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 to 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 4 - 'In te Domine speravi' [Motet] (1700-1740)

Anonymous motet for 3 voices, 2 violins and bass, copied early eighteenth-century. Later eighteenth-century hands have added the ascription 'Iaco. Carissimi', but the attribution remains doubtful. Italic script copied in score by Richard Goodson Jr.

Detailed description of the manuscript


Mus 16 - Anthems and adaptations

Manuscript copied in score by Henry Aldrich, containing vocal works, the majority of which being adaptations of works by other composers (mostly Giacomo Carissimi, Palestrina and Thomas Tallis).

Detailed description of the manuscript


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

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.

Performance edition and recordings


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

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 49 - Guardbook

Eight unrelated and previously discrete tracts by, among others, William Norris, John Lugge and Orlando Gibbons. All English, late 17th and early 18th centuries. The volume was assembled at Christ Church in the late 18th century as part of an uncompleted binding project intended to protect previously unbound items from the Aldrich and Goodson bequests.

Detailed description of the manuscript


Mus 56

Mus 57

Mus 58

Mus 59

Mus 60

Five partbooks from a set originally of six (the Bassus partbook is missing), containing anthems, elegies, madrigals, and other polyphonic works for voices, often with accompaniments for viols. Compiled by an undetermined number of copyists, c. 1620.

Detailed description of the manuscripts


Complete set of five partbooks, containing motets and madrigals by Alfonso Ferrabosco (1543-1588).

Detailed description of the manuscripts


Mus 85 - Alessandro Melani's Te Deum

The 'Te Deum' is a Christian hymn traditionally ascribed to Saint Ambrose. The text has been set to music by many composers, among whom is Alessandro Melani, one of the leading composers active in Rome during the 17th century.

Detailed description of the manuscript


Mus 93 - Poems of Mr. Cowley and others

Composed into songs and ayres with a thorough basse to the theorbo, harpsecon, or base-violl. By William King organist of New-College. Printed in Oxford in 1688.

Detailed description of the manuscript


Mus 429 - Five performing parts for six 'sinfonias' by Leonora Duarte (1630-1699)

The volume has been assembled from what was once a set of five substantial partbooks, each of which ended with a large number of sheets with unused ruled staves. Of this set, Mus. 429 was the 'Bassus' partbook

Detailed description of the manuscript


Complete set of five partbooks in manuscript, containing works principally by Alfonso Ferrabosco (1543-1588)

Detailed description of the manuscripts


  • 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 619 - Seven Oxford Act songs by Henry Aldrich, Matthew Locke and Sampson Estwick (1650-1699)

Guardbook containing seven Oxford Act songs (odes) by Henry Aldrich, Matthew Locke and Sampson Estwick, several of them in autograph composing scores. Material for each of the seven pieces represented here occupies a discrete fascicle or section within the manuscript, and probably had a separate existence before being bound into its current position.

Detailed description of the manuscript


Mus 783 - 'O Lord! Grant the Queen a long Life',

Anthem (c. 1700) ascribed to Henry Aldrich (see the organ accompaniment in Mus. 1230, item 26). No copy of it survives in Aldrich's own hand, and it appears to have been attributed to him only posthumously.

Detailed description of the manuscript.


Mus 834 - The first booke of songs or ayres of foure parts, with tablature for the lute.

Composed by John Dowland. From the Aldrich bequest, listed in Archives 1717, item H13, as 'Dowland's first book of songs'.

Detailed description of the manuscript.


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 868 - Two bookes of ayres

Scores printed by Thomas Snodham, for Mathew Lownes, and John. Brown. The volume also contains a short manuscript score: Thomas Campion’s ‘Author of Light’, for four voices with lute accompaniment from the Book of Ayres.

Detailed description of the manuscript


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.


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 989 - Alessandro Scarlatti, Il Flavio Cuniberto (1693-1702)

This is a manuscript of unusual importance in the history of music, as it preserves a complete musical setting by composer Alessandro Scarlatti of the text of poet Matteo Noris’ drama with the same title.

Detailed description of the manuscript
Additional reference: Anthony M. Cummings, 'A Scarlatti Operatic Masterpiece Revisited', Christ Church Library Newsletter Vol 12, Issue 1, 2020-2021, pp.1-5.

Mus 996 - Cantatas

Manuscript scores by Giacomo Carissimi, Luigi Rossi and others, transcribed by an unidentified copyist (probably Italian), before 1672.

Detailed description of the manuscript


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 1034A - Quire of keyboard music

Keyboard music; copyist unidentified; English, c.1530 or later. The music has been copied on pages printed with three 5-line staves (on which see below); the copyist has added a sixth line to each stave in manuscript, and has ruled a fourth 6-line stave at the foot of each page.

Detailed description of the manuscript


Mus 1034B - Laudate pueri, attributed to Vincenzo Albrici

[Vincenzo Albrici], 'Laudate pueris [sic] a3', spuriously attributed to 'G. Perrandi' [= Marco Gioseppe Peranda]; copied in score; copyist unidentified, probably German, third quarter of 17th century. There is a set of performing parts for this work in the Düben Collection at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, where the setting is attributed to Vincenzo Albrici

Detailed description of the manuscript


Mus 1113 - Keyboard book containing works of Italian and English origin

Manuscript containing pieces by Girolamo Frescobaldi, William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, John Bull, Peter Philips, Thomas Tomkins, etc. The volume was probably copied in the 1620s. A few pieces are designated as being for use on specific instruments (organ, virginals, etc).

