Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, MS II 4147: The Cultivation of Johannes Tinctoris as Music Theorist in the Nineteenth Century

Ronald Woodley

This article is an expanded version of a paper delivered at the international conference 'Ars musica septentrionalis: De l'historiographie à la valorisation du patrimoine musical' (Association Ad Fugam with the University of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV): Douai & Cambrai, 24–26 November 2005), held in parallel with an exhibition in Bailleul celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Edmond Henri de Coussemaker (1805–76): see Bouckaert 2007. Proceedings of the conference are in press (University of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV), 2007), edited by Frédéric Billiet and Barbara Haggh-Huglo; I am grateful to Barbara Haggh-Huglo for her editorial advice on the text of my contribution. This online version also contains a small amount of additional information and images not available at the time of submitting the print version; it will be periodically updated as appropriate with links to other relevant material within this Tinctoris website, and should be taken as the definitive version of the paper for reference purposes. For ease of reference, paragraphs are numbered in [blue].

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[1] There can be few involved with late medieval music studies who would dispute that the Brabantine theorist Johannes Tinctoris should be viewed as one of the most significant writers on notation, music instruction and incipient music aesthetics from the fifteenth century.1 We may be frustrated at times by his relative silence on, for instance, certain performance-related issues which we consider an experienced singer and composer such as he could have told us so much about, if he had had the inclination, terminology and literary framework to do so. We may even be exasperated at the sheer compendiousness of his treatment of some topics, at the expense of what twenty-first-century musicology might consider potentially far more interesting matters. Let us not forget, though, that the main function of most of his writings was to serve as comprehensive, pedagogical reference material, aimed at young singers and composers already immersed in the practice of their day – even if it is often the more innovative, critical and technical aperçus on his musical contemporaries that strike us as particularly remarkable today. But however divergent his and our priorities sometimes seem to be, he is certainly not a writer to be ignored, and Coussemaker's pioneering edition of 1875–6, for all its faults, has of course played a huge part in raising awareness of Tinctoris's stature over the past century or so.2

The Neapolitan Manuscript Context
[2] It is not fully acknowledged, though, just how important a role one particular manuscript played in the contested and fascinating cultural agenda that led up to the publication of Coussemaker's edition: this is the source now surviving as Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, MS II 4147. Three manuscripts of Tinctoris's treatises survive today which can be traced with some security to late fifteenth-century Naples. All were compiled either during or shortly after the writer's period of employment as singer-chaplain at the Aragonese court of King Ferrante (Ferdinand I). One of these, Valencia, Biblioteca General i Històrica de la Universitat, MS 835, became a focus of attention for modern musicology only in the 1970s, with the edition by Leeman Perkins and Howard Garey of the Mellon Chansonnier (New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, MS 91),3 although its existence had been acknowledged en passant by, for instance, Higini Anglès and Isobel Pope.4 This beautiful codex, with its remarkable and probably lifelike portrait of Tinctoris on the ornate frontispiece,5 has long been recognized as an Aragonese court manuscript; but only relatively recently, through the work of the Dresden manuscript librarian Thomas Haffner, has it been suggested that the treatment and probable re-working of the coat of arms depicted enables the manuscript's origins to be associated more precisely with King Ferrante's son, Cardinal Giovanni d'Aragona.6 The association, if correct, further enables us to date this manuscript with some precision between December 1477 (when Giovanni was elected cardinal, and only three months after the completion of Tinctoris's Liber de arte contrapuncti, which is included in the manuscript) and October 1485, when he died, not yet 30 years old.7 A second clearly Neapolitan source of Tinctoris's works, no less finely executed though curiously under-researched at present, is Bologna, University Library, MS 2573.8 It seems likely that this copy was prepared at the Aragonese court for another of Ferrante's children, Beatrice: as Queen of Hungary she had lost her husband Matthias Corvinus in 1490 without offspring, and subsequently experienced serious political difficulties with her status and retention of the throne – a circumstance perhaps alluded to by the presence of Tinctoris's short motet Virgo Dei throno digna, which appears rather unexpectedly at the head of the manuscript.9 Various textual details in this source suggest that the treatises have been lightly re-edited in places, probably after Tinctoris's departure from the Aragonese court (seemingly in the early 1490s), or even as a presentation to Beatrice on her return from Buda to Naples in 1500.10 Coussemaker had no direct access to either of these manuscripts: Valencia 835 was not known to music historians at the time of his edition; Bologna 2573 was available to Coussemaker, it seems, only in an eighteenth-century copy made by Giovanni Battista Martini (Padre Martini). Even the detail of Coussemaker's acquaintance with this copy, however, is not clear: there is no record of him making the journey to Bologna to look at this manuscript – unlike in the case of Charles Burney, whose interest in Tinctoris will be discussed later – but neither is there any evidence that Martini's copy was sent north for his inspection. Indeed, the fact that Coussemaker is less than convincing in his description of this source leads one to suspect that his knowledge of its variant readings was simply the result of specific ad hoc enquiries made through correspondence with the librarians of the Liceo Musicale (now the Civico Museo Bibliografico Musicale).11

