Medieval songs outside the Codex

MS 1681

MS 1681

One of the smaller items in the manuscript collection at Lambeth Palace Library is probably one of the most interesting, and rare. Dating from the 1350s and written in Anglo-Norman French it contains the words to a jeu parti, a debate, in song, on love, sex, wealth, and ethical behaviour by a troubadour. These were very popular throughout France in the thirteenth and fourteenth century and contain a wealth of historical information about social attitudes at the time. It is also, as far as I can tell, unique with no other examples of jeux partis surviving in this form (it had not come to serious scholarly attention until 2004). This text gives us not only an invaluable insight into the transmission of music, the movement of people, but also the transmission of ideas and people’s attitudes to the morals at the time.

The impressive opus of trouvères chansons survive now as collections and reorderings of more ephemeral texts in grand codices. Aristocratic pride in local traditions can be found in the poetic schools in Oc and Oil (different regions of France defined by their dialect) as well as Sicily and Aragon in Spain. The collections encompass Crusader songs in Occitan and prose chronicles in Franco-Flemish. These were all collected, republished, and bound in richly decorated volumes many showing regional tastes and variations. Courtly songs of refined love were most popular in Northern France (chansons courtoises, cansos) and appear side-by-side with songs of Marian devotion (chansons pieuses) as well as songs of erotic conquest (pastourelles), women’s songs and weaving songs (chansons de toile), and the battles of wits, as well as the song-debates known as the jeux partis.

All of these different types of songs were collected in to these manuscripts which were also filled with vernacular text and idealised images[i]. These texts made use of the growing practice of fixed musical notation on a stave (all but four of the twenty two major sources contain music written on a stave[ii]) which allowed a performer to sight-read a melody, if not a complete transmission of the rhythm.

MS 1681 extended

There has been a musicological tradition of applying a hierarchy to these tropes with ‘courtly songs’ receiving the most attention and praise, the jeux partis being seen clearly as a ‘lesser genre’ (see for example Alfred Jeanroy). This however is not borne out by the surviving texts. Hundreds of these texts were written, many in multiple manuscripts, the majority with musical notation.

This manuscript in Lambeth Palace Library, however, is a less substantial item than the grand codices. Codices could consist of hundreds of such songs, this item consist of six songs on one roll of Vellum.  This type of document is referred to as a Liederblätter (‘single sheets’) and rotuli (‘rolls’) by historians and musicologists. These are different from the codex, or bound volume, and were probably intended as transient or even disposable objects. Some of the first discoveries of these rolls were by Richard Rouse in 1982[iii], with a modern overview provided by William Paden.[iv] There is also clear evidence for its use in the manuscripts showing that, whilst not many have survived, they were common objects. Elizabeth Aubrey shows how the construction of the codices and errors by the scribes show that they must have been working from multiple sources. There are instances where songs were written in without enough space for the music before being rewritten later with the music in place. There are also multiple emendations made to the texts in different hands suggesting text and music was added as it became available.[v] Something similar to the Lambeth Palace Library rotulus is portrayed in the illumination and decoration accompanying the Codices and they are talked about by the poets themselves. A well-known example is the “Provençal chansonnier N” (New York, The Morgan Library & Museum, MS M.819), where the poet is shown fainting, overcome with an erotic despair that prevents him from writing on the roll he holds in his hand. To allay suspicion of maybe reading too much into a picture, context is provided by the poem Meravill me cum pot nuills hom chanter which appears alongside the image in the manuscript.

Meravill me cum pot nuills hom chantar
si cum ieu fatz per lieis que·m fai doler,
qu’e ma chansso non puosc apareillar
dos motz qu’al tertz no·m lais marritz chaser,
car non sui lai on estai sos cors gens,
doutz e plazens,
que m’auci desiran
e non pot far morir tant fin aman.

[I’m amazed that any man could sing like I do for the lady who makes me suffer: I can’t put two words together in my song without, when I arrive at the third, letting myself fall, dazed, because I’m not where her gentle figure is, sweet and pleasant, that kills me through desire and can’t make such a perfect lover die.]

These items could function as a support or aide de memoire for recitation and a means of transmitting works, enabling performers to recreate the jeux partis before different audiences and supplying a missing link in our understanding of songs and music more widely. They were designed as temporary things made of non-durable material, in this case small sections of vellum stitched together. Writing in thirteenth-century Europe was increasingly being used not only by the trained clergy, but also being used laypeople in local dialects.

MS 1681

Unlike the other genres of Trouvere/ Trouvères  songs, the jeu parti presents itself as unique event, a one-off improvised performance between specific performers and judges, many of whom are named in the songs. However, their existence in multiple versions and formats implies repeated performances, re-enactments of events, or of imagined events. The genre provides a fascinating opportunity to look at questions of song performance and reception. In attempting to represent a particular time and place it has two contestants addressing each other by name and posing a dilemma before alternating verses of argument. The substance of these arguments was often, although not always, love and sexual conquest i.e. ‘Who should one pity more: the man who is constantly jealous of his wife, or the one who knows for sure that his mistress fools him?’ or ‘Do you prefer your sweetheart to be a knight of great bravery, but clumsy and lacking courtesy when he’s off the battlefield, or a handsome, charming and amorous fellow who lacks martial skill?’. The final stanza holds the debaters’ appeal to a judge, present at the performance, to judge in his favour. Whilst judges are named no surviving manuscript records the judgement.

