Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music



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B-Mechelen, Stadsarchief van Mechelen, manuscript without shelfmark

This MS is one of the treasures of the town of Mechelen in Belgium, and they went to enormous trouble to allow DIAMM to photograph it in 2010. The manuscript was produced by the scriptorium of Petrus Alamire (c. 1470-1536), which began in Antwerp but moved to Mechelen some time between 1505 and 1516. Books prepared in Alamire's scriptorium survive all over the world, usually very beautifully preserved as they were nearly always created for Royal or noble patrons and were extremely highly prized. The largest collections of Alamire books today are in the Austrian National Library in Vienna, Austria, the Bibliotheque Royale in Brussels, Belgium and the University Library in Jena, Germany. The contents were both sacred and secular and they are all very large in size since they were designed so that a whole choir could sing from the one book. Alamire's books are famous for their elegant strapwork lesser initials, and fascinating 'grotesque' illuminations, showing caricature-like faces incorporated into capital letters, and real or imaginary animals. The style of the illumination is instantly recognisable even to the unpractised observer. The music in the books comes from a period of intense book production and musical activity, and includes works by most of the famous composers of the day such as Josquin des Pres and Pierre de la Rue. Alamire manuscripts became very valuable as gifts, and he produced music collections for most of the major Royal households of his day.