Lute Sources

LUTE SOURCES (including sources of bandora music)
This page lists some of the primary sources (manuscript and printed) from which the music I have arranged is derived. Increasingly I try to get as close as I can to primary sources (a task that is becoming easier as more manuscript facsimiles are becoming available as physical publications or on the internet). Quite a lot of the arrangements are from secondary sources (modern transcriptions of the tablature or modern editions). Modern sources I have used are included in the References section.

Much the best overview of English Lute manuscripts is given by Julia Craig-McFeely’s work English Lute Manuscripts and Scribes 1530 - 1630 Craig-McFeely (2000). Many libraries that hold lute manuscripts are making their collections available online, so an increasing number of MSS can be found online. In addition, the Musick’s Handmade site is accumulating a growing selection of lute manuscript facsimiles in addition to a wide range of modern tablature transcriptions. Other sources of modern tablature transcriptions are Sarge Gerbode’s site (he is also making a collection of manuscript facsimiles), Wayne Cripps’ site, a collection of baroque lute music (especially SL Weiss) by Jean-Daniel Forget and Richard Civiol’s site. Other online sources can be found in the links pages.


Cosens Lute Book (Add MS 3056)
The Cosens Lute Book (Cambridge University Library Add. MS 3056) dates, probably, from the early part of the 17th century. It contains 69 pieces neatly written by a single scribe, though with numerous errors. The pieces include many found in other collections and some not found elsewhere, both English and continental European. The author is unknown but the commentary on the Cambridge University Library website (by John Robinson) has this to say:
“...the neat tablature, uniform throughout, as well as the level of difficulty of much of the music suggests the lute book is more likely to have belonged to a professional musician, rather than an enthusiastic amateur nobleman like many of the other surviving examples.” 

Euing Lute Book
This is a MS held in the University of Glasgow Library dating from around 1620-1630. The identity of the original compiler is unknown and it is now referred to by the name of the Glasgow insurance broker and bibliophile who owned it in the nineteenth century, William Euing. The MS contains contains seventy-two lute solos and includes much of the best music in the English lute repertoire, including works by Dowland, Holborne and Cutting. 

Folger Dowland Manuscript
This MS is thought to have belonged to the Dowland family and contains some pieces in John Dowland’s hand, though the other pieces are unlikely to be by Dowland. It is held in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. There is a facsimile on the Musick’s Handmade Site together with MIDI files and transcriptions into modern tablature; a facsimile is also available from the UK Lute Society. Since I first looked guitar and grand staff notation versions have also appeared, making this site an excellent resource for both lutenists and guitarists.

Haslemere Manuscript
A manuscript held in the Dolmetsch Library in Haslemere (UK) containing 253 pieces for baroque lute solo. Among numerous anonymous pieces are many pieces by Sylvius Leopold Weiss and his contemporaries, notably Wolff Jacob Lauffensteiner. Transcriptions of all these works are available on Jean-Daniel Forget’s site.

Hendar Roberts Lute Book
This lute book was found in 1973 in the possession of the Robarts family in their family home, Ladyrock House, in Cornwall (UK). The book was written out for Hendar Robarts in the seventeenth century in France, where he had been sent as a young man for lute lessons. His lute teacher signs himself as ‘Borgaise’ and the music is written for an 11 course lute in D minor tuning. A modern facsimile of the book was produced by the Boethius Press in 1978. It contains an introduction, inventory and list of concordances by Robert Spencer. There are 65 pieces in the book, many by Ennemond Gaultier, some unattributed and a few by other named composers. Eight pieces from the Robarts Lute Book are available in Django format on Alain Veylit’s Musick’s Handmade site.

Hirsch lute book
One of the lute sources held in the British Library (MS Hirsch M 1353) this lute manuscript dates from about 1595 and contains 52 solos and 1 duet for 6-course renaissance lute and 2 solos for 7-course renaissance lute. It contains music by a number of composers including Dowland, Holborne, Ferrabosco and others less well-known as well as numerous anonymous pieces.

Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s Lute Book
This manuscript, one of the richest sources of solo lute music, is held in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. It was compiled (much of it in his own hand) by Edward Herbert the first Baron Cherbury, probably between about 1624 and the 1640’s (Spring 2001, Smith 2002). Herbert lived in Paris as a young man and was later English ambassador there (Blair 2011) and much of the music in the manuscript is of French origin, one of the few English composers represented being Daniel Bacheler. Herbert seems to have been an amateur lutenist himself and 10 of the 242 pieces in the MS are his own compositions. A modern tablature edition of this manuscript was published in 2010 by Alain Veylit and others and is available on the Musickshandmade site.

Marsh Lute Book
The Marsh Lute Book was compiled over a nearly thirty-year span between c1583 and c1610. The book bears the name of Archbishop Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713), who obtained it, probably in Oxford, and placed it in the library he built between 1701 and 1703 in Dublin. The provenance of the manuscript before Marsh’s acquisition is not known.

