The manuscript collection of an anonymous mid-seventeenth-century composer: the cartapácios in the University of Coimbra General Library

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The cartapácios are a group of manuscript scores bound into sixteen volumes originating from the monastery of Santa Cruz de Coimbra, an important musical centre in the Iberian peninsula in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They are mostly the work of a single anonymous copyist–composer and their contents encompass the full range of genres current in mid-seventeenth-century Portugal, including villancicos in vernaculars (principally Castilian), dramatic music, consort music, theoretical texts and Latin sacred music. Individual manuscripts and selected repertories represented have been studied in detail, though consideration of the collection as a whole has remained limited; the present research attempts to rectify this situation and stems from cataloguing work being undertaken for the Portuguese Early Music Database (

Drawing in part on important work by Tiago Simas Freire, I will examine the codicological evidence (watermarks, rastration and handwriting) demonstrating that the manuscripts are largely the work of a single composer–copyist. Though the collection is today fragmentary, a fairly accurate picture of how the composer used stocks of paper and prepared them for music copying can be obtained. A hypothesis can also be reached about the purpose of the manuscripts. Though bound early in their history, they were copied unbound and were probably intended originally to serve immediate practical needs. Evidence of compositional activity in the manuscripts is largely limited to small-scale on-the-page corrections, a characteristic they share with similar, better-known collections of Buxtehude, Charpentier and Purcell. A notable feature, however, are two categories of script style, a rougher and a neater one. While both are associated with compositional corrections or revisions, the rougher one, which is less abundant, is associated with a piece that appears to have been composed directly into one of the manuscripts, suggesting that two styles could reflect compositional stages.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventCremona Baroque Music 2018: 18th Biennial International Conference on Baroque Music - Musicology and Cultural Heritage Department, Pavia University, Cremona, Italy
Duration: 10 Jul 201815 Jul 2018
Conference number: 18


ConferenceCremona Baroque Music 2018
Internet address


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