The people involved and named in these songs were noted thirteenth and fourteenth century individuals from aristocratic, bourgeois, and clerical backgrounds, many associated with the Northern French town of Arras. This has led to the genre being treated as an outlier. However, the songs that have survived have been copied and recopied into dozens of manuscripts implies repeat performances re-enacted over a variety of locations. According to Jenna Phillips’s article “Singers without borders: a performer’s rotulus and the transmission of jeux partis” there has been no mention of jeux partis existing in rotuli outside of the codices, demonstrating the importance of this document’s survival. This has resulted in current debates on their production ignoring much regarding their potential for performance before a wide range of audiences and locations. Taking the notion of Textual Communities put forward by Brian Stock, they ?suggest that there is evidence of a ‘shared community’ of irreverent and humorous dialogue that extends beyond its traditional location of Arras, fuelled by scripts, rotuli and other ephemera transmitting not only songs but also play sheets and stories.

The proof of this position is difficult however with most, if not all, of the corpus of troubadour music existing in texts that postdate their putative author by some margin. The proponents of a written tradition point to manuscript evidence of performance from scrolls or wax tablets, sometimes both in the same picture. For example see the miniature from the Manesse Codex.[vi]

MS 1681 showing the two of the sheets of vellum stitched together

Lambeth Palace Library MS 1681 consist of three membranes of vellum sewn together with clear damage to both ends.[vii] On the hair side (a curiosity in itself as most scribes wrote on the smoother inner side for preference as it made a better writing surface) someone has written seven old French songs. These are identified by Jenna Phillips as Chansons by Gace Brule and the Chatelain de Coucy (these two songs are known from other chansonniers) Par quel forfet et par quel achaison, and Cil qui d’amors me conseille respectively. These are followed by five jeux partis written by Jehan Bretel, Jehan Grieviler (his Grieviler vostre ensient found in this roll can also be found in the Chansonnier d’Arras), Guillaume and Gilon le Viner. The scroll lacks musical notation, although it is present in other sources. On the reverse are memoranda dating to the fourteenth century concerning the genealogies of the Esse and Knyghton families and their lands Ashe in Dorset. There is an interesting question as to the reason for the survival of this roll, whether it is for these memoranda or for the music.

MS 1681 showing a join in the vellum and the string loop

Much has been written on the subject (see Petrucci, Armando, and Charles M. Radding. Writers and readers in Medieval Italy: studies in the history of written culture) of the rapid increase in writing in the vernacular in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and a proliferation of ‘ephemeral’ texts (Richard Rouse in ‘Roll and Codex’, pp. 13–29). This was being done by and for a public of literates who could read and write in the vernacular and who had a much wider geographic distribution than was previously thought. This was writing outside of a precise social function or obligation, writing because one was literate. Matched with the increasing industrialisation of book production through scriptoria and the universities (by this time there are over twenty throughout Europe) this saw a large increase in book production, letter writing, receipts, and memoires (registers).

The importance of this scroll (aside from the uniqueness of its contents) stems from what it can tell us about the transmission of these songs. Whilst much of the scholarship surrounding jeux partis focuses on the city of Arras and its surrounds, due to the presence of Adam de la Halle and Jehan Bretel (famous composers of these songs), musical/ poetical societies (called Le Puy, derived from Latin Podium)[viii] existed throughout northern French and Flemish cities, spreading to London and the south of France by the thirteenth century.[ix] Still working in French (the lingua franca of trade in the Anglo-Norman world) it is conceivable that the copying of songs heard in one city for recreation in another by members of these clubs was not unknown or uncommon. The question is of course how much of this was done by the recreation of an oral memory and how much would have been done by aides memoires written down. Does this roll represent an anomaly or the tip of an iceberg? We know of a thirteenth century German roll found in the flyleaves of fifteenth century codex (Rouse, ‘Roll and Codex’, 13–29; Paden, ‘Lyrics on Rolls’, 325‒40). William Paden surveyed eleven examples. The British Library, until 1971,[x] held the Song of the Barons dating to 1260. Several others have been recently discovered; these are songs are different genres to the jeux partis (see Jenna Phillips), most recently in 2017 David Catalunya finding roll fragments of fourteenth century polyphonic music in the flyleaves of a fifteenth century book.[xi] It is also the case that medieval rolls preserving plays can also be found[xii] and as has been shown above there are many pictorial examples in other codices.



[i] Samuel Rosenberg, Introduction to Songs of the Troubadours and Trouvères: an Anthology of Poems and Melodies,  Samuel Rosenberg, Margaret Switten and Gérard Le Vot (eds.) (New York: Garland, 1998), 4.

[ii] See Elizabeth Aubrey, ‘Sources, MS III, Secular Monophony: French’, in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed., ed. S. Sadie., 29 vols. (London: Macmillan Reference, 2001), 23: 851–60.

[iii] Rouse, Richard H. 1982. Roll and Codex the Transmission of the Works of Reinmar von Zweter. pp.193-231

[iv] Keith Busby and Catherine M. Jones. 2011. “Li premerains vers”: essays in honor of Keith Busby. Amsterdam: Rodopi

[v] Aubrey, Elizabeth. 2000. The music of the troubadours. Bloomington, Ind: Indiana University Press. pp 47-49

[vi] Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 848, f. 323r. The minnesinger in question is Reinmar von Zweter, who flourished in the 1230s, perhaps 70 years prior to the compilation of the Manesse Codex. The image is discussed by Marisa Galvez in Songbook: How Lyrics Became Poetry in Medieval Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 136.

