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Copenhagen Chansonnier

Complete Works of Gilles Mureau

Uppsala MS 76a

Peter Woetmann Christoffersen

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Dulot’s Ave Maria
Open access 15th c.
MS Florence 2794


The last additions to the music manuscript

Caulaincourt’s interest in music was of course focused on what he found useful for Corbie and the confraternity. But it did not stop there. The small four-part motet in white mensural notation »Bone Jesu dulcissime«, which he added to the collection while in Paris judging from his writing, is proof that he found the sound of the contemporary art music repertory attractive. In fact, the sound of this declamatory lauda-like piece with many fermatas is not far from some of the songs in simple polyphony (see ex. 2), but it demands another sort of expertise from its singers.

We find another proof of this interest in a textless four-part composition entered on f. 117 in white mensural notation. It is a rather touching essay in composing imitative polyphony, which the composer apparently had heard. He has tried to recreate its sound by letting the four voices enter one after the other with very simple motives. This, however, only produces a sort of distributed monophony as the voices drop out before the entrance of the next. It happens twice (bb.1 ff and bb. 26 ff), and both ‘imitative’ passages are followed by simple four-part homorhythmic declamatory textures (ex. 3), all lines cadencing on G. The piece, lauda-like, was entered in the MS as a fair copy, but not without errors that made it difficult to fit the voices together, and it was soon erased again. Maybe because it was so tightly written that it had become impossible to fit a text below the music. It may have been an attempt at composing ‘modern’ music by the enterprising Caulaincourt or something shown to him by an acquaintance. In any case, it was not suitable here. It was replaced by two monophonic songs in square notation with presumably Latin texts, which also soon were erased. Finally, this page was reused for a list of invitatory antiphons and Psalm tunes, which better fitted in after the tonary; the musical incipits, however, was never entered.

Example 3, Without text (f. 117, erased), bb. 1-12.

All the erasing done on this page makes it difficult to classify the writing of the two last-mentioned items. The hand that entered the four-part textless piece does, however, seem to be similar to the latest development of Caulaincourt’s writing, which I have labelled Hand D. This script is quite varied, and it can be a bit difficult to know if all items were done by the same hand, because the execution in some cases is highly stylized, as for example in the »O salutaris hostia« discussed below. The scribe imitates his exemplars faithfully, and the texts are drawn to look like printed type, and the script is without any personal traits. In four songs he attempts to notate the music in white mensural notation according to the best standards of the period with well-defined angular note shapes, similar to those we find in manuscripts from the leading workshops, for example Alamire’s (Kellmann 1999), or in the style that had been model for the music type in the prints by Petrucci.

Another four-part textless song on f. 121 uses like the erased one on f. 117 a less ambitious variant of writing. It is a fragment of a declamatory lauda or something of similar character. It mixes mensural and plainchant notation and thereby places itself on the border between simple polyphony and art music, but only four short lines with no ending are included. Why it was copied, is hard to know. Maybe it like the other four-part piece was a local product and an example of Caulaincourt’s interest in newer music – and he let it be because the space was not needed for other music.

On the inside of the sheet with staff systems used as a cover for the collection, we find an intriguing three-part setting of »O salutaris hostia« (f. 1v). All three voices look like plainchant with square black notes and ligatures. The voices are designated in red ink “Superius”, “Tenor” and “Bassus”, and each voice occupies its own range appropriate for boys and male voices respectively. It is a note-against-note setting of the hymn tune placed in the upper voice, stanza 5 from “Verbum supernum prodiens” (AR p. 93*). The tenor is a real, structural counter-voice to the superius without any dissonances or parallel perfect concords, and the bassus mostly complete the harmony by supplying the fundamentals of the triads in a quite mechanical way (ex. 4). It sounds like a hymn setting from the early 16th century; it has a ‘modern’ sound, but is unmeasured – or measured in the way that the singers were used to sing the tune in plainchant. It was conceived and notated in chant notation for singers who did not master mensural notation. There can be no doubt that this was a local product. Maybe it was made to comply with the wishes and orders of the French king. In June 1512 Louis XII ordered that “O salutaris hostia” should be inserted in the liturgy, to be sung at the Elevation of the Host between “Pleni sunt celi” and “Benedictus” at mass (Wright 1989, pp. 119-120 and 220-221). King Louis stayed at Corbie in September and November 1513. Caulaincourt in all probability took care to have a setting of “O salutaris hostia” entered into the manuscript in a version performable for the monks at Corbie before the arrival of the king. The copying was done very careful, with lettering looking like printed type, but the black notes were not made with a pen with a broad nib as in normal practise, but drawn as white squares with a fine pen and then hatched black – as if there was no time to get hold of the proper tools.

