Evaluation of the repertory

Dating and function

Comments on Hand B’s last entries




General Index of music editions
by first line
   by composer


Other editions and papers on this site:

Copenhagen Chansonnier

Complete Works of Gilles Mureau

Amiens MS 162 D

Sacred music of the 15th century

Peter Woetmann Christoffersen

Papers on

Basiron’s chansons
Busnoys & scibes PDF
Chansons in Fa-clefs
Chansoner på nettet
Fede, Works
Dulot’s Ave Maria
Open access 15th c.
MS Florence 2794


Dating and function

Since we found that the watermark on the paper was exactly the same as Briquet’s drawing of the watermark from a document dated 1502, and all the other variants he lists come within the period 1501-1509, we must assume that the paper in Uppsala 76a was produced in the years around 1500. 1500 thus seems to be the earliest date for the origin of the manuscript. The strong representation of Antoine de Févin’s music suggests, however, that it should be dated rather later. Looking at the repertory alone, one is tempted to see it as contemporary with Copenhagen 1848 – that is, around 1520. Yet it is hardly likely that the paper was in use that long. A reasonable possibility is that the manuscript was begun in the course of the first decade of the century, and that only Hands A and B worked on it at the beginning, while Hand C did not add his contribution until a later period. We must return to this question; first let us see where in France the manuscript could have been created.

As soon as one gets to know the manuscript, one realizes that it has close affinities with Copenhagen 1848; the similarities in the repertory selection, the paper quality and script types are striking, and one cannot deny that something as indefinable as the ‘personality’ of the manuscript also makes an impression. There can be no doubt that both manuscripts are products of the same cultural circle – that is, provincial southern France. The present author makes no bones about preferring Lyons as the most likely candidate for the origin of Uppsala 76a. Howard Mayer Brown prefers some unspecified place in south-western France (Brown 1983b, p. 176).

Brown bases his view on the paper, which according to Briquet was widespread in south-western France; on the presence of the dance »La gasquona«; on the fact that “Bourd[eaux] la jolie” is mentioned in no. 4 »Vive le roy«; that later additions at the back of the book seem to be in the Gascon dialect; and the identification of a later owner, Pierre Robin, in Toulouse. Of these points, the watermark is the most important. Later additions and owners do not necessarily tell us anything about the place of origin; nor do local references in title and text carry that much weight in a repertory as composite as this. The arguments that can be mustered for Lyons as the place of origin, however, are no stronger than Brown’s. So Brown’s argument should not be rejected either; we can only offer Lyons as a possible alternative.

Let us therefore look at the paper first. The watermark or similar watermarks has not been found in use in paper mills in south-western France according to Alexandre Nicolai’s Histoire des Moulins à papier du Sud-ouest de la France 1300-1800 (Nicolai 1925), which makes no claim, however, to have a complete list. Variants of the watermark which probably come from the same mill are found all over central and south-western France (cf. Briquet 1968 nos. 11539-44), but are also used in a book printed in Lyons in 1498 (no. 11540). It is likely, then, that it is paper from one of the big producers with wide-ranging trade relations, and thus also possibly supplying the city of Lyons. A proper analysis of the distribution and origin of the paper can only be done by research in the archives, where one must follow in Briquet’s footsteps – a quite insurmountable task.

In the binding of the manuscript there is a piece of parchment used as reinforcement. It is a fragment of a large document of the fifteenth century, closely written, but so incomplete that it is difficult to extract a meaning from it. The first line mentions “Ruthenensis”, which refers to Rodez in south-western France—the context is not quite clear:

1 “… littera episcopali Ruthenensi conficiendum[.] Stetur firmiter et credatur ac in indicii et e…”
2 “… qui ad huiusmodi pertinent officium[,] nos et successores nostros tangentes dum s…”
3 “… Radulphi[.] Filius Petri quondam lugdunensis diocesis abhac hora in Anthea s…”
4 “… consilio auxilio consensu vel facto vel dictus dominus meus vel successores sui v…”
5 “… ad per dictos successores suos seu litterae aut nuncium manifestatum fuerit ad dicti domini …”
6 “… quid debemus contingebit … in periculum eiusdem domini seu dictorum offi…”

In the third line of the text, however, we find a quite clear reference to a particular person: a son of Peter, who was formerly connected with the diocese of Lyons, and who is now in “Anthea”. Anthea is the small town of Ampuis, a few kilometres south of Lyons, where there was a communauté du prêtres, which belonged, as did the whole district, to the chapter of Saint-Jean in Lyons (cf. Graesse 1972, I p. 108 and Lacour 1959, vol. II, 22 G). Considering the local significance of this information, it is very likely that it is a document written and preserved in Lyons, then discarded and re-used as bookbinding in the same place. But since the fragment also mentions Rodez, one cannot regard it as firm evidence.

