Tinctoris’s Reading Practice: De inventione et usu musice and his Greek Authorities

Jeffrey J. Dean (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham City University)

First published: 18 December 2020
Last revised: 18 December 2020

I am grateful to Bonnie Blackburn, Leofranc Holford-Strevens, and Stefano Mengozzi for valuable comments on a draft of this article. Early versions were presented at the conference ‘Johannes Tinctoris and Music Theory in the Late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance’, London, 9 Oct. 2014, and at the 43rd Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference, Brussels, 7 July 2015.

[1]Writing about music in Tinctoris’s time had three main divisions: theorica musice,1 practica musice, and laus musice: the theory, practice, and praise of music. The ‘theory of music’ strictly concerned the proportional study of musical pitch relations, conceived as a branch of mathematics rather than physics; with the rise of the physical science of acoustics, the category became extinct by the eighteenth century, from which time ‘music theory’ has meant more loosely any technical writing about music, especially its practice. A synonym for theorica musice was musica speculativa, literally ‘speculative music’ but better translated ‘investigative music’, emphasizing the importance of the monochord as an experimental instrument (separate from its practical use in teaching singing, though not unrelated). The ‘practice of music’ in the late Middle Ages applied to pedagogical texts on musical notation in particular, typically divided into musica plana or cantus planus, the notation of pitch (so called because plainchant notation did not specify rhythm), and musica mensurata or cantus mensurabilis, the notation of rhythm according to the mensural system. The ‘praise of music’ was sometimes a free-standing genre, but it often served to introduce the subject in writings chiefly devoted to theory or practice; it dealt with aspects of music not covered in ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ as just defined, and often went under the rubric of the ‘defense of music’ (defensio musice), ‘usefulness of music’ (utilitates musice), or ‘effects of music’ (effectus musice). Augustine had transmitted to the Christian West Plato’s mistrust of music’s power not only to elevate the soul but also to distract the mind, inflame the passions, and weaken the character,2 so churchly writers regularly had to defend the place of music in church services and to vindicate its usefulness, which they tended to do by citing its positive effects.

[2]Although we categorize Tinctoris as a ‘music theorist’, the writing he is best known for belongs to practica musice. Most of his surviving writings constitute a meta-treatise on the practice of music: in the ordering of the nine treatises included in all three of his ‘collected writings’ manuscripts, he covered musica plana first in the Expositio manus [Exposition of the (Guidonian) hand] and De natura et proprietate tonorum [On the nature and distinctive character of the tones, i.e. modes], moving on to musica mensurata in De notis et pausis [On notes and rests], De regulari valore notarum [On the regular value of notes], De imperfectione notarum [On the imperfection of notes], De alteratione notarum [On the alteration of notes], De punctis musicalibus [On musical dots], De arte contrapuncti [On the art of counterpoint], and the Proportionale musices [Proportional of music]. The vast majority of the definitions in his famous dictionary, the Diffinitorium musice [Definitory of music] are duplicated in these treatises, so it can be considered with them, and it is this material by which Tinctoris is now best known.

[3]Tinctoris did claim to have written on theorica musice:

Hinc nonnulla cum super his que ad theoriam tum que ad praxim huius insignis peritie attinent opuscula condidi.3

Hence I have composed some little works on the things that pertain not only to the theory but also to the practice of this excellent skill.

[4]But unless he meant his Proportionale (which is about rhythmic proportions rather than pitch relations), all that survives from his pen that can be ascribed to ‘theory’ proper are a few stray details on the proportions of pitch intervals; there must have been much more in his tantalizing Speculum musices [The mirror of music], to which he referred the reader of his Expositio manus and which must have addressed musica speculativa, but which has utterly vanished.4

[5]Tinctoris also wrote extensively in the genre of the laus musice. This is the mode of the Prologues to most of his practical writings, and also of two complete texts.5 The Complexus effectuum musices [An encompassing of the effects of music] was completed after Tinctoris arrived in Naples in the early 1470s and before the middle of 1475, when his pupil and dedicatee, Beatrice d’Aragona, began to style herself ‘Queen of Hungary’.6 The typical intellectual texture of the laus musice tradition was that of the medieval florilegium, with a preponderance of extracts from biblical, classical, patristic, and medieval texts held together by a little authorial exegesis,7 but in the Complexus Tinctoris transcended the character of the florilegium as a source of quotations or an aide-mémoire to present a coherent and nuanced treatment of the function of music in his culture; I would describe the work as a kind of sociology of music.8

[6]In the final piece of writing he left to posterity, Tinctoris enormously broadened his scope. In De inventione et usu musice [On the invention and use of music]9 the frequent quotations (as well as much invaluable first-hand testimony) are called in support of a sustained historical argument for the enduring, universal importance of music in society. Its composition and transmission are thorny issues. Tinctoris himself selected six chapters to be printed in a booklet of eight leaves (thirteen printed pages) in folio format, and in the Prologue, addressed to the musician Johannes Stockem, he declared that he had recently completed the whole;10 but the booklet presents no imprint, and the Prologue is dated only ‘quinto kalendas Februarii’ (28 January) without the year. Ronald Woodley has shown on typographical grounds that the printing was executed in Naples by Mathias Moravus between January 1481 and March 1483. Jeffrey Palenik has pointed out that this can be narrowed down by one of Tinctoris’s eyewitness accounts: his observation of Turkish tambura playing followed not merely the Turkish occupation of Otranto in August 1480 but the Neapolitan reconquest on 6 September 1481.11 Tinctoris’s Prologue must therefore have been dated on 28 January 1482 or 1483.

[7]Not long afterwards (the paper seems to date from the 1480s or 1490s), perhaps in Cambrai,12 five further chapters were excerpted in nine pages of the manuscript miscellany Cambrai, Médiathèque municipale, MS A 416. Just as in the printed excerpts, the copyist was scrupulous about giving the precise book and chapter of his extracts. From this we can see that the whole comprised no fewer than 69 chapters; the close of book V, chapter xxiv does read as though it might have been the very end of the whole treatise, but there are no such indications in the last transmitted chapters of books I–IV, so the total was probably greater.13 De inventione et usu musice was certainly longer than Tinctoris’s longest treatise surviving complete, De arte contrapuncti with 63 chapters. And we have lost more than five-sixths of it.

[8]The sole existing copy of the printed chapters of De inventione was acquired about the middle of the nineteenth century by Carl Proske, choirmaster of Regensburg Cathedral, historian of church music, and founder of the Proske Music Library; it had previously belonged to the Stadtbibliothek in Augsburg. Proske transcribed the whole text, and in 1917 Karl Weinmann printed the text from Proske’s transcript, providing what for its time was an excellent introduction and two series of annotations identifying some of Tinctoris’s sources (I suppose the second series to be Weinmann’s own; the first, evident in the transcript, is due to several earlier hands, none of them Proske’s).14 Ronald Woodley in 1985 established the circumstances in which the printed edition was produced, and brought to light the Cambrai manuscript, making a number of valuable observations about the contents of the excerpts. Woodley notes in particular that book I, chapter v, entitled ‘De effectu’ [On the effect], is a version of Tinctoris’s Complexus effectuum musices, including twenty-seven effects rather than twenty (though condensing the whole by more than two-thirds) and organizing them with ‘a greater sense of logic and polish … and a greater sense of continuity for the reader’.15

[9]In 2009 Rob Wegman published a brilliant article on De inventione, which he calls ‘Tinctoris’s magnum opus’. At the heart of his treatment is the discovery that Tinctoris had cribbed some of the effects of music given in both his Complexus and De inventione from the thirteenth-century Humbert of Romans, fifth Master General of the Dominican Order, using six of Humbert’s seven effects and adopting most of Humbert’s citations in support of them.16 Adding to this the pointed observation that the version in the ‘Effect’ chapter of De inventione lacks both of the legal and many of the classical citations in the Complexus effectuum, and that ‘In the rest of the Cambrai excerpts, in fact, all citations are either from the Bible or the Church Fathers’,17 Wegman concludes that

there can be only one possible solution to the problem … to posit that De inventione was a long-term project. In that case, we would have some of the earliest drafts in the Cambrai manuscript, and some of the finished portions in the 1480s print. … there is no difficulty in assuming that the Cambrai texts date from very early in Tinctoris’s life. It could well have been as early as the 1450s, when he had barely received the degree of master of arts, and probably had little knowledge of, or interest in, humanism.18

[10]Wegman shared his article before publication with Palenik, who in his doctoral dissertation of 2008 contributes much intelligent material of his own to erect Wegman’s conclusion into an established fact, which he uses as the basis of further argument.19 At the end of this article, I am going to contest that conclusion; I shall demonstrate that it is untenable. This should not detract from the enterprise of Wegman and Palenik in trying to recover evidence of Tinctoris’s intellectual development or the insightfulness of many of their observations.