Example 4, “O salutaris hostia” (f.1v, beginning)

The ‘modern’ sound or rather a ‘modern’ look of the music characterize the last four songs, which was entered on empty pages by Hand D. They differ strongly from the main contents of the manuscript, because they belong to what we could call an international repertory, spiritual songs and small motets, which during the period before and after 1500 most often appeared in chansonniers and later re-appeared in printed arrangements:

»Le grant pena que io sento« a 3 [Anonymous], f. 1,
»Da pacem, domine« a 3 [Alexander Agricola], f. 2,
»Parce, domine, populo tuo« a 3 [Jacob Obrecht], f. 18,
»Dulcis amica dei« a 3 [Prioris], f. 117v.

He wrote on the four-line staves that Hands A and B had drawn. For two of the songs this worked out perfectly, because the ranges of the voices could be contained on these staves (f. 1 and f. 117v), while he in two other cases had to expand the staves to five lines (f. 2 and f. 18). Hand A had in fact left the front page of his collection without staves (f. 2), but the red lines on the reverse page were so heavy that Caulaincourt could just touch them up with red ink along a ruler and add an extra line in every staff; and he made one more complete staff at the bottom of the page to create room for Alexander Agricola’s »Da pacem, domine«.

As we have experienced before, Caulaincourt did not have any real understanding of mensural notation. His copies are primarily visual renderings or pictures of music, and his exemplars may have caused him some trouble. In all other parts of Amiens 162, all the voices are furnished with complete and carefully placed texts. It is obvious that the wording of the texts and their careful pronunciation had the highest priority in the monastic world. This was however not the norm in manuscripts containing mensural music intended for singers who were able themselves to fit the text to the phrases of music. Caulaincourt wished that his new entries should match the remainder of the collection in this regard. In some songs he possibly started by writing the texts in all voices after a careful consideration of where it should be placed to allow space for high and low notes. While copying the music he discovered  (f. 1 and f. 2) that the notes came out of step with the text. He then erased most of the music and tried again. This process generated the errors in the very simple »La grant pena« (f. 1) that make the song difficult to perform – what he wrote in his first attempt was correct, but it took up more space. Also in »Dulcis amica dei« (f. 117v) the upper voice came out of step with the words, because the music uses very few notes, but in this case he did not find it necessary to rewrite the music.

In Agricola’s »Da pacem, domine« (f. 2) he has erased superius and bassus and re-notated the voices with precise and regular lozenge-shaped note heads and vertical stems without really succeeding in getting them co-ordinated with the words (see fig. 6). His exemplar probably had a text incipit only in the lowest voice, so to begin with he copied the text distribution belonging to the superius below the bassus – the positions of the words are nearly identical. Such a procedure cannot be made to go with these quite figured voices, not even in two attempts. The antiphon tune carried by the tenor is in a semi-mensural notation similar to the one we found in the textless fragment on f. 121. All semibreves are written as black square notes, while breves and minimae are white; this unique change of notation surely was introduced by Caulaincourt who also made a change in a ligature, which makes the passage difficult to understand for a reader of mensural music.

Figure 6, f. 2, “Da pacem, domine” by Agricola (from a worn microfilm).