It has already been mentioned that the repertory of Uppsala 76a has strong resemblances to that of Copenhagen 1848; not only does the selection exhibit the same attitude to the repertory of the day, but there are also, as indicated in the list of contents, a number of concordances between the two sources – a total of eleven compositions are common to both. Details of the repertory also point to an origin in Lyons. For example Hand C is fond of using the designation “Altus” for the highest part in the piece, a practice which the main scribe of Copenhagen 1848 copied from the exemplar he used (cf. Christoffersen 1994, Vol. I, p. 82). Hand C of Uppsala 76a uses this name for the upper voice regardless of its pitch, and alternates it indiscriminately with the designation “Supra” (“Altus”: nos. 37, 49, 50, 53, 54, 55, 67 and 69; “Supra”: nos. 36, 37, 38, 43, 48, 57 and 65); in Févin’s »En amours n’a sinon bien«, which fills two openings, the superius is called “Altus” on the first opening and “Supra” on the second. The rare retrospective setting of the hymn “Langentibus in purgatorio” (no. 66) should be viewed in the light of the fact that a similar two-part setting of the same hymn can be found in the manuscript fragment, Lyon, Bibliothèque de la Ville, ms. 6632 fonds mussicales, from the same period and probably written in Lyons (cf. Christoffersen 1994, Vol. I, pp. 319-325). The third known setting of this text is in the contemporary manuscript Amiens, Bibliothèque Centrale Louis Aragon, MS 162 D from northern France (cf. the Amiens MS 162 D Edition). The motet »O quam presul« (Uppsala 76a no. 57) has the composer attribution “Jehan Mire”. The surname is written as a note rebus; he may be identical to the Mirus, also written as a rebus, who is represented in Copenhagen 1848 by the piece »Aguillon, serpentin, dangier«(no. 275). Finally, the only fairly ambitious sacred composition in Uppsala 76a is a Magnificat in the sixth tone by Antoine Brumel. Brumel’s Magnificat in the second tone was mentioned as the most important work of sacred music in Copenhagen 1848 (Copenhagen 1848 no. 183; cf. discussion in Christoffersen 1994, Vol. I, pp. 271 f). Brumel was one of the few significant composers we know to have been in Lyons at the beginning of the century. A dating of Uppsala 76a to shortly after 1505, when Brumel was in Lyons for at least six months on his way to Italy, fits perfectly with the known facts about the manuscript.

Lyons was an important centre for the production and distribution of written music. Outside Paris we know of no other localities in France with a similar volume of music distribution. Uppsala 76a has to be placed in such a context. The most reasonable explanation of the distinctive features of the manuscript – the small format (like court chansonniers), the cheap binding and the poor paper quality, the repertory, which is comparable to the series in Copenhagen 1848, and the cooperation of the three scribes – is that it was a music book, not produced for a particular patron, but for sale at the book market.

If this hypothesis is acceptable, we can see Uppsala 76a as an example of the type of music collection which professional copyists of the same calibre as the main scribe of Copenhagen 1848 produced with sale in mind. For this, the copyist’s stock of music was of crucial importance. The Lyons fairs were held four times a year, and the production of music books at prices which well-heeled citizens outside the upper class could afford would have to be quick if it was to make a profit. Uppsala 76a was probably the result of cooperation by three copyists. The principal copyist made the small book himself and drew the staves on all pages except for the last fascicle. Hand A filled a fascicle with the evergreen hits of the chanson repertory and a »Vive le roy« (no. 4). This probably happened shortly after the year 1500. (1) Hand B, who may have been responsible for the project, filled in most of four fascicles (with nos. 5-31) including a »Vive le roy« (no. 12). If Hand A and Hand B worked with loose fascicles, as was customary in this period, the manuscript was then bound. And it is not inconceivable that already at this point, with only five of the twelve fascicles filled with music, the manuscript was offered for sale. We encounter many manuscripts, from courtly as well as more modest circles, which have many empty pages for the addition of new compositions. But Hand B worked on with the manuscript along with Hand C, who had access to the latest repertory of the day, which would certainly increase the interest of buyers in the product; he too included a »Vive le noble roy« – Compère’s three-part victory chanson (no. 49). All three copyists clearly felt that such songs had a special attraction. Hand B himself contributed two longish Latin compositions which were available in Lyons, the prayer »Langentibus in purgatorio« and Brumel’s Magnificat (nos. 40 and 66), without however entering much text for the latter. Some time after this cooperation, Hand B tried to fill out the gaps with chansons which appealed to the most modern taste of the day, but whose techniques of composition reveal their provincial origins (nos. 32-34 and 41-42) – four of them may be his own compositions (the copying of these four chansons differs in ink colour and script from Hand B’s earlier work). In this state, Uppsala 76a was finally sold, and it is very possible that the buyer lived in Toulouse or the surrounding region, since the many additions point in that direction. The manuscript clearly had several owners during the first half of the sixteenth century. Around 1530 its repertory, like that of Copenhagen 1848, lost all currency, and a person reasonably versed in music (a student?) used empty spaces for attempts at composition (nos. 58, 59, 70 and 73). Later again, someone else used empty pages to store three four-part motets (nos. 60-62), including N. Gombert’s »Surge, Petre – Angelus Domini stetit«.

Viewed in this perspective, Uppsala 76a could not supplement Copenhagen 1848 better, although it has to be dated a decade earlier, and even though it may prove to have originated elsewhere than Lyons. It cannot be denied that it belongs to the same cultural ambience, and in its own way Uppsala 76a bears just as unique testimony to the musical practice of the age as Copenhagen 1848.

1) Isabel Kraft has recently suggested that the genesis of Uppsala 76a might be earlier. She proposes that “Uppsala 76a in den engeren Kreis noch vor dem Tod Charles’ VIII. begonnenen Handschriften gehören konnte, ist nicht auszuschließen.” (Kraft 2009, p. 69). Her idea builds on the similarities in writing hands appearing among the latest added scribbles and pen trials in Uppsala 76a as well as in other somewhat older MSS of French origin. As the evidence concerns the youngest entries in Uppsala 76a, a dating of the work of Hand C to the decades before 1498 would bring about significant revisions of the biographies of the youngest composers and of our picture of the development of the French chanson. It might be more interesting to use the same evidence to throw light on the later provenance of the MSS involved.