New Light on the Early Career of Tudor Music Printer Thomas East (and the History of Printing Music Paper)

From 1588 until his death in 1608 Thomas East was the premier music printer in England, working for first William Byrd and later Thomas Morley. He printed such famous collection as Musica Transalpina (1588), William Byrd’s Psalmes, Sonets, and Songs of Sadnes and Pietie (1588) and Thomas Morley’s anthology The Triumphes of Oriana (1601) among numerous other music collections.

Yet by 1588 East had already been in the printing business for over twenty years. He worked largely as a trade printer, but also as a publisher, issuing works by John Lyly and Edmund Spenser, and a series of Spanish Romances in translation. Why East should suddenly have chosen to specialize in music printing?

A recent piece of detective work has unexpectedly added a new first chapter to East’s music printing career. It began with an attempt to date a particular kind of printed music paper that I hoped might provide some evidence useful for dating several Tudor partbooks that were copied onto this type of paper (particularly the Hamond partbooks – British Library: Add. MSS 30480-3 – pictured below).

https://www.diamm.ac.uk/sources/2982/#/images?p=8r

Music Paper with Fleuron Board – example from British Library Add MSS 30481, fol.8r

This music paper appears in three Tudor music books or collections (British Library: Add. MS 15166 and Royal Appendix 57; Christ Church Library, Oxford: Mus 371), plus several fragments. Moreover there are a number of different ‘editions’  with either four or five staves to a page, and with six-line staves for keyboard music.

The music paper has a distinctive decorative border made up of fleurons – small pieces of decorative type that could be combined in multiple ways to create various patterns. With the growing availability of images of printed books online, it is increasingly possible to trace the use of specific printing types and designs across a wide range of publications to reveal new information about the trade.

Tracing the appearance of these different fleurons revealed that printer Henry Denham first used them in England from 1564-66. Denham is known to have printed music in the 1580s – a monophonic setting of the Lord’s Prayer in Francis Segar’s The Schoole of Vertue (1582), William Hunnis’s Seven Sobs of a Sorrowfull Soule for Sinne (1583+) and an edition of The Whole Booke of Psalmes (1588). However, as the graph below shows, by the late 1560s these fleurons soon become very popular and were widely used throughout the 1570s. From these figures it would seem impossible to further pin down the likely origins or period of production for this music paper.

FleuronGraph

Other Publications Using the Same Fleurons as the Music Paper Border by Printers from 1560-80

Yet among the myriad combinations of these fleurons that were possible, only seven extant publications contain examples of the same alternating pattern seen on the type of music paper pictured above, in a narrow period from 1568-1572. Moreover all but one of these examples was by two printers: Thomas East and Henry Middleton.

In the years 1567-72 East and Middleton were both newly setting up in the printing industry and were in fact working in partnership. Intriguingly this period coincides almost precisely with the years when the fleuron design of the music paper was being used in other printed works.

Peter Stallybrass has suggested that it was ‘little jobs’—single sheet publications and small booklets requiring little investment and offering quick returns—that provided the essential regular income for the printing houses and supported the production of larger works. Printing sheets of music paper may therefore have played an important role in the economic viability of the East-Middleton press in its early years.

The East-Middleton partnership dissolved in 1572, and by 1575 the privilege granted to William Byrd and Thomas Tallis gave these musicians the monopoly on printed music paper. East and Middleton would then have been unable to legally print their music paper without the permission of the monopoly holders. Byrd and Tallis had used Thomas Vautrollier as their assign for the 1575 Cantiones sacrae and he remains the most likely candidate for the particular designs of printed staves (without decorative borders) that occur in books dating from the late 1570s to the 1580s.

Following Vautrollier’s death in 1587 and Tallis’s in 1585, East acquired Vautrollier’s two music fonts and became the assign of the remaining patent holder, William Byrd, and later his successors Thomas Morley and William Barley. As well as printing music books, East also produced music paper again in this later period. This paper no longer used the fleuron border, but rather used the monogram ‘TE’ to identify his productions.

