Music Manuscripts

Christ Church holds an internationally important collection of music source materials. Its principal riches lie in two fields: manuscripts of English and Italian music before 1700 and printed music before 1700. There are also extensive holdings of manuscripts reflecting music-making in Oxford in general, and Christ Church in particular, during the period c.1660-1740. There are also numerous printed books relating to the practice, theory and history of music before 1750. The essence of the collection is captured in the following remark by the pioneering music historian Dr Charles Burney, writing in 1789: 'For masses, motets, madrigals, and anthems of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the collection is the most complete of any that I have had an opportunity of consulting'. At that time, not even the library of the British Museum could match it. Christ Church acquired these materials principally through two acts of bequest in the 18th century; the donors were Henry Aldrich (1648-1710) and Richard Goodson Jr (1688-1741).

The Online Catalogue gives complete coverage of all the Library's printed and manuscript holdings of music source-material. What the catalogue does not do at present is allow the reader see the scores described. To access the fully digitized version of the manuscripts, as they are finalised by us, please click on the titles in the list below.


Mus 19 - Henry Aldrich, Services and Anthems (1680-1690)

Manuscript. Autograph scores copied in three layers: (1) services (items 1-4); (2) verse anthems (items 5-20); (3) full anthems (items 21-8). Aldrich’s choral compositions were intended for use in cathedral services at Christ Church.

Detailed description of the manuscript.


Mus 45 - Table-book, late 16th century: antiphons etc

Manuscript. Sections of votive antiphons, Magnificats, and other Latin-texted works, copied in table-book format. Copyists unidentified; English, last quarter of 16th century. The principal copyist was responsible for all except items 1 and 37, which were added by two different hands.

Detailed description of the manuscript.


Mus 489, Mus 490, Mus 491, Mus 492, Mus 493 - William Byrd, Masses for 3,4 and 5 voices

Mus 489-93 (6) [Mass] 3 voc. [London]: [Thomas East, for William Byrd], [Bassus: c.1593-4; C and T: c.1599-1600].
Mus 489-93 (7) [Mass] 4. voc.[London]: [Thomas East, for William Byrd], [c. 1593-4].
Mus 489-93 (8) [Mass] 5. voc.[London]: [Thomas East, for William Byrd], [c.1595].

Detailed description of the partbooks.


Mus 864 - 'Dial' fantasia a 3/4/5 on a hexachord

Manuscript. Manuscript. Unattributed fantasia for 3, 4 or 5 instruments, one of which plays repeated notes in imitation of the chiming of a clock.

Detailed description of the manuscript.


Mus 979, Mus 980, Mus 981, Mus 982, Mus 983 - Tudor partbooks (c.1575-81)

Five partbooks from a set originally of six (the Tenor partbook is missing), copied and formerly owned by John Baldwin, a singing-man at St George's Chapel, Windsor; English, c.1575-81, with later additions. This set is one of the most important surviving sources of Tudor church music and Elizabethan motets. It is also famous for Baldwin's fine penmanship, executed on sheets with printed staves. The set appears to have been conceived from the start as a mixed volume of manuscript and printed music, since Baldwin avoided making manuscript copies of the pieces available in the printed section.

Detailed description of the partbooks.


Mus 984, Mus 985, Mus 986, Mus 987, Mus 988 - Tudor partbooks  (1553-88)

Complete set of five partbooks containing motets, anthems, consort music and consort songs, copied principally by Robert Dow (1553-88), fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, with later additions by John Baldwin and an unidentified copyist; English, c. 1581-88 (Dow), and later. This set is one of the most important surviving music manuscripts from Elizabethan England, and a major source of works by William Byrd. It is also famous for Dow's exquisite penmanship, executed in black ink over staves previously printed in red.

Detailed description of the partbooks.


Mus 998 - Italian Cantatas (17th century)

This is one of the many manuscripts of seventeenth-century Italian cantatas now in Christ Church Library. Compositions are largely for solo voice and continuo by Mario Savioni, Luigi Rossi, Giacomo Carissimi and other Roman composers. Late seventeenth-century Italian fine binding of red-brown morocco over boards.

Detailed description of the manuscript.


Mus 1001 - Organ-book containing accompaniments for anthems and services (c.1630-50)

The collection (including music by Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Morley, John Bull, et al.) may have been partly copied and/or formerly owned by Robert Pickhaver, who was organist of New College, Oxford, in 1662-4. It is not clear how many scribes contributed to the copying of Mus 1001.

Detailed description of the manuscript.


Mus 1295 (aka MS 688) - Missal, probably Use of Rome

Eight non-adjacent leaves from a Roman Missal, written on parchment in 'gothic textura rotunda'. Purchased at auction in Geneva, and donated about 1990 by Paul Lewis, father of Jonathan W. Lewis (Christ Church, 1991).

Detailed description of the fragment in the Music Catalogue.

Detailed description of the fragment in the Western MSS Catalogue.