WILBYE, John. The first set of English madrigals to 3.4.5. and 6. voices: newly composed by Iohn Wilbye. [Bassus] London, Printed by Thomas Este, 1598.


YONGE, Nicholas. Musica transalpina. Madrigales translated of foure, five and sixe parts, chosen out of divers excellent authors, with the first and second part of La Verginella, made by maister Byrd, upon two stanza’s of Ariosto. [Bassus] London, By Thomas East, the assigné of William Byrd, 1588.


FIRST EDITIONS. Two works in one. 4to. 1) [ii], XXX. A-D. 2) ff. (ii) LVII (i) A² A-G (without last blank). Woodcut type notation, Roman letter. Both titles within typographical border with small woodcut ornaments, floriated and historiated woodcut initials in second work, full page woodcut arms of dedicatee Gilbert, Lord Talbot on verso of second title. Light even browning in both works, first t-p and verso of last dusty, small waterstain to blank lower outer corner of first few leaves, minor waterstain in places, rare mark or spot. Very good original copies, entirely unsophisticated in original limp vellum, upper cover with BASSUS stamped in black, lower cover stamped with B above with monogram WR separated with a heart at centre, holes for ties, a little soiled and stained, a little loose in binding, in fldg. box.

Very rare first editions of these madrigals, both of them bass parts, remarkably, and exceptionally rarely, preserved in their original vellum; this is of particular importance as it shows exactly how the work would have been used at the time. If you sang bass you would only have needed the bass parts. Most extant copies of such works have collected various parts together and have been rebound for reference, not for use. The first work is the first collection of Madrigals by Wilbye and the second is an important collection of madrigals that include works by Byrd, Donato, Lassus, and Palestrina amongst many others.

“It is through his madrigals that Wilbye (1574–1638), who spent most of his life in comparative obscurity as a domestic musician, is known. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2001) describes him as ‘one of the finest English madrigalists’. Meanwhile, the Tudor music specialist Edmund Horace Fellowes yet more superlatively stated that Wilbye was ‘regularly acknowledged to be the greatest stylist of the Elizabethans’ (introduction to his edition of the First Set of Madrigals). He also asserted him to be ‘one of the greatest figures in English Music’ (The English Madrigal Composers, 2e, 1948, p. 221). Wilbye wrote in all styles to a high standard. Yet more importantly, he established the serious madrigal as a recognised form of composition. Wilbye published 64 madrigals in all, the 30 here (1598) and the rest in his Second Set of Madrigales (1609). They are written for between three and six voices. .. For the book historian, the volume is also interesting for its publisher, Thomas Este, or East (1540–1608). From 1587 onwards, East specialised in music printing and publishing. He edited music carefully and was faithful to the intentions of the composers. He was ‘the’ madrigal printer of his time, having printed the Musica Transalpina in 1588 (the first printed collection of Italian madrigals with texts translated into English), most of the following collections of ‘Englished’ Italian madrigals of the time, and the works of many of the Elizabethan madrigalists. Both William Byrd and, later, Thomas Morley sometimes employed him. As well as printing the work of established composers, East invited young, up-and-coming composers to his press – one of who was Wilbye.” Dr Karen Attar ‘Senate House Library.’

“The most important formative influences on Wilbye’s music were Morley’s canzonet manner and, to a lesser extent, the madrigalian idiom of Alfonso Ferrabosco… The most marked influence of Morley is to be heard in the three-voice pieces that open Wilbye’s First Set of English Madrigals (1598). Here Wilbye already shows a firm command of Morley’s facile canzonet style, generating fluent little paragraphs that are as polished as they are unenterprising. Signs of Ferrabosco’s influence may be most clearly discerned in certain of the five-voice works of this collection, with their more staid expression and counterpoint. Lady, your words doe spight mee actually uses a text already set by Ferrabosco (in Yonge’s Musica transalpina, 1588), and is the only example of Wilbye’s borrowing some musical material from an earlier setting. The best of the five-voice pieces is Flora gave mee fairest flowers, a far more canzonet-like piece, whose clearcut paragraphs and specially sprightly conclusion contrast sharply with the amorphous counterpoint and relatively neutral expression of its companions.” David Brown in Grove Music Online.

“Yonge was the editor of two anthologies of Italian madrigals published, with English texts, as Musica transalpina in 1588 and 1597. The first contains 57 pieces (including an English version of La verginella by Byrd with a new second part, and four settings of French texts) by 18 composers, of whom the most liberally represented are the elder Ferrabosco and Marenzio. In 1583 and 1585 Pierre Phalèse of Antwerp had issued three madrigal anthologies which not only provided the model for Yonge’s venture, but also afforded him a quantity of Italian madrigals by minor Flemish composers (19 pieces came from these three sources). Yonge’s 1588 collection was a direct result of the growing English enthusiasm during the 1580s for Italian madrigals. He explained that most of the English translations had been made in 1583 by ‘a Gentleman for his private delight’. ..Yonge’s 1588 volume was the most influential of the five volumes of Italian madrigals in translation to appear in England between 1588 and 1598.” David Brown in Grove Music Online.

1) ESTC S101316 STC 25619. Hirsch III, 1150. RISM W1065. 2) ESTC S120284 STC 26094. RISM Recueils Imprimés XVIe-XVIIe Siècles 1588-29.

1) Folger (4 copies), Princeton, Illinois (2 copies).

2) Folger, Harvard, Huntington, Lib Congress, Texas


Print This Item Print This Item