Nevertheless Thomas East did return to experimenting with fleuron borders for music staves later in his career. In 1593-4 he printed Thomas Morley’s Canzonets or Little Short Songs to Three Voyces and Madrigalls to Foure Voyces and John Mundy’s Songs and Psalmes Composed into 3, 4 and 5 Parts all with a fleuron border not only on the title-page, but also framing every page of music.

PMLP171034-Altus_0003

Thomas Morley, Canzonets, or Little Short Songs to Three Voyces (1593), printed by Thomas East

It therefore appears that Thomas East had a history of printing ruled music paper before he later printed music as the assign of William Byrd from 1588. This early experience would have given him some knowledge of the musical marketplace, which helps to explain his interest in entering the business of printing music books in the late 1580s and how he was in a position to make this venture a success despite the limited use of this aspect of the printing privilege in the preceding decade. Having successfully marketed music paper he presumably had some idea of the kinds of music books that might be of interest to such customers and the best booksellers through which to distribute them.

To read the full article with more about fleurons, Thomas East’s borders for music papers and music collections, continental models, or other example of Tudor music paper with decorative borders, see my recently published article in The Library: ‘Printed Borders for Sixteenth-Century Music Paper and the Early Career of Music Printer Thomas East’

Continue reading

Advertisements

Creating Harmonious Subjects? Songs for Queen Elizabeth I’s Accession Day

Elizabeth_Great_Seal_IrelandQueen Elizabeth I (1558–1603) was the first monarch whose Accession Day  on 17 November (the day when Mary I died and she became Queen) became a yearly occasion for celebration. Although never at official holiday, at Whitehall, noblemen honoured Elizabeth’s Accession Day with a tournament open to paying spectators, followed by a private banquet and entertainments in the evening. Across the country there was bell-ringing along with prayers, sermons, bonfires, the giving of alms, and even pageants performed in the streets. Poetic tributes to the day frequently evoked images of singing, music-making and dancing. George Peele’s poem Anglorum feriae (1595), for example exhorted nymphs: ‘paeans singe and sweet melodious songs; / Along the chalky cliffs of Albion [England]’ and described how ‘court and country carol in her praise / And in her honour tune a thousand lays’.

This all-encompassing harmonious image was far from reality, however. The occasion was never uniformly celebrated. Some localities never honoured the day, while others did no more than ring their bells. Church services, when held, were not necessarily well attended, while few towns put on civic festivities and these were not held every year. Moreover both Puritans and Catholics complained that the celebrations were idolatrous in their worship of Elizabeth.

Nevertheless, this musical imagery was not merely political metaphor, but inspired by the social phenomenon of Accession Day singing around the kingdom that had been developing since the late 1570s. Many songs would have circulated orally and been learnt by copying the ballad-seller or through communal singing in church, home or alehouse. Some, however, can be traced in extant manuscripts, single-sheet broadside publications, prayer books and records of further, now-lost publications in the Stationers’ Register (a record book in which publishers could document their right to print a particular publication). Such genres spanned diverse social classes and contexts: from the educated to the illiterate, from street to church; from private household devotions to civic festivities. At times this singing was was officially encouraged by church and government, but it was also fuelled by the local enthusiasm of civic or parish authorities, individual households and commercial printers.

The first known Accession Day songs appeared in a series of official prayer books that provide the format for special church service to commemorate the day (A Form of Prayer, with Thanksgiving, to be used Every Year, the .17. of November). The 1576 edition merely appointed to psalms to be sung, but the following year the royal printer, Christopher Barker published A Prayer and Also a Thanksgiving unto God for His Great Mercy in Giving, and Preserving Our Noble Queen Elizabeth for Accession Day 1577 by by ‘I. Pit, minister’, which provided a specially created text designed to be sung to the tune coin churches for for Psalm 81.

Microsoft Word - Document4

I. Pit’s A Prayer and Also a Thanksgiving (first stanza) as it could be sung to the tune of Psalm 81. The tune is taken from The Whole Book of Psalms (1562)

By the time of the 1578 edition of the Accession Day service book (the twentieth anniversary of Elizabeth’s Accession) it contained three more special songs, two to be fitted to psalms and one with the tune unspecified but suggestive of a carol tune with refrains. Congregational singing was a remarkable new tool for promoting a sense of communal harmony in the post-Reformation Church and now it was being applied politically to bring together the subjects of a kingdom in loyalty to their monarch (and Head of the Church) on Accession Day.