He did postpone writing the text until he had finished the music of Jacob Obrecht’s »Parce, domine, populo tuo« – taught maybe by his experiences with the other songs. The underlay of the cantus planus-like bassus did not pose any problems, and the placement of the words in the upper voice seems plausible, while he for the tenor took over the distribution of the words of the superius, and this causes them to get out of synchronization with the music very quickly; again presumably because the exemplar only gave the first few words of the text. His copy of the music is completely unusable, even if there are no errors in the pitches of the song. He did not pay attention to the details of mensural notation. By dotted figures the dots are missing, in many cases he did not notice them, because his note heads are drawn closely together without spaces for the dots, and stems are missing on minimae and semiminimae. A trained singer would easily discover that the note values did not add up, but apparently it did not disturb Caulaincourt. He has made a graphical representation of precisely those elements of the notation, which was most important in plainchant. One almost gets happy on his behalf, when we can note that he without any major troubles was able to copy Prioris’ little laude »Dulcis amica dei« on f. 117v; however, his imperfect understanding of the importance of the rests makes the music difficult to perform.

Undoubtedly, we have to regard these last additions to the music manuscript as primarily a visual upgrade and not as an expansion of its repertory. None of the added compositions can be performed according to the manuscript without problems, and no corrections and changes have been made as results of musical practise. They are meant to serve as evidence that the owners of the collection were aware of and familiar with the more prestigious mensural notation, which had become standard in the contemporary repertory at cathedrals and princely churches. Leo Treitler has called attention to an illuminative example of the visual status of mensural notation; it is a two-part song in simple polyphony, “Verbum patris”, which in a 15th century Dominican monastic manuscript has been ‘disguised’ in mensural notation. The mensural elements, however, has no significance for the sounding reality of the music (Treitler 1989, pp. 151ff and p. 161).

The four songs are short prayers mostly in Latin for peace and salvation to the Lord and the Virgin. Only the Italian text of »Le grant pena« differs, but there can hardly be any doubt that this love lament, “Le grant pena que io sento / Me tormenta nocte dia / de morir Jozo contento / por la vostra signoria”, in France was perceived as a song to the Virgin, and it is found only in French sources. The four songs are different in style and texture: We find an antiphon in a tenor-setting with animated counter-voices (Agricola), a pseudo cantus planus with expressive upper voices (Obrecht) – probably a contrafactum of a French motet-chanson (Christoffersen 1994, vol. I, p. 279) –, and two lauda-like settings, which embrace improvisatory simplicity in »La grant pena« as well as Prioris’ crystalline musical art.

It is remarkable that all four songs appear in a French music manuscript from Lyons, and that two of them have been arranged for keyboard and published by Pierre Attaingnant in Paris in 1531 in Treze Motetz avec ung Prelude. The manuscript Ny Kgl. Samling 1848 2° in The Royal Library, Copenhagen, is a music collection, which a copyist used in his work during the early 1520s. It functioned as an archive in which he could keep useful music of nearly all genres; and it was a collection of exemplars from which he could produce small music manuscripts for sale containing carefully selected and balanced repertories. All four songs form part of such exemplars for ‘commercial repertories’, whose contents are retrospective and mostly consist of secular songs from the second half of the 15th century (Christoffersen 1994, vol. II, pp. 186 and 191, and nos. 52, 232, 238, 242 and 265). Moreover, the four songs first come to light in sources, into which they were copied during the 1480s and 1490s; and the versions transmitted by Amiens 162 are closer the early French or Flemish sources than the versions, which were known to the copyist at Lyons. Therefore, there are good reasons to regard these last additions to Amiens 162 as belonging to a well-established repertory, which enjoyed a wide circulation during the period after 1480-90. The tablature by Attaingnant can only confirm this view. His repertory is, considering its date, still more retrospective than the Lyons manuscript. The print contains a number of sure ‘hits’ by composers of the generation active before 1500 as Antoine Brumel and Loyset Compère along with music by the younger composers like Antoine de Févin, Pierre Moulu and Claudin de Sermisy. (1)

It is quite conceivable that Caulaincourt’s exemplar was a small manuscript consisting of one or two fascicles made by a professional scribe, a commercial manuscript of the type, which the Lyons scribe was able to produce, and which we can meet in a more voluminous version in the chansonnier in the University Library in Uppsala, the MS 76a (Christoffersen 1994, pp. 325 ff). In such a manuscript there was a good chance to find precisely these small sacred and spiritual songs along with a selection of the most durable secular songs, courtly as well as popular, from the decades before and after 1500.

