Brogyntyn Lute Book

Reference: Brogyntyn MS I.27

The Brogyntyn I.27 manuscript is part of the collection of manuscripts from the Brogyntyn Library near Oswestry deposited at the Library in 1934. It contains music for the lute copied about 1595, and transcripts of poems, elegies and legal miscellanea by the lawyer-poet Thomas Tanat (1603-69) of Broxton, Cheshire, added between about 1621 and 1629.

The Manuscript

The watermark on the paper dates the manuscript to 1584, but experts agree that the book was blank for some time before the music was copied, and the rest of the pages were empty until Thomas Tanat used them at a later date.

The manuscript measures 21.3 x 16.7 cm, and a small part of it is hand-lined for music notation in a series of six hand-ruled, six-lined staves. The manuscript was very tightly re-bound in pig skin, possibly during the first half of the 19 th  century. A panel from an earlier binding was inserted on the cover: a dark brown calf skin panel dating from the late 15th century, which measures approximately 185 x 140mm. This panel is decorated with diamonds and two different stamps, one of a deer inside a square and the other of a lion inside a circle. Robert Spencer and Jeffrey Alexander attest in their book 'Brogyntyn lute book' that this insert is not part of the original binding of the manuscript as the stamps have clearly been created for a book of different shape, since the pattern lies on its side (bgn00149). They also note that the manuscript has been cropped during the rebinding, losing some titles on the edge of the pages.

Copies of more recent correspondence (1962-4) relating to the manuscript, are bound separately (MS I.27a)

The Music

The music in the manuscript is probably a selection for personal or family use and contains approximately 49 pieces of music for the lute, in a very neat but unknown hand. Matthew Spring, the author of The Lute in Britain: A History of the Instrument and Its Music suggests that the manuscript was created by an amateur but enthusiastic nobleman. It includes nine solos, 24 consort-song intabulations, 15 incomplete duets, and one trio. He also suggests that the solos and duets were 'old-fashioned' by 1595.

Most of the original titles used the cypher alphabet, but most of these were later deleted or hidden. A key to these codes can be seen in Robert Spencer’s introduction to 'The Brogyntyn Lute Book ...'. The subject of eight of the songs derives from 'The Paradyse of Daynty devises', a collection of poems by Hyder Edward Rollins. It also includes tabulations of 'Je file' by Philip van Wilder. Many of the other songs have interesting titles, such as ‘Ah, alas, you salt sea gods’, ‘In terrors trapped with thraldom thrust’ and 'Mistrust misdeems amiss’.

It is not the arrangement of the Brogyntyn pieces themselves that make this an important manuscript, but rather the evidence of the custom of freely intabulating music, both instrumental and vocal, for performances for voice and lute.

The music was copied after 11 July 1595, as piece No. 25 mentions Pilkington’s BMus degree, which was awarded to him on this date. Robert Spencer and Jeffrey Alexander state in their 'Brogyntyn lute book' that it is likely that all the music was copied in a relatively short period.

Thomas Tanat (1603-69)

Thomas Tanat, a lawyer, religious man, poet and royalist from the Broxton, Cheshire area added poetry and legal miscellanea to the manuscript between 1624 and 1669. He wasn’t responsible for the musical content, and he probably inherited or bought the manuscript. He left all his books to his son, Edward Tanat, in his will in 1670.

Bibliography and further reading

Robert Spencer and Jeffrey Alexander, Brogyntyn lute book : c. 1595-1600, Boethius Press, 1978.

The Brogyntyn library of printed books, National Library of Wales Journal, Vol. 5, no. 3 Summer 1948; Vol. 5, no. 4 Winter 1948.

Mathew Spring, The Lute in Britain: A History of the Instrument and Its Music, Oxford Early Music Series, 2006.

Julia Craig-McFeely,'English lute manuscripts and scribes 1530-1630: An examination of the place of the lute in 16th- and 17th-century English Society through a study of the English Lute Manuscripts of the so-called 'Golden Age', including a detailed catalogue of the sources'. PhD., Oxford, 1993.

Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450-1700: National Library of Wales.

National Library of Wales: Brogyntyn Estate and Family Records

William Marx, The Index of Middle English Prose: Handlist XIV: Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, vol. 14 Cambridge, 1999, p.xv

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