Although published in paperback, this book is voluminous, printed entirely on heavy, glossy paper of substantial size, 230 x 280 mm. (c. 9" x 11"). Its foldback covers, a feature often associated with art publications, suggest that this book is not only to be read but also appreciated for its visual splendor. In fact, there are 339 black and white facsimiles (figures) from manuscript and print sources illustrating the musical and graphic examples discussed in the text. Additionally, the Appendix contains 58 beautifully reproduced color plates representing the manuscripts and prints discussed in several articles.
The book was a decade in the making from its conception in 2008 by Thomas Schmidt, now Dean of Music and Professor of Musicology at the University of Huddersfield, U.K., collaborating with Hanna Vorholt, Lecturer in History of Art at the University of York. They pursued this premise: "As an integral part of the production and use of these books [Renaissance choirbooks], the mise-en-page provides crucial information for the understanding of the repertoire that is transmitted through them"(vii). They acknowledged that such books are among the most complicated in their layout, combining text, music notation and other decorative material. The music's polyphonic texture further complicates the layout with its individual parts usually separated on the page but intended to be sung concurrently. It should be noted that Schmidt is a leading proponent of the use of the French term "mise-en-page" (without italics) over its comparable English word "layout". Given his own inconsistent use of the two in the book, it seems that neither should be privileged.
From 2010-2014, Schmidt's project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the United Kingdom as an extensive collaboration among the University of Manchester School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, Bangor University School of Music, University of York Department of History of Art, the Warburg Institute School of Advanced Studies (University of London), and the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM) at University of Oxford. Through this wide-ranging collaboration, Schmidt sought to venture beyond musicological scholarship and engage in dialogue with specialists in codicology, history of the book, and art history. During this collaboration period, Schmidt intensified his focus on the ways that page layout affected musical performance. The layout/performance relationship would be the main topic of an international conference convened in 2013 at the British Library and Warburg institute. Three of the conference papers would appear in the Journal of the ALamire Foundation, volume 6, issue 2/2014 and four more in volume 7, issue 1/2015. Four other conference papers were expanded, revised and published as Part II of the text in the present book.
The book's text is divided into three parts which the editors characterize as: 1) Fundamentals; 2) Studies; and 3) Sources. Thereafter follow the Appendix of Colour Plates, 19 pages of Bibliography, and 33 pages of indexes divided into three categories: General, Compositions, and Manuscripts. Part I (Fundamentals) consists entirely of Schmidt's 98-page article, "Making Polyphonic Books in the Late Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Centuries," which is copiously documented with 294 footnotes, 81 black and white figures and eight color plates. Subdivided into ten topics, the article is comprehensive and even meticulous in its description of certain aspects of music manuscript production. However, the process of making printed music books is hardly discussed. This omission appears inexplicable, given the title of Schmidt's article, but understandable as the details of printing music are effectively explained in Part II.
Schmidt provides a brief background on the modern history of mise-en-page scholarship, noting that text manuscripts have garnered the principal interest and that music books are relative latecomers. He lays out a process of manuscript production that traditionally involves a division of labor, from those who prepare the parchment or paper, to those who measure and rule it, to the scribes, illuminators and editors. In the years examined, c. 1480-1530, paper had overtaken parchment as the predominant medium for manuscripts and especially for those of polyphonic music. Parchment remained the medium for liturgical chant and was the primary choice of certain regions and repertoires. Because parchment surpasses paper in durability and in receiving pigments and viscous inks, it was sometimes used for the decorative openings in more deluxe paper manuscripts.
The ruling of the manuscript page receives considerable attention, and the essential ruling implement for music notation is the rastrum, a pen with a five-pronged nib, for drawing all the staff's lines at once. Music staves are framed on the page within vertical bounding lines, and prick marks may guide the placement of staves within those lines. The manuscript's size helps determine the size of staves and their spatial arrangement. Generally, ruling is regular throughout a manuscript but can be flexible according to regional or scribal preference or customized to accommodate required miniatures and other decoration. All the ruling preparation is necessary for proper voice layout which around 1500 would most likely be in choirbook format. Here each voice of the polyphonic texture is copied on the manuscript opening, higher voices at the top and lower voices below, typically four in all, two voices on each side of the opening. For musical textures requiring more than four voices, the scribe was expected to be practical in placing the extra voices, sometimes resorting to various continuation signs and rubrics to direct the singer. Musical works that exceed a single opening can be continued on the next opening with carefully planned page turns synchronized in all voices. Schmidt identifies several voice layout types, but choirbook is the standard visual framework throughout most of the rest of the book.