Caulaincourt may have got hold of his exemplar already while he was studying in Paris, or he may have found the music in Amiens or during one of his journeys to Paris. The impulse to add such music may also be a result of the long visits to Corbie of the king and the many courtiers and soldiers in his retinue in 1513. There cannot be much doubt that these last pieces were added, while the music collection still was important to the activities of Confrérie Ste Barbe, and that means while the building of the new Abbatiale progressed. It is difficult to imagine any function for the added songs in mensural notation other than to provide the confraternity’s music collection with some sheen of modernity. It is furthermore possible that the renewed struggles surrounding the appointment of a new abbot after Pierre d’Ostrel’s death in 1506 brought the monastery in closer contact with a changed world. Recurring negotiations with opponents in Amiens and at the French court may have strengthened their awareness that the music of the leading institutions was leaving the solemnity of simple polyphony behind. If we take the proposed dating of the copying of »O saluris hostia« in 1513 as our starting point, then the date of the addition of the last four songs might be nearly the same or maybe a short time later.

We have no information on when the confraternity stopped its activities. It is obvious that it declined in importance during the years after 1510 when the building of the church lost momentum owing to the financial insecurity caused by the struggle for independence from the bishop of Amiens and the crown. During the years after 1516, Caulaincourt’s position at the monastery was strengthened. He was appointed prévôt de Naours and the next year cellerarius aquarum, which placed him among the higher officers of the monastery. And he tells with pride in his Chronique that in 1517 he was princeps of the Confrérie Saints-Innocents and had great expenses in that connection (MS Amiens MS 524 D, p. 365). In the light of this information, it seems safe to assume that the Confrérie Ste Barbe had stopped its activities before 1516. It was presumably founded by abbot Pierre d’Ostrel around 1500, and it did not survive its founder with a full decade.

Some time before he laid the manuscript aside, Caulaincourt added his characteristic signature “DE CAULAINCOURT” on top of folio 2, the original front page of the collection. This is his ‘official’ signature, in big and angular majuscules, which he also used to sign his entries in the register of the Officialité de Saint-Pierre de Corbie (Paris, Bibl. Nat., ms. lat. 17145, ff. 42v-58) during the 1520s (Denoël 2010, pp. 89-90 and Plate 4a). He may have entered his signature when the front page was without music, when he copied Agricola’s »Da pacem, domine«, or when the collection was bound with the other elements.

The creation of the composite manuscript

At some point in time when the music was no longer of interest for musical practise, Caulaincourt had the music manuscript and two other manuscripts bound together in one volume, which he placed in the Corbie library. The binding was probably quite simple and not very durable, because the collection had to be rebound after entering the Amiens library, and it had lost some pages during the centuries. The different manuscripts in the collection may very well represent a stack of materials related to his duties in connection with the confraternity of St Barbara, which was left in his possession.

The inscriptions from the Corbie library on f. 1 make it clear that that Caulaincourt placed the two new elements inside the cover of the music manuscript and in front of the music. It was first a single fascicle from a missal (“Missale imperfectum”) and then a complete missal. After them came the fascicles of the music manuscript, which probably never had been sewn together, in the following order: fascicles 13-14 (ff. 113-124v) and 1-6 (ff. 2-45v) – see the contents of the reconstructed manuscript.