[vii] Based on the lengths of the other membranes, the first piece is lacking around 20 cm, which likely contained another song. Axel Wallensköld, ‘Le Ms. Londres, Bibliothèque de Lambeth Palace, Misc. Rolls 1435’, Mémoires de la Société Néo-Philologique de Helsingfors 6 (1917): 3–40 (5).

[viii] Puy made reference either to the platform on which performers stood, or to the high pedestal on which holy relics were elevated. The contentious history of this organisation and the terms used to describe it are surveyed by Carol Symes, A Common Stage: Theater and Public Life in Medieval Arras (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007), 216–22

[ix] Helen Cooper, ‘London and Southwark Poetic Companies: “Si tost c’amis” and the Canterbury Tales’, in Chaucer and the City, ed. Ardis Butterfield (Woodbridge: D.S. Brewer, 2006), 109–25 (111).

[x] Andrew Taylor. 1991. “The Myth of the Minstrel Manuscript”. Speculum. 66 (1): 43-73 (68 ff.)

[xi] David Catalunya, ‘Nuns, Polyphony, and a Liégois Cantor: New Light on the Las Huelgas’ “Solmization Song”’, Journal of the Alamire Foundation 9 (2017): 89–134

[xii] Four examples are cited by Thomas Forrest Kelly, The Exultet in Southern Italy, 18.




This is a 17th century music book of 29 solo songs in English, French, and Italian, with some accompaniment designed for the theorbo (MS 1041). It was written in the mid 17th century for Lady Ann Blount daughter of Mountjoy Blount. The songs run the gamut of popular English song writers from the English Republic to the Restoration, including Nicholas Lanier (who famously wrote what some consider to be the first recitative in English), Henry and William Laws (both highly popular composers and published extensively by Playford), and Charles Colman (composer and one of the compilers of this manuscript, see ff51-64 with a signature at f54r).


The songbook contains written out accompaniments with embellishments/ ornamentation, as well as instructions in thoroughbass, a commonly used system where numbers were used to identify the chords used to create a basso continuo. This implies that the manuscript was probably intended for advanced players, and possibly used for instruction or teaching.


It has been suggested that this, and the choice of composers, nominally royalists (although Laws and Coleman were active in the English music scene throughout the Republic), as well as the prevalence of French and Italian music, that the intended recipient was familiar with the French court and had royalist, or anti parliamentarian, feelings. Ann Blount’s father was also a member of the royalist army and fought in the second battle of Newbury.

That being said, the explosion of musical publishing due to the collapse of the publishing patents would also account for the interest in this ‘new music’ and the popularity of the composer’s works was not diminished by their previous political bedfellows. Both Coleman and Henry Lawes were very active in the music scene during the Interregnum with Lawes even writing music for masques. Ann Blount’s father also passed on the information he received on the First Army Plot which allowed John Pym to expel royalists from parliament and force many of them into exile. So lines are not always clear.

The Songbook can be divided into two parts with Charles Coleman, Lanier, Henry and William Lawes constituting the first, and largest, part and Edward Coleman John Good-Groome, Matthew Locke, and Alphonso Marsh contributing the second, smaller, part. These seven songs were added in to the book at a later date.

The contributors to this book were all highly regarded composers and performers. Charles Coleman (1605-1664) was an active performer appearing in masques for both James I and Charles I and a member of the Kings Consort. He remained in England during the Republic, during which time he composed extensively and was awarded Doctor of Music from the university of Cambridge. Lanier is a particularly interesting composer being primarily responsible for popularising the new ‘Italian’ style of music in the English court and producing what is claimed to be the first recitative in English, in his Opera Hero and Leander, c. 1625, performed for Charlies I.

This stands in distinct contrast to his pre-Italy compositions ‘Bring away this Sacred Tree’ and more importantly ‘Lovers made Men’. These pieces, it is argued however follow more closely the Declamatory Ayre English tradition.[i] There is much that can be said about the practice of ‘declamatory ayres’ and their relationship to the evolving Italian practice of ‘recit aria’ but this is not the place.[ii] Lanier left England following the defeat of Charles I but had returned by 1650 primarily working as an art dealer, a position which interestingly enough he had previously occupied for Charles. William Lawes, whist still being a popular composer had died in 1645 at Chester during the Civil War. Henry Lawes, his brother on the other hand was a prolific and well-regarded composer who survived the war. Despite working for the court he worked closely with notable republicans, having set to music poems by Milton, Waller, and Carew,[iii] and as did many other people continued working under the new government. Most notably he supplied the incidental music for the Masque “Comous” (1634) and the vocal music for the opera “The Siege of Rhodes” (1656).

It is a common trope that the Republic was a period when music was banned. You can still find the Burney quote ‘Ten years of gloomy silence seem to have elapsed before a string was suffered to vibrate, or a pipe to breathe aloud, in the kingdom’[iv] quoted uncritically, even after the rest of Burney’s work has, justifiably, been superseded. Music playing, performance, and most significantly publishing all continued through this time period and in the case of publishing, expanded greatly.