Margaret Board Lute Book
An English manuscript lute book held at the Royal Academy of Music, London; from the collection of the late Robert Spencer. According to Craig-McFeely it dates from after 1620 and its original owner, Margaret Board, is thought to have received lute lessons from John Dowland.

Matthew Holmes Manuscripts
By far the most extensive source of English lute music is found in a series of manuscripts of instrumental music compiled at the turn of the seventeenth century by Matthew Holmes, a church musician who worked at Christ Church cathedral in Oxford and later at Westminster Abbey in London. These MSS are now held in Cambridge University Library and are usually referred to by their library shelf marks. Four out of the nine (known as Dd.2.11, Dd.9.33, Dd.5.78.3 and Nn.6.36) consist largely of solo lute music. The earliest and largest of these, probably compiled between 1590 and 1595, is Dd.2.11 has been published in facsimile by the UK Lute Society (Robinson et al. 2010). As I mention in my essay on attribution posted here about a third of the pieces in this MS are anonymous and the attribution of many others is debatable. The other MS have been dated respectively, 1595-1600, 1600-1605 and 1605-15 (Spring, 2001, pp115-122).

ML Lute Book (also known as the John Sturt Lute Book)
A manuscript lute book containing 88 lute pieces (mostly solos, some duets), the majority dating from c1610 - 1625. A modern facsimile (Spencer 1985) (originally published by the, now defunct, Boethius Press) is available from Ruxbery Publications and many of the pieces are available on Wayne Cripps’ page as pdf’s or MIDI or Wayne’s own TAB format. The manuscript is held in the British Library (as BL Add. MS. 38539) and is also known as the John Sturt Lute Book as it was formerly thought to have been compiled by John Sturt (a lutenist contemporary with Robert Johnson). Spencer writes in his introduction that the evidence for this is limited and the book is now more usually known by the initials stamped on the cover (presumbably those of the original owner). Six pieces in the MS are in fact by John Sturt.

Pickering Lute Book
The Jane Pickering lute book (British Library MS Egerton 2046), is one of the finest sources of the English lute repertory and the source of a good many guitar transcriptions as it contains a majority of pieces written for 6-course lute even though the pieces it contains represent the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods when 7 and 9-course lutes were becoming fashionable. We know nothing of the life of Jane Pickering, but she seems to have begun copying music in 1616 and continued until about 1645. The MS includes solos by John Dowland, Nicolas Strogers, Francis Cutting, Daniel Bacheler & others and duets by John Johnson, Alfonso Ferrabosco I and Richard Allison. The Pickering Lute Book is available in facsimiles, modern tablature transcription and midi at

Mynshall Lute Book
This manuscript of 41 pieces was written in 1595 by a young man named Richard Mynshall who was an amateur lutenist and made his living as a mercer in Nantwich, now a town then a village, near Chester. It includes works by John Dowland, John Johnson (c.1540-c.1595) and others.

A New Book of Tabliture
Published in 1596 by the bookseller and publisher, William Barley, this was one of the few printed sources of lute music produced in England in the 16th century, predating Varietie of Lute Lessons (see below). It includes music for the orpharion and bandora as well as lute music and is written as a guide or tutor in lute (etc.) playing. The book is an important source of Francis Cutting’s music and Burgers (2000) discusses the evidence that Cutting may have been the music editor for the book.

Sampson Lute Book
A collection formerly referred to as the Tollemache Lute Manuscript as it was unknown to musicians until offered for sale by auction in 1965 by Baron Tollemache a British peer from Suffolk. It is a small collection of 28 pieces dating from about 1609. One of the scribes is named as Henry Sampson (hence the name of the MS) a second scribe, who contributed about half the pieces is unknown (though his handwriting can be found in other MSS).

Varietie of Lute Lessons
This was one of the first English printed collections of lute solos. It was compiled by Robert Dowland (son of the lutenist John Dowland) and published in 1610. The music (in tablature) consists of 42 pieces grouped under six headings (Fantasies, Pavins, Galliards, Almaines, Corantoes and Volts). The collection includes music by some of the leading lute composers from across Europe though 17 pieces are not given named composers. Robert Dowland claims two pieces as his own (one being Sir Thomas Monson’s Pavin, named for the book’s dedicatee). Seven pieces are given as being by John Dowland, though other evidence suggests that at least one of the anonymous pieces (Sir John Smith’s Almaine) is by John Dowland. This collection is available in it’s original form via the IMSLP website (Dowland, R, (1610)), in grand staff transcription (Hunt 1956) and in guitar transcription (Duarte and Poulton 1971). Despite the name the collection is not a lute tutor as the word ‘lesson’ did not then have its modern didactic connotation. Nevertheless Dowland does include an English translation of De modo in testudine libellus the set of instructions from JB Besard’s Thesaurus Harmonicus (see below).

Willoughby Manuscript
A lute book from the 1570’s. It belonged to Sir Francis Willoughby (born around 1547) a member of the English aristocracy who had made money from mining interests, built a grand house near Nottingham, hired musicians and studied the lute - perhaps to impress Elizabeth the first and rise in court circles (Spring 2001; Ward 1992). 