[3] In comparison with these two luxurious presentation or library copies of Tinctoris's work, Brussels 4147 seems modest, unassuming, even dull. (Plate 1 [new full window] reproduces fol. 42, from the Liber imperfectionum notarum musicalium.) Despite appearances, though, the manuscript is of quite remarkable textual accuracy and importance, with respect both to the verbal texts and, most strikingly, the hundreds of complex mensural and non-mensural music examples that punctuate these texts, which in other sources often confound even the most experienced, professional scribes. Brussels is a paper manuscript, and whatever the insecurities of watermark evidence, the three distinct marks preserved in the main folios seem to indicate an origin for the paper in southern Italy, with a certain focus on Naples, in the very late 1470s or 80s. (A full description of the manuscript is given below as an Appendix to this article.) The semi-formal hand is clearly northern European, in all probability French or Netherlandish. Many years ago I ventured the rash, or optimistic, suggestion that the manuscript may indeed be an authorial holograph,12 but for some time now I have been reasonably convinced that this cannot be the case. Part of the reason for this lies not so much in the fact that there are indeed a few significant errors in the texts – we all make mistakes – but rather in the nature of some of these errors, which suggests that the scribe, whilst having a superb understanding and command of mensural theory, notation, and contemporary polyphonic repertories, is somewhat less fluent than the author himself in the detail of chant theory. I also now believe that, contrary to my earlier opinion, there are simply too many palaeographical problems and inconsistencies surrounding the comparison of hands with the one secure example of Tinctoris's handwriting that we have, from his time as procurator of the German nation at the University of Orléans in 1462 (Plate 2).13 The best working hypothesis at the moment seems to be that Brussels 4147 was copied by a close colleague of Tinctoris at Ferrante's court, probably a fellow chaplain-singer from northern France or the French-speaking Low Countries – in other words probably a near-compatriot of Tinctoris. The textual or filiatory proximity of Brussels 4147 to Tinctoris's own personal copies from the 1470s (now presumed lost) is also suggested circumstantially by the fact that this is the only source to transmit the completion dates and location for two of the treatises in their explicits: that of the Liber de natura et proprietate tonorum is given as 6 November 1476, and that of the Liber de arte contrapuncti as 11 October 1477, both specified as at Naples, while Tinctoris was employed as chaplain there. Neither of these dates is retained even in the formal presentation copies of Valencia 835 or Bologna 2573, and since this is often the kind of extrinsic information (crucial for us, but less so to fifteenth-century copyists) that tends to evaporate quite quickly in the re-copying process, their preservation in Brussels indicates that its exemplar was probably very close to the author's own fair copies. (The explicit to the Liber de natura et proprietate tonorum, especially, is perhaps scribal rather than authorial in its precise, surviving wording, and the tense of the phrase '... quem quom capellanus regius esset' may, but does not necessarily, imply that Tinctoris had left Naples at the time of copying: see Appendix for details.) In short, within the limitations of a fallible world, for quite a high proportion of its contents Brussels looks as though it is as close to Tinctoris's 1470s texts as we are likely to get, allowing for a little judicious editorial work on the relatively small number of obvious errors that have slipped through.

[4] There are a few plausible candidates for copyist who fulfil the criteria outlined here, though more work will be needed to narrow the list down further. The reasonably well-known figure of Vincenet du Bruecquet, who is already acknowledged to have been a scribe, as well as composer and singer, from the province of Hainaut adjacent to Tinctoris's own Brabant, was certainly a colleague of Tinctoris at Ferrante's court; his wife Vannella is recorded as widowed in 1479, but he therefore just squeezes in as a candidate.14 The renowned singer Jean Cordier, according to Reinhard Strohm a native of Bruges, in the course of a varied, peripatetic and lucrative career in both the North and Italy is known to have worked in Naples in the 1470s and left debts there in the early 1480s.15 He is unlikely, however, to be a realistic possibility: although he would certainly have been personally known to Tinctoris, having arrived at the Neapolitan court at almost the same time as the theorist, in 1472, he seems to have left as early as 1474, having been poached under now notorious circumstances by Galeazzo Maria Sforza in Milan, and is not known to have returned to Naples thereafter.16 There are also a number of possible candidates as copyist among some figures of northern origin who are hardly known to us at all now, but who must have been highly reputable musicians at the Naples court in their day, such as Jacobus Villette, priest from the diocese of Cambrai;17 Johannes de Lotinis, soprano singer from Dinant and dedicatee of Tinctoris's Expositio manus;18 or Filippet Dortenche, according to Allan Atlas possibly from Burgundy:19 all three of these are recorded in a chapel list of October 1480.20 Or there is the even more obscure Johannes de Vuilles cited by Strohm as a singer in Ferrante's chapel visiting Bruges in 1484 to try to retrieve Jean Cordier's (ten-year-old?) debt.21 At any rate, the Brussels manuscript was clearly intended as a practical reference copy, since the scribe has taken great pains to compile a detailed index of contents or tabula, itemised down to individual chapter headings, with folio references for each treatise (example reproduced as Plate 3). One very characteristic scribal trait in the manuscript is the formation of F-clef, often with an unusual backwards hook added to the left of the stem of its quasi-longa component (see Plate 4). As yet this particular formation of clef has not been found in any other late fifteenth-century musical source, but in due course it may well help to identify the scribe if he was indeed active elsewhere.

Brussels 4147 in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
[5] The textual and historical significance of Brussels 4147, then, is evident. What is interesting in the context of the present article, however, is the crucial role that the manuscript played in the revival of Tinctoris's fortunes in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, after a long period of perhaps inevitable eclipse – or, at most, sporadic antiquarian curiosity – during the intervening centuries. By the 1760s and 1770s there was a certain flickering of interest in Tinctoris unrelated to the survival of the Brussels manuscript, focused mainly on the figure of Padre Martini in Bologna and involving letters to and from Martini concerning the copying of manuscripts of various medieval treatises, including one in the Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana in Florence (MS Plut. XXIX. 48), which contains Tinctoris's Proportionale musices. A letter dated 29 December 1759 from Angelo Maria Bandini, librarian of the Medicea-Laurenziana, written presumably in response to an enquiry by Martini, lists a number of manuscripts of early music theory, including that containing the Proportionale, which Bandini is offering to have copied for Martini as he wishes. Subsequent correspondence confirms that Martini eagerly took up the offer with several manuscripts: a letter of 8 March 1760 from Fra Paolo Antonio Agelli in Florence informs Martini that the copying of (the present) MS Plut. XXIX. 48 has been completed, and that he is awaiting instructions for the copy's delivery to Bologna; a follow-up letter from Agelli dated 29 March 1760 asks for confirmation of its receipt.22 Charles Burney, too, makes it clear in his General History and other letters that on his ten-day visit to Bologna in August 1770 he was able to spend time not only working on various early theoretical sources in Martini's own library, but, with Martini's encouragement, visiting the nearby monastery of San Salvatore to study the Tinctoris codex now housed in the University Library as MS 2573. As we have seen earlier from Coussemaker's preface, Martini clearly transcribed this manuscript himself, and collated its readings with his copy of the Florence source, perhaps at some point after Burney's visit:

I shall insert here an extract which I made at Bologna, from an unedited tract written by John Tinctor, and preserved, with other MS. treatises of the same author, in the library of the canons regular of S. Saviour, in that city; to which P. Martini referred me, upon asking him by what nation he thought music in parts, or simultaneous harmony, was first cultivated.23

[6] Burney also visited the Medicea-Laurenziana after leaving Bologna, where Bandini showed him Plut. XXIX. 48, on the contents of which Burney made hurried notes, but commented that 'Padre Martini has had the whole book copied and I saw it at Bologna.'24 Indeed, modern musicological awareness of Tinctoris in the English-speaking world can largely be traced to Burney's often insightful perception of Tinctoris's historical significance, based on his and Martini's work on the Bologna and Florence manuscripts, as well as the printed Diffinitorium.25 Burney used the copy of the Diffinitorium held then in the Royal Library in London (now part of the British Library), and tells us with some glee that he was 'honoured with the singular indulgence of a permission to transcribe it at my own house: for which I was the more solicitous, as it seemed of the greatest importance to my inquiries into the progress of the art at this early period, to have a precise idea of the acceptation in which these technical terms were then used.'26

[7] Meanwhile, Brussels 4147 had been lying, it would seem, relatively undisturbed in some private collection in Naples. We can reconstruct no firm detail of this as yet, except that in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century it seems to have been thought still of sufficient value to be conserved with new flyleaves, two or three folios having already been lost at front and back of the manuscript. Perhaps, too, the plain parchment wrappers, which are still retained inside the 1970 boards, were added at the same time. (See Appendix for details.) But in 1794, as recorded later by Fétis,27 the manuscript was brought to Paris, along with a rich collection of other early music, by the classical scholar, music theorist, composer and bibliophile Gaspare Selvaggi. For a long time Selvaggi has been a somewhat shadowy figure for music historians, known to the principal dictionaries, if at all, mainly as a pupil of the composer Alessandro Speranza.28 But the recently increased interest in historiographical musicology and historicised music theory has helped clarify his position in the Tinctoris story in a quite fascinating way. Aside from his very highly regarded career in public administration and education – he rose to become Segretario Generale della Istruzione Pubblica in Naples, and, until his death in 1856, Prefetto of the Reale Biblioteca Borbonica (now the Biblioteca Nazionale), as well as fellow of the Reale Accademia Ercolanese and the Accademia Pontaniana – Selvaggi is now best known to musicology as the author of a significant Trattato di armonia.29 Published eventually in 1823, the Trattato represented an innovative synthesis of a peculiarly influential Neapolitan school of analytical harmony and counterpoint instruction in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Recent work on Selvaggi's treatise by Rosa Cafiero makes it clear how a number of Neapolitan instructional texts on harmony and accompaniment were being absorbed and translated in Paris at this time by a new generation of French musical pedagogues, in the cause of advancing a new period of French music liberated from what was viewed as the stultifying oppression of, especially, ancien régime opera and choral music.30 One figure closely involved in this attempt to revivify French music was the writer, instructor and composer Alexandre-Étienne Choron, who himself published a three-volume Principes d'accompagnement des écoles d'Italie in 1804 (Paris: Imbault), and Principes de composition des écoles d'Italie a few years later in 1808 or 1809 (Paris: LeDuc). Choron is perhaps best known today as collaborative author, with François Joseph Marie Fayolle, of the Dictionnaire historique des musiciens, artistes et amateurs morts ou vivans, published in Paris in 1810–11 (Valade, et al.),31 though Fayolle, it seems, did most of the work on this. Part of Choron's nationalistic agenda, in seeking the true roots of French music, was to make the historical leap backwards to a period before the perceived debasements of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, specifically to the generations of Josquin and Janequin, to try to demonstrate the international reputation, influence and historical significance of France. As Katharine Ellis has shown in her valuable recent book, the long-running arguments over whether Goudimel was Palestrina's teacher were part of this chauvinistic contention for historical primacy.32 In this context, it is easy to see how Tinctoris was drawn in and appropriated as 'French', and perfectly understandable that during Selvaggi's eighteen-year stay in Paris in the 1790s and early 1800s, his precious old manuscript of the Tinctoris treatises should have been eagerly snapped up by none other than François Fayolle himself.33

[8] The significance of the Tinctoris manuscript to this wider political and cultural agenda was clear to Fayolle and Choron, and in 1812 Fayolle sent the manuscript to the French Minister of the Interior, to ascertain whether its publication and translation could be given official government support and funding. The Minister duly submitted the manuscript, along with a letter dated 14 September 1812, to the Classe des Beaux-Arts of the Institut Impérial de France, inviting its Section de Musique to give an opinion on the matter. The theorist, under his presumed French name of 'Teinturier', is cited as 'regardé comme l'écrivain didactique le plus estimable de l'école française et de l'école gallo-belge de la musique'.34 Indeed, the claims of Frenchness at this time (whilst involving a certain creative misreading of Tinctoris's own texts) had a certain politically opportune accuracy about them, since Tinctoris's known birthplace, in the vicinity of Nivelles, was then part of the département de la Dyle, founded in 1795 during the occupation of the southern Netherlands by France:

J. Teinturier, dit Tinctor ou Tinctoris de son nom latinisé suivant l'usage du tems, était de Nivelle, ville de Brabant, qui fait aujourd'hui partie du département de la Dyle, où il naquit de 1430 à 1440. C'est à cette époque où, d'après ce que l'on sait par l'histoire de l'art et d'après ce qu'il dit lui-même dans un de ses Traités, que l'école flamande commença à se former sur l'enseignement et à marcher sur les traces de l'école française de musique, alors la plus célèbre qui fût en Europe.'35

[9] Fayolle's colleague Choron was himself the reporting member of the music section of the Classe des Beaux-Arts (the other members being the composers Méhul, Gossec and Grétry), and so it is hardly a surprise that he was happy to write an enthusiastic report to the Classe supporting the project. It is worth quoting further extracts from this report at length, to see both how the musical and intellectual significance of Tinctoris's writings is perceived, and how nationalistically orientated historical continuities are constructed in order to link the purported fifteenth-century 'French school' to the writer's contemporary situation:

A présent, pour mettre la classe des beaux-arts en état de répondre à la demande de S. Exc. [le ministre de l'intérieur], la section de musique n'hésite point à déclarer que la traduction et la publication des Œuvres de J. Teinturier est d'un très-grand intérêt pour l'art musical, et sur-tout pour l'honneur de l'Ecole française; et voici de quelles raisons elle appuie son opinion à cet égard.
     Les Œuvres de J. Teinturier sont importantes pour l'art, quant à l'érudition et quant à l'art en lui-même: quant à l'art en lui-même, parce que le plan de l'auteur embrassait toute la musique pratique, il expose sur toutes les parties une doctrine d'une exactitude irréprochable. Sa marche est très-méthodique; ses définitions sont d'une rigueur et d'une précision remarquables, et ses développemens d'une extrême clarté. Une grande partie de cette doctrine et notamment toute celle qui porte sur le contrepoint est encore en usage aujourd'hui. Tout ce qu'il dit sur la succession des intervalles est infiniment supérieur à tout ce que l'on a fait avant lui, et j'ajouterai même à tout ce que l'on a depuis écrit sur cette matière, l'une des plus importantes de toute la composition, puisqu'elle en est la première base.
     Ces Œuvres seraient très-utiles pour l'érudition musicale, parce qu'elles contiennes beaucoup de citations et de détails sur une époque où l'histoire de l'art présente jusqu'à ce moment une lacune immense. Les sept premiers Traités sont ce que l'on a fait de mieux sur l'ancienne notation musicale: notation entièrement ignorée aujourd'hui; qu'il serait intéressant de connaître, et sur laquelle il n'existe aucun ouvrage propre à être mis entre les mains de toutes sortes de lecteurs, ceux qui en traitaient étant écrits en latin ou en langues étrangères, et étant devenus d'une rareté extrême. Enfin, ces Œuvres offrent le résumé de la doctrine de tout le moyen-âge, qui, perfectionée par l'Ecole française de cette époque, peut être regardée comme la liaison de l'antiquité et de l'Ecole moderne, en sorte qu'elles forment une introduction à l'étude de la première et l'explication d'une partie de la seconde.36

[10] Despite the overtly chauvinistic complexion of this broad historical picture, Choron goes on to try to deflect any imputation of nationalistic bias ('Et pour qu'on ne pense point que ce témoignage que nous rendons à la mémoire et aux écrits de J. Teinturier sont [recte: soit] le fruit d'une prévention nationale ...') with a listing of non-French historical witnesses to Tinctoris's importance, ranging from Ornithoparcus and Cerone to Forkel and Gerbert. But towards the end of his report – unsurprisingly, in view of its immediately intended readership – Choron and his fellow section members cannot resist returning to the nationalistic argument, to the point of hyperbole:

Rien n'est donc mieux motivé, ni mieux établi que le mérite de J. Teinturier et de ses ouvrages; mais ce qui me reste à démontrer, c'est que la gloire de l'Ecole française de musique n'y est pas moins intéressée que l'utilité de l'art lui-même.
     Nous avons dit dans une autre occasion, qu'il fut une époque où cette Ecole fut la principale Ecole de musique de l'Europe; c'est un fait que prouve l'histoire de l'art, les aveux des auteurs de toutes les nations qu'il n'est pas de notre objet de citer ici; mais c'est un fait que la publication des Œuvres de Teinturier mettra dans la plus haute évidence.
     En effet, si l'on étudie ce Recueil, et que l'on le compare à tout ce qui l'a précédé et ce qui l'a suivi, on voit clairement, 1o qu'il y a une distance immense tant pour le fonds que pour l'exposition de la doctrine entre les écrits de cet auteur et ceux de tous ses prédécesseurs; 2o que tous les auteurs qui sont venus après lui dans les diverses nations, pendant plus d'un siècle, tels que Fr. Gafforio, Ornitoparchus, P. Aron, Vanneo et toute cette foule de didactiques italiens qui se sont succédés jusqu'à Zarlin en 1560, n'ont fait autre chose que de suivre la marche qu'il avait tracée, sans rien ajouter à sa doctrine. Surpassé par Zarlin et les autres à raison des progrès de l'art en certaine partie, il leur est demeuré supérieur en toutes celles qui, de son tems, étaient déjà l'objet d'un enseignement positif. Or, cette doctrine immuable et dès lors fixée, est entièrement établie dans les écrits de ce maître de chapelle du roi de Naples, non sur la pratique et les œuvres des Italiens, non même sur celle des Flamands, mais uniquement sur celle des Français qui fleurirent dans le courant du 15e et même depuis la fin du 14e siècle, depuis Jean des Murs et Guillaume de Machault qui florissaient vers 1380. Ce sont, suivant ses propres citations, Dufay, Brassart, Binchois, de Domart, Barbingant, Busnois, Fauques, Regis, Caron et autres dont il rapporte des exemples.37