Of the second group of writers, Locke is by far the best known. He was a prolific composer producing frequent publications for John Playford and holding musical ‘salons’ in London. The group is rounded up with Edward Coleman and Good-Groom both working as music teachers and Alphonso Marsh who was a performer in the Siege of Rhodes and a composer. The collection of names contributing to the book presents a good overview the most popular musicians and songwriters during the Republic and following the Restoration.


The song book also contains works by continental composers. These tend to be older works having been previously published or composed by more established composers. The French composers are Francois de Chancy, who composed for Richelieu and was an active composer of Ballets de Cours, Jean de Cambefort, Michel Lambert a prolific composer, and the Marquis of Mortmart.

MS 1041 contains 29 songs, many of which are unique to this manuscript, (We do account the music good, Qu’un rival vienne devant moi, When shall I see my captive heart, Chere Philis puisque tous mes service, Ne vous etonnez pas, Ma Cloris je me meurs d’amor, Farewell, farewell, fond love, Non temer Filli mia, Last night my fair resolved to go, Ye powers that guard loves silken throne, Lucinda wink or veil those eyes, and Fret on fond Cupid curse thy feeble bow) and which are in four distinct groupings. Of particular note is the French grouping 9v-19v due to the extensively written out vocal embellishments. What we can tell from this ornamentation, and other sections, is that the intention of the composers is for the pieces to be performed in the ‘Italian style’. That being using performance practices and styles that were used and taught in Italy at the time. As opposed to English songs being performed in the common English style that was taught to students and musicians . This could be for a number of reasons from the increasing continental influence to changing tastes or even political signalling. The French songs and, interestingly, several of the songs by Henry Lawes are to be sung in the French style. The level of written out embellishment, if we contend that the book is intended as a teaching aid, in the English/ Italian/ French songs suggests more familiarity with the English and Italian manner of singing. Also whilst many of the songs have embellishments written out few have symbols marking these or other embellishments. The ones that do occur tend to be found in the second, latter collection. They can also be found in the accompaniments.


To take an example Coleman’s Bright Aurelia features an elaborate vocal ornamentation in the second line of the score. Over the text there is a roulade (a musical ornament), typical of Italian coloratura style (a manner of singing) longer than a trill or a mordent but not extending into a cadenza. This is a method of ornamenting a piece of music using a distinctive style of singing. It is placed in a song written in English that is otherwise fairly typical of English Songs of the period. In principle this is an invaluable addition showing the use of stylistic elements, and approaches to singing that would otherwise be overlooked. However, it also shows how assumed knowledge on the part of the performer can obscure  later readers. In this case there are questions about where to start and end the ornament. With this we have clear examples of Italian styles being interpolated into English music.


One of the interesting things about these pages, and something that allows us to date it with some accuracy, are the numerous watermarks in the paper.[v] There are two distinct imprints; on the pages with musical notation there is a stamp of two pillars with the initials “MSD”. The pages without music on them contain a pot type of watermark with the initials IB. . Watermarks in paper were added during the manufacturing process as the paper was drying to identify the paper maker. They also served as statement of quality and of provenance. They are also invaluable for codicological studies for identifying the age, printing location and trade patterns of the early book trade. It should be noted however that the watermarks only show when the paper was made not necessarily when the book was constructed.


Palaeographical studies of the manuscript show five different hands over the various folios. Some are limited to particular genres, hand 2 for example is responsible for all of the French songs, along with one Italian and English. And hands 4 and 5 copied all the English songs with thoroughbass added later

Looking at the various hands displayed in the manuscript several are easily identifiable. One (which one? identifiable as Charles Colman in addition to four others which are unknown. Although it is suggested in Songs with Theorbo (ca. 1650-1663), edited by Gordon Callon,[vi] that one is possibly the same hand as another merely separated by some years.


This manuscript presents a fascinating look popular music, what people were interested in and how tastes were changing, in a rapidly evolving musical landscape. The difference in the musical landscape from the end of 1640 to 1660 was immense. From the proliferation of printed music to the rapid ascendency of continental styles of music. The changes had a lasting and profound impact on the evolution of music and our historical conception of it.

[i] Walls, Peter. “The Origins of English Recitative.” Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association 110 (1983): 25-40.

[ii]Pinnock, Andrew, and Bruce Wood. “A Mangled Chime: The Accidental Death of the Opera Libretto in Civil War England.” Early Music 36, no. 2 (2008): 265-84.

[iii] Lindenbaum, Peter. “John Playford: Music and Politics in the Interregnum.” Huntington Library Quarterly 64, no. 1/2 (2001): 125-38. doi:10.2307/3817880.

[iv] Charles Burney, A General History of Music: From the Earliest Ages to the Present Period (1789), 1776-1789, Rpt. (London: Foulis, 1935) 334. This work was issued in four volumes, the first appearing in 1776 and the last in 1789.

[v] Callon,Gordon J. Songs With Theorbo (Ca. 1650-1663): Oxford, Bodleian Library, Broxbourne 84.9 London, Lampeth Palace Library, 1041: 105 (Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era) A-R Editions (1 Jun. 2000) ff ix

[vi] ibid



September update from the Library and Record Centre

Lambeth Palace Library and the Church of England Record Centre regularly embark on new projects and acquire and catalogue new material, from rare books and manuscripts to modern publications.  These posts provide a brief update on some of our latest acquisitions, projects and upcoming events, to keep you up-to-date with our most recent news.