Delitiae Musicae
Published in 1612, this is a printed collection of lute music produced by a lutenist from the Low Countries, Joachim van den Hove.

Capirola Lute Book
According to Duarte (1976) the Capirola Lute Book dates from around 1517 and is the oldest known handwritten collection of lute tablatures. It is a compilation by a (probably amateur) Venetian lutenist identified only by his first name, Vidal, of the compositions of his instructor Vincenzo Capirola a lutenist born in Brescia and professionally active in Venice. The book has 45 pages with 13 ricercare, 7 dances and 22 intabulations of vocal works.

Dresden (Weiss) Manuscript
The Dresden Manuscript is a collection of six volumes held in the State Library in Dresden containing music written after 1725, mostly lute suites plus the lute parts of some ensemble works.

Hoffmann Lute Book
(Wolfgang Hoffmann von Grünbühel’s Lute Book - N. Mus. ms. 479, held in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin) is an early 17th century source containing 80 or so pieces, a mixture of English and continental music, mostly unattributed but including a couple of Dowland’s works (Charteris, 2006)

Hainhofer Lute Manuscript
This collection in Italian and German tablature was made around 1603 for a Bavarian diplomat and amateur lutenist Phillip Hainhofer (Ness and Kolczynski, 2001).

London (Weiss) Manuscript
Almost half of Sylvius Leopold Weiss’s known works are found in this manuscript source which was acquired by the British Museum (now the British Library) in London in 1877. It contains 237 hand-written pieces in tablature, including 28 complete suites and a number of stand-alone pieces. The pieces were probably written in Breslau between 1706 and 1730.

Moscow Weiss Manuscript
This MS is currently held in a museum in Moscow known as the Glinka Museum. It remained unknown to scholars in the west until 1963 and has been published in facsimile and transcription and in guitar arrangement by Editions Orphée. The evidence suggests it was compiled in Russia a few years after Weiss’s death. It contains 48 pieces for the 13 course baroque lute, a number by Weiss (including versions of some found in the Dresden Weiss MS) and others by anonymous contemporaries (Crawford and Rinehart 1995).

Milleran Manuscript
René Milleran, a language professor and amateur lutenist, compiled a manuscript of lute music over a number of years around 1690. It provides one of the most important extant sources of French seventeenth century lute music. Milleran's teacher Charles Mouton is particularly well represented and there are pieces by both Ennemond and Denis Gaultier among others. A colour facsimile of the manuscript is available at

Nuremberg Lute Book
This is a collection of more than 150 pieces compiled around 1600 held in the German National Museum in Nuremberg (MS. 33 748). It contains numerous anonymous pieces but also work from a number of known European musicians such as Dowland, Mertel and Ballard, but many of the ascriptions are unclear and some of the versions of known pieces are considerably different from those found elsewhere. There is a very good collection in five volumes of transcriptions accompanied by facsimiles of the music from this manuscript (in Helmut Mönkemeyer's now sadly out of print ‘Die Tablatur’ series) (Mönkemeyer 1979).

The Premier Livre de tablature de luth (Robert Ballard)
This is a printed source, published in Paris in 1611. A modern facsimile edition was produced in 1995 by Pascal Boquet and François-Pierre Goy for the French Lute Society.

Thesaurus Harmonicus
Published in Cologne in 1603 Thesaurus Harmonicus is a collection of the European lute music from the end of the 16th century. Its author Jean-Baptiste Besard (c.1567 - c.1620) was clearly an energetic man as he practised as a lawyer and doctor as well as teaching lute and composing music. There are pieces by twenty-one composers (such as Laurencini, Diomedes Cato, Charles Bocquet, Jacob Polak, Fabrizio Dentice, Albert Dlugoraj, Victor de Montbuysson, Elias Mertel, Julian Perrichon and a few from English lutenists such as John Dowland) together with a number of works by Besard himself and, as is common in publications at this time, numerous anonymous pieces. The Thesaurus is divided into ten books, according to genre, and includes an addendum (in Latin; De modo in testudine libellus) on the method of playing the lute. An English translation of these instructions appeared in Robert Dowland’s Varietie of Lute Lessons (see above).

The Saizenay Manuscript
was compiled by the French amateur lutenist Jean Etienne Vaudry, Seigneur de Saizenay, 1668 - 1742.

The Schele Lute Book
This manuscript of 156 pieces is held in the Hamburg state library. It bears the date 1619 and the name Ernst Schele who is presumed to be one of several scribes involved in its preparation. It contains numerous works by the Dutch lutenist Joachim van den Hove and a selection of lute music by his contemporaries including John and Robert Dowland, Vallet, Kapsberger, Ballard and Besard.

Testudo Gallo-Germanica
is a printed collection of lute works published in Nurenberg 1615 by Georg Leopold Fuhrmann a German publisher and bookseller who was also an amateur lutenist.

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