Schmidt characterized musical notation as a "multidimensional symbol scheme," changing its meaning according to its location on the staff (57). Such a description implies an intersection with the field of semiotics in music, which is well represented in current musicological literature, but he recognizes that musical meaning is limited to certain spatial and iconic interpretations. Schmidt's reference to music's symbolism is more intrinsic than speculative, such as a scribe's use of coloration or ligatures as a choice, not a musical necessity, to signal a connection to the past, mark a metrical pattern, or simply to improve declamation. Musical notation is challenged by its relationship to text underlay in choirbook format as both depend on visualization of semantic units. By the mid-15th century, the "Great Word-Note Shift" was underway with the reversal of text-first to music-first copying (62). This solved problems of fitting melismas between syllables but created problems with underlaying widely spaced syllables and locating stave breaks. In some manuscripts the scribes attempted to even out the spacing to achieve coherence, but in any case, it was the music scribe who set the spacing.
Part II (Studies) examines mise-en-page issues in different genres of manuscripts and prints, focusing on representative samples. The first of its four articles is "Made to Measure: Compositional Challenges behind the Penitential Psalm Codices from the Munich Court" by the book's coeditor, Christian Thomas Leitmeir, Associate Professor of Music at University of Oxford and Tutorial Fellow of Magdalen College. The Munich manuscripts A and B were produced in the 1560s, some 30 years after the book's stated cut-off date, yet they represent the culmination of the medieval illuminated psalter. Produced for Albrecht V of Bavaria, Munich A consists of four volumes totaling 512 parchment leaves and was preceded by Munich B, which commemorates Cipriano de Rore's court visit in 1559. They are monuments to imperial courtly style as much as they are functional music scores. They are lavishly decorated, Munich A throughout, with miniatures by Hans Mielich and a celebrated cast of named and portraited copyists and artists. Leitmeir illustrated his text with a dozen black and white figures, and six color plates.
Sanna Raninen, a Research Fellow in the Department of Musicology at Uppsala University, provides the book's most comprehensive background on early printed music in "The Early History of the Printed Folio Choirbooks: Production and Layout." The article is thoroughly documented with 143 footnotes and a 2-page Appendix in detailed tabular form listing printed choirbooks in folio 1516-1550. Raninen focuses on the first printed choirbook in folio size, Andrea Antico's, Liber quindecim Missarum of 1516. Its music is meticulously cut from woodblocks and the book is lavishly decorated with woodblock prints throughout. Her focus eventually shifts to Antico's successor in printing folio-sized books, Valerio Dorico in his 1544 print of the Masses of Cristobal Morales. Here Dorico had just switched from double to single impression movable type for the music. Raninen concludes with an overview of print practices in Germany and France, looking principally at works of Pierre Attaingnant and Jacques Moderne.
In "The Representation of Notation in Early Printed Treatises on Music," Stanley Boorman, a British trained musicologist and New York University Professor Emeritus, examines a print genre in which music is incidental to the text. Indeed, polyphonic examples in late 15th century treatises are crudely cut from woodblocks, ill-placed in the text and riddled with mistakes. Despite the advent of movable type, woodblocks remained the medium for music in treatises into the 1530s. Gradually, the appearance of the music became more uniform with better editing. In some instances, the music examples became stylish and elegant. Boorman documents his study with 117 footnotes and 40 black and white figures.
Mara Hofmann, an Art Historian and Specialist for Medieval and Renaissance Art, is the book's first non-musicologist to discuss mise-en-page issues in "The Decoration of Music Manuscripts from the Burgundian-Habsburg Courts." Many of these manuscripts are products of the famed Alamire scriptorium and the illuminator, Gerard Horenbout. Hofmann focuses on the court at Mechelen, Margaret of Austria and the Scribe B manuscripts. Her descriptions of the manuscripts' personalized decoration, including that of family heraldry is thorough and scholarly. The lavishness of the manuscripts is appropriately illustrated with 23 color plates.
