Bulletin board about nanuscript "XLI"
Choose another section of this Musing
Discovered at the Lilly
Library: manuscript "XLI,"
an autograph theoretical work by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Charpentier’s handwriting in scans of manuscript "XLI"
Some years ago, I agreed to
read and comment upon the transcription and translation of a French manuscript
being done by Carla E. Williams, a doctoral candidate in musicology at the
University of Indiana, Bloomington.
In early November 2009, Ms
Williams sent me two computer files: her transcription and translation, plus
scans of the manuscript itself, which bears the title Traité d’accompagnement.
As I scrolled through her transcription, I came upon the names of Étienne Loulié
(on whom I had worked back in the 1980s1) and Charles
Masson (a friend of Sébastien de Brossard, someone I have likewise studied2).
Most intriguing of all were some references to "feu Mr Charpentier,"
the "late Monsieur Charpentier."
Since one of the pillars on which the anonymous
Traité is constructed is
a discussion of major and minor scales and the fundamental chords of each key/mode,
I was not overly surprised to find references to Loulié’s and Masson’s published
works. Those books included brief presentations of the major and minor scales
whose existence their mutual friend, Brossard, claimed to have deduced back in
1684 or 1685.3
I checked the images of the original manuscript that Ms Willams had sent me:
that was indeed what the anonymous author of the Traité de l’accompagnement
had written. Still, I was puzzled by the allusion to the “Principes
de Charpentier” (p. 18 of the Traité, my emphasis). To what book or
manuscript might the author be referring? Loulié wrote a book called Élements
ou Principes, but no such book by Charpentier is known.
"While I'm at it, I might as well scroll through the entire file,” I said to
myself, "to get a visual impression of the source. It might help Ms Williams to
date her treatise more accurately than simply ‘post-1710' — the date of the
latest publication mentioned." Toward the end of the Traité, the
handwriting changed abruptly: I was looking at the hand of Marc-Antoine
Charpentier! The mature hand he used at the Sainte-Chapelle!
Juxtaposing a printout of this
little manuscript appended to the Traité, and some pages from the Minkoff
facsimiles of Charpentier’s compositions for the post-1698 years, I compared the
handwriting of the two sources. First I highlighted in orange the distinctive
capital letters that Charpentier used for the opening pages of Judith and
Salomon; then I highlighted the same letters as they appeared in the
little manuscript appended to the manuscript on which Ms Williams is working. I
moved on to lowercase letters, to the musical notation itself, and to the
characteristic "Tournez" that Charpentier was wont to put in the lower
right-hand corner of a page, or the large "fin" he placed at the end of
some of his works. Soon both the photocopied manuscript and the photocopied
pages from the facsimiles were peppered with large orange circles and ovals.
Here are two of the photocopies I highlighted
during that initial comparison: left, the first page of Judith;
right, fol. 1 recto of the Charpentier manuscript.
right-hand image: Courtesy Lilly Library,
Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
left-hand image: Courtesy Minkoff France, Mélanges Charpentier
Click here for a
closeup comparison of the handwriting
in Judith and in the Lilly manuscript.
is simply no doubt: this little theoretical text is a Charpentier autograph.
I informed Ms Williams of the discovery. A few days later, Orest and I set off
for Bloomington, and we went to the Lilly Library of the University of Indiana, to examine the volume in her presence. Back in Baltimore in late
November, and working on into early December 2009, I assembled the evidence then
available in a file titled "Report." I shared the file with Ms Williams in late
January 2010, along with a variety of bibliographical information and research
suggestions. For a year I kept silent about the discovery and its contents, so
that she could complete her dissertation without having to take into account the context problems
explored in this Musing.
The Report is the departure point for the cluster of
Musings I will be posting here this fall, to celebrate the first anniversary of the
discovery. Those initial observations and hypotheses have been honed and
expanded by a year of private thought and study. In this Musing, and in the
other related ones that will soon appear, I have been careful to restrict my
discussions to Marc-Antoine Charpentier the man, to how he put his ideas on
paper, and to the activities of members of his close circle during the 1690s.
That is my competence. I have been equally careful to avoid discussing the
contents of both the Traité d’accompagnement and the Charpentier
autograph, and what they can tell scholars about harmonic theory, 1698-circa
1720. That is Ms Williams's subject and competence. I presume that her thesis
will soon be available through ProQuest Digital Dissertations.
Continue to Part I
1. Patricia M. Ranum, "Étienne Loulié (1654-1702),
musicien de Mademoiselle de Guise, pédagogue et théoricien, Recherches sur la
musique française classique 25 (1987), pp. 27-76, and 26 (1988-90), pp.
2. Patricia M. Ranum, "À la recherche de son
avenir: Sébastien de Brossard à Paris, 1678-1687, in J. Duron, ed., Sébastien
de Brossard, Musicien (Paris: Klincksieck, 1998), pp. 283-306.
3. Ranum, "Loulié" (1987), pp. 50-51.
Continue to Part I