[11]I shall be examining the way Tinctoris used the sources he quoted so extensively in the Complexus effectuum and De inventione. Fundamental to my approach is the example provided by Christopher Page, who has shown how important it is to identify not only the texts Tinctoris quoted but also how he knew them: knowing that Tinctoris used Aristotle’s Politics in the twelfth-century translation of William of Moerbeke (perhaps furnished with a commentary) and not the fifteenth-century translation of Leonardo Bruni tells us something important about his intellectual makeup; knowing that he used Augustine’s City of God at first hand and not (as he might well have done) through the medium of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae tells us something else important.20

[12]In this spirit, I want to begin by exorcizing a mistake that has bedevilled Tinctoris scholarship for decades. In any modern edition of the Latin Vulgate Bible, James 5:13 reads, ‘Tristatur aliquis vestrum? oret. Aequo animo est? psallat.’ (Is any of you sad? Let him pray. Is he cheerful in mind? Let him sing.)21 The manuscripts of Tinctoris, both in the Complexus effectuum and in the ‘Effect’ chapter of De inventione, and also the Tractatus de duplici ritu cantus ecclesiastici in divinis officiis [Treatise on the twofold usage of church music in divine services] by Egidius Carlerius (Gilles Carlier) give it thus: ‘Tristatur aliquis vestrum? Oret equo animo et psallat.’ (Is any of you sad? Let him pray patiently and sing.)22 The difference lies in one letter (est/et) and the attendant punctuation, but the sense is dramatically altered. In his edition of the Complexus Albert Seay corrected the quotation to agree with the Bible, and so did Reinhard Strohm and Donald Cullington in theirs; Strohm goes so far as to say, ‘Assuming a fairly detailed knowledge of the Bible among our authors, when they share the impossible reading of James 5. 13, … may we not speak of a conjunctive variant linking the two treatises?’23 Sean Gallagher, relying on these editions, observed,

Here we have a good example of a brief quotation functioning as a mnemonic tag. At first glance this hardly seems an apt illustration of music’s power to drive away sadness. On the contrary, we are told to sing (psallat) when ‘in good heart’. … in Carlier’s work, too, this excerpt from James appears ill-suited to the context in which it is mentioned. Recognition of the appropriateness of the citation depends on a knowledge of the passages in James that surround these lines, where the subject is precisely that of suffering and how the faithful should respond to it. In other words, what both Tinctoris and Carlier presuppose in the reader is a memoria that includes this longer passage, either the actual text (ad verba) or its general outline (ad res). The excerpt is thus a mnemonic pointer, the sort of prompt for memoria that [is] so characteristic of florilegia.24

I beg to differ. Both Carlerius and Tinctoris said what they meant, and their quotations are entirely apt without expecting the reader to supply the wider context.

[13]In the first place, what Carlerius and Tinctoris wrote was what the Vulgate Bible actually said. The textual note on this verse in the critical edition of the Vulgate with ‘a brief apparatus’ by Robert Weber reads ‘13 est c G ] et cet., errante archetypo’. In other words, ‘est’ is a reading originating with the Sixto-Clementine edition of the Vulgate, first published in 1592, and it was an emendation on the basis of the original Greek text; every earlier source used in the edition read ‘et’, which was an error in the parent source of the entire textual tradition. The verse as transmitted by Carlerius and Tinctoris was also the text as known to Augustine, to the Glossa ordinaria, to Nicholas of Lyra and every patristic or medieval commentator on it.25 There is no ‘conjunctive variant’ separating Carlerius and Tinctoris from the rest of the Middle Ages.

[14]More to the point, what Carlerius and Tinctoris wrote was what they meant to be read, and the text as they gave it illustrates their points perfectly well on its own. As we shall see, Tinctoris’s citation practice embraced a continuum between verbatim quotation at one extreme and thoroughgoing recombination at the other; sometimes his quotations represent a particular branch of the textual tradition, not necessarily the ‘best’, and often he interpolated words or phrases for clarity’s sake.26 He did not quote a text simply to show that he knew it, but in order to convey a meaning, and if that meaning is altered by ‘correcting’ the quotation to agree with what (we think) the text quoted actually says, we are falsifying Tinctoris’s text. In the online edition of his writings, I have corrected Tinctoris on the basis of his cited sources only when what appears in the sources of his own text makes grammatical or semantic nonsense; if his version makes sense, I presume that is the sense he intended and record the ‘correct’ reading as a variant.

[15]Wegman takes a dim view of Tinctoris’s borrowing from Humbert of Romans. He writes, ‘this looks like an open-and-shut case of plagiarism’, and goes on to say, ‘a debt of this magnitude, and to a thirteenth-century author at that, would surely have been an embarrassment for a humanist with Tinctoris’s ambitions’.27 This is to misconstrue Tinctoris’s intellectual method. He was not a modern researcher. We usually treat our sources as witnesses to be interrogated; for Tinctoris they were chiefly authorities to be invoked. It was immaterial whether a quotation originated from direct study of a primary text, from one’s memory or commonplace book, from a florilegium, or from another work of original learning. Authority is seldom enhanced by the exposure of its mediation through another text; on the contrary, this would weaken its force by directing readers’ attention to the wrong place (think of how the giants of critical theory are invoked in our day). Page deftly sketches the culture of authority with a few strokes,28 but for the most part he takes it as understood, as indeed it ought to be by anyone dealing with medieval and early-modern learning. Even such a fully-formed classicist as Raphael Brandolinus in his De musica et poetica of 1513 [On music and poetry, a defense of improvised Latin song] treated his citations as authorities and concealed any mediation between the original texts and his use of them.29

[16]Humbert is not the only predecessor Tinctoris relied on in his Complexus effectuum; he was also plainly indebted to Carlerius’s De duplici ritu cantus ecclesiastici, as Strohm and Palenik have shown,30 and on a smaller scale to many other sources. But his method in adopting material from Humbert is in evidence throughout his work in the laus musice mode, and he was in good company. In fact, he may not have borrowed directly from Humbert. I know of two other writers who used Humbert’s list of the effects of music without attribution (there were almost certainly others): the fourteenth-century Carthusian Ludolph of Saxony, in his commentary on the Psalms, and the fifteenth-century Dominican Cardinal Juan de Torquemada, in his commentary on Gratian’s Decretals (one of the central texts of canon law).31 Each of them presented the borrowed material as a continuous block, and they differed only slightly from Humbert. One of the details varied by Torquemada was to number the effects, ‘Primus est … Secundus est’, and so on, as Tinctoris did in both the Complexus effectuum and the ‘Effect’ chapter of De inventione. Tinctoris, who paraded his legal qualification, could well have known Torquemada’s commentary on canon law, and I incline to think he probably drew Humbert’s list of effects from Torquemada rather than Humbert himself: the single citation Torquemada added to Humbert (Augustine, Confessions X.xxxiii.50) appears in both Tinctoris’s texts in the Sixth effect. In any case, Tinctoris not only did more with Humbert’s effects than Humbert had done, he did much more than Ludolph or Torquemada did.