The seven articles of Part III (Sources) are all constructed on the same format with the following headings: 1. Place and Date of Origin, Production Context, and Provenance; 2. Codicological Description; 3. Repertoire (with a table of the manuscript's contents); 4. Production (includes music and decoration); and 5. Examples (individual works from the manuscripts). This format encourages a direct comparison among the sources.
Mara Hofmann's three contributions to Part III begins with "Brussels, Koninklijke Bibliotheek/Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, MS 9126." Belonging to the Scribe B complex that she discussed in Part II, MS 9126 was intended for Philip the Fair and his wife Joanna of Castile who are depicted in portraits. Examples include Mass movements from Josquin and Pierre de la Rue. Hofmann continues with a manuscript of the same provenance, "The Chansonnier of Margaret of Austria (Brussels, Koninklijke Bibliotheek/Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, MS 228)." It contains Margaret's portrait and heraldry and was produced by the Alamire workshop, if not Petrus Alamire himself. Examples include motets and chansons by Philippe Verdelot, Pierre de la Rue, and Antoine Brumel. Hofmann's final article is "Mechelen Archief en Stadsbibliotheek,s.s.," a manuscript containing seven Masses and of less than obvious provenance. The heraldry is of several countries and the persons depicted cannot be identified. It is thought to come from the Alamire workshop between 1508-1519. Examples include Mass movements by Mattheus Pipelare and Pierre de la Rue.
Joanna Frońska, of the French National Center for Scientific Research, Aesthetics and Theory of Art, examines "London, British Library, Royal MS 20 A. xvi." Containing late 15th century polyphony from the French Royal Court, it was decorated by the Bourges illuminator Jean Colombe. Thought to have been made for Louis II, Duke of Orleans or perhaps for Pierre II of Bourbon, Frońska has shown that it probably was owned by the wealthy bourgeois, Jean Robertet, secretary to Jean II, Duke of Bourbon. Examples include chansons by Alexander Agricola, Loyset Compère, and Hayne van Ghizeghem.
The final three articles are all by the independent scholar Ian Rumbold, beginning with "Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Mus. MS 3154." This is a complex collection of 174 mostly anonymous pieces notated by 43 different scribal hands. Rumbold assembled a seven-page table of detailed contents and discusses 13 example pieces. In his "Hradec Králové, Muzeum Východních Čech, Knihovna, MS II A 7 ('Speciálník Codex')" Rumbold applies intense scrutiny to this already extensively studied late 15th century Prague manuscript. Of its 228 polyphonic works, two-thirds are Western imports in white notation with the rest traditional Bohemian music in black notation. Rumbold has identified 31 composers who are listed with their works in a second table. His five example pieces include works by Petrus Wilhelmi and Philippe Basiron. In his final article, "The Polyphonic Manuscripts of the Duomo in Modena," Rumbold revisits seven manuscripts of polyphony from the Biblioteca e Archivo Capitolare of the Cathedral of San Geminiano in Modena. Products of 1520-1530, most of the contents were copied by Modena Cathedral's French maestro di cappella, Eustachius de Monte Regali. Rumbold supplies a detailed table of the different rastra used for MS IV's staves and another table identifying the dozens of scribes found in the manuscripts. Examples include Mass movements by Pipelare and Josquin, a Magnificat by Regali, and a motet by Adrian Willaert. Rumbold provides an inventory of the complete repertoire in five Appendixes and illustrates his article with 34 figures and six color plates.
The book's utility is considerably enhanced by a companion website, PRoMS (www.proms.ac.uk), which is sponsored by the Department of Digital Humanities at King's College, London. It contains extensive mise-en-page data for over 300 MSS and 80 prints, with links to DIAMM and image repositories.
The quality of the authors' scholarship along with the high production values invested in the visual components of the book make it a worthwhile reference source. In many ways, it resembles the best efforts of past music manuscript studies while also provoking its reader to consider a source's layout as a key to its meaning. With more case studies such as those in Part III, together with the PRoMS website database, the editors should be able to fulfill their aim of establishing a systematic reference for mise-en-page function in manuscripts and printed books of polyphonic music between c. 1480-1530 (vii). In any case, the book provides reassurance that art historians and musicologists can work together to their mutual benefit.