FullSizeRender (18)New books!

Enjoy reading one (or more!) of our recently acquired new books. Highlights include:


Magazines and journals

Lambeth Palace Library also collects a variety of magazines and journals. You are very welcome to visit the Reading Room to consult these too. Some of magazinesour recently received titles include:
Crucible: the journal of Christian social ethics
Faith and worship
The Friends Quarterly
Historic Churches
Journal of Anglican Studies
Journal of Ecclesiastical History
Journal of Paper Conservation
The Library: Transactions of The Bibliographical Society
Privacy & Data Protection

We also receive the following papers and magazines weekly:

newspapersThe Church of England Newspaper
Church Times
The Tablet
TLS (The Times Literary Supplement)


Please note that from October 2019 Lambeth Palace Library will be closed on Fridays. This is to give the staff time to prepare the collections for the move to the new library building. Opening hours will be 10am to 5pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 10am to 7.30 pm on Thursday.

Upcoming events

‘Wanting more and wanting better’

traherne socBishop Richard Harries
Monday 23 September, 5pm (entrance not before 4:30pm)

The usual assumption is that Christianity disapproves of us wanting things. Thomas Traherne takes a very different line, saying we don’t want enough. But when we have moved out of innocent bliss into a world of sin and suffering, how do we manage this wanting?

In association with the Traherne Society. All are welcome, but those wishing to attend should book a free ticket at or email not later than Tuesday 17 September.

‘William Holcot’s books: recantation and repentance in Reformation England’

Professor John Craig (Simon Fraser University)
Tuesday 26 November, 5:15pm (entrance not before 4:45pm)
William Holcot was a mid-Tudor gentleman, bibliophile and lay reader in the early Elizabethan church, whose experience of recantation during the reign of Queen Mary powerfully shaped his thoughts and actions during the Elizabethan period. Very little survives from Holcot’s life but the few pieces that do enrich our understanding of a particular stream of Elizabethan Protestantism. This event will be followed by a drinks reception.

In association with the University of London seminar on the Religious History of Britain 1500-1800.  All are welcome, but those wishing to attend should book a free ticket at, or email not later than Friday 22 November.

Christmas reception for the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library and their 1488-5jguests

Wednesday 4 December, 6pm (admittance from 5:30pm)

Christmas reception held in the State Drawing Room in Lambeth Palace.

Tickets £10 per head, to include wine and mince pies. To book, please send names in advance to Melissa Harrison, or telephone 020 7898 1400, not later than Friday 22 November.


New Library update

Work on the new library is progressing well and the programme remains on track to complete in April 2020.


From the street, the completed brickwork for the east and west wings are now clearly visible. Scaffold only remains in place to the central tower which will start to be dismantled from October 2019.

Internally, considerable progress has been made. The archive spaces are nearing completion with the final shelving units arriving at the start of the month ready for installation.


The spaces which will be occupied by the staff have also progressed well. Finishes to the floors, ceilings and walls have started over the last period and will continue to the end of the project. Joinery is being put into the Reading Room, so we are now starting to see the wood panelling.

First floor office
First floor office
Reading Room
View from inside the Reading Room
Freezers in cold store
Freezers in the cold store

Externally, an exciting phase will start in the next quarter when the landscaping works for the Palace gardens commence. This will include extensive planting and a wetland habitat. The pond wall will be set out this week, and the excavations of the base of the pond started.


Lambeth Local History Fair

Local History Fair

The Library was thrilled to have a stall at the Lambeth Local History Fair, a now annual event that kicks off Lambeth Heritage Festival, which runs throughout September.  This year the Fair was held in Brixton Tate Libary on Saturday 7th September, and saw dozens of local societies and local history organisations come together to showcase their services, alongside a programme of illustrated talks, tours and walks.  Library staff were pleased to talk to a large number of visitors and let them know how the Library and Record Centre could be useful to their research.

The full programme for the Lambeth Heritage Festival 2019 can be found here.


Archive news

Material catalogued and now made available in recent months has included:

  • Papers of the English Hymnal Company (ref: EHC), 1905-2000.
  • Correspondence regarding the Book of Common Prayer (1928), mainly between Lambeth Palace and Colonel H M Oldham (ref: MS 5149), 1926-1959.
  • Letters and reports to Cyril Eastaugh, Bishop of Peterborough on South Africa (ref: MS 5150), 1965.

The Library’s collections have also been used in a range of recent publications and resources including:

Further content has been added to the Library’s public image management system:, including a range of manuscripts (MS 1, MS 284, MS 774, MS 1143, MS 1502, MS 2022, MS 5082) and material from Sion College (Sion L40.2/E25, Sion L40.2/E42, Sion L40.2/E44, Sion L40.2/L2 and Sion L40.2/L7).

MS 774f178v
MS 774, f.178v

In the Conservation studio

Over 30,000 items have been boxed, with a big focus now on protecting CERC collections for the move next year. We are currently working through the procurement process for potential movers and, once awarded, the process of preparing the day-by-day scheduling of the move will begin.  In addition, the team are preparing for the studio move, as well as helping with new library requirements.
Only 217 days until we get the keys to the new building!


Don’t forget – you can also keep up-to-date with our news and events, and enjoy glimpses of some of the treasures in our collections, by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.