[11] Choron's report was formally approved by the Classe des Beaux-Arts at its meeting on Saturday 5 December 1812, and an extract from the minute, together with the bulk of the report itself, from which the above extracts are taken, were subsequently published in Le Moniteur universel the following March.38 In conclusion, the Classe sums up its view of the project's value in terms that mirror the report of the music section itself:

En conséquence, la Classe pense qu'il est utile et honorable pour la littérature française, qui est très-pauvre en érudition musicale, que l'ouvrage de Tinctoris, dit Teinturier, soit traduit et imprimé; il prouvera que la France a eu long-temps la meilleure et la seule École de musique qui existât. Peu de personnes, surtout parmi les musiciens, étant en état de lire l'ouvrage original, c'est en quelque sorte retrouver et mettre en circulation un titre littéraire honorable, et l'opposer aux étrangers, qui avaient droit d'affecter dans ce genre une supériorité réelle et une antériorité qu'ils n'auront plus.'39

[12] As Katherine Ellis comments, 'The music section's reasoning is striking for its balancing of national pride against an admission of national inadequacy.'40 For whatever reason, however – and there is more primary source work to be done in Paris on this – the project was abandoned; it is not quite clear who was intended to carry out the translation of Tinctoris's treatises, but it is probably more likely to have been Fayolle himself, since he had already shown a degree of Latinity in translating Book VI of the Aeneid into French some years previously.41 At any rate, in March 1817, at a point when Fayolle had moved temporarily to London, he sold or gave the Tinctoris manuscript, along with his own transcript of its contents, made perhaps when the project was still live,42 to the music historian and composer François-Louis Perne, the transfer of ownership being recorded in the front of the manuscript: 'Je soussigné reconnais avoir cédé à Monsieur Perne | en toute propriété le présent manuscrit, ainsi que | la copie qui m'appartenait. | à Paris, ce 14 Mars 1817 | Fayolle' (Plate 5). Perne had by that time progressed through an early career as singer, double bass player in the Opéra orchestra, and professor of harmony, to head as Inspector General what was to become the Paris Conservatoire (at that point the 'École royale de musique et de déclamation').43 For a man keenly interested in the critical study of Greek and medieval texts on music, and the history of notation, the acquisition of the Tinctoris manuscript must have been a notable prize, and we know that, like Fayolle, he copied the manuscript in its entirety, his copy now resting on the shelf alongside its illustrious exemplar in the Bibliothèque Royale in Brussels, as MS II 4148.44

[13] Perne left a trail of uncompleted historical projects behind him when he died in 1832, including one, fascinatingly, on Machaut's music and poetry; if he had ever planned to take up the torch for the aborted Choron/Fayolle Tinctoris edition and translation, nothing came of it once more. But upon Perne's death his whole impressive library passed to François-Joseph Fétis. At this point the political complexion of the nineteenth-century Tinctoris project changes colour, and the appropriation of Tinctoris's work for cultural and historical legitimation shifts its focus from France to Belgium.

[14] More than 25 years elapsed, in fact, before the publication project was resuscitated; but by 1860 Fétis had clearly completed not just his own transcription of the Latin text from the manuscript (as Fayolle and Perne had done before him), but also a full French translation and notes for a commentary, which survive in the Bibliothèque Royale in Brussels as MS II 5482–3.45 Fétis is obviously coming at the project from a Belgian nationalistic perspective, as part of the larger agenda of reorienting the true, pure origins of Renaissance polyphony on to Belgian rather than French territory – particularly, of course, in the wake of the variously contested political boundaries drawn up between France, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the new Belgium during the course of the first two decades of the nineteenth century.46 As early as 1829, just before the establishment of the Franco-Belgian border in 1830, Fétis had written his famous mémoire on the merits and cultural significance of early Netherlandish music, at almost exactly the same time that Choron had done the same on behalf of France: Fétis's was published;47 that of Choron still lies in manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.48 The Tinctoris transcription, translation and notes prepared by Fétis were submitted along with the manuscript itself – again in a striking parallel to Fayolle nearly fifty years earlier – to the Classe des Beaux-Arts of the Académie Royale de Belgique in October 1860. As with Choron before, the proposal for publication was put officially to the Classe des Beaux-Arts in a report given by André van Hasselt, inspector-general for education and member of the Académie for literature and philology, after studying the manuscript and in full awareness of the earlier, aborted French project. Van Hasselt's report of 9 December 186049 opens by placing the new proposal in the context of a wider plan, under royal decree of 12 November 1859, for a series of publications of the principal Belgian composers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, under the direction of Fétis himself. Just as with Choron's report, the rhetoric here soon seeks a certain justification by attempting to affiliate Tinctoris and his works to the notion of a national 'school':

