Item #39453 Practica musicae. Franchinus GAFFURIUS, Gafori Gafurius, Franchino Lanfranchinus.
Practica musicae
Practica musicae
Practica musicae
Practica musicae

Practica musicae

Milano: [Printed by Guillermus Le Signerre for Johannes Petrus de Lomatio], [30 September 1496].

Quarto (ca. 265 x 185 mm). Full modern ivory pigskin with central blindstamped decorative device and cornerpieces within double-ruled and decoratively blindstamped borders, raised bands on spine with titling gilt and decorative devices to head and foot.

1f. (recto title, verso register of signatures), [i] (blank), [ii] (contents of the four books), [iii] (dedication to Louis Mary Sforza, duke of the Milanese, and 22-line poem on the cosmic characteristics of the modes by Lucinus Conagi) (= 4ff.)

Liber Primus: a1-b8, c1-6 (= 22ff.)

Liber Secundus: aa1-bb8, cc5 (= 21ff.)

Liber Tertius: cc6-8, dd1-ee5 (= 16ff.)

Liber Quartus: ee6-8, ff1-kk8, ll1-5 (= 48ff.), 1f. (blank).

112 leaves in total, including final blank. 38 long lines to the full page.

With colophon to verso of final leaf.

The fine woodcut title illustrates the different measures and the Muses and their corresponding signs of the Zodiac. It incorporates "The Three Graces" (Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia) and Apollo at head, with small portraits of Clio, Caliope[!], Terpsicore, Melpomene, Eratho, Euterpe, Polihymnia, and Urania, some playing musical instruments, within small ovals at left, and the stars, sun, moon, with the planets Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury at right. The central portion of the page is occupied by a three-headed serpent extending from Apollo to the Earth.

The attractive woodcut borders to the first page of each of the four books incorporate figures playing musical instruments.

Of special interest is the illustration to the title to Book III, which depicts a group of boys and a master singing at lower left, two men holding a blank shield at center, and another group of boys seated before a figure, seemingly Gaffurius (his seat lettered "F. Gaforus") at lower right, together with a depiction of Apollo to upper right; that to the title of Book IV incorporates the figures Amphion, Aron, and Orpheus within roundels to corners.

With numerous musical examples printed from woodblocks and occasional decorative woodblock initials.

Contemporary manuscript note to verso of final leaf of Book II: "A pritu padre intenerisci e [?]snoda Gian franco. Pinti." with [?]"Franco. Pinti" in contemporary manuscript within blank shield to foot of Book IV, possibly relating to former ownership. Early foliation in ink, later foliation in pencil.

Very occasional signs of wear, foxing, and staining; tiny wormholes to blank outer margins of a number of leaves; titles to Books I, III, and IV slightly trimmed at head, just touching border; manuscript notes faded. Lacking two leaves in Book IV (ll1 and ll5), supplied in fine facsimile on period paper, with minute and unobtrusive "Facsimile" stamp embossed to lower gutter of each leaf. A very good, bright and crisp copy overall, washed.

First Edition of this important music incunable.

Extremely rare to the market. Two copies only have been offered at auction in over 100 years, in 1915 at Sotheby's in London and in 1949 at Parke-Bernet in New York, from the collection of Fritz Kreisler (Rare Book Hub).

British Museum 15th Century VI, p. 789 (IB. 26883). Cortot, p. 82. This edition not in Davidsson. Cowden: Notable Music Books Written Prior to 1800, no. 5. Eitner IV, 121. Goff G-3; GW, 10434. Gregory-Bartlett, p. 102. Hain-Copinger, 7407. Hirsch I, 192. Proctor 6067. Sander 2983. Walsh: 15th Century Printed Books, 3161. Weale: A Descriptive Catalogue of Rare Manuscripts & Printed Books, pp. 131-32. Wolffheim I, 652. RISM Écrits, p. 342.

For a full discussion of the illustrated title, see Haar: The Frontispiece of Gafori's Practica Musicae (1496) in Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 1, Spring 1974, pp. 7-22.

One of the most famous musical figures in late 15th and early 16th century Italy, Gaffurius was a noted Renaissance theorist, composer, and choirmaster; he was a personal friend of both Josquin des Prez and Leonardo da Vinci.

"He was the first theorist to have a substantial number of his writings published, and his influence can be traced for more than a century, both in Italy and abroad. ...

The manuscript sources of the treatises that eventually formed the four books of the Practica musice (that for book 3, on counterpoint, does not survive) reveal that Gaffurius was heavily indebted to Tinctoris: language and examples are often almost verbatim transcriptions (for comparisons of the versions see Vittorelli, 2014, pp. 49–98). By the 1490s, however, he had found his own voice, and not only the subject matter but the more elegant Latin diction show how he had matured. There is now a discussion of Ambrosian chant, as befitted his new post in the diocese of Milan. Book 2, on notation, includes sections on poetic feet as related to musical rhythm and a survey of notation, beginning with Greek rhythmic symbols. The book on counterpoint is quite brief, laying stress on rules; unlike Tinctoris’s treatise it addresses the composer more than the singer. Book 4, on proportions, seems intended to outdo Tinctoris, with proportions as abstruse as 19:4, helpfully illustrated in polyphonic musical examples (Tinctoris’s were monophonic)." Bonnie J. Blackburn in Grove Music Online

"The Practica musicae, the work of a leading writer in a particularly fruitful period for music theory, comprises four books, each containing fifteen chapters. Book I is devoted mainly to the church modes, while Book II is a thorough discussion of mensural notation. Book III, on counterpoint, contains Gafori's famous eight rules, most of which bear upon the use of perfect consonances; musica ficta is also described. Book IV is one of the most exhaustive Renaissance studies of proportions (the other being Tinctoris' Proportionale musices of c. 1475). Not only does Gafori treat such common proportions as the sesquialtera but, reflecting a period in which theorists had developed this aspect of mensural system to a complexity that was quite unwarranted by the demands of practical music, he does not shrink from setting forth so unlikely a relationship as 4/19 (proportio subquadruplasupertripartiensquartas). The Practica musicae provides many valuable insights into the performance practice of the time. Thus Book I contains an account of differences between the Gregorian and Ambrosian chant formulas. A passage in Book III gives a very helpful indication of Renaissance musical tempo for it equates the semibreve (the equivalent, at that time, of our modern quarter-note) to the 'pulse beat of a quietly breathing man;' - i.e., to M.M. 60 to 80. Also described is the strange practice, observed at the Milan Cathedral on occasions of mourning, of improvised polyphonic singing based on parallel seconds or fourths. Chapter 15 of Book III offers rules on performance and deportment for singers." Reese: Fourscore Classics of Music Literature, no. 32.

The Practicae Musice is considered the most thorough of the three major treatises of Gaffurius's years in Milan (the other two are the Theorica musicae, 1492, and the De harmonia musicorum instrumentorum opus, 1518). With its many woodcut musical examples and diagrams, "it is an early and acknowledged masterpiece of that marvelous innovation." Cowden

Le Signerre is known to have printed eleven incunabula in Milan for five different publishers.

Item #39453

Price: $45,000.00  other currencies