Monday, 17 October 2011

Book of the Week (17th October 2011)

Thomas Morley, Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke Set Downe in Forme of a Dialogue (Second Edition, London, 1608)

Thomas Morley (1557/8 – 1602) was a choir-master, organist, composer and scholar.  A pupil of the great Elizabethan composer, William Byrd, Morley is most famous for his madrigals (unaccompanied secular songs).  He also composed music for keyboard and broken consort.  It has long been suggested – but never quite proven – that he was acquainted with Shakespeare and his circle, and that his work may have been used in some of the Bard’s plays.

Morley was as interested in theory and teaching as composition.  In 1597 he published his Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke.  The book takes the form of a conversation between a pupil and master, which was a popular contrivance in both the medieval and early modern periods.  Such was the interest in this work that a second edition was produced in 1608, from which the following images are taken.  In them Morley describes discords and concords, and provides a list of useful chords for compositions of four or more parts.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Book of the Week (10th October 2011)

MS. Q. 40, GARIOPONTUS’S Passionarus Galeni

Gariopontus was an eleventh-century physician and medical writer from Salerno.  He based his most famous work, the Passionarus Galeni, on the writings of the Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen, and the Roman Caelius Aurelianus.

The Worcester copy was written in the twelfth century in either Spain or the south of France.  It is not known exactly how it came to England.  One theory is that it belonged to Richard the Lionheart's physician, who brought it back after the Third Crusade.  Unfortunately, although it makes for a great story, it cannot be substantiated.

The manuscript itself is a user-friendly reference guide, containing descriptions of diseases and their various remedies.  It is divided into books, each arranged from head down to foot.  This picture shows the contents page of Book VI, which includes sections on headaches, breathing and bladder problems.

Welcome to my blog

To climb a medieval spiral staircase to work, and to a sit at a desk which looks out through mullioned windows onto a cloister herb garden, are tremendous privileges.  As a medieval historian with a particular passion for all things ecclesiastical, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to work than Worcester Cathedral Library.  Despite its lofty position, its dark book-lined walls, and its timeless air of scholarly indolence, the library is no ivory tower.  The roof-space above the south nave aisle is home to our librarian and archivist, David, a graduate trainee (me!) and a whole host of volunteers who help us with cataloguing and indexing, answering enquiries from family historians and scholars and retrieving information for the archaeologist, stonemasons, bell-ringers and clergy.  Its role as a modern archive is just as important as its guardianship of medieval manuscripts.

The aim of this blog is to provide a personal and hopefully entertaining insight into the library, its people and its collections during my time here.  Features will include brief articles and comments, ‘Book (or object) of the Week’, and introductions to some of the characters of the library, past and present.  So please come back regularly to check for new posts!  You can also find out more about the library and its blogger by clicking on the tabs above.  Thank you for reading.