of McClaren, Webster, Niven and Christie in Aberdeen; Nicoll, Stickle, Anderson and Virtue in Edinburgh; Doig, Stafford Smith and Sutherland in Glasgow. Along with The Lute’s Apology, more than 100 of the new films pertain to early string instruments such as lute, cittern, guitar and viola da gamba. Of particular note are binders containing Ward’s transcriptions from lute tablature (finger notation) into standard keyboard notation, making accessible vast amounts of repertoire previously hidden in the lutenists’ esoteric code. For players and scholars of the viola da gamba, the new acquisitions fill out Isham’s collection of consort manuscripts from Archbishop Marsh’s Library in Dublin; one tablature manuscript in Manchester for viol played “lyra-way,” or chordally, contains 246 pieces with 22 different tunings. In the front-matter of a viol tablature manuscript in the Cheshire Records office, I found this affectionate apostrophe by its owner, Sir Peter Leycester:

To his Viole

Come Sweete Companion, Solace of my life,
Asswager of my Cares, another wife,
Let us retire into some Shady Place,
Where with my circlinge thighs I may embrace
And gently hugge thee, till thy trembling strings
Cause the Sweete friskind ayre to dance & singe:
Whiles I bestride thy belly, sweetest Mate,
It is expected we should propagate:
The numerous issue of thy pleasinge mirth
Are all Abortives, perish[ed] in the Birth.
Oh I could with the Sportes of all our leasure
Might like the Spheres move in Eternall pleasure.
Embleme of Heaven! Fit for the feasts of Jove,
Where’s nothinge else but harmony and Love.2

– Douglas Freundlich, Associate Keeper, Isham Library

1. Gerald Hayes, Music in the Boteler Muniments, The Galpin Society Journal 8 (1955): 44. Requires Harvard ID/PIN for access.

2. Peter Leycester, Poems & characters by me P. Leycester, [16–], Leicester of Tabley Archives, DLT/B70, Cheshire Record Office. Isham Lib. 3519.889.24.3