The single fascicle 7 (ff. 46-54v) is part of a missal that was copied at Corbie on good quality parchment during the first decade of the century. The script and the initials are very similar to the work of Hand C in Amiens 162, and we may quite safely assume that the main hand belongs to Caulaincourt or to one of his contemporaries in the abbey. The fascicle starts in the middle of a mass to the Virgin, so the manuscript it belonged with must have consisted of at least one more fascicle containing the beginning of Proprium sanctorum. Folio 54v was probably the original last page of this small manuscript. Besides one more Marian mass for the period following Septuagesima (includes the sequence “Stabat mater”), it contains among others a mass for St Sebastian, whose relics were intensely venerated at Corbie (his “Missa de sancto Sebastiano martire” (f. 49v) is singled out by a pen drawing of the saint pierced by arrows), “Missa de beato Anthonio” (f. 50v) and “De sanctis viribus Fusciano Victorico et Gentiano” (f. 54). The last mentioned mass commemorates three local martyrs from Amiens who died during the devastation by the Vandals in 407. It is not common in French missals. In fact, all the sources listed by Leroquais originate in Northern France, especially in the regions around Corbie and Amiens – including a few examples from Paris. (2)

The other missal, consisting of fascicles 8-12 (ff. 55-112v), is a late 14th century parchment manuscript from Corbie, carefully written in two columns like the younger fascicle, and decorated with large initials in lettres filigranées. It contains the Temporale, a long series of votive masses, the Ordo missae according to the Benedictine rule (ff. 75 ff), Proprium sanctorum and Commune sanctorum.

A later user, surely Antoine de Caulaincourt, has erased and changed the texts in two masses of special interest to him and to the members of the Confrérie Ste Barbe. The writing in these additions is very similar to his Hand C and to the main hand of the preceding younger missal. One is the mass for the patron saints of the abbey, Peter and Paul, where he (f. 68) after Postcommunio has erased the original text and entered “Alleluya. Per dei genitrix” and the hymn “Preter rerum seriem”. And on f. 85 he has erased a mass entirely and replaced it by a mass for the souls of father and mother (Pro patre et matre) only leaving the original illuminated initials in order to reuse them. The mass for parents has a quite personal tone: “... miserere clementer animabus patris et matris mee: ...”. His father, Jean III de Caulaincourt, had died before 1504, but his mother, Jeanne Le Vasseur, seems to have died some time after 1529.

In the middle of fascicle 9 (ff. 73-74v), in the big missal just before the Ordo missae, he placed a single sheet of parchment, which was something that he wanted to preserve from a discarded collection of texts. On the front side of this sheet (ff. 73v-74) we find two full-page paintings in strong colours on a golden background depicting the crucified Christ between Maria and Johannes the Baptist and Christ enthroned among symbols for the four evangelists. These pictures were made during the second half of the 15th century (Leroquais 1924, vol. II, p. 298), and they must be characterized as some sort of movable illustrations. Only the front side of the parchment was prepared for use with chalking and glue; while the backside, the hair side, was raw and never meant to write on. It was, however, used by the hand we find in the changes made in the old missal, and it was incorporated in a booklet or another small collection of liturgical texts containing recent votive masses. The first page of the folded bifolio has two masses, “[Pro] regis catholici contra turcos” and “Pro subsidio christianorum contra turcos” (f. 73), and the last page has the church prayers, known as the Clamor (f. 74v). Unlike the two missals these texts were copied in one column only. The bifolio must have been salvaged from another manuscript as the first mass did begin on a preceding page. The missing text has been carefully copied on to a small piece of parchment by the same hand and glued in before f. 73 (f. 72bis).

