My Ladye Nevells Book
(British Library MS Mus. 1591)

Edited by Oliver Neighbour

My Ladye Nevells Booke, cover
photo of original binding

  My Ladye Nevells Book
click image to see coat of arms

Documenta Musicologica, II/44. Kassel, 2012. 31 x 21.5 cm, 394, 7 pp.
Duo-tone facsimile of one of the most beautifully written music manuscripts to survive from the late 16th c. and is still preserved in its original ornate binding. It was painstakingly compiled by the Windsor-based scribe John Baldwin, who completed work on it on 11 September 1591. Baldwin seems to have worked under the direction of the composer of all the pieces in the book, William Byrd, and clearly thought highly of him, describing him elsewhere as one “whose greate skill and knowledge: dothe excelle all at this tyme: and farre to strange countries: abroade his skill dothe shyne”. By 1591 Byrd was mid-way through his career as composer of church music and secular vocal and instrumental music. The MS containing 42 pieces provides a snapshot of the keyboard music he had composed by that date and is an exceptionally important source for his music. It contains some of his best-known compositions for keyboard, including variations on the popular tunes 'Sellinger's Round' and 'All in a Garden Green'. It also includes music written by Byrd specially for the dedicatee of the MS, 'Ladye Nevell'.
She has recently been identified as Elizabeth, wife of Sir Henry Nevill of Billingbere, Berkshire. Her family's coat of arms adorns a leaf at the front of the MS. The MS was accepted by HM Government in Lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the British Library in April 2006, with additional funding from donors. (adapted from BL description). Commentary in Eng-Ger. Hardbound, with coverboards that duplicate the original. $228
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