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


The Uppsala chansonnier MS 76a

The handwritten catalogue of Uppsala University Library Vokalmusik i Handskrift (A. Lagerberg, 1880s) describes Vol. 76a as “Liber Carminum Gallicorum cum notis musicis”. The fact that the manuscript is mentioned here tells us that it has been in the possession of the library for at least the last hundred years. There are no records of how the manuscript came to Sweden. It is however conceivable that, like so many other treasures in Swedish libraries, it is from the “golden age of Swedish library history” in the seventeenth century, when Swedish armies sent home book collections in wagonloads as the spoils of war to the newly-established library in Uppsala and to the private libraries of the King and the aristocracy. At the beginning of the seventeenth century Sweden, under Gustav II Adolf, expanded along the Baltic coast; and in 1630 Protestant Sweden plunged into the Thirty Years’ War against the imperial Catholic armies. Before long Sweden had secured supremacy in the northern and central parts of Germany. Everywhere libraries were confiscated and sent home; the book collections of the Jesuit colleges, with their international orientation, were a favourite target. Book collections were fetched from southern Germany too, and in the last years of the war a number of Bohemian and Moravian monastery libraries were confiscated. In 1648, when Prague fell, the great book collection of the Bohemian King could be added to the book treasures already conquered. From Prague came, among many other things, the famous Codex argenteus of the sixth century to Sweden, where it is now in the University Library in Uppsala.

How the French manuscript had ended up in the Emperor’s domains – in Germany or elsewhere – is another story which we have no possible way of investigating. Perhaps it made the whole long journey along with the other old music manuscripts which stand beside it to this day on the shelves as nummer 76 (among others, the two younger French manuscripts Uppsala 76b and 76c). Its later fate, though, is clear. It lay quite neglected in the library stacks; not neglected by the library, for the manuscript is listed in a modern card file with musical incipits, but neglected by musicologists. Howard Mayer Brown was the first to draw attention to it in a 1981 paper, and in 1982 came an article where a few interesting compositions were reviewed, and finally a detailed account of the MS – ‘A “New” Chansonnier of the early Sixteenth Century: Uppsala, University Library, Vokalmusik in Handskrift 76a’, AMS paper 1981; ‘Emulation, Competition, and Homage: Imitation and Theories of Imitation in the Renaissance’, Journal of the American Musicological Society 1982, pp. 1-48 (Brown 1982); ‘A “New” Chansonnier of the early Sixteenth Century in the University Library of Uppsala: A Preliminary Report’, Musica disciplina 37 (1983), pp. 171-233 37 (Brown 1983b). (1)


Uppsala 76a is a small paper manuscript, 210 x 145 x 25 mm, which now appears in a rather poor state of preservation. It still has its original binding, a shabby, soft cover of thin leather over paper with a fragment of a parchment document as inside reinforcement where the body of the book is sewn in. Only one type of paper appears in the manuscript. It has a watermark showing a hand in a scalloped cuff, lifted in a blessing. Inside the cuff is the letter “B” and on the palm of the hand there is a hammer. This watermark is in all respects identical to the drawing of no. 11543 in Briquet’s catalogue, a watermark taken from a notarial document of 1502 from Lautrec (cf. Briquet 1968). Briquet found similar watermarks from 1501-09 in Rouergue, from 1504 in Grenoble, from 1505-08 in Toulouse and from 1509 in Montauban. The paper is in chancellery format and of a type and grade which fully match the paper of slightly later French manuscript, Copenhagen, The Royal Library, Ny kgl. Samling 1848 2° (Copenhagen 1848, cf. Christoffersen 1994), except that here the sheets are folded twice, which means that Uppsala 76a, despite its small size, must be called a quarto manuscript. Each fascicle is formed from two folio sheets which have been folded and cut to make up a small fascicle of four double sheets. The manuscript originally consisted of twelve such fascicles. The first and the last folio were glued to the binding, after which the actual manuscript consisted of 94 folios. Beginning with the first whole opening, the pages have been furnished in one operation with staves. These are carefully drawn with a rastrum; the staff height is a constant 13 mm, and there are seven staves per page. Only in the last fascicle have no staves been drawn, perhaps to leave room for a list of contents.

