Christ Church Library
Music catalogue
IntroductionNewsBrowseSearch Quick search:

Mus. 1187

Manuscript. 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 are concerned with the history, description and measurement of musical instruments; for this reason, Mus. 1187 is familiarly known as the 'Talbot Manuscript'. However, the collection also includes papers that are unrelated to Talbot and his project.

Mus. 1187 is unbound, and has never been systematically foliated or paginated. As a result, its constituent sheets and fascicles have always been vulnerable to reorganization. The following comments set out briefly to chart the growth and metamorphosis of Mus. 1187 over the course of more than two centuries, and to explain how its current structure relates to past orderings of its contents, including ones that have been described in print and fixed on microfilm.

The earliest known description of Mus. 1187 was made by Hind in the mid 18th century. In his additions to Archives 1717 (item D24), he refers to it as 'M.S. Treatises upon Musick. in 6 [deleted;] seven [deleted;] 14 parcills'. By 1789 the collection had been expanded or divided into fifteen sections, and in this state its contents were summarized by Charles Burney in Book III of his General History of Music (p. 602, footnote d); Burney's description is considered in detail below. At this time the collection bore the shelfmark 'D.24', and was kept in a protective portfolio, described by Malchair in his 1787 inventory as 'Dean Aldriches [sic] Materials for a treatis on Music / Loose papers Contained in a past[e] board Cass [case] tied with stringe'.

Nothing is known about the state of the collection in the 19th century, beyond the fact that it was assigned the call-number '1062'. (The description of it by Havergal, in Havergal Summary, relies wholly upon Burney's.) In the early 20th century the papers were transferred to a replacement portfolio folder of red cardboard, half bound in red leather, and the collection was given its present current call-number of 'Mus. 1187'. At this time the original portfolio folder was evidently destroyed, except for an 18th-century annotated paper sheet that may have functioned as a titlepage (with bookplate and early call-numbers); this was retained, and is pasted to the inside upper cover of the replacement folder.

Around 1960, a major reorganization of the papers took place, presumably in response to renewed scholarly interest in the collection and requests for microfilms or photographic reproductions. Talbot's papers addressing the description and measurement of 17th-century instruments were isolated from the remaining papers, and were arranged in eleven sections, distinguished from one another by call-numbers as 'Mus. 1187 (1-11)'. Pagination was added to some sections at this time. The remaining papers were left unsorted and unnumbered. It was in this state that Mus. 1187 was microfilmed, creating a master film from which all subsequent copies have been made. Because of this, all microfilms of Mus. 1187 supplied by Christ Church will agree with one another about the ordering of the images. Further comment on this microfilm ordering is given below.

A second major reorganization of the papers, by Robert Unwin, took place in the late 1980s. This set out to identify the fifteen sections that Burney had described in 1789, and to restore them to their 18th-century sequence. The task was successfully done except in one respect: Burney's item 3 could not be located. The remaining papers (i.e. ones not described by Burney) were then sorted into six categories, and labelled in a sequence 'A-E' and 'E1'. The resulting segments of the collection were physically isolated from one another using sheets of modern paper wrapped around their spines, on which Unwin added explanatory notes in pencil.

It is in this state that Mus. 1187 remains today, although with three modifications. (1) In order to stabilize the ordering and arrangement of the papers, in 2005 the contents of Mus. 1187 were transferred to twenty-two protective folders of stiff grey card, each folder containing one of the segments isolated by Unwin. The protective red portfolio folder was withdrawn from use, but is available for study on request. (2) The papers comprising Burney's missing section 3 were identified as being Unwin's bundle 'A'. Bundle 'A' has therefore been redesignated '3', and returned to its proper place in the sequence. (3) All modern paper sheets bearing Unwin's notes have been removed, and are now gathered together in a folder designated 'new A'.

In its present state, Mus. 1187 therefore comprises the following items: sixteen folders numbered '1-10' and '10a-15' (of which folder 3 was formerly labelled 'A'); six folders labelled 'new A', 'B-E' and 'E1'; and (3) the red portfolio.

Options for obtaining more information about Mus. 1187:

OPTION 1. Description of James Talbot's papers In Mus. 1187.

OPTION 2. General listing of the contents of Mus. 1187, arranged by folder.

OPTION 3. Compare the order of images on microfilms of Mus. 1187 with the current structure of the collection itself.

OPTION 4. Compare Charles Burney's description of Mus. 1187 with the collection itself.

The MICROFILM of Mus. 1187

The relationship between Mus. 1187 and its microfilm is complex. For that reason, the following description of the microfilm is intended to be read alongside a full list of the manuscript's current arrangement into folders, using two Web browsers open simultaneously and placed side by side. Open list of folders in a new window. To locate the current whereabouts of items on the microfilm, use one browser to follow the microfilm order, the other browser to locate items in their current folders.