Summer update from the Library and Record Centre

Lambeth Palace Library and the Church of England Record Centre regularly embark on new projects and acquire and catalogue new material, from rare books and manuscripts to modern publications.  These posts provide a brief update on some of our latest acquisitions, projects and upcoming events, to keep you up-to-date with our most recent news.

New books!

Enjoy reading one (or more!) of our recently acquired new books. Highlights include:

Magazines and journals

magazinesLambeth Palace Library also collects a variety of magazines and journals. You are very welcome to visit the Reading Room to consult these too. Some of our recently received titles include:

Anglican and Episcopal History
Church Monuments
English Historical Review
Families First
Historical Research
Modern Believing
New Directions
Parliamentary History
The Prayer Book Society Journal

newspapersWe also receive the following papers and magazines weekly:

The Church of England Newspaper
Church Times
TLS (The Times Literary Supplement)

Upcoming events

Lambeth Palace Garden Open Days with Great Hall entry and exhibition

Every first Friday of the month until September, 12 noon to 3pm
Next Open Day: Friday 2 August 


An opportunity to visit the Palace’s beautiful gardens and see the progress of the new Library building! Refreshments and entertainment are provided in the garden and there will be plants for sale. The 17th century Great Hall will also be open throughout the Open Days, with a chance to view displays of some of the Library’s collections. Do come along and bring your friends and family!

There is an entrance fee of £5, which will go to a chosen charity each month, and there is no need to book.

New Library update

As of July, the Library project remains on time and on budget. The Archbishop topped out the building in May.


The brickwork is nearing completion and is gradually being revealed as the scaffolding comes down.


Over the summer and Autumn most of the work is concentrated on the inside of the building as all the mechanical work progresses inside.


Staff are now heavily involved in planning for the big move of all the archives from the Library and CERC which will be taking place between June to December 2020.

Archive news

Clare Brown awarded The Lanfranc Award for Education and Scholarship

clareThe Library is delighted that Mrs Clare Brown, Archivist, was awarded The Lanfranc Award for Education and Scholarship by Archbishop Welby at the Lambeth Awards 2019, for her work in guiding readers through the archives of the Church of England, and for her exhibitions and scholarly expertise in support of Lambeth Palace Library and three Archbishops of Canterbury. In April, we bid Clare a very long and happy retirement after seventeen years of service at the Library!

Clare’s contribution over the years is too vast to summarise briefly, but we hope to give a sense of her many accomplishments. On joining the Library, Clare completed cataloguing of the papers of Archbishop Ramsey, and then led cataloguing of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) archive. She led work on the collaborative projects on the Library’s important collection of Greek manuscripts, with an exhibition in 2006 and the launch of the catalogue in 2016. She contributed to understanding of the Canterbury Archbishops’ Registers alongside work undertaken by the Borthwick Institute on the York Registers. Her knowledge of the history of ecumenical relations contributed to displays for visitors to the Archbishop from other churches, and her extensive knowledge of the collections and of Church of England history have benefited many Library readers and NCIs colleagues over the years. This is evidenced, not least, by the amount of enquiries Clare answered during her time at the Library – almost 3,700!

We will all greatly miss Clare’s incredible knowledge, helpfulness, her willingness to share her expertise with Library readers and colleagues alike, and especially her sense of humour.

Archival collections news

Papers from 1988 have been released for research, including some 500 files from the papers of Archbishop Runcie and further material on Anglican-Roman Catholic relations from the records of ARCIC II. Descriptions can be searched on the Library’s online archives catalogue.

Further newly-catalogued material includes records of the Lambeth Diploma and Vacation Term for Biblical Study, two initiatives founded in the early 20th century to provide theological and scriptural training for women. Library staff are also adding detail to descriptions of various series of news cuttings and photographs relating to Archbishops Benson (cartoon pictured below), Davidson, Lang and Fisher, which complement correspondence and other papers in the main series. Photographs of Lambeth Palace and garden by Sue Snell are also now catalogued.


An annotated Bible belonging to John Taylor Smith, Bishop of Sierra Leone, was donated to the Library. The Library also received a set of playing cards produced by the Mothers’ Union.

Watercolours from the Library collections can now been seen on the new Watercolour World website.


Recent blog posts have covered a printed work on music from the Sion College collection; a further report on records of the Court of Arches; and a conference on Anglo-Saxon manuscripts.

A digitised version of Herbert Bosham’s life of Thomas Becket incorporating folios from the Library’s MS 5048 detached from the parent manuscript held in Arras is now available.


The 100th anniversary of the Church Assembly, predecessor of General Synod, occurs in 2019. Aside from the main archive held at the Church of England Record Centre, there are further voluminous sources in the Library collections.

An edition of the household accounts of Archbishop Laud has been published; the original document is held at the National Archives, but complements sources relating to Laud in the Library collections. Readers may be interested in a Salvation Army blog post on the history of Christianity in China; the Library also holds material on the church in China.

In the Conservation Studio

Earlier in the year, a group of students from the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) visited the Library as part of their ‘Material Witness‘ training programme, which examines physical objects in the digital age. The visit was organised by Teresa Lane, PhD student at the Courtauld Institute of Art, who recently completed a six-month CHASE internship working on the Library’s illuminated manuscripts. It gave participants a behind-the-scenes look in the conservation studio and an opportunity to learn about the different approaches and techniques involved in preserving fragile books.