Detailed description of the manuscript.


Mus 1187 James Talbot Papers

Collection of unbound papers, compiled in the third quarter of the eighteenth century by Christ Church librarians. The majority of the contents were written or assembled by James Talbot (1664-1708) and include the history, description and measurement of musical instruments, together with sections on music history and theory. For this reason, Mus 1187 is familiarly known as the 'Talbot Manuscript'. The collection also includes papers that are unrelated to Talbot and his project. Contents: FOLDER 1: 'Organ' [FOLDER 2: not by Talbot.] FOLDER 3: 'Harmonica' [Notes for a treatise on vocal and instrumental music]. FOLDER 4: [Music of the ancients] FOLDER 5: 'Excerpta Mene[s]trier' [on the music of the ancients] FOLDER 6: 'Epithalamium' [on the music of the ancients]. FOLDER 7: 'On the Argument & Performance of the Antient Music' FOLDER 8: [Summary description of instruments] FOLDER 9: 'Pitch &c of Instr[uments]', omitting pp. 5-6 (= the letter from Talbot to Shore, now in folder D) FOLDER 10: 'The Pipe' FOLDER 10a: 'The Pipe' FOLDER 11: [Summary descriptions of instruments] FOLDER 12: 'The Subject of Performance of the Modern Music compar'd with the Antient' FOLDER 13: 'Organ' FOLDER 14: [Details of instruments] FOLDER 15: 'Exotic Music' [FOLDER A: not by Talbot] FOLDER B: The contents of this folder appear to have been assembled by Christ Church librarians in the mid 18th century, and are miscellaneous in provenance. The following items definitely or probably belonged to Talbot: (1a) 'A Scale for the Flute' (1b) 'A Scale for the Violin' (2) 'Wind Instrum[en]ts' (3) A bifolio enclosing a single sheet, concerning the dulcimer; written largely by an unidentified hand, but with additions by Talbot; the name 'Mr Lee' is written on f. [1r] (4) A single sheet giving the 'Ordinary Tuning on Base Viol' (5) A bifolio, headed 'Modus Recte Intonandi Clavecimbalum vel Spinettam', in Latin; copyist unidentified (6) A single sheet, headed 'Accord ordinaire de L'Angelique', in French; copyist unidentified; music notation on verso, also in an unidentified hand (7) A single sheet showing intervals notated in the bass clef, possibly in Talbot's hand FOLDER C: [A miscellany of working notes, headed 'Musica'] FOLDER D: Eight miscellaneous items: (1) 'String'd Instruments' (2) 1187 (7)'): 'Wind Instrum[en]ts' (3) [General list of instruments] (4) 'Harpsechord' (5) [Notes on the organ] (6) [List of organ stops, with diagram] (7) 'Tablature of Hautbois for Mr La riche' (8): Letter from Talbot to 'Mr John Shore', with 'Tablature of the Cornet' FOLDER E: Thirteen miscellaneous sheets, mostly written by Talbot FOLDER E1: 'Of the Argument & Performance of the Modern Music’

Detailed description of the manuscript


Mus 1206 - 'Benedictus Dominus Deus', by Alessandro Stradella (1677-78)

A Duet for a treble and counter tenor voice with a bass.

Detailed description of the manuscript.

Mus 1208 (1696-97)

Two sets of proofs, one incomplete, from a projected collection of English church music, edited by Henry Aldrich, using Peter de Walpergen's music type.

Detailed description of the item.


Mus 1230 - Cathedral organ-book

Organ-book containing accompaniments to anthems and service music, copied for use at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford; English, early 18th century, with later additions. The contents partly duplicate those of Mus. 1220-4, the principal set of partbooks in use at Christ Church Cathedral in the post-Restoration era. The contents of Mus. 1230 were copied principally by Richard Goodson Sr, in three layers: (1) items 1-39; (2) items 41-56; and (3) item 61. The last three folios of the first layer (pp. 76-81) are now missing. Blank pages in the volume were subsequently filled by Richard Goodson Jr (items 40, 57-8, 60, 61 (2nd Jubilate only) and 62), and by two unidentified hands (items 59 and 63).

Detailed description of the manuscript.


Mus 1237 - 'Siren coelestis' by Georg Victorinus (1638)

Anthology of Latin sacred music, written in a unique notation devised by William Braythwaite.

Detailed description of the item.

Mus 1291/A - Fragment of a partbook from a lost set (1601)

Madrigals to five voyces by Richard Carlton. Dedication page only.

Detailed description of the item.

Mus 1291/B - Fragment of a partbook from a lost set (1627)

'Les pseaumes de David, mis en musique a quatre & cinq parties', by Claudin Le Jeune. Bassecontre partbook; titlepage, dedication and commendatory verses only; music pages missing.

Detailed description of the item.


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.


Mus 1296 - Violin partbook for fantasia suites

The violin partbook from a set of four volumes, dating c.1640, containing consort music by John Coprario and William Lawes.

For details see A New Tudor Partbook in the Christ Church Music Collection.