Saturday, 5 February 2022

A Spanish Choirbook dated 1522

I usually do not pay much attention to 16th-century and later choirbooks, especially when their decoration is mediocre (as they usually are) but one caught my eye this week. It was sold at auction a few minutes ago [1].

Most of the 15 images online did not spark my interest, except the last.

The final opening of the volume looks like this:

The leaf on the right is simply a piece of manuscript waste from a Choir Psalter used as a flyleaf (as at the front of the volume, seen in the previous image); the main text and music end of the left page. Below this text and music is a 12-line colophon.

The first ten lines, in larger script, record that the book was ordered by Diego Hernández of Córdoba, third Count of Cabra [d.1525; Wikipedia], for the Dominican monastery which he had built in the town of Baena [it still exists, and is known as the Convento de Madre de Dios]. The first prioress being Juana de la Cerda, daughter of the Count and his wife Countess Francisca de Cuñiga, Bartholome Galindo, writer of books and citizen of the said town, wrote it on Holy Wednesday, 17 April, 1522.

[Click to enlarge]

"Este libro mando hazer el muy illustre señor don Diego Hernandes
de Cordova tercero co(n)de de Cabra para el monesterio que su señoria ma(n)-
do edificar en su villa de Baena de la orde(n) de los predicadores. Siendo
priora y primero fu(n)dadora del dicho monesterio la muy magnifi-
ca señora don(n)a Juana de la Cerda, hija del dicho conde, y de la muy ill(ustr)e
señora don(n)a Francisca de Cuñiga condessa, su ligitima muger, que en
gloria s(an)c(t)a miercoles dezisiete dias andados del mes de abril, año del
nascimi(ient)o de n(ost)ro salvador Ih(es)u (Christ)o de mill & quinientos & veynte y dos
años. Escriviolo Bartholome Galindo, escrivano de libros y vezino
de la dicha villa."

This map shows the relative positions of Baena and Cabra (about 12 miles or 20km from each other), and Córdoba:

The final two lines of the colophon, in smaller script, are arguably the most interesting:

"Tiene este libro .xx.iij. quadernos, costo el quaderno de pergamino y escritura
dozientos y treynta y dos y medio. An[?] que monta v. V. ccc. y xl.vij. m(a)r(avedie)s y m(edi)o"

i.e. the book comprises 23 quires [2], the parchment and writing of each costing 232½. (The unit of currency seems not to be stated, but I assume it must be maravedis [Wikipedia]). The last half-line of the inscription record the total cost: 23 quires each costing 232½ maravedis produce a total of 5,347½ ("V.ccc.xl.vij y medio").

The volume contains at least one other feature that it probably worthy of further study by musicologists or liturgists, but which is beyond the scope of this blogpost. Facing the start of the feast of St Catherine of Siena is an inscription in Spanish referring to "... el officio de la bien aventurada sancta Catherina de Sena de la orden de los predicadores nuevamente modulado por el mas indigno de los sacerdotes, Pedro Hernandez de Cordova, musico. Va presentado a la muy religiosa ... Juana de la Cerda ... del monesterio de Madre de Dios de Baena. Pa que de alli lo ayan los otros conventos de la dicha orden":


[2] 23 quaternions = 184 leaves; the auctioneer's description confirms that there are "184 double sided vellum sheets".

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