ENGLISH, WELSH & IRISH LUTE SOURCES

Ballet Lute Book
The Ballet lute book consists of two manuscripts bound together in the 18th century (Trinity College Dublin, MS 408/1 and MS 408/2) the first dating from around 1590 contains popular lute pieces and a number of Lyra viol pieces probably added after 1610. The second contains ballad tune arrangements and is probably later in date. The first MS seems to have been the property of a lute learner, William Ballet and his teacher, William Vines (Spring 2001, pp.125 - 6)

Barley (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.

Board Lute Book
An English manuscript lute book containing 192 pieces 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, who may have been the scribe for the first part of the manuscript, is thought to have received lute lessons from John Dowland. In fact Dowland himself is thought to have written out an almande by his son Robert (f.12v). The later part of the book is in a different hand and some of the pieces are in so-called transitional tunings which were in use as the renaissance tuning was dying out to be replaced by baroque lute tunings.

Brogyntyn Lute Book
This Lute book comes, probably, from the Welsh borders and is dated around 1595 - 1600. It was in the ownership of the family of Lord Harlech until lodged in the National Library of Wales in 1934. The book contains 49 pieces, 8 solos, 16 single parts of lute duets, 1 lute trio part and 24 in tabulations of consort song.

Cherbury Lute Book
The Cherbury Lute Book, 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 published in 2010 by Alain Veylit and others is available on the Musickshandmade site.

Cosens Lute Book

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.”

CUL Dd.4.22
This manuscript of 25 pieces is known only by its shelf mark in the Cambridge University Library. It was copied around 1615 by a scribe whose handwriting also appears in a few items in the Sampson Lute Book and in the Holmes' manuscript Dd.9.33.

Dallis Lute Book
This is a manuscript held at Trinity College Dublin that belonged to a pupil of Thomas Dallis, a teacher at Trinity College Cambridge in the 1580s and 1590s. The volume begins with instructions on tuning and holding the lute, followed by some very simple pieces, so it clearly had a didactic purpose. It contains many pieces transcribed from Continental printed collections, as well as lute songs popular in England in the last decades of the 16th century.

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
The Folger manuscript 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 Accessible Lute Music site together with MIDI files and transcriptions into modern tablature; a facsimile is also available from the UK Lute Society.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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 (presumably those of the original owner). Six pieces in the MS are in fact by John Sturt.

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 (cloth merchant) in Nantwich, now a town then a village, near Chester. It includes works by John Dowland, John Johnson (c.1540-c.1595) and others.

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 on the
Accessible Lute Music site

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 manuscript); a second scribe, who contributed about half the pieces is unknown (though his handwriting can be found in other manuscripts).

Schoole of Musicke
One of two printed volumes by Thomas Robinson. A tutor for lute orpharion, bandora, viol and singing, though most of the 38 pieces are for lute, including six duets. Published in 1603.

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 Lute Book
A manuscript 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).

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