Lute music manuscript

This 285-leaf manuscript contains around 320 lute pieces and has been temporarily blocked from export from the UK in the hope a UK buyer can raise the £214,200 needed to buy it. 

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A UK gallery or institution would need to raise more than £200,000 to buy the music anthology.

The 285 leaf manuscript contains around 320 lute pieces in French lute tablature. The contents were likely compiled and inscribed by or for its owner in the first half of the 17th century in South Germany or Austria.  

As reported in ATG issue no 2517, the manuscript had sold at Sotheby’s September 14, 2021 sale of Early Music: Rare Music Manuscripts, Printed Music and Books from the Library of Arnold Dolmetsch (1858-1940). It was sold at a hammer price of £170,000 but including fees and taxes a UK buyer would need to pay £214,200.

The decision to temporarily prevent it from being exported by its new owner follows the advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest. The committee agreed the manuscript was vital to understanding how music spread throughout Europe during the 17th century, as well as how it was produced and replicated. 

The committee made its recommendation on the grounds the manuscript’s departure from the UK would be a misfortune because it is of outstanding significance for the study of 17th century lute music.

Lute music manuscript

The music in the manuscript was likely to have been compiled and inscribed by or for its owner in the first half of the 17th century in Germany or Austria.  

Committee member Peter Barber said: “Little research has recently been done into this large and handsomely bound manuscript album of early lute music. Fascinating and evocative, it includes work, among many others, both by the English composer John Dowland and by a brother of Galileo. The volume promises to shed much light on the circulation of music, particularly lute music, the role of music-making, and the dance, in western Europe while the Thirty Years War was raging in the early and mid-seventeenth century.

"One third of the music, amounting to 89 pieces, is not to be found anywhere else. Thoroughly pan-European, the volume was assembled by a German, mainly written out in the French style and contains music from many lands.” 

The decision on the export licence application for the manuscript will be deferred until June 13. At the end of the first deferral period owners will have a consideration period of 15 business days to consider any offer(s) to purchase the manuscript at the recommended price of £214,200. The second deferral period will commence following the signing of an Option Agreement and will last for three months.