[17]I should like to offer a few other instances to show how Tinctoris worked his intertextuality, letting his authorities engender other authorities. The first two show him using this method in both the printed and manuscript excerpts of De inventione, the next what an ancient pedigree the method had. In book II, chapter xx (printed), we have the following:

… Nam hec Augustinus in sermone de Nativitate dicit, ‘Audite quemadmodum tympanistria nostra cantaverit: ait enim, “Magnificat anima mea Dominum”’. Sequiturque paulo post, ‘Eve planctum Marie cantus abstulit.’ Immo, quod et ipse Christus Jesus … hac in via cecinerit, patres nostri in tertio concilio Toletano congregati catholice declararunt. Siquidem (ut legimus in canone de hymnis, De consecratione distinctione prima, qui in illo concilio editus fuit) hymnos canere salvatoris exemplo docemur, eo quod Dominus (Mattheo Marcoque testantibus) antequam in montem Olivarum post cenam eius supremam exiret, cum discipulis hymnum dixisse perhibeatur.

… For Augustine says this in his sermon on Christmas, ‘Hear how our woman timbrel player sang; for she says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord”’. There follows a little later, ‘Mary’s song took away Eve’s lament.’ Nay more, our fathers congregated in the Third Council of Toledo declared universally that even Christ Jesus himself … sang in this way. … Since indeed (as we read in the canon on hymns, De consecratione, first distinction, which was published in that council) we are taught to sing hymns by the saviour’s example, because the Lord (witness Matthew and Mark), before he went forth to the mount of Olives after his last supper, is said to have said a hymn with the disciples.

Denique, preter id quod et discipulos almi Jesu Deum canentes cum eo laudasse preallegata manifestat auctoritas, Nicolaus de Lyra in illum versiculum Psalmi sexagesimiseptimi, ‘Prevenerunt principes coniuncti psallentibus, in medio iuvencularum tympanistriarum’, scribit apostolos cum virginibus Deo dicatis laudes Domini in ecclesiis cecinisse.
… Quo evenit ut, ex illo tempore hactenus, utriusque sexus et omnium ordinum et conditionum hominibus, semetipsos (iuxta consilium Apostoli) commoventibus ‘in psalmis, hymnis, et canticis spiritalibus’, divini cantus usui fuerint, et nunc sint, atque (donec orthodoxa fides permanebit) procul dubio erint.

And then, besides that which the aforementioned authority shows that the disciples of dear Jesus, singing along with him, praised God, Nicholas of Lyra writes, on that verse of Psalm 67[:26], ‘Princes went before joined with singers, in the midst of young damsels playing on timbrels’, that the apostles together with virgins dedicated to God sang praises to the Lord in the churches. … From which it happens that, from that time to this, divine songs have been used, and now are, and (so long as the orthodox faith shall last) doubtless will be, by people of both sexes and every rank and condition, stirring up one another (according to the advice of the Apostle [Eph. 5:19]) ‘in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles’.32

[18]I have italicized the portion of the first passage in which Tinctoris gives two quotations from Augustine’s ‘Christmas’ sermon (with slight verbal alteration), followed in boldface by an extended reference to Gratian’s Decretals. In the second passage, the italicized text is a paraphrase of the biblical commentary of Nicholas of Lyra, but it turns out that Nicholas went on to provide Tinctoris’s first quotation from Augustine (though not the second); the boldface biblical passage that follows a little later is cited in the same canon that Tinctoris had referred to earlier.33 Although Tinctoris didn’t need Gratian to teach him what was in the Bible, and he followed up Nicholas’s quotation by consulting Augustine directly, he was ready to be prompted by the texts he was using in the first place.

[19]In book I, chapter xi (manuscript), there is evidence of a different kind of dependence:

Hinc ubi scribitur in Apocalipsi, ‘Dignus est agnus, qui occisus est, accipere virtutem, et divinitatem, et sapienciam’, Glosa dicit, ‘Omnium rerum cognitionem sicut verbum sibi unitum.’ Unde et Ricardus eum asserit omnia scire que Deus scit.

Hence, where it is written in the Apocalypse, ‘The lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power, and divinity, and wisdom’, the Gloss says, ‘The knowledge of all things, like the word united to him.’ Whence also Richard affirms that he [Christ] knows all things that God knows.34

[20]The biblical quotation is Revelation 5:12a, and the gloss is from the Glossa ordinaria on that verse;35 there is nothing remarkable about this conjunction of texts, which anyone might have put together. Woodley guessed that ‘Richard’ might be the famous Parisian Scholastic Richard of St Victor, but was unable to find the passage in his writings.36 In fact the statement attributed to Richard is a lightly paraphrased proposition from the Sentences of Peter Lombard, the foremost theological textbook of the late Middle Ages: ‘Scit ergo anima Christi omnia quae Deus scit in Verbo Dei’ (Therefore the mind of Christ knows all things that God knows in the Word of God).37 Producing a commentary on the Sentences was a rite of passage for late-medieval theologians, and any number of Richards wrote them (I know of Richard Fishacre, Richard FitzRalph, Richard of Middleton, and Richard Rufus, to start with Englishmen), so we might imagine Tinctoris was thinking of one of these; the commentary would certainly have included the proposition commented upon.38

[21]But ‘Richard’ is a red herring, though probably not a deliberate one. The source for the whole sequence, Bible – Gloss – Sentences, is Thomas Aquinas, De veritate [On truth]: ‘Sed contra est quod dicitur Apoc. v super illud “Dignus est agnus accipere sapientiam”, glosa “omnium cognitionem” quae Deus novit; ergo anima Christi scit omnia quae Deus scit.’39 (But against [the preceding argument] is what is said in Revelation chapter 5 on the verse “Worthy is the lamb to receive wisdom”, gloss “the knowledge of all things” that God knows; therefore the mind of Christ knows all things that God knows.) ‘Ergo’, ‘therefore’, makes the final term appear to be the author’s own (note that Aquinas does not blush to appropriate Lombard’s words); I conjecture that Aquinas’s formulation was borrowed without attribution by someone named Richard (or even that Aquinas may have borrowed the whole from Richard), and that it was in Richard’s text, not Aquinas’s, that Tinctoris found it. And of course he looked up the verse in the Bible and its gloss (or had them in his memory), and expanded the quotations.

[22]Another peculiar attribution of Tinctoris’s demonstrates the antiquity of his culture of borrowing, and provides a useful pivot to our next focus of attention:

Porro ‘lyram’ (Heradostenis poete Greci testimonio) ‘primum a Mercurio fuisse inventam hoc modo dicunt. “Quom Nilus regrediens in suos meatus varia in campis reliquisset animalia, relicta etiam testudo est. Que postquam putrefacta fuisset, et nervi eius remansissent extenti inter corium, percussa a Mercurio sonitum reddidit.” Ad cuius speciem lyram ipse fecit.’

Furthermore, ‘they say that the lyra’ (witness the Greek poet Eratosthenes) ‘was first invented by Mercury in this manner. “When the Nile, retreating into its banks, left behind various animals in the fields, a tortoise was likewise left behind. Which, after it had rotted, and its sinews remained stretched within the shell, when struck by Mercury it gave back a sound.” In this shape he made the lyra.’40

[23]An annotator of Proske’s transcript recognized that ‘Heradostenis’ must be Eratosthenes, poet, natural philosopher, and Librarian of Alexandria,41 but the texts referenced, his Hermes [Mercury] and Catasterismi [Constellation myths], do not seem to be pertinent. The surviving fragments of Hermes make no reference to how Mercury invented the lyre, though the instrument is of central importance, and if Tinctoris had known the fragments he would probably have cited them for Eratosthenes’ relation of the eight strings of the lyre to the eight spheres of the heavens (ll. 15–17).42 The Catasterismi has come down to us in the form of a prose epitome assembled from updated summaries of excerpts of his original poem, made to supplement Aratus’ Phaenomena, another Greek poem on the constellations. Section xxiv, on the constellation Lyra, says merely, ‘It was first fashioned by Hermes [Mercury] from a tortoise and the cattle of Apollo’.43

[24]Eratosthenes is another red herring. As the nested sets of (editorial) quotation marks in the excerpt above indicate, Tinctoris was quoting nearly verbatim but without attribution from the Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, and Isidore had quoted verbatim but without attribution from the ancient commentary on Vergil’s Georgics by Servius.44 Tinctoris cited both Isidore and Servius’ commentary on the Aeneid explicitly in other places,45 and it is clear that in this case he depended on Isidore; so why did he cite Eratosthenes?