Figure 7, ff. 73v-74 (

The care for the integrity of the mass text indicates that it was the masses and the church prayer that Caulaincourt wanted to preserve, and not primarily the pictures, when he prepared the collection of manuscripts for binding. Ammon Linder has analysed the role of the liturgy in the fight for the holy Land and later against the advancing Turks. The prayer (Clamor) for the recapture of the Holy Land by crusades was created soon after the defeat of the Christians at Hattin in 1187. The version of the prayer, which we find in Amiens 162, is subdued on the topic of crusades. It was instituted by pope Johannes XXII in 1328 and used frequently during the following centuries in slightly varying shapes (Linder 2003, p. 50). The masses can be dated to the last decades of the 15th century, when anti-Turk masses and calls for crusades resounded in Christian churches after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. The second mass “Pro subsidio christianorum contra turcos” is in its wording of the three prayers, Collect, Secreta and Postcommunio, closest to the mass “Contra turcos”, which pope Sixtus IV instituted after the battle of Otranto in 1480, but it is more explicitly aimed against the Turks than the official version (Linder 2003, pp. 187-88 and 220-23). The first mass, which Caulaincourt took such care to preserve in extenso, build on the traditional mass “In tempore belli” under the title “[Pro] regis catholici contra turcos” (Linder 2003, pp. 175-177), and its prayers refer to the catholic king and the defender of Christianity: “… famulo tuo Ferdinando fidei christiane defensori …” (f. 72bis in Secreta), and Postcommunio ends on the same note: “… famulo tuo Ferdinando fidei christiane defensori et omni exercitui eius arma celestia ut pax ecclesiarum et populorum christianorum turcis vicinorum nulla turbetur tempestate bellorum.” (f. 73). Leroquais notes that  “Il s’agit sans doute de Ferdinand V, le Catholique” (Leroquais 1924, vol. II, p. 298).

Pope Alexander VI awarded Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile the honorific title of “Catholic Kings” after the conquest of Granada in 1492 and the expulsion of the last remnants of the Moorish rule on the Iberian Peninsula. After that Ferdinand pursued his fight against the Muslim states about the control of the Western Mediterranean and the political influence in Northern Africa. (3) The war against Granada extended though the decade 1482-1492, but Ferdinand had already at an earlier date gained renown as defender of the faith and as one of most important adversaries of the Osman imperium. He was often spoken of as the “rex catholicus”. The inquisition was the preferred tool of Ferdinand in order to create unity in the divided society. Although the pope opposed it, he established the inquisition as an instrument subordinated the crown from 1480. It played a dominant role in the expulsion of the Jews, and it was along with the religious confraternities important for the missionary work in the newfound world on the other side of the Atlantic. Ferdinand realised the importance of the unity and dominance of the church in the creation of a world empire (Hay 1957, pp. 334 ff). An Osman fleet captured and destroyed in 1480 the Italian port city Otranto, and it stroke Rome with horror that the Turks were able to attack so close the religious centre of Europe. The next year the city was recaptured by a coalition in which Ferdinand participated. Still more important for his reputation as defender of the faith were his efforts in conjunction with the pope to put together a crusade against the Turks in Anatolia. The pope called for a crusade in 1499 and again in 1517, and taxes for this purpose were levied several times. Especially in connection with a meeting in Savona between the kings Ferdinand and Louis XII in 1507 there were high expectations that the crusade would come about. But it never happened (Hay 1957, p. 264).

We must assume that the two masses were copied during the years when the hope for a crusade still was alive among ecclesiastics. After the death of Ferdinand in 1516 the prayers of the first mass were no longer relevant. A frame of time between the years around 1506 and before 1516 places the copying of the masses nicely in the period when Caulaincourt used the music manuscript. His Chronique of Corbie ends in a tone of despair over the Turkish advance and the situation before the walls of Vienna in 1529. Also here he puts his hope in a king Ferdinand, the grandson of the catholic king, the archduke of Austria and king of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia. It is no wonder that he wanted to keep the anti-Turkish masses for future users of his volume of missals and music.

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1) RISM 1531/5, cf. Heartz 1969, pp. 240-241. »Dulcis amica dei« is printed as no. 9 and »Parce domine, populo tuo« as no. 13, and »Bone Jesu dulcissime« (Amiens 162 ff. 40v-41) also appears here as no. 3; all the tablatures are anonymous in the print. The collection is published in Rokseth 1930.

2) Cf. Leroquais 1924, passim. Concerning the office of the three martyrs, see Goudesenne 2004; he dates their historiae to the period after 900 in Amiens and Corbie (pp. 24 and 29).

3) Cf. the articles ‘Katholische Könige’ and ‘Ferdinand II’ in Lexikon 1998, vol. V, coll. 1077, and vol. IV, coll. 358; and Pérez 1989, pp. 7 ff.