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Reviewed by:
  • Early Music Printing in German-Speaking Lands ed. by Andrea Lindmayr-Brandl, Elisabeth Giselbrecht, and Grantley McDonald
  • John Milsom (bio)
Early Music Printing in German-Speaking Lands. Ed. by Andrea Lindmayr-Brandl, Elisabeth Giselbrecht, and Grantley McDonald. London and New York: Routledge. 2018. xvii + 264 pp. £115. isbn 978 1 138 24105 3 (hardback); 978 1 315 28145 2 (e-book).

The essays in this volume accompany an online resource that has been quietly accumulating since 2012, the Verzeichnis deutscher Musikfrühdrucke / Catalogue of Early German Printed Music (vdm). This open-access database, based at the University of Salzburg and funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), remains under development but is already impressive. Its aim is to identify and catalogue every pre-1550 printed item issued in German-speaking lands in which music [End Page 404] notation is present. Its coverage is therefore broad, spanning liturgical books, hymn books, propaganda, single-sheet publications, educational material, odes, some plays, and of course ‘kunstlich musik’ (high-art music) for instruments, choirs, and consorts of voices. Whenever possible, vdm also supplies hypertext links to online images, of which a gratifyingly large number now exist, thanks to busy digitization initiatives especially by some major German and Austrian libraries. However, vdm is only a resource; it does not set out to evaluate its own data; hence this collection of essays, which demonstrates how some of the data might be interpreted.

Like vdm itself, the book is welcome for addressing repertories sometimes marginalized by musicologists and non-musicologists alike. For instance, no fewer than four essays focus on notated liturgical books for local Catholic rites. Mary Kay Duggan analyses the patronage systems that sometimes supported publication of these books; Margarita Restrepo looks at Spanish liturgical items made by expatriate German printers; Elisabeth Giselbrecht addresses liturgical books issued by Melchior Lotter the Elder; and Giselbrecht in collaboration with Elizabeth Savage closely examines the techniques of multiple impression and two-colour printing often needed to print liturgical chant. It is easy to forget that books like these, once much in demand, were neither straightforward nor cheap to make. Two essays touch on aspects of pedagogy. Inga Mai Groote discusses charts and tables printed to teach the rudiments of music, while Sonja Tröster looks into some of the humanist ode-settings encountered by young German students. The subject of propaganda arises in Grantley McDonald’s study of printed songs about the life and teachings of Martin Luther. Binding these essays together is the theme of social singing, an activity that served to express or confirm identity, advocate reform, and spread musical literacy among the young.

Three essays directly address the making of books of ‘kunstlich musik’. The ones by John Kmetz and Royston Gustavson jointly survey Christian Egenolff’s achievements as a music printer, and together they effectively constitute a book-within-a-book; Kmetz takes the broad view, Gustavson supplies much of the detail, plus a catalogue that significantly revises the received view of what Egenolff actually issued. The other essay, by Laurent Guillo, stands apart from the others by pondering how different founts of mensural music type spread across sixteenth-century Europe, specifically founts that were either exported out of German-speaking lands or imported into them.

The book’s editors, who between them have effectively created vdm itself, frame the essays with contributions of their own. Their joint introduction explains why vdm was so sorely needed, partly because of the sheer diversity of printed items that might fall into the broad category of ‘music’, partly because early music printing in German-speaking lands has been less studied than that of Italy, France, the Low Countries, and England. Impressive for its breadth, this introductory essay is essential reading for anyone planning to delve into vdm itself. The concluding essay, by vdm’s director, Andrea Lindmayr-Brandl, argues that books of ‘kunstlich musik’, though the most likely to catch the musicologist’s eye, are also the ones that statistically had the most narrow relevance to German society at large. It is a valid observation, and it reinforces the general point that modern scholarship often...


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