[25]The most likely place Tinctoris might have got Eratosthenes’ name is the Poetic astronomy of Hyginus, one of the principal sources during the Middle Ages for ancient mythology. Hyginus stated, ‘The Lyre was placed among the stars for this reason, as Eratosthenes says, that first made by Mercury from a tortoise, it was passed to Orpheus’.46 Tinctoris would have observed that the next words in Isidore after those he quoted were, ‘and passed it to Orpheus’, and he may have inferred that Hyginus (who did not relate any of the other details given here) had condensed a longer passage in Eratosthenes that Servius and Isidore had given more fully.47

[26]Tinctoris chose not to cite Hyginus or Eratosthenes for the lyre’s having been placed among the stars. For this he invoked the authority of a much more unusual text, the Astronomica of Manilius:

Et quoniam fere omnes (potissimum autem poete qui ab ea lyrici vocantur) lyra passim utebantur, tantum honoris ei mathematici attribuerunt ut et sideribus eam intersererent. Unde Marcus Manilius in suo Astronomico versus hos elegantissimos condidit:

And since almost everyone (but especially the poets who are called ‘lyric’ from it) used the lyra widely, the mathematicians [i.e. astrologers] accorded it so much honour that they even inserted it among the stars. Whence Marcus Manilius fashioned these most elegant verses in his Astronomica:

Et Lyra deductis per celum cornibus inter

Sidera conspicitur, qua quondam ceperat Orpheus

Omne quod attigerat cantu, manesque per ipsos

Fecit iter domuitque infernas carmine leges.

Huic celestis honos similisque potentia cause:

Tunc silvas et saxa trahens, nunc sidera ducit.

And Lyra with its horns drawn out through the sky among

The stars is seen, with which Orpheus once took captive

All that he reached with his singing, and through the shades themselves

Made his way and overcame with his song the decrees of hell.

To it [belong] heavenly honor and power similar to its cause:

Then drawing woods and rocks, now it leads the stars.48

[27]Manilius was not part of the common classical heritage of the Middle Ages, like the ancient poets Tinctoris quoted most frequently – Vergil, Horace, Ovid. Poggio Bracciolini had brought to light the Astronomica, among many other unknown classical texts, in 1417 during his sojourn at the Council of Constance.49 The fifteenth-century manuscript tradition was entirely Italian, although it began at Constance and Basel, and copies made their way as far as Esztergom, where the humanist archbishop, János Vitéz, collated his against another in 1469, and Nuremberg, where the astronomer Regiomontanus (Johann Müller of Königsberg) printed the first edition about 1473.50 If Tinctoris depended on a printed copy of Manilius, however (and I shall argue below that he probably did), it must have been from the Bologna edition dated 20 March 1474. Both the Nuremberg edition and that printed in Naples about 1476 give the first word of line 328, the penultimate verse of Tinctoris’s excerpt, as the better reading ‘Hinc’ [hence], whereas Tinctoris has ‘Huic’ [to it] as in the Bologna edition.51 He cannot have used the version of the text commented upon by the humanist astrologer Lorenzo Bonincontri and printed in Rome in 1484: it reads ‘Huic’ in line 328, but ‘manisque’ rather than ‘manesque’ in line 326, and Bonincontri thought Manilius’ praenomen was Gaius, not Marcus; furthermore, although Bonincontri had been active in Naples from the early 1450s until 1475, his work on Manilius was carried out from 1475 in Florence.52

[28]For Tinctoris to quote Manilius was an explicit declaration of allegiance to the culture of the Italian Renaissance. If we did not have De inventione et usu musice, we might guess from his writings that he had never left the North; such humanism as his other treatises demonstrate (mostly in their Prologues) is the kind that permeated the Low Countries during his lifetime, with its focus on Ciceronian prose. Woodley has shown, however, that Tinctoris acquired even his Ciceronianism in Italy, and his appropriation of classical models evolved during his time there.53 In De inventione we see not only a broader concentration on the Bible and Christian authors than had been apparent in his earlier writings, but also a change in the way Tinctoris addressed himself to Greek literature.

[29]In all of Tinctoris’s writings before the very end of De arte contrapuncti, his citations of Greek authors fall into two clear groups. Aristotle and Galen he knew at first hand, using (as Page has noted) the Scholastic translations into Latin that had been current since the twelfth century: William of Moerbeke’s version of Aristotle’s Politics and Gerard of Cremona’s of Galen’s De pulsu. (If it seems odd that he did not use Leonardo Bruni’s recent translation of the Politics, we might observe that he had probably acquired his own copy at university in the Scholastic translation, and afterwards considered that it was good enough for his purposes and easier to use through familiarity; or perhaps he had excerpted it in a commonplace book, even easier to consult.) With just one exception to be discussed presently, all other Greek citations were used by Tinctoris at second hand, sometimes from references in Aristotle, more often from ones in Roman authors: not only Boethius, but also Cicero, Macrobius, and Pliny (crediting them only occasionally).54 This dichotomy is still apparent before the last two chapters of De arte contrapuncti, completed on 11 October 1477. But that seems to have been a turning point for Tinctoris and his relation to the preceding six decades of discovery and recovery of ancient literature.

[30]Manilius is not the only Latin author who appears in Tinctoris’s writings for the first time in De inventione. But the increase in range in his use of Greek authors is more dramatic and clearer to see. In his famous chapter on varietas, the penultimate chapter of De arte contrapuncti, Tinctoris cited a new text (for him) of Aristotle’s:

Hinc et Philosophus in Ethicis varietatem iocundissimam rem esse, naturamque humanam eius indigentem asserere non dubitavit.

Hence also the Philosopher did not hesitate in the [Nicomachean] Ethics to declare variety to be a most pleasant thing, and human nature in need of it.55

[31]Two things are striking about this citation. In the first place, this is – uniquely for Tinctoris – a misrepresentation of what Aristotle had written:

Variatio’ autem ‘res omnium dulcissima’ secundum poetam, propter nequitiam quandam. Ut enim nequam homo facile variat, sic et natura varietatis indigens. Non enim simplex neque equabilis.56

Variation’, however, is the sweetest thing of all’ according to the poet [Euripedes, Orestes 234], owing to a certain badness; for as the bad man varies easily, so also the nature that needs variety. For it is not simple or moderate.

[32]Secondly, the Latin translation lying behind Tinctoris’s paraphrase is precisely that of Leonardo Bruni: instead of variatio and its mates, the Scholastic translation by Robert Grosseteste has transmutatio, and the other humanistic translation by Johannes Argyropulus mutatio.57 Tinctoris returned to the Ethics in the ‘Effect’ chapter of De inventione (the 24th effect, one not in the Complexus effectuum); here again his dependence on Bruni is clear, although this time, much more typically, he did no violence to his source’s meaning:

Philosophus enim in secundo Ethicorum libro scientissime probans omnem virtutem ac artem ex iisdem ac per eadem fieri atque corrumpi, citharedos in exemplum adducit, qui ex pulsatione cithare boni ac mali fiunt.

The Philosopher, indeed, in the second book of the [Nicomachean] Ethics, most knowledgeably showing that every virtue and skill is produced and undone by the same things, cites the example of harpers, who are made good and bad by playing the harp.58

Insuper omnis virtus atque ars ex iisdem ac per eadem fit corrumpiturque. Ex pulsatione enim cithare boni et mali fiunt citharedi.59

Moreover, every virtue and skill is produced and undone by the same things. For by playing the harp harpers are made good and bad.

