Session 13 (Themed Papers): Sounding the bookshelf 1501

Tuesday, 6 July 2021, 11.00-13.00, Room A224 | Chair: Vincenzo Borghetti (University of Verona)

Session Abstract

In 1501 the first printed book of part-song, Odhecaton A, arrived in Venetian bookshops from the press of Ottaviano Petrucci. It found itself in congenial company on the bookseller’s shelf. Music played a role in numerous popular stories printed in 1501, for example the saints’ lives in the Vita di sancti padri vulgariter historiada (Venice: Luna, 1501), or the chivalric Inamoramento de Rinaldo de monte albano (Milan: Scinzenzeler, 1501). Two separate editions of the Regimen sanitatis Salernitanum (both Venice: Vitali, c.1501) gave advice on the preservation of hearing and the voice through diet and bloodletting, and related musical taste to temperament. The popular devotional handbook Stimulo de amore (Venice: Zanchi, 1501) reminded readers at length to sing prayers in their hearts and minds, and warned against the dangers of worldly songs. A new expanded edition of Niccolo Perotti’s encyclopedic Cornucopiae (Venice: Tacuino, 1501) offered classicising explanations of a huge range of musical concepts and characters.

This is but a tiny sample: in fact, the bookseller’s shelves were groaning with musical knowledge. By 1501 thousands of editions mentioning music tangentially from every conceivable angle had emerged from Italian presses. Very few of these texts were authored by professional musicians or musical experts. Many of them were not actually written in the Renaissance period. Yet, their non-specialist accounts of music constitute the field of musical knowledge inhabited by a clear majority of readers in Italy around 1501.

In a new three-year project hosted by the University of Sheffield and funded by the Leverhulme Trust, four scholars have set out to read all 358 known editions printed in Italy in 1501, excerpting every passage relating to music, sound or hearing. This panel presents some of the first fruits of that work.

Sounds and music in contemporary poetry of the late 15th century | Ciara O’Flaherty (University of Sheffield)

In 1501, multiple works from contemporary poets reached the printing press, published by the poets themselves as well as collated by others. From the lamentations of the Petrarchan lover and the cruel voice of the beloved, to the noises of nature and the music-making of mythological figures, these publications present a snapshot of the symbolic soundscape of Petrarchismo and Pastoral. This paper presents a brief look at the common sonic elements across 1501 anthologies by four contemporary poets: Seraphino Aquilano, Panfilo Sasso, Publio Fausto Andrelini, and Henrique Caiado.

‘De Voluptate Aurium:’ Hearing in the Afterlife and Zaccaria Lillio’s De Gloria et Gaudiis Beatorum | Laura Stefanescu (University of Sheffield)

Printed in Venice in 1501, Zaccaria Lillio’s De gloria et gaudiis beatorum belongs to a series of Italian treatises written by clergymen in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, which focus on a sensory description of the afterlife. Bringing together theological, philosophical, and classical sources, these texts represent almost a guide to the sensorial experience of the blessed. This paper will analyse Lillio’s interpretation of sound, music, and the sense of hearing in the afterlife, identifying the sources from which it derives, and discussing the continued interest in a sensorial understanding of heaven in Renaissance Italy and its implications.

De Loquela Nati: Musicianship governed by the stars in the Liber Nativitatum | Oliver Doyle (University of Sheffield)

Abu Bakr’s (fl. 900-925) Liber Nativitatum first appeared in print in 1492 as Albubather, paired with the Centiloquium Divi Hermetis ascribed variously to Hermes Trismegistus and Ptolomy. Within, all manner of personal characteristics—from intellect to sexuality—are ascribed to the relative positions of celestial bodies, but no faculties receive so much attention as those of the voice and the ear. This paper will discuss contemporary ideas on the relationship, not only between the movements of the planets and the human condition, but between speech, song and musicianship, the contemporary currency of astrology as a science, and what the Liber Nativitatum could tell us about the value of the voice—in a musical and non-musical context—to readers at the turn of the 16th century.

Musical classicisms in Niccolo Perotti’s Cornucopiae | Tim Shephard (University of Sheffield)

A graduate of the celebrated humanist schools in Mantua, Ferrara and Padua, Niccolo Perotti was the author of late-15th-century Europe’s bestselling Latin grammar textbook, and a well-known public figure. His 600+ page Cornucopiae, printed almost annually in the decades either side of 1500, was officially an exceptionally detailed commentary on Martial, but in effect it was an encyclopedia, with entries on every conceivable topic treated from the viewpoint of classical literature. Music is well represented, with long sections covering Latin terms associated with music and song, and also entries on various mythological figures associated with music including the Muses, Apollo, Arion and Amphion. This paper will present and discuss the treatment of music in what must have been a widely-owned book among those equipped with Latin literacy in Italy in 1501.