THE CONTEMPORARY THEORY OF RENAISSANCE MUSIC
A plaine and easie introduction to practicall musicke.
London, Peter Short, 1597.
FIRST EDITION, folio, pp. (vi) 183 (xxxv). Roman letter, printed side notes. Title within elaborate woodcut border comprising representations of great scholars of antiquity such as Ptolmey and Strabo together with allegorical figures of the sciences, a globe and Father Time at head, Mercury with caduceus at foot (McKerrow & Ferguson 99); woodcut headpieces incorporating Royal arms, large woodcut initials. Very extensive printed music, in red and black in places, some woodcut music and diagrams. Title and verso of last dusty, water stain to upper fore edge of that and next mostly marginal, the odd little marginal mark; generally clean and good in fine speckled C18th calf, spine and borders gilt, armorial bookplate on front pastedown, in slipcase.
First edition of the most famous musical treatise in the English language, the first satisfactory musical treatise published in England and certainly the most enduring. A new edition was published in 1771 and the work was still in use into the C19th. Morley (1557-1604?) was a pupil of Byrd, to whom the present work is affectionately dedicated, and like him became a gentleman of the Chapel Royal, in 1592. In recognition of his services, Morley was granted the patent, previously held by his master, of printing books of music and selling ruled paper. In his day Morley was a celebrated composer in his own right (the present work contains a number of new songs) especially of madrigals where he was much admired for his grace and skill, but his fame rests principally on the present work which was practical, simple and eminently usable.
Divided into three parts that treat respectively of ‘teaching to sing’, descant, and setting and composing, it also includes whole pieces set out in ‘table format,’ i.e. a sort of version of a choir book where separate parts are laid out sideways on a double page so that the singers and players can use the volume sat around a table. Selling originally at four shillings the work was immensely popular, so much so that that perfect copies are now very rare.
“The ‘Plaine and Easie Introduction’ stands by itself. Written in dialogue form, it gives a pleasant impression of Morley’s personality and is of the greatest value for the side-lights which it throws on contemporary musical life, while for the English student of modal music it is indispensable, being still the most important English work on the subject.” Grove V p. 897.
STC 18133. Lowndes IV 1615 ‘An ample and luminous general treatise’. RISM p.598. Gregory & Bartlett I 118. Hirsch I 416. Steele 161.