[33]In De inventione Tinctoris drew on Greek authors for historical information not only about ancient Greece but also Rome. Staying with the lyra, in book IV, chapter v, on players, he quoted Diodorus Siculus:

Et ab hoc eam accepit Orpheus (iuxta poetarum carmina) filius eius, qui (teste Diodoro Siculo) ‘melodia excessit omnes quorum extat memoria, et suavitate cantus ceteris clarior fuit’.

And from him [Apollo] his son Orpheus (according to the songs of the poets) received it [the lyra], who (witness Diodorus Siculus) ‘excelled in melody all whose memory exists, and was more celebrated for the sweetness of his singing than the rest’.60

[34]This is lightly adapted from Poggio’s translation of the first ‘six’ (properly five) books of the Bibliotheca historica [Historical library], printed under the title Historiae priscae [Ancient histories], first in Bologna in 1472, then twice in Venice before 1483:

Orpheus thrax genere filius Iagri doctrina melodiaque ac poesi excessit omnes, quorum extet memoria. Et enim poema mirandum edidit, et suavitate cantus praecaeteris clarus adeo fama excrevit, ut melodia feras arbores ad se audiendum allicere diceretur; …61

Orpheus, Thracian by origin, son of Oeagrus, excelled in learning and melody as well as poetry all whose memory exists. And indeed he produced a wonderful poem, and so celebrated a fame sprang up for the sweetness of his singing compared with the rest that he was said to attract with melody wild beasts [and] trees to hear him.

The Venetian editions appear to be reprints of the Bologna editio princeps; there is no variation among the three in this passage to indicate which Tinctoris may have used.

[35]There is a particular concentration of citations of Greek authorities in the two chapters excerpted from book III of De inventione, on the pipes (tibie) and pipers (tibicines). They include an interesting group of three second-hand references to different details of a single anecdote about Pericles, Alcibiades, and the piper Antigenidas, taken from the nineteenth book of the Commentaries of the woman miscellanist Pamphile and paraphrased in Latin by Aulus Gellius (Attic nights XV.xvii), another Latin author cited by Tinctoris for the first time in De inventione; the first time Tinctoris cites ‘Aulus Gellius after Pamphile’ (De inv. III.viii.3), the second time Pamphile alone (III.ix.35), and then shortly afterwards Gellius alone (III.ix.38). Though a secondary authority, Gellius had substantial prestige in his own right as a ‘new’ ancient author.62 Just before the last two instances, Tinctoris’s quotation (III.ix.33) of Thucydides is also drawn, without acknowledgement, from Gellius (Attic nights I.xi.1–2).

[36]Tinctoris cited Plutarch for the ritual use of pipers in ancient Rome:

Apud gentiles item, presertim apud Romanos, tibicines (institutione Nume Pompilii qui eos summo dignabatur honore) sacrificiis inserviebant. Quoquidem honore ‘postea per tribunos spoliati’, ab Urbe discedentes Tibur se contulerunt. Sed quoniam ‘religione tangebantur animi, quod sine tibiis rem divinam facerent, eos quamprimum’ (ut Plutarchus in Problematibus suis post alios plures historicos scribit) ‘revocandos censuerunt’.

Among the pagans also, especially among the Romans, pipers (by institution of Numa Pompilius, who deemed them worthy of the highest honour) served at sacrifices. When they were ‘afterwards robbed by the tribunes’ of that honor, leaving the City [Rome] they gathered in Tibur [Tivoli]. But since ‘they were touched by religious scruples, because they performed the divine service without pipes, they voted’ (as Plutarch writes in his Problems after many other historians) ‘to recall them as soon as possible’.63

[37]Giovan Pietro d’Avenza’s translation of the texts now known as Quaestiones romanae and graecae [Roman and Greek questions] was first printed in Venice about 1477 under the title of Problemata [Problems]; Tinctoris condensed Plutarch’s treatment by a mixture of paraphrase and direct quotation:

Quid est quod idibus Januariis permissum est ut tibicines muliebri habitu Urbem lustrent? An propter causam quae dicitur? Magnis enim ut videtur fruebantur honoribus, quibus illis Numa Pompilius propter sanctitatem ac deorum cultum contulerat. His postea per tribunos consulari potestate spoliati Urbe excesserunt; quos cum vehementer requirerent, nam religione tangebantur animi quod sine tibiis rem divinam facerent, quamprimum revocandos censuerunt. Sed cum accersiti non apparuissent, ac Tibure quo se initio contulerant manere velle se dicerent, libertus quidam clam magistratus adiit, seque eos reducturum pollicitus est …64

Why is it that on the Ides of January it is permitted for pipers to go about the City in women’s clothes? Is it for the reason that they say? For it seems they used to enjoy great honours, which Numa Pompilius had conferred on them on account of piety and the worship of the gods. Afterwards robbed of these by the tribunes with consular power, they withdrew from the City; when they [the pipers] were eagerly sought after, for they [the tribunes] were touched by religious scruples because they performed the divine service without pipes, they voted to recall them as soon as possible. But when those summoned did not appear, and said they wished to stay in Tibur, where they had first gathered, a freedman secretly approached the magistrates and promised to bring them back with him.

[38]The rhetorical method applied throughout Plutarch’s Quaestiones, ‘Why … ? Is it because … ?’, was most famously adopted in the Aristotelian Problemata,65 whence the fifteenth-century title. Tinctoris’s expression ‘after many other historians’ probably denotes actual knowledge rather than mere extrapolation from Plutarch’s ‘they say (dicitur)’: elsewhere he quoted other passages from Plutarch’s Latin sources, Livy (IX.xxx.5–7; first decade paraphrased at De inv. II.xix.19, fourth cited at II.xix.28), Ovid’s Fasti (VI.653–92; cit. II.xix.20–22, III.ix.24–8, IV.iv.26–8, IV.v.42–7), and Valerius Maximus (II.v.4; cit. I.v.77, III.ix.9, III.ix.34), but he preferred to cite the Greek author here.

[39]Tinctoris drew further material from Appian’s Punic wars:

Preterea, ut in libro Appiani ‘qui Lybicus inscribitur’ comperi, tibicines quos ‘Lydios appellant’ cum citharedis, ‘succincti coronisque aureis redimiti suo quique ordine canentes psallentesque’, ‘ad Etrusce similitudinem pompe’, ‘imperatorem preibant’ triumphantem. Quid verbis moror?

Moreover, as I have learned from Appian’s book ‘that is entitled The African’, pipers who ‘are called Lydian’ together with citharodes, ‘wearing belts and golden crowns, each in his order singing and playing’, ‘in the manner of Etruscan processions’, ‘used to march before the triumphing general’. Why make a long story of it?66

[40]The recombination of fragments quoted from Pier Candido Decembrio’s translation, printed in Venice in 1477, is more complex here, but Tinctoris has even quoted the form of the translation’s title verbatim:

Appiani Alexandrini sophistę Romanorum liber incipit qui Libycus inscribitur. … Scipio post hęc ex Libya in Italiam profectus universas copias classe traduxit, Romamque ad triumphum reversus est. … Imperatorem lictores pręibant purpureis amicti vestibus, tum citharedorum ac tibiarum turba ad Etruscę similitudinem pompę. Hi succincti coronisque aureis redimiti suo quique ordine canentes psallentesque prodibant. Hos Lidyos appellant67

Here begins the book of the Romans by Appian the Alexandrian sophist that is entitled The African. … After this Scipio set out to transport all his troops by ship from Africa to Italy, and returned to Rome to a triumph. … Lictors dressed in purple clothes used to march before the general; also a chorus of citharodes and pipes in the manner of Etruscan processions. These would advance wearing belts and golden crowns, each in his order singing and playing. They are called Lydian

[41]Incidentally, the rhetorical question at the end of Tinctoris’s passage would have been instantly recognizable as a slightly altered (perhaps misremembered) tag from Terence’s Andria [The Andrian girl];68 it is amusing that Tinctoris, like many other medieval and early-modern writers, drew his allusion to Terence from the first scene of the first act of the first play in the collected works, a standard grammar-school text.

