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Masses from the Renaissance:

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VatS 51

VatS 51: Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Cappella Sistina 51


Size: 554 x 414, ii + 214 + i paper folios, consists of three layers; the principal layer ff. 6v-183r, the second layer 2v-5r and 183v-196r, the third layer 196v-215r; blank folios: 1v-2r, 5v-6r, 17v-18r, 36v-37r, 88v-90r, 122v-123r, 195v-196r; modern stamped foliation on lower right-hand corner, no index.

Scribes: principal layer: 2 main scribes, possibly master (from the north) and pupil (from the Italian peninsular), sometimes collaboratively, several other emendation Hands; second layer (added sometime after 1483): one different scribe also found in VatS 35; third layer (added ca. 1487): one further different scribe who also wrote the bulk of VatS 35 and part of VatS 41.

Place and Brief History: Rome (rejected), Naples (still possible), Florence (rejected), Venice (rejected), Ferrara (current), Rome (revisited); most likely was not copied for the papal chapel although was part of the Vatican library by 1487 but probably earlier and may have been presented to Pope Sixtus IV (pontificat 1471-1484); may have been owned by cardinal Giovanni d'Aragona, youngest son of Ferrante I of Naples. d'Aragona visits Ferrara several times between 1479 and 1483 and may have been the means through which the source (and its companion VatS 14) reached Rome. VatS 51 and VatS 14 are the earliest extant choirbooks in the Cappella Sistina collection of the Vatican library.

Date: the principal layer: mid 1470s; the second and third layers added after source reached Rome.

Covers and Decoration: Brown leather pasted over thick cardboard with original covers, also of brown leather, pasted on each inside; tool embossed, rectangle around the perimeter with a smaller rectangle joined at each corner by a diagonal line with outer one and a lozenge figure inside the smaller rectangle all in style of the earlier decoration; midway between the joins of each corner of the rectangles is a large brass stud (those on the right-hand side of the back cover now missing) with a central stud of the same size in the middle of the lozenge; at each corner of the smaller rectangle there is a smaller stud; on the unbound side are two substantial brass clasps. Other than for the opening of Caron's Missa Jhesus autem transiens, all the masses in the principal layer open with an illumitaed K for the discantus, some of these also contain miniatures ff. 37v, 55v, 81v, and 90v; calligraphic initials throughout and further decorated with several styles of flower motifs and faces, (no calligraphic initials for the second layer); illumitaed initials for the third layer characterised by additional faces drawn in and around the initial; coat of arms of Pope Innocent VIII central to the K opening the discantus of Obrecht's Missa Salve diva parens (f. 196v); coat of arms of Pope Innocent XIII with date 1722 at beginning of the source included at the time of a rebinding.


Rex Eakins (ed.), An Editorial Transnotation of the Manuscript Capella Sistina 51, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Città del Vaticano, Liber Missarum, The Institute of Mediaeval Music, Ottawa, Canada, vols. 1-6, 1999-2006.

Herbert Kellman (ed.), Census-Catalogue of Manuscript Sources of Polyphonic Music 1400-1550, Renaissance Manuscript Studies I, vol. IV, American Institute of Musicology, Hänssler-Verlag, Neuhausen-Stuttgart, 1988, pp. 51-52.

Adalbert Roth, Studien Zum Frühen Repertoire Der Päpstlichen Kapella Unter Dem Pontifikat Sixtus' IV. (1471-1484): Die Chorbücher 14 und 51 Des Fondo Cappella Sistina Der Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Città del Vaticana Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1991.

Richard Sherr (ed.) Masses For The Sistine Chapel: Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Cappella Sistine, MS 14, Monuments of Renaissance Music (general ed. Bonnie J. Blackburn), vol. XIII, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London, 2009.



Credo in unum deum
[Firminus?] Caron
[Missa] Acueille mala belle
[ Missa] Pour quoy
[ Missa] O gloriosa [regina mundi]
[Missa] Et super nivem dealbabor
[Firminus? Caron]*
[Missa] Jhesus autem transiens
[Missa] Basse danse
[Missa] Vinnus vina
[Firminus?] Caron
[Missa Sanguis sanctorum]
[Missa] Lardant desir
[Missa] O crux lignum triumphale
[Missa] Dung aulter amer
philippon [Basiron]
[Missa] Regina celi
Gaspar [van Weerbeke]
[Missa] O venus bant O venus brant
[Missa] Orsus orsus
[Missa] Sela sans plus
[Missa] Je nedemande
Gloria in excelsis deo [de beata Virgine]
Credo in unum deum [de village]
[Gaspar van Weerbeke]
Credo in unum deum [de tous bien]
Credo in unum deum à5
Credo in unum deum
Credo in unum deum à4
[Missa Salve diva parens]

* The composer's name Caron is transmitted a little left of centre at the top of folio 47v

Folio information and variants:

ff. 2v-36r look (18 pages)

ff. 90v-104r look (8 pages)

ff. 104v-113r look (5 pages)

ff. 155v-165r look (6 pages)

ff. 183v-215r look (17 pages)

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