Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Janet Pollack (University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, USA)

Mystery, aspirations, and intrigue: the remarkable publication history of Parthenia (1612/13)

Shrouded in mystery, commercial aspirations, and political intrigue, the publication history of Parthenia, or the Maydenhead of the first musicke that ever was printed for the virginalls (1612-13) — the most important of all early publications of English music — demands close scrutiny.  This relatively slim volume of twenty-one pieces by three of England’s finest composers — William Byrd, John Bull, and Orlando Gibbons — was expertly engraved in copper by William Hole and reissued a number of times throughout the seventeenth century.  Hole “offered” the book to Princess Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of King James the I, and her betrothed the Elector Palatine Frederick V on or just prior to their wedding February 14, 1612/13.  Considering that Parthenia is frequently mentioned in all later studies of keyboard music and English music in general, it is surprising that no study previous to my own has provided a detailed examination of all extant copies.

My study attempts to provide this much needed information with a thorough philological review of all the sources (format, watermarks, binding, etc.), and an examination of all text prefacing the music (frontispiece, dedication, and verse).  Biographical data on the engraver, contributing poets, publishers, and printers is also considered.  Resulting is a detailed comparison of all fifteen extant Parthenia copies existing in England, Ireland, France, and the United States, with an eye to suggesting sources, chronology, and provenance.  Comparative charts are provided and a summary of ownership of the various copies is chronicled.

Last updated on 10 May 2004