[42]Tinctoris referred to the story of Alexander’s feast in a very sketchy fashion in the Sixteenth effect of his Complexus effectuum musices: ‘Hinc Thimotheus tibicen Alexandri Magni, illum ab epulis in bellum sepenumero provocasse legitur.’ (Hence we read that Timotheus, piper of Alexander the Great, again and again stirred him up from banquet to war.)69 He might have found this at the very beginning of Dio Chrysostom’s first oration On kingship, translated by Gregorius Tiphernas and printed in Venice about 1470:

[F]erunt aliquando Thimotheum musicum cum se Alexandro Regi ostentare vellet perite admodum ac musice ex illius more fuisse modulatum, non mollem sane nec tardum quendam modum, nec ex iis illum qui ad remissionem segnitiemque perducunt, sed ipsum ut ego arbitro orchum qui ‘Palladis carmen’ dicitur. Allexandrum vero tanquam numine correptum mox ad arma prosiluisse, adeo illum tibiae numerus ac musici cantus vehementia concitavit.70

They say that one time the musician Timotheus, when he wished to show off to King Alexander, played very skilfully and musically after his [Alexander’s] character, not at all a soft or slow piece, nor one of those that would lead to relaxation or sluggishness, but rather, I suppose, that Orthian one71 that is called ‘the song of Pallas’. [They say], too, that Alexander soon afterwards sprang up to arms like one possessed, so much did the rhythm of the pipe and the melody of the musician excite him with impetuousness.

[43]But Dio did not say what Alexander was excited from; that detail, and even the word for ‘banquet’, epulae, is supplied in the Address to the young, on how they might profit from Greek literature by Basil the Great, whose translation by Leonardo Bruni was first printed in Venice about 1471/2 and reprinted six times before 1483:

Quippe aliquando quom in Alexandri convivio eum cantum quem Phrygium appellant modularetur, usque adeo regem excitasse dicitur ut ad arma capienda prosiliret, atque iterum ad comessationes epulasque reduxisse modulatione mutata …72

In fact he [Timotheus] is said, when one time at a feast of Alexander’s he played the tune that they call ‘Phrygian’, to have roused the king so far that he sprang up to take arms, and afterwards by changing the melody to have led him back to the revels and the banquet.

[44]Basil, not Dio, is quoted and paraphrased straightforwardly in De inventione III.ix.37 (JT:CTW):

Qui ‘quom in Alexandri magni convivio Phrygium modularetur cantum, usque adeo regem excitasse dicitur quod ad capienda arma prosiliret’, atque modulatione variata sic animum eius pacasse ut ad epulas iterum rediret.

Who, when ‘at a feast of Alexander the Great he played a Phrygian tune, is said to have roused the king so far that he sprang up to take arms’, and by varying the melody to have so pacified his mind that he returned again to the banquet.

[45]Tinctoris may have been thinking of both Basil and Dio in the Complexus effectuum, since he wrote ‘sepenumero’ (again and again) whereas each of them described a single event, and not obviously the same one. (The spelling of the name ‘Thimotheus’ in G may come from Dio, but I would not put much weight on this.) But there is no evidence of Dio in De inventione.

[46]The only other Greek author Tinctoris used at first hand before he wrote De inventione was Homer. He must have had access to a Latin translation of the Odyssey when he was completing De arte contrapuncti, not only to have referred explicitly in the Conclusion to ‘a “divine” musician, as I have learned Demodocus was called by Homer’, but also to have imitated in the Prologue (probably written last) Homer’s treatment of the song of the Sirens.73 Only two Latin versions of the Odyssey were in existence by Tinctoris’s time. He may have used the virtually word-by-word translation made for Petrarch by Leontius Pilatus in the early 1360s, in which Odyssey VIII.43–5 and XIII.28–9 are rendered thus:

Vocateque divinum cantorem
, cui certe deus ultra dedit cantilenam delectabilem, quo animus commovet canere.

ipsis canebat divus citarista Dymodocos, populis honoratus.74

And call the divine singer
, to whom beyond [others] the god has granted delightful song, so that [his] spirit moves [him] to sing.

to them sang the godlike citharist
, honored by the people.

But the ‘more elegant prose’ of Francesco Griffolini, executed about 1460, is effectively identical insofar as Tinctoris’s brief allusion is concerned:

et divinum cantorem Demodocum, cui deus canendi artem perquam suavem largitus est, accersite, ut, quod sibi animus suaserit, canat!

and summon the divine singer Demodocus, on whom the god has bestowed an exceedingly sweet skill of singing, that he may sing what his spirit has impelled him to!

Inter edendum divinus citharedus et in omni populo celebris Demodocus canere.75

During the eating the divine citharode, renowned among all the people, Demodocus was singing.

[47]Griffolini’s translation was not printed until 1510, and that in Strasburg; Pilatus’s survives in only seven complete manuscripts, and only excerpts have been published even in modern times.76 Unless a fifteenth-century printing of one or the other has vanished without a trace (by no means a remote possibility), Tinctoris must have known the Odyssey in manuscript.

[48]The question arises, if Tinctoris was able to refer to the Odyssey when completing De arte contrapuncti, why did he not draw upon these references and others in De inventione? There were obvious opportunities in the surviving chapters on ‘who is read to have sung among the pagans’ (II.xix) or ‘To what use the lyra has been put by the pagans’ (IV.v). Perhaps he briefly had a borrowed manuscript in his hands in late 1477 and had to return it before he could excerpt it into his commonplace book.

[49]Two things should be obvious by now. In the first place, Tinctoris didn’t read Greek.77 Every one of Tinctoris’s first-hand references to Greek authors in De inventione was drawn from a particular humanistic Latin translation (it is an interesting accident that every translation was made by a different humanist). His citations sometimes distort the meaning of the Greek original, but (with the sole exception of Aristotle on varietas) that was the fault of the translators; as shown above, no matter how extensively he may have recast his quotations, Tinctoris faithfully transmitted the sense of the translations he consulted.

[50]Secondly, with the sole exception of the Odyssey, every one of Tinctoris’s first-hand Greek authorities was in print in its Latin translation no later than about 1477. He probably used such printed copies consistently. It may be argued that he could have consulted the translations in manuscript in the Neapolitan royal library.78 That Tinctoris did have access to the royal library is shown by his specifying ‘libro teste regio’ (witness a royal book) in his citation of a detail in a Credo by Binchois.79 But the very fact of his doing so on this single occasion implies that all his other musical citations were drawn from non-‘royal’ books, his own or perhaps those of the royal chapel. It would have been tedious for Tinctoris to have acknowledged the royal library each time he depended on it for literary citations, if that had been at all frequent. But in that case, we might expect him to have acknowledged his debt in general, as a mark of royal favor or in praise of his patron King Ferrante, to whom he dedicated two of his most substantial treatises, the Proportionale musices and De arte contrapuncti. But there is not a word either particular or general in any of Tinctoris’s writings to indicate that he found his Greek authorities or any other non-musical text in the royal library.

[51]More to the point, most of the texts discussed here cannot be shown to have been in the royal library. There is no record at all of Manilius, Plutarch’s Roman questions, or Dio Chrysostom; the copies of Appian and Basil’s Address to the young came into the library too late. Probably most telling, however, is a book that was in the royal library: a copy of Griffolini’s translation of the Odyssey, attested in a list of books pledged by King Ferrante for a loan in 1481.80 If Tinctoris did use this manuscript, he did not have easy access to it, or (as discussed above) he would have made more use of it. It seems much more likely that he depended for his other citations on printed copies in his own possession. He could have afforded to do so: the average price for a printed copy of the classics in Venice in the mid 1480s was 1 lira 18 soldi, roughly equivalent to a day’s salary.81 Since he seems to have begun to acquire his ‘new’ authors just before the completion of De arte contrapuncti on 11 October 1477, they probably do not represent a gift for his dedication of that treatise to Ferrante, in the form of or invested in books. How Tinctoris came to start collecting his authorities remains a mystery.

