Bellum musicale, inter plani et mensuralis cantus reges … contendentes.

Strasbourg, Paul Messerschmidt, 1563.


FIRST EDITION. 4to, 88 leaves, *4, A-X4. Roman letter; large printer’s device on title, five full-page woodcut illustrations, music notes and sheets; little ink spots on title, very marginal damp stain at foot of final gatherings. A very good copy in contemporary vellum, stained orange; yapp edges, early title inked on spine; another title apparently removed from binding.

Uncommon editio princeps of an inventive guide to Renaissance music. Born in Metz, Claudius Sebastiani was a scholar and organist in Fribourg between 1557 and 1565. He is mostly known for the Bellum musicale, his only work in print, which discusses the theories of plainchant and polyphony in the form of a fable, following the Micrologus of his earlier compatriot Andreas Ornithoparchus, or Vogelhofer. The two main characters are depicted as kings of two provinces at war seeking to succeed Apollo as supreme head of the realm of music.

A skilled performer, Sebastiani also offers advice to organists for improvising variations, and provides examples of keyboard tablature. Three charming full-page illustrations accompany the text, metaphorically depicting music scales, tones and keys as branches of an oak or pipes of an organ. The final recto shows an elaborate woodcut representing a scholar (the author, perhaps) dedicating his work to Apollo and the Muses, and surrounded by the Latin Classics and gods. Below him, two putti, sitting around a fountain and possibly a publisher’s device with the initials C. B., are playing and singing in praise of Thalia and Clio, Muses of comedy and history.

Not in Grove or BMS. BM STC Ger., 806; Adams, S 827; Brunet, V, 254 (‘singulier et rare’); Graesse, VI, 337; VD16 S 5192.


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