La classe des beaux-arts ne peut que s'applaudir d'avoir vu l'arrêté royal du 12 novembre dernier rattacher la publication des œuvres des principaux compositeurs belges du XVe et du XVIe siècle à l'intéressante série des travaux dont l'Académie royale s'est chargée ou qu'elle a provoqués, soit par sa propre initiative, soit par celle de ses membres.
     Ces grands artistes, qui donnèrent tant d'éclat au nom belge et qui, attachés à la cour des princes les plus magnifiques de leur temps, ou aux cathédrales les plus renommées de la chrétienté, fondèrent, dans différents pays de l'Europe, des écoles musicales devenues soudainement célèbres, ces artistes méritaient, à coup sûr, d'être tirés de l'oubli où leurs compositions sont tombées par suite du changement qu'a subi le système de notation suivi par eux. Cette espèce de fouille archéologique, que nous nous félicitons de voir placée sous la savante direction et sous la surveillance de notre confrère M. Fétis, est un pieux et légitime hommage rendu à la mémoire de nos anciens compositeurs de musique. Elle remettra aussi en lumière une foule de productions qui auront leur importance pour l'histoire de l'art en générale et pour l'histoire de l'école belge en particulier.
     Toutefois, Messieurs, dans cette collection, on ne pourra guère étudier que sous une seule face le talent ou le génie de nos anciens compositeurs, c'est-à-dire leur côté pratique, s'il m'est permis de m'exprimer de la sorte. A la vérité, on pourra reconnaître, par voie d'analyse, dans leurs œuvres mêmes, la doctrine ou la théorie musicale qui leur a servi de base. Mais il me semble que, s'il est possible de rattacher aux productions de nos maîtres du XVe siècle un exposé théorique des différentes parties de la science musicale à cette époque, et de montrer que cette théorie, écrite par un Belge, est antérieure à toute autre, notamment à celle de Gafuri, la plus ancienne connue jusqu'à ce jour, nous devons tenir à l'honneur de constater le fait et d'en fournir la preuve au public savant.
     Or cette preuve réside précisément dans le manuscrit de Tinctoris, sur lequel vous avez bien voulu me charger de vous présenter un rapport.50

[15] There follows an extensive quotation from the statement drawn up by the Institut Impérial de France half a century previously, including synoptic descriptions of the contents of Tinctoris's treatises. In the course of this quotation, Van Hasselt even feels the need to draw attention to the previous report's references to a 'French school', and explicitly reorientate these to the new political and geographical reality: 'L'expression école française, pouvait être juste à une époque où la Belgique faisait partie de la France. Elle n'est plus de mise aujourd'hui, et il faut la remplacer par celle d'école belge.'51 He is nevertheless highly sympathetic to the thrust of the previous French project, whose aborted completion he attributes (not unreasonably) to the political disruptions at the fall of the First Empire, which 'were hardly of a kind to leave the spirits freed for the peaceful preoccupations of art and literature'. But he then returns to his opening theme in asserting the significance of Tinctoris's work as part of the wider cultural heritage of Belgium, to be treated on a par with other historical and literary figures of national significance, and as an 'indispensable complement' to the series of compositions to be published under the previously mentioned royal decree:

Malgré le vœu si formellement exprimé dans les conclusions du rapport présenté à la classe des beaux-arts de l'Institut de France, il ne fut pas donné suite au projet de publier une traduction des œuvres didactiques du célèbre musicien belge. Du reste, les événements politiques, qui se succédèrent en Europe depuis 1813 et qui permettaient déjà de prévoir la chute imminente de l'empire, n'étaient guère de nature à laisser les esprits livrés aux paisibles préoccupations de l'art et de la littérature.
     Aujourd'hui que la Belgique, rendue à elle-même, recherche pieusement et remet en lumière tous les titres qu'elle peut faire valoir dans la domaine des sciences, des lettres et des arts, elle ne saurais se dispenser de réaliser pour elle-même le vœu exprimé par l'Institut de France en 1813. Il est de son honneur, me semble-t-il, de faire pour Tinctoris ce qu'elle a fait pour Van Maerlant et pour les chroniqueurs publiés par la commission royale d'histoire, ce qu'elle a décidé de faire pour les principales productions de nos anciens compositeurs de musique, et ce qu'elle fera peut-être un jour pour ceux d'entre nos poëtes et nos prosateurs qui ont figuré avec le plus d'éclat dans la littérature du moyen âge. Car je considère l'œuvre de Tinctoris comme le complément indispensable de la collection dont la publication a été décidée par l'arrêté royal du 12 novembre dernier. Cette collection attestera le génie et l'habileté créatrice de nos anciens artistes du XVe et du XVIe siècles: l'œuvre de Tinctoris attestera que, sous le rapport des connaissances théoriques ces maîtres étaient en avant de tous ceux qui, à cette époque, ont figuré en Europe. L'un et l'autre fourniront au monde savant la preuve la plus évidente de la supériorité de nos musiciens dans la pratique aussi bien que dans la science de leur art.52

[16] Van Hasselt proceeds to praise Fétis's work on the project further. He tells us that he has spent what little leisure time he has had, over a period of a month, checking Fétis's translation – which is clearly complete and ready for publication – against the Brussels manuscript itself, and that he is happy to confirm both its accuracy and intrinsic literary merit, as well as to salute Fétis's critical acumen and contribution to national culture:

La traduction des écrits didactiques de Tinctoris, si instamment réclamée par eux comme un travail qui intéresse la gloire nationale, la voici toute prête, grâce au zèle de notre savant confrère M. Fétis, qui a déjà enrichi de tant de précieuses découvertes l'histoire de l'art musical, et qui nous donne ici une nouvelle preuve de son dévouement pour tout ce qui peut servir à rehausser le nom belge. Cette traduction, je l'ai collationnée sur le texte du manuscrit avec tout le soin que mérite une œuvre si importante, et j'y ai consacré, pendant un mois, les loisirs si rares que me laissent les occupations de commis, qui forment les deux tiers de ma besogne officielle. C'est vous prouver, Messieurs, quel attrait puissant ce travail a eu pour moi. Aussi je crois pouvoir vous dire que la version de M. Fétis a toute la franchise et la libre allure d'une œuvre originale, et qu'en même temps elle reproduit, avec la fidélité la plus rigoureuse, la pensée de Tinctoris. On y retrouve cette clarté, cette pureté, cette élégance qui distinguent les écrits de notre confrère, et jusqu'à cette naïveté d'expression qui caractérise le maître de chapelle du roi Ferdinand Ier dans ses dédicaces et dans ses épilogues. Pour rendre sa version plus intelligible et la mettre à la portée d'un plus grand nombre de lecteurs, le traducteur a eu soin de transcrire en notation moderne tous les exemples et tous les modèles que Tinctoris fournit à l'appui de ses théories, et qu'il donne naturellement en notation ancienne dans ses différents traités.
     Quoique le manuscrit qui a servit de base à M. Fétis soit en général fort soigné, il contient cependant quelques leçons défectueuses, qui proviennent évidemment du copiste à qui le manuscrit est dû et qui résultent, soit de la corruption, soit de l'omission de certains mots. Le traducteur me semble avoir suppléé à ces lacunes et avoir rectifié ces altérations avec la sagacité d'un vrai critique....
     Je le répète, mon opinion est que la publication de la traduction de l'œuvre de Tinctoris intéresse au plus haut degré l'histoire de l'école de musique belge, et que ce travail forme un complément naturel de la publication décidée par l'arrêté royale du 12 novembre dernier.53