[52]Except for Aristotle, all the Greek authors cited in De inventione et usu musice that I have discussed so far appear in the printed excerpts of 1482×3. The most important author, however, the one on whom Tinctoris drew most often, appears twice in the manuscript excerpts from book I: Eusebius of Caesarea. The first such citation is in chapter v, ‘On the effect’, in an effect that is not included in the Complexus effectuum:

Septimo: Pueros et adolescentes ad virtutem disponit. Eusebius post Platonem: ‘Quoniam anni teneriores rationem virtutis non suscipiunt, ludo atque cantu preparantur.’

Seventhly: [Music] disposes children and youths to virtue. Eusebius, after Plato: ‘Because those of somewhat tender years do not submit to the argument of virtue, they are prepared by sport and song.’

There is another in chapter xi:

Preterea (si Eusebio credimus) sanctissimi prophete hymnos et odas inspiratione divina composuerunt, ut …

Moreover (if we believe Eusebius) the most holy prophets composed hymns and poems by divine inspiration, such as [there follows a catalogue of biblical songs].82

[53]Woodley could trace neither of these, although he perceived a connection between the latter and the introduction to Eusebius’ commentary on the Psalms.83 That cannot have been Tinctoris’s source, however apt it may be, as the text was ‘grubbed out from the manuscripts for the first time’ in 1707, having previously existed as scattered fragments in a variety of Greek exegetical anthologies.84

[54]Rather, Tinctoris depended on Eusebius’ Praeparatio evangelica [Preparation for the Gospel], whose Latin translation by George of Trebizond was first printed in Venice in 1470, the inaugural publication of the great printer Nicholas Jenson.85 The two citations are drawn unambiguously from the same page of Jenson’s edition, though from different contexts:

Quoniam enim teneriores anni rationem virtutis non suscipiunt, ludo atque cantu praeparantur.

Iudaei cogebantur non alios hymnos et odas suscipere quam eas quae a spiritu sancto per prophetas essent compositae.86

For because those of somewhat tender years do not submit to the argument of virtue, they are prepared by sport and song.

the Jews were constrained to take up no other hymns and poems than those that had been composed by the holy spirit through the prophets.

[55]What Tinctoris qualified as ‘Eusebius after Plato’ is actually Plato himself, part of an extended quotation from the Laws (book II, 659e). One of the most valuable aspects of the Praeparatio evangelica to the humanists (as the translator emphasized in his preface) was Eusebius’ practice of excerpting pagan authors whose writings were otherwise unavailable, some of whom indeed are now known only from his quotations. One such text appears in book II, chapter xx of the printed excerpts of De inventione, without acknowledgement of its mediation through Eusebius:

salvator noster … ab optimis quibusque Iudeorum moribus nunquam dissensit. Unde cum apud eos (Porphirio etiam gentili viro teste) piissimi moris fuerit, ut semper comedere incipientes ac desinentes Deo, ‘qui’ (iuxta prophetam) ‘dat escam omni carni’, laudes concinerent, …

our saviour … never objected to any of the best customs of the Jews. Whence, since among them (witness even Porphyry, a pagan man) it was the most pious custom always, when beginning and ceasing to eat, to sing praises to God, ‘who’ (according to the prophet [Psalm 135:25]) ‘giveth food to all flesh’, …87

The wording is plainly drawn from George of Trebizond’s translation of the Praeparatio evangelica:

Primus autem omnium sacerdos facta oratione comedere incipit … Ita et incipientes et desinentes laudes Dei diligenter concinunt.88

First of all the priest begins to eat, having made a prayer … So both beginning and ceasing they diligently sing the praises of God.

[56]Eusebius’ source is the Neoplatonist Porphyry’s celebrated treatise on vegetarianism, De abstinentia ab esu animalium [On abstinence from the eating of animals], IV.xii; the excerpts in the Praeparatio evangelica were the principal access to the text before its first printing as such in 1547 (and are still regarded as textually more accurate than the direct tradition).89 Tinctoris was incautious in ascribing the custom to ‘the Jews’ generally, as it is clear from Eusebius’ context that Porphyry was writing specifically about the Essenes, whom he accurately portrayed as exceptionally ascetic. Nevertheless, I would emphasize the distance of this citation from the other pair Tinctoris drew from Eusebius: this is at the beginning of book IX, the others towards the end of book XII. Tinctoris did more than take a lucky dip into this lengthy text; he must have read it carefully and thoroughly. Although in the case of all the other Greek authorities discussed here we have only a single reference to each source, we should expect him to have read them with the same attention he did Eusebius and Aristotle. If we had more than a tiny fraction of De inventione, we should probably find other authors cited more than once.

[57]Here is where we must return to Wegman’s and Palenik’s thesis that the excerpts from De inventione in the Cambrai manuscript represent a much earlier state of the text than the printed excerpts of 1482×3, conceivably ‘as early as the 1450s’. This conjecture can no longer be sustained. Tinctoris cannot have been able to refer to Eusebius’ Praeparatio evangelica before it was printed in 1470. Jenson’s edition quickly made its way north and was reprinted in Cologne no later than 1473, but by that time Tinctoris was on his way to Naples, if he was not already there. We cannot be certain which edition of Eusebius he used, but it is unlikely he had access to the text when he composed the Complexus effectuum, where he might well have used these excerpts to fill out some of the briefer effects such as the Fifth and Sixth (‘music prepares for the acceptance of the divine blessing’, ‘music stirs the feelings to devotion’). 90 A similar argument applies to Bruni’s translation of Aristotle’s Ethics. He probably acquired Eusebius and Aristotle along with most of his Greek authorities after approaching the completion of De arte contrapuncti in the autumn of 1477.

[58]If the Cambrai excerpts of De inventione represent the same state of the text as the printed excerpts, as we must now accept, how should we explain the aspects of the manuscript excerpts that led Wegman to consider them so much earlier? First and foremost, I would emphasize that we are comparing groups of five and six chapters respectively out of more than seventy; we lack so much more than we have that it is very dangerous to generalize about the relation of the surviving fragments to the whole. We have no reason to suppose that the far greater portion of De inventione passed over by the Cambrai scribe resembled at all closely what he chose to copy.

[59]Furthermore, the printed excerpts seem to declare themselves as integral chapters: each is headed with a chapter title followed simply by ‘chapter [number]’, preceded by ‘ex secundo librorum’ (from the second of the books), ‘ex eodem libro’ (from the same book), ‘ex tertio libro’ (from the third book), ‘ex libro quarto’ (from the fourth book). The formula in the manuscript excerpts varies, however: ‘ex libro 20 … capitulum vii’ (from the second book, chapter seven), ‘ex .xii. capitulo’ (from the twelfth chapter), ‘Ex libro quinto. capitulum xxiiii’ (From the fifth book, chapter twenty-four), ‘Ex capitulo .v. primi libri. De effectu’ (From the fifth chapter of the first book, On the effect), ‘Capitulum .xi. primi libri’ (Chapter eleven of the first book). Judging by their contents, too, it is probable that some of these are not just chapters excerpted from the books but excerpts from the chapters; in particular, Woodley believes ‘the text as presented [of the chapter ‘On the effect’, I.v] is clearly an editorial, and possibly scribal, abridgement of Tinctoris’s original’.91 If this is so, the scribe, who was evidently compiling a theological commonplace book, might well have put his thumb on the scales, emphasizing the religious element in the ‘Effect’ chapter more than Tinctoris had done himself. He had no need to do so with book I, chapter xi on ‘acquiring the musical art through ideas imparted by God’ or book V, chapter xxiv on music in heaven.

