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    Sébastien de Brossard's "Dictionary of Music"-
    The First Modern Dictionary of Musical Terms

    Sébastien de Brossard. Dictionaire de Musique, contenant Une explication des Termes Grecs, Latins, Italiens, & François, les plus usitez dans la Musique. Seconde Edition, Conforme à celle In-Folio, faite en 1703. Paris: Chez Christophe Ballard, seul Imprimeur du Roy pour la Musique, 1705. Second edition (first published in 1703 as a folio). Small octavo (7.1875 x 4 inches; 183 x 114 mm.). xii, 5-380 pages (ã4 A-P8 Q-Z4 Aa-Ii4 Kk2 (Y2 signed as Y3)). Two folding letterpress tables: "Table de Quinze Chordes Diatoniques du Systeme des Anciens" (between pages 134 and 135, with "134" in ink in the upper corner) and "Table Generale des Quatre Systemes de la Musique" (between pages 144 and 145). Musical notation in the text. Woodcut title vignette (signed: "V.L s" and "in. f"); decorative woodcut head- and tail-pieces and initials; type ornament head- and tail-pieces. "Avec Privilege de Sa Majesté" at foot of title.
    Contemporary sprinkled calf. Spine decoratively panelled in gilt in compartments with five gilt-decorated raised bands (gilt now mostly lost) and brown leather label ruled and lettered in gilt; board edges decoratively tooled in gilt (now mostly lost); edges sprinkled red (top edge darkened). The binding shows considerable wear, but has been cared for. There are a few large dark areas on the rear cover; joints rubbed, with front joint starting; boards exposed at corners and at top portion of rear board; a few small areas of surface loss on front cover and at foot of spine; rear free endpaper lacking. Tiny piece torn from lower corner of ã2 (pages iii/iv); neat paper repair to outer margin of C6 (pages 43/44); first folding table neatly backed, repairing two splits, which have affected a few lines (no loss); small hole causing loss of signature mark on N1 (pages 193/194). A few leaves in gathering M closely cropped, just touching headline and pagination, with page numbers cut off on pages 177/178. Light to moderate foxing in a few gatherings; a few gatherings quite browned; small stain on pages 152 and 153; a few small rust spots, sometimes concealing a letter or two. A very good copy, generally clean and crisp. Pencil corrections, or the addition of second letters, to the alphabetical sequence in the headline. Pencil inscription erased from front pastedown; a few early ink notations on rear pastedown, and a few stray ink marks on page 380. Small bookseller's ticket of music antiquarian Hermann Baron on front pastedown: "H. Baron / Music and Books, / 136 Chatsworth Road, / London, N. W. 2., England." A Typed Letter Signed from Hermann Baron to John Carroll Collins, dated May 30, 1967, with a description of this copy, is laid in.
    Eitner II, page 203. Gregory & Bartlett, Catalogue of Early Books on Music, page 13.
    From the library of John Carroll Collins, with his booklabel on front pastedown.
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    French lexicographer, theorist, composer, and bibliophile Sébastien de Brossard (1655-1730), writer of one of the earliest music dictionaries, was educated as a priest, held various ecclesiastical and musical posts in Paris, Strasbourg (1687-1698), and Meaux (1698-1730), and composed a considerable amount of church music. "In May 1687 he was appointed a vicar at Strasbourg Cathedral, and soon afterwards became maître de chapelle there.In 1689, two years after his arrival in Strasbourg, the number of cathedral musicians was cut, since the chapter had suffered financial losses as a consequence of the war of the League of Augsburg. Brossard founded an Académie de Musique, where he directed concerts of secular music and French operas and ballets. During the time he spent in Strasbourg he wrote his two books of motets and six books of airs, including serious songs and drinking songs, and acquired a large part of the music books and scores in his library.In 1724 Brossard, then entering his 70th year, feared that his large and valuable library of music would be dispersed on his death; he therefore offered it to the Bibliothèque Royale, asking for a 'gratification' in return. His offer was accepted, and the king's librarian asked Brossard for the catalogue as well as the collection itself. The collection is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, together with the catalogue, which is more than simply a list of the books and scores in the canon's library; most of the entries have additional commentary, often providing information unavailable elsewhere. At first Brossard was known only for his Dictionaire, the first work of its kind published in France, and then for his Catalogue. During his lifetime he acquired fame as a theorist and was often consulted on theoretical questions. With few exceptions, his music was never played, and only in the late 20th century did it begin to be performed" (Yolande de Brossard in Grove Music Online).


    The contents of the book are divided into four sections: the first and largest is the "Dictionaire de Musique..." (pages xi-xii and 5-234), with terms arranged alphabetically and definitions ranging in length from one sentence to several pages, and with musical examples printed in the text; the second section (pages 235-321) is a "Table Alphabetique," where lists of French terms appear, together with the equivalent foreign terms under which the various topics are discussed in the main text; the third section (pages 323-342) is an Italian pronouncing dictionary, "Traité de la maniere de bien prononcer les Mots Italiens..," with a "Table, ou Recapitulation des principales Difficultez de la Prononciation Italianne..." on pages 343-344; the final section (pages 345-380) is a "Catalogue des Auteurs, Qui ont écrit en toutes sortes de Langues, de Temps, de Païs &c..," which presents several lists of authors (more than 900) considered by Brossard to have been contributors to musical literature, with the lists classified by both language and subject.


    "[Brossard's] first attempt to compile such a glossary was appended to a collection of his own motets published in 1695 [Elevations et motets à voix seule avec la bass continue]. Apparently this list of terms was expanded and issued independently in an octavo volume in 1701, under the title Dictionnaire [or Dictionaire] des term[e]s grecs, latins et italiens...Copies of this 1701 printing are extremely rare [no copies have been located in libraries], but one was listed as belonging to the Cortot collection, and another (possibly the same item) is cited in the auction catalogue of the library of Adrien de La Fage, dispersed in 1862 (Item 419). The publisher, Christophe Ballard, subsequently relocked his type in double-column folio format and issued the work as Dictionnaire [i.e. Dictionaire] de musique in 1703. For this printing Brossard added his 'Catalogue de plus de 900 auteurs qui ont écrit sur la musique'...Two years later another octavo printing appeared described as the '2nd ed., conformé à celle in folio.' Much of the substance of the dictionary found its way into Walther's Lexicon (1732) and Grassineau's A Musical Dictionary (1740)...[Brossard] was one of the first musical scholars to understand the role of bibliography in the emerging pattern of musical knowledge. One must command the sources before one can control the facts. His program for establishing the authority of his information is one that music bibliographers are still striving to realize.


    "'For more than 10 years I have been collecting materials to form a catalogue, not only of authors who have written about music, but also of those who have given their compositions to the public, and finally, of those who have become distinguished in performance and practice: a catalogue historique et raisonné in which an attempt is made to give exactly not only the names and surnames of the illustrious, their lives, their times, their principal employment, but also the titles of their works, the language in which they wrote originally, the translations and the different editions which have appeared, the places, dates, printers, and the form of the editions; even the locations, this is to say, the bookshops and libraries where copies may be found, whether manuscripts or printed books, and finally (that which to me seems not only the most difficult but the most important) the good or bad judgements which the most judicious critics have uttered either vocally or in writing. But I must admit that in spite of all my efforts, my materials are not extensive enough to complete a work of this nature with the necessary exactitude. [Preface to the Catalogue des Auteurs]'" (Vincent Duckles, reviewing the Antiqua facsimile of the 1703 edition of the Dictionaire de musique, in Notes, Second Series, Volume 24, Number 4 (June 1968), pages 700-701).

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2015
    28th Thursday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 11
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