There is no original foliation. In the course of time twelve folios have been lost, torn or cut out, and the remaining 82 have recently been repaired and numbered 1-81 (between f. 78 and f. 79 the remains of a torn folio, f. 78bis, have been missed). The 12 fascicles break down as follows:

Fasc. 1: of this there only remains part of a folio glued to the binding and ff. 1-3; before f. 1 a folio is missing and after f. 3 three folios are missing.
Fasc. 2: ff. 4-10; after f. 10 a folio is missing.
Fasc. 3: ff. 11-17; after f. 17 a folio is missing.
Fasc. 4: ff. 18-24; after f. 24 a folio is missing.
Fasc. 5: ff. 25-31; after f. 31 a folio had been removed before Hand C entered no. 35 (ff. 31v-32).
Fasc. 6: ff. 32-39.
Fasc. 7: ff. 40-46; between f. 45 and f. 46 a folio is missing.
Fasc. 8: ff. 47-54.
Fasc. 9: ff. 55-62.
Fasc. 10: ff. 63-70.
Fasc. 11: ff. 71-78.
Fasc. 12: ff. 78bis, 79-81 and a folio which was glued to the binding; before f. 78bis a blank folio is missing, and a folio is missing between f. 80 and f. 81 as well as after f. 81.

The manuscript contains seventy compositions and nine song texts, a total of 79 items, of which three appear twice (no. 77 is the text for no. 32 written out again; no. 51 is a failed attempt at a superius for no. 53; no. 70 is a rough compositional sketch; while no. 73 is probably the fair copy of the same piece). The items have been entered by many hands.

Three hands belong to what we must consider the main scribes of the manuscript: Hand A filled the incomplete first fascicle, of which only nos. 1-4 remain (cf. the List of contents); Hand B wrote the next four fascicles, with nos. 5-34, and a few scattered compositions (nos. 40-42, 66 and possibly also the monophonic dance no. 71), while Hand C filled in the intervening empty spaces with nos. 35-39, 43-57, 65 and 67-69. A further two hands, both later users, entered compositions in the manuscript: Hand D wrote one chanson (no. 58) and two attempts at composition, no. 59 and no. 70/73 (there is a full comment on the work of this scribe in Brown 1982, pp. 1-8; cf. also Adams 1983), while Hand E, probably towards the mid-sixteenth century, added three four-part motets (nos. 60-62). The parts for these motets are in a very confused successive disposition, so Uppsala 76a, too, once functioned as a stock manuscript like Copenhagen 1848. Another hand – possibly the one who signed himself “André de Linbes” at the bottom of f. 30v – filled in the empty folios at the end of the manuscript with poems (nos. 72 and 74-79; the same hand has written at the bottom of f. 31v “faicte de moy vostre plaisir / or puys adieu ma dame / André”, and may also have entered the extra stanzas in rondeau form for no. 44 »D’amour je suis desheritée«). (2) A large number of other hands have added comments, phrases, poems and extra text throughout the manuscript, e.g.: a) text incipits in no. 26 and a text incipit in the superius for no. 33, with remarks at the top of f. 14 and f. 30v; b) in no. 47 another hand has partly repeated a stanza of text and the same hand has changed a word in no. 52; c) under no. 58 another hand has very carefully entered two extra stanzas; d) no. 63 (poem); e) no. 64 (poem); f) pen and writing trials scattered around the manuscript, e.g. f. 78v with calligraphic exercises. One of these sentences “Por bien rire”, which occurs four times on ff. 9v, 49v, 67v and 69 (the same hand also added a text incipit and part designation to the tenor and contratenor in no. 18, f. 16), has been tentatively identified by H. M. Brown as an anagram of the name of a later owner, Pierre Robin, a lawyer who was occupied on behalf of the King in 1524-25 in obtaining money for the war from the estates-general in Languedoc, which met in Toulouse (see further Brown 1983b, pp. 177-79).

1) In particular, the article on the manuscript with a complete catalogue of concordances (Brown 1983b) allows me to restrict the following account to the essential facts and to concentrate on supplementing Brown’s article at a few points. I must however make it clear that my interpretation of the available information as regards dating and the use of the manuscript differs from the views expressed in Brown’s article.

2) Isabel Kraft finds that this André on f. 80v wrote the words “L’an mille cinq cens” (Kraft 2009, p. 66). It would be nice to have an authentic dating of the MS, but this interpretation of the scribbles regrettably is a too wishful reading. If the book is turned upside-down one sees at the top of the page the word “L’ami” (not “L’an”) and further down on the page, after scribbles written in the opposite direction, comes what she reads as “mille cinq cens”, but could been seen as different words also. Anybody could have written these nearly indecipherable words. What is certain is that the scribbles was added later than the poem on this page, »Faulces Amours, Dieu vous maudire«, and this poem is an exact copy of the text of a chanson (no. 32), which was among the last entries made by the three main writers of the MS (see further the sections Dating and function and Comments on Hand B’s last entries). This means that the scribbling happened at a date, when the book probably had lost most of its value as a source for music and poems.