[60]Woodley notes ‘the theological and devotional elements of De inventione* which the Cambrai fragments emphasise, but which were already apparent in the Moravus print’, and he characterizes ‘the [Cambrai] scribe’s interests [in the manuscript as a whole] in the realms of theology, metaphysics and ethics’.92 It is by no means unheard of for humanist writers to concern themselves with biblical, patristic, and theological texts, to a greater degree in some writings than in others. Petrarch famously went through a shift from an almost anti-Christian classicism in his earlier years to a concern with Christian ethics in his later ones. What we see in Tinctoris’s De inventione is not so extreme. There was no appreciable change of method between the Complexus effectuum in the early 1470s and De inventione nearly a decade later; rather, Tinctoris enormously increased his range. Who his sources were is much less important and interesting than how he used them. Eusebius and Basil are Fathers of the Greek Church, indeed, but the works of theirs Tinctoris drew upon are not primarily religious but treat the proper use of Greek philosophy on the one hand and literature on the other.

[61]If we examine all of Tinctoris’s citations, from whatever source, something really valuable emerges. (We should exclude the manuscript excerpts from book II, chapters vii and xii. Without knowing how these poems were contextualized, we cannot infer Tinctoris’s purposes in including them in his text.) Of the remaining three chapters in the Cambrai manuscript and the six printed ones, book V, chapter xxiv stands out as being about ‘the heavenly use of music’. It hints that more of book V may have emphasized moral and spiritual modes of discourse. But it also emphasizes by contrast that all the other surviving chapters – even book I, chapter v ‘On the effect’, with all the moral and spiritual effects listed there, and chapter xi on divine inspiration – handle all their citations as historical sources. Even the Bible, Augustine, ‘the theologians’ (a periphrasis for Thomas Aquinas, but Tinctoris also used Albertus Magnus), and the texts of canon law are drawn upon strictly for historical evidence. Tinctoris did not address religious texts differently in any way from classical texts, though they had to be applied to different materials.

[62]The printed excerpts show an expressly articulated historical typology with four fields, which can also be observed implicitly in the manuscript excerpts from book I: the ‘Hebrews’ (Hebrei), almost entirely documented by the Old Testament; the ‘pagans’ (gentiles), chiefly documented by the Greek and Latin classics but also by Eusebius and Basil; the ‘Christians’ (Christiani), documented by the New Testament and all manner of Christian texts; and ‘now’ (nunc), documented out of Tinctoris’s own experience. Tinctoris did not draw a sharp boundary between the last two categories, and as often as not his present day is not named explicitly in De inventione; instead, the present tense substitutes for the past tenses that predominate elsewhere. At the end of book III, chapter ix, and especially at the end of book IV, chapter v, Tinctoris adds a layer of ethnographic detail, briefly summarizing the functions of pipe music generally and the use of plucked string instruments by Catalan women, Italian peasants, and Turks. It is important to recognize that Tinctoris did not adopt the three-part humanistic periodization pioneered by Petrarch and Leonardo Bruni, in which the fifteenth-century present was seen as part of a ‘rebirth’ of antiquity, and the ‘Middle Ages’ were first articulated as such and presented as a deterioration.93 Though acutely conscious of chronological evolution (which he characterized most clearly in the Prologue to De arte contrapuncti, with its panegyric to living and recent composers), Tinctoris did not periodize history, but rather differentiated it anthropologically into forms of life.

[63]Tinctoris’s humanism was not dyed in the wool like that of the translators of his Greek authorities, but more like a coat of paint over a prehumanist foundation. His older contemporary Johannes Gallicus, a pupil of the great humanist teacher Vittorino da Feltre, did grasp the humanistic periodization, entitling his chief work De ritu canendi vetustissimo et novo [On the most ancient and the new way of singing, 1458×64] and demonstrating that Boethius had described an ancient tonal system utterly different from the medieval modes. Gallicus declared, ‘Truly, France bore me and made me a singer; but Italy … a grammarian [i.e. humanist] and musician.’94

[64]Most of the instances put forward of humanistic influence on Tinctoris’s writings are exaggerated or forced. Claude Palisca suggested that Tinctoris’s reference to ‘our modern philosophers’ who disproved the notion of a real music of the spheres included his Neapolitan contemporary Giovanni Pontano, who merely failed to mention the idea, and Palisca had much to say about a text of Coluccio Salutati’s that Tinctoris cannot have known. Reinhard Strohm compares Tinctoris’s practical treatises ‘to the corpus of grammatical and rhetorical works by Gasparino Barzizza (d. 1430)’, but they are simply a vast expansion of the medieval pattern of musica plana et mensurata; Strohm’s assertion that ‘De inventione … could not have been written without the experiences of Italian humanist writing about contemporary reality, pioneered by such men as Leon Battista Alberti’, ignores the abundant evidence of contemporaneity in medieval writings about music. In On painting, in fact, Alberti cited only a single post-classical painting, one already over a century old; Tinctoris’s far more plentiful citations of contemporaneous music follow in the footsteps of music theorists back to the thirteenth century.95

[65]In all his literary citations, whether from texts known for centuries or those newly recovered by the humanists, we consistently see Tinctoris reading not for evidence, to be interrogated critically, but for information, handled with the reverence due authority. He reserved his critical acumen for musical compositions, where it is justly famous. In that sphere he expressed his confidence with conventional, transparently false modesty (‘Johannes Tinctoris, least among those professing music’ or ‘the law and the mathematical sciences’) and occasionally with a self-assurance verging on arrogance.96 But humanism is the profession of ‘humane letters’ (litterae humaniores). In this sphere Tinctoris professed himself ambitious but not a member: ‘although you may judge the abilities of a singer unequal to this essay [the Complexus effectuum] because it is too high, concerning now theology, now philosophy, now poetry, you will hardly accuse me of the vice of presumption if you realize that aiming high is appropriate to virtue’.97 In the most self-evidently humanistic of his writings, his letter to Joanmarco Cinico, he insisted at the beginning on contrasting himself as ‘most unfortunate of musicians’ with Cinico as ‘outstanding glory of the philosophical life’, and at the end apologized that his letter was written ‘not by an orator but by a musician’.98 Here I think we must see not false modesty but a sincere declaration of boundaries; he never called himself even the least of humanists.

[66]Evan MacCarthy’s splendid reconstitution of the circle of humanists in Naples in Tinctoris’s time falls short of demonstrating direct contact between Tinctoris and any humanist apart from Cinico, and can only indicate the possibility, not the certainty, of the influence of any of their writings. I do not doubt that he did frequent public lectures, at least, and strove to emulate their learning. But humanistic ambitions are not humanistic pretensions, as MacCarthy recognizes. I am sure that the eruditi Tinctoris invoked repeatedly in his musical writings were, not the literary men who are MacCarthy’s real subject, but the learned (or perhaps the word is better rendered ‘experienced’ or ‘well-informed’) musici MacCarthy mentions in passing. Tinctoris did not merely call them to witness that only music under forty years old was ‘worthy to be heard’, but also whether the fourth and its compounds were concordant or not, or that an overlong discord did not make concords sweeter; he used the word repeatedly for performers. Only twice is his use of the word explicitly non-musical, and only one of those instances refers to litterati.99

[67]De inventione et usu musice is the work not of a humanist but of a superbly imaginative musician with a Northern, prehumanist education and an intellectual method that was as uncritical towards verbal texts as it was critical towards musical ones, who had been exposed to the new learning and eagerly sought out the materials it had brought to light, employing them as best he could. The manuscript excerpts from book I of De inventione are of a piece with the printed excerpts from books II, III, and IV. Tinctoris’s quotation of Eusebius in books I and II, and of Aristotle’s Ethics in book II, proves that the surviving chapters were written at the same time. We can no longer use any of De inventione as evidence for Tinctoris’s early thought or development. All that we have (alas that it is no more!) is the product of his most mature thought and writing.

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