The microfilm opens with eleven sections written or collected by Talbot that describe seventeeth-century instruments, arranged in an order established in the 1960s, using the (now superseded) call-numbers 'Mus. 1187 (1-11)'. In the following list, these eleven opening sections of the film are additionally cited by section-names allocated to them by Charles Mould in his article 'James Talbot's Manuscript: VII. Harpsichord', The Galpin Society Journal, 21 (1968), 40-41.

  • 'Mus. 1187 (1)'. Mould: 'Harpsichord'. Now Folder D, item (4).
  • 'Mus. 1187 (2)'. Mould: 'Organ'. Now Folder 1.
  • 'Mus. 1187 (3)'. Mould: 'Organ'. Now Folder 13, followed by Folder D, item (6); then Folder B, item (2).
  • 'Mus. 1187 (4)'. Mould: 'Stringed Instruments'. Now Folder D, item (1).
  • 'Mus. 1187 (5)'. Mould: 'Stringed Instruments'. Now Folder 14.
  • 'Mus. 1187 (6)'. Mould: 'Stringed Instruments (gives list of instruments examined)'. Now Folder D, item (3).
  • 'Mus. 1187 (7)'. Mould: 'Wind instruments'. Now Folder D, item (2).
  • 'Mus. 1187 (8)'. Mould: 'Lute, Polyphone, Pandore, etc.'. Now Folder 8, followed by Folder 10a (first bifolio only).
  • 'Mus. 1187 (9)'. Mould: 'Pipe, Tabor, Viols, Violins, etc.'. Now Folder 11.
  • 'Mus. 1187 (10)'. Mould: 'Tunings and Tablature'. Now Folder 9 (including, as pp. 5-6, the letter from Talbot to Shore, now located as Folder D, item (8)); followed by Folder D, item (5).
  • 'Mus. 1187 (10*)'. Now Folder D, item (7).
  • 'Mus. 1187 (11)'. Mould: 'The Pipe'. Now Folder 10.
The microfilm then continues with the remaining contents of Mus. 1187, in random order. Readers should be alert to the fact that this ordering no longer corresponds to the current arrangement of the sheets and fascicles in Mus. 1187 itself.


Readers interested in matching Burney's description of Mus. 1187 (as published in Book III of his General History of Music (London, 1789; p. 602, footnote d) may find the following transcription useful. Wherever possible, Burney's remarks are cross-referenced to the current location of the materials he cites.

The relationship between Burney's description of Mus. 1187 and the manuscript's current structure is complex. For that reason, the transcription below is designed to be read alongside a full list of the manuscript's current arrangement into folders, using two Web browsers open simultaneously and placed side by side. Open list of folders in a new window. To locate the current whereabouts of the contents itemized by Burney, use one browser to follow Burney's description, the other browser to locate items in their current folders.

  • Burney 1: 'Theory of organ-building, in which are given the measures and proportions of its several parts and pipes': = Folder 1 (Talbot).
  • Burney 2: 'Principles of ancient Greek Music': = Folder 2 (Aldrich).
  • Burney 3: 'Memorandums made in reading ancient authors, relative to several parts of Music and its effects': Folder 3 (Talbot).
  • Burney 4: 'Uses to which Music was applied by the Ancients': = Folder 4 (Talbot).
  • Burney 5: 'Epithalamium': = Folder 6 (Talbot).
  • Burney 6: 'Excerpta from Pere Menestrier. Proportions of instruments. Exotic Music': this included Folder 5 (Menestrier) and Folder 15 ('Exotic Music'); (both Talbot).
  • Burney 7: 'Argument of ancient and modern performance in Music': = Folder 7 (Talbot).
  • Burney 8: 'Theory of modern musical instruments': = Folder 8 (Talbot).
  • Burney 9: 'ditto': = Folder 9 (Talbot).
  • Burney 10: 'ditto': = Folder 10 and possibly also 10a (Talbot).
  • Burney 11: 'ditto': = Folder 11 (Talbot).
  • Burney 12: 'Miscellaneous papers concerning different points in the theory and practice of Music, in great confusion': this included Folder 12 (Talbot), and possibly much of the material now in Folders B-E1.
  • Burney 13: 'Another bundle of papers on the construction of the organ': = Folder 13 (Talbot).
  • Burney 14: 'Ditto, on different instruments. The above in the doctor's own hand-writing': = Folder 14 (Talbot).
  • Burney 15: 'Fragment of a treatise on counterpoint, in a different hand. Theoria Musices. Transcribed by an amanuensis': this included Folder B, items (8) and (9) (not Talbot).