[17] The reply to Van Hasselt's recommendation, accepting his proposals in principle, was given on behalf of the Classe des Beaux-Arts by Joseph François Snel, violinist, conductor, composer, teacher, and member of the music section of the Académie royale. As with the earlier French project, mutatis mutandis, part of the acknowledgement of Tinctoris's importance resides in the scarcely concealed pleasure taken in wresting intellectual and historical precedence from the Italian Franchino Gafori back to Belgium.  In Snel's words, written only a few months before his death in March 1861:

Je me bornerai à vous dire, Messieurs, que je n'ai pu lire l'œuvre de Tinctoris sans éprouver un vif étonnement, ou mieux encore, sans ressentir un légitime orgueil pour notre patrie qui a produit, dès le milieu du XVe siècle, un homme aussi avancé dans la théorie de l'art musicale; car, non-seulement on y trouve, comme disent très-bien les rapporteurs de l'Institut, les lumières les plus complètes sur l'ancien système de notation et sur toute la musique pratique, telle qu'elle était connue à l'époque où vivait l'auteur, mais encore on y reconnait particulièrement, sous le rapport du contre-point, une science que personne, jusqu'à présent, n'avait cru trouver si loin dans le passé et qu'il est de notre honneur de constater publiquement. Désormais ce n'est plus à Gafori, mais ce sera plus haut, c'est-à-dire à Tinctoris, que l'on devra faire remonter une doctrine, la seule que ait animé l'art musical jusqu'au milieu du XVIe siècle. La preuve authentique en sera fournie au monde savant par le manuscrit que nous avons là devant nous....
     Je ne pense pas, Messieurs, qu'après la lecture de cette œuvre on puisse se refuser en seul instant à reconnaître le haut mérite du travail qui est soumis à votre appréciation. Au nombre des productions de nos anciens écrivains qui, depuis quelques années, ont été mises en lumière, il en est peu dont la publication ferait autant d'honneur à la Belgique que celle des écrits de Tinctoris; car il doit en résulter pour nous la preuve la plus irrécusable que notre école de musique fut la première et la plus ancienne qu'il y ait eu en Europe....
     En conséquence, Messieurs, je conclus en vous priant de rechercher le moyen de publier le texte de l'œuvre de Tinctoris, avec la traduction qui en a été faite par M. Fétis. Ce sera là une chose aussi utile à la science qu'honorable pour le gouvernement belge.54

[18] Van Hasselt's proposals are accepted in principle, and following a request made at the end of his report, reinforced here by Snel's recommendation, a further decision is made by the Classe des Beaux-Arts to approach the relevant Belgian government minister regarding either a special subsidy to cover the publication costs for Fétis's translation with parallel original text, or else to have Tinctoris's work included in the collection of early Belgian composers already commissioned by the 1859 royal decree:

Conformément aux conclusions de ces commissaires, la classe décide qu'une demande sera adressée au ministre, soit pour obtenir un subside spécial destiné à couvrir les frais d'impression du travail de Tinctoris (traduction avec texte en regard), soit pour obtenir l'admission de ce volume parmi la collection des œuvres des anciens compositeurs belges. Elle décide également que les exemplaires des rapports de MM. Van Hasselt et Snel seront transmis à M. le ministre de l'intérieur.55

[19] As with the French project, however – despite the enthusiasm, time and energy expended by the individuals concerned – nothing came of the Fétis proposal in the end, though even in 1865 Fétis was still confident that his translation, along with the Latin text, would indeed be published once the second edition of his Biographie universelle was complete.56 At his death, though, in 1871, it had still not been brought to fruition, and after Fétis's library, including the Tinctoris manuscript, was acquired by the Bibliothèque royale in Brussels, it was left to the enterprise and assiduousness of Coussemaker to complete the project. Restricting himself to the Latin texts, without translation or commentary, the self-contained, limited edition of Tinctoris's works – complete as he then saw it – was published in Lille in 1875,57 then its reprint, seemingly without any textual or typographical alteration, in the fourth and final volume of his Scriptorum ... nova series the following year, 1876. Whether Coussemaker made any use of Fétis's own material, other than the original manuscript – or indeed any of the earlier material of Fayolle and Perne – is still unclear, and it is to be hoped that some evidence of letters or other manuscript material by Coussemaker, relating to the process of compiling his edition, may surface in due course. For the sake of completeness, it should be noted that Coussemaker, whilst working primarily from the Brussels manuscript and (apparently) the Martini copies of the Bologna and Florence sources, made some use also of the manuscript now preserved in Ghent University Library, MS 70. This is a nicely executed but textually very strange source for Tinctoris, completed near Ghent in 1504 by the scribe Anthony of St Martinsdijk, for the library of Raphael de Marcatellis, Abbot of St Bavo's in Ghent.58 Its main usefulness to Coussemaker was that it preserves a more complete version of Tinctoris's Complexus effectuum musices, half of which is missing from the Brussels manuscript because of the lost and damaged folios at the end: see Appendix.) This said, one must retain some suspicion that Coussemaker's edition here was at least partly riding on the back of Fétis's earlier work, since Van Hasselt's 1860 report to the Académie royale de Belgique had already explicitly credited Fétis with having collated the readings of Ghent 70 to complete the text of the Complexus for his transcription and translation.59