Lara Artemis, Senior Conservator at the Library, led the sessions on medieval manuscripts, examining their materiality and chemistry, as well as their history and provenance. The group were shown the stunningly illuminated 13th-century Lambeth Apocalypse (MS 209) – one of the Library’s treasures – and looked at the kinds of pigments used by the artists. The students even had a go at mixing pigments and painting their own illuminations on vellum afterwards!


The photographs above are taken from the Material Witness blog about the student’s visit to Lambeth Palace Library, which gives plenty more fascinating insights into manuscripts and their conservation.

In other news, we continue to make strides in our boxing and preparing the collections for the move. We’ve now completed around 25,000 boxes for vulnerable items in the collection, including completing the job of cleaning, measuring, boxing and organising the vulnerable Sion College Library collections stored in the Blore, one of our Library storerooms.


Sion College Founder’s Day at Lambeth Palace

Fellows and members of Sion College celebrated its Founder’s Day at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday 9 July. This year’s event included a lecture by Baroness Manningham-Buller, former Director General of MI5, who spoke on the topic of “Intelligence and Ethics”. Evening prayer in the Chapel was followed by a drinks reception in the Great Hall where attendees were able to view an exhibition of some of the newly catalogued items from the Sion College collection, now housed in Lambeth Palace Library. Also on display were books and manuscripts relating to the lecture’s theme, including Reginald Scot’s Discovery of witchcraft (1654) in which the author denounced the prosecution and torture of those accused of witchcraft as un-Christian and irrational, and a 1584 caricature of Thomas Norton, whose ruthless and enthusiastic punishment of English Catholics led to his being nicknamed the “Rackmaster-General”.


Don’t forget – you can also keep up-to-date with our news and events, and enjoy glimpses of some of the treasures in our collections, by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

A plaine and easie introduction to practicall musicke. Thomas Morley

A plaine and easie introduction to practicall musicke : set downe in forme of a dialogue: diuided into three parts. The first teacheth to sing, with all things necessarie for the knowledge of pricktsong. The second treateth of descante, and to sing two parts in one vpon a plainsong or ground, with other things necessarie for a descanter. The third and last part entreateth of composition of three, foure, fiue or more parts, with many profitable rules to that effect. With new songs of, 2. 3. 4. and 5. parts / By Thomas Morley, Batcheler of Musicke, and one of the gent of her Maiesties Royall Chappell.

This modestly titled work is by the English composer Thomas Morley and was one of the foundational pieces of music practice and education for 200 years. It is still vital to the understanding and performance of Renaissance music and is one of the most famous musical treatises in the English language.

As with the more familiar work by Johann Joseph Fux (“Gradus ad Parnassum”) Morley’s “A plaine and easie …” endeavours to teach the mechanics of music within a traditional lecture style of master and student. The work is divided into three parts. The first addresses singing, the second descant (the practice of placing a melody above a moving bass), and the third deals with composition. Due to the necessities of space I will be focusing largely on the first section of this work. I would however strongly encourage anyone with even a passing interest in early music to visit the library and look at the significant music collection held at Lambeth Palace Library.

As an aside before we begin the work itself begins with a dedication to William Byrd [Birde] expressing the author’s admiration and debt to the musician and is well worth reproducing in full.



As stated above the work is set out as a classical dialogue between Philomathes and Master and begins as is common in this format with the introduction of the characters, apologies for the students’ lack of knowledge and their requests, or in this case demands, to be taught everything the master knows. The work can be placed within a more overarching cultural discussion as the ‘student’ abandons Stoicism for Pythagoreanism. This was a deliberate choice on the part of Morley. Whilst the dialogical form was popular on the continent, and in Italy specifically, it was rarely used in England. One of the suggested reasons for its use here is that Morley is aspiring to a Platonic dialogue, seeking as it were to impart not only musical but also moral and ethical instruction as well.[1] In an attempt to regulate musical activity, at least on a professional level, the English government had outlawed freelance musical activity completely, and made licensing dependent on employment in a noble house.[2] This led to a flurry of pamphlets on both sides, with Gosson’s “The Schoole of Abuse” and Stubs’ “The Anatomie of Abuses” being for licensing on the one side and Thomas Lodge’s “Protogenes can know Apelles” and Case’s “The Prase of Music” against these restrictions on the other. The latter was influential enough for Byrd to produce a six-voice madrigal setting of “A Gratification unto Master John Case, for his Learned Book”.[1] One of the outcomes of this was the attempt by ‘serious’ musicians to differentiate themselves from their ‘unlearned’ counterparts. This comes with the obvious class distinctions. It is into this conflict, one both intergenerational, class based, and acrimonious that Morley introduced this work. This argument is addressed in the opening of the work where the Master is surprised to learn of Philomathes’ desire to learn music. The prospective student was thought to be Stoic and against music (“he had been heard to speak against the art, as to tearme it a corrupter of good manners and an allurement to vice”), thereby opening the work with a fictional victory over his detractors.