Commercial printers too capitalised on the anniversary by providing their own songs, including the printer Richard Jones with A Song for Each Subject that in England Bear Breath (1578, no longer extant). Other printers aimed at a more elite audience. For the 25th anniversary in 1583, Abel Jeffes printed William Patten’s Ann: Foelicissimi Regni Reginae Elizabeth: XXVI which included a Latin psalm alongside the English version adapted for the occasion and printed a tune for it to be sung to (a rare occurrence in single sheet songs!) Nor was this singing necessarily restricted to Protestant households. The manuscripts of Edward Paston – a Catholic who maintained a Mass centre at Appleton – contain three versions of William Byrd’s consort song ‘Rejoice unto the Lord’ which commemorated 28 years of Elizabeth’s reign and was probably originally composed for celebrations at court in 1586. Religion, it seems, did not prevent the Pastons from joining the festivities – despite their obvious Protestant tone.

From the late 1580’s Accession Day song publications were both more frequent and more widespread, with eight different printers issuing song sheets in the final 15 years of the reign. This market for songs seems to indicate the popularity of celebratory singing among the population, beyond the official songs of the Accession Day prayer book. Furthermore these commercially printed songs were now less overtly religious in tone than those from earlier in Elizabeth’s reign. Rather than being described as ‘psalms’, ‘prayers’, ‘godly ditties’ or ‘anthems’, they were now simply ‘ballads’, and rather than place their emphasis on praising or thanking God, these songs now declare that they will show ‘the happiness of England for her majesty’s blessed reign’ or tell of England’s ‘abundant blessings’. Similarly, psalm tunes were being replaced by ballad tunes. A Pleasant New Ballad of the Most Blessed and Prosperous Reign of Her Majesty for the Space of Two and Forty Years (1600), copied into the Shirburn ballad collection, was sung to the tune of ‘The Queen’s Hunt’s Up’. The lyrics evoke the bells and drums typical of civic festivities that might be held in celebration, which were also spreading as Elizabeth’s reign progressed. The following verses describe Elizabeth’s achievements as queen, including how she has defended England with naval forces, maintained castles and fortifications, and been called to help foreign kings.

Microsoft Word - Document5

A Pleasant New Ballad of the Most Blessed and Prosperous Reign of Her Majesty for the Space of Two and Forty Years (1600), first stanza, as it could be sung to one of the many versions of the ‘The Hunt is Up’ tune.

Yet the paradox is that as Accession Day singing seems to have been increasing in popularity, England was becoming less and less harmonious society. The 1590s brought successive harvest failures, sharp rises in food prices, outbreaks of disease, heavy taxation, increasing crime and unemployment, intensifying factional rivalries at court and signs of civil unrest in the country with London riots and a failed uprising in Oxfordshire. Yet there was no obvious decline in civic celebrations or song publications, which continued until the very last year of her reign. Should we see this singing then as a genuine expression of an existing social harmony or as an attempt to create such unity in the face of mounting unrest? The expanding market for printed Accession Day songs was now commercial rather than governmental, responding to the popular mood rather than official direction. The growth in civic festivities, however, was led by local authorities. The increased potential for disorder may have caused civic leaders to see Accession Day as an important occasion on which to reinforce a sense of loyalty to the queen in the hope of maintaining order. Elizabeth’s popularity need not have been great for people to have welcomed an opportunity to liven up a cold, wet November. Nor was singing necessarily an unqualified expression of English harmony. The more insecure a community feels, the greater the need for people to assert their unity, even though this may be more hopeful than actual. As foreign threats and domestic difficulties increased, there was perhaps a growing need to believe in England as a harmonious kingdom unified by its queen. A subtle mixture of continued royal esteem but growing anxiety, of popular will and encouragement from local leaders, is the most likely explanation.

You can find out more about music-making for Elizabeth’s Accession Day in my article:  ‘Creating Harmonious Subjects? Ballads, Psalms and Godly Songs for Queen Elizabeth I’s Accession Day’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 140 (2015), 273-312 (available here).