[20] Underlying much of these contested, nationalistically inspired endeavours to make Tinctoris's work more widely known was the remarkably fraught question of Tinctoris's geographical and linguistic origins. In essence, most writers up to and including Fétis accepted at face value the early biographical notice on Tinctoris written in 1495 by Johannes Trithemius, Abbot of Sponheim, in his Cathalogus illustrium virorum.60 Here Tinctoris is said to be a Brabantine from Nivelles, around 30 km south of Brussels, and the historical, political and linguistic complexities of this area therefore enabled both the early nineteenth-century French historians, and Fétis with the Belgian Académie, to claim Tinctoris sufficiently as their own. When Edmond vander Straeten published his essay on Tinctoris, however,61 he upset the received wisdom by seriously demeaning Trithemius as an authority, and by claiming to have found a more secure identification for Tinctoris's origins in the matriculation records of the University of Louvain (Leuven). This purported to show Tinctoris as from Poperinge in West Flanders, despite some frankly fast-and-loose datings which did not map at all on to what was known even then of Tinctoris's career and chronology. As a corollary, Vander Straeten pushed hard for the claim that Tinctoris would have been Flemish-speaking, with a vernacular family name of De Vaerwere.62 In relation to Coussemaker's edition, it is worth paying rather closer attention to the dating of Vander Straeten's purported discovery than Vander Straeten did himself with Tinctoris's dates. His letters to the Belgian Minister of the Interior, in which he took pride in informing the Minister of his discovery, are dated 8 and 17 March 1875.63 Coussemaker's edition was presumably all but complete by this point, and he must have obtained Vander Straeten's new information very much at the eleventh hour – though it is not known by what route – clearly keen to incorporate it into the preface of his final volume as evidence of the latest research.64 Unfortunately, though, the new discovery was utter nonsense: Coussemaker would have been better advised to stay with Trithemius, as we are now fairly sure that he was correct in this as in many other details, and that Tinctoris's family was almost certainly French-speaking, coming from Braine-l'Alleud, a little north of Nivelles.65

A Final Monument
[21] Meanwhile in Nivelles itself the decision had already been taken by the town council some six months earlier, on 28 October 1874, to erect a statue in honour of Tinctoris in the main town square, the Place Bléval; even though at that stage they did not believe that they could claim the musician's place of birth, they regarded his long-established connections with the town, as canon of the collegiate church of St Gertrude,66 as sufficient to justify their sense of local pride. The council's application for building permission must have been submitted to the government some months previously, as the letter of approval from the Ministry of the Interior is dated 5 June 1874, couched in terms leaving no doubt as to the official line on Tinctoris's cultural status:

... En admettant que Tinctoris ne soit pas né à Nivelles, il est néanmoins bien démontré qu'il est Belge d'origine et qu'il se rattache à la ville de Nivelles par des liens étroits dont celle-ci est en droit de se prévaloir pour honorer sa mémoire. Il est avéré, en effet, que Tinctoris a été chanoine de la collégiale de Nivelles où il a résidé dans les dernières années de sa vie et où, probablement, il est mort. Ces circonstances paraissent suffir pour légitimer l'intervention de l'administration communale de Nivelles, d'autant plus que, si elle était récusée, Tinctoris, qui est certes une de nos gloires nationales les mieux établies, courrait grand risque de n'avoir jamais son monument pour le signaler à l'admiration et à l'émulation de ses concitoyens.67

[22] A sum of 9,000 francs for the project was provided from central government funds, the remaining costs being made up from a combination of a local council grant of 1,600 francs and additional income from public subscription. The statue, entrusted to the local Nivelles sculptor Louis Samain (1834-1901),68 was unveiled on 17 August the following year, 1875 – that is, virtually coinciding with Coussemaker's dedicated Lille edition – and in due course the monument (Plate 6; Plate 7; Plate 8) lent its name to a nearby 'Café Tinctoris V. Mayeur' (Plate 7), followed eventually even by a Tinctoris cinema on one side of the square. Indeed, when the Nivelles local historian Detilleux came to publish his appreciation of the theorist in 1942, he began his article by bewailing the fact that the name of Tinctoris was known to locals more for the cinema than the historical figure:

Tinctoris! Trois syllabes redevenues populaires, à Nivelles, depuis qu'elles servent d'enseigne à une salle de cinéma. Le rapprochement est pour le moins inattendu et d'aucuns trouveront sans doute peu reluisant ce genre de popularité, pour un prince de savoir, qui, il y a quatre siècles, faisait l'admiration de l'Europe entière. Mais à quoi bon plaindre? Vaudrait-il mieux que plus personne aujourd'hui ne prononçât ce grand nom? Car notre Tinctoris fut, de son temps, non pas, comme on pourrait être porté à croire, un honnête musicien de province, mais, dans toute la force du terme, une célébrité européenne.69

[23] Although the theorist stood proud in the Place Bléval for over 60 years, within sight of St Gertrude's, he was decapitated by falling masonry from the spire of the church during a major fire in the centre of Nivelles, following World War II bombing (14 May 1940).70 The only material remains of this last symbol of the nineteenth-century Tinctoris project is a life-sized copy, which stands in the foyer of the Town Hall (Plate 9) – looking, it must be said, more like a deep-sea fisherman than a Renaissance courtier. And if Tinctoris's reputation as musician and theorist were not already sufficient to sustain national and local pride, this model of his statue enjoys the honour of being among the very first examples in Belgium of metallized plastic.71