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And so, we begin at the beginning. The author introduces the scales, their degrees, clefs, and the tuning of the notes (including the question of enharmonic equivalence). This is a particularly interesting section with regards to performance practice and how contemporaries thought music might be constructed. Morley was very much aware and involved in contemporary music practices and movements, not only having read Zarino and Zacconi but also being responsible for the popularisation of madrigals in England.[3] This is still a sound world very much defined by the modal system of music. This was the bedrock of musical knowledge taught by theorists from Spain to Germany. What is remarkable about Morley’s work therefore is the small space allotted to these. They are introduced in the third chapter and rather than explain what they are he simply gives examples of their use and moves on. He also places emphasis not only on which key the piece of music starts but also allows these keys to be joined together. For instance, he suggests going from G to its dominant or sub dominant and then back to the tonic.[4] This is one of the fundamental differences between English and Continental music practice. Looking at musical examples such a Tallis or Taverner one can clearly see that they are planned and structured differently to the compositions of Palestrina: with Tallis and Taverner, to put it simply, organising their melodies using a tonal structure and Palestrina still using a more strictly modal practice.

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One of the themes throughout the work is the insistence that not only should the student learn contemporary practices but should also be familiar with the historical styles that were no longer in fashion. This is especially useful to modern musicologists as he not only deals with them practically but also their theoretical underpinnings:

Surely what they know already I know not, but if they account the moodes, ligatures, pricks of devision and alteration, augmentation, diminution and proportions, things of no use, they may as well account the whole arte of musicke of no use, seeing that in the knowledge of them consisteth the whole or greatest part of the knowledge of pricksong. And although it be true that the proportions have not such use in musicke in that forme as they be nowe used, but that the practise may be perfect without them, yet seeing they have beene in common use with the musicians of former time, it is necessarie for us to know them, if we meane to make any profit of their works. But those men who think they know enough already, when (God knoweth) they can scarce sing their part with the wordes, be like unto those who having once superficiallie red the Tenors of Littleton or Justinians institutes, thinke that they have perfectlie learned the whole law, and then being injoyned to discusse a case, do at length perceive their own ignorance and beare the shame of their falsely conceaved opinions.[5]

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What results is one of the most reliable accounts of how to read mensural notation (the musical notation system used for European vocal polyphonic music from the later part of the 13th century until about 1600). The term “mensural” refers to the ability of this system to describe precisely measured rhythmic durations in terms of numerical proportions between note values. There are accounts of note forms; the derivation from the long to the breve, semi-breve and onwards, as well as how to interpret them in context (their values changing depending on location) and explanations on how to read ligatures (notes written together indicating melismatic singing over several notes). He even delves into the system of prolation (the relationship between the semibreve and the minim in mensural notation) and how it can be perfect or imperfect – i.e. one long divided into 3 breves into 3 semi-breves is “perfect/perfect”; one long into two breves into two semibreves was “imperfect/imperfect”. There could also be perfect/imperfect and vice versa. This, as one can see from the picture, our modern symbols have inaccurately referred to as common and compound time.

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The work also contains detailed descriptions of the most common forms of music at the time from motets to madrigals, including how they should be performed, what occasion or company they are suitable for, and what sort of mood the work should convey. It is here in other contemporary theorists that one would expect to see the treatment of modes.

Morley was himself a well-known composer publishing under Tallis and Byrd’s monopoly on printed music, even being hailed by Ravenscroft after his death as “he who did shine as the Sun in the Firmament of our Art”. The situation with regards to printed music at the time was a curious one. There was a well-established market for musical publications: however, much was imported from the continent due to the Royal Patents that operated – commonly from Holland but with growing markets in Italy and Germany. It was only with their lapse during the English Republic that the large-scale publication of printed music in England took off. Another notable feature of this work is that it uses a movable type for musical notation rather than the more common block engravings that one can find in other musical works. Whilst not being responsible for introducing this to England – it having been developed in Italy in the 1500s – he did interestingly enough introduce moveable type for lute tablature however.[6] Whilst its use was important in the dissemination of cheap part books to the public the increasingly florid styles were difficult to set in moveable type, resulting in manuscript editions continuing to be used for a number of years. One final point of interest is in the supplementary material in the back of the book. It is arranged with its performance by a small group of players in mind. Each part is arranged around the page to allow a group to arrange themselves around the table whilst still being able to read the music.

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[1] Mann, Joseph Arthur. “”Both Schollers And Practicioners”: The Pedagogy Of Ethical Scholarship And Music In Thomas Morley’s “Plaine And Easie Introduction To Practicall Musicke”.” Musica Disciplina 59 (2014): 53-92.

[2] Marsh, Christopher W. Music and Society in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010, pp73-75.

[3] Stevenson, Robert. “Thomas Morley’s “Plaine and Easie” Introduction to the Modes.” Musica Disciplina 6 (1952): 177.

[4] Wienpahl, Robert W. “English Theorists and Evolving Tonality.” Music & Letters 36, no. 4 (1955): 377-93.

[5] Morley, Thomas. A Plain and Easy Introduction to Practical Music Set down in Form of a Dialogue, Divided into Three Parts, the First Teacheth to Sing, the Second Treateth of Descant, the Third Treateth of Composition, by Thomas Morley … As Printed in the Year 1597. London: Now Reprinted [by George Bigg] for William Randall Successor to the Late Mr. J. Walsh, 1771 183. Thomas Littleton wrote one of the first printed texts on English law, his Tenures (1482).

[6] Murray, Tessa. Thomas Morley : Elizabethan Music Publisher. Music in Britain, 1600-2000. 2014. pp82.