Some unobserved information about
John Dowland, Thomas Campion
and Philip Rosseter




Kenneth Sparr


Stockholm, Sweden 1987
Updated 2015-05-01


Kenneth Sparr

During my research on the history of the lute in Sweden I happened to stumble across some information about John Dowland, Thomas Campion, and Philip Rosseter, which seems to be unknown to modern biographers of these composers.(1) As a matter of fact this information has been available in print since 1929, when Hanns Bauer published his article 'Alt-Elbinger Stammbücher in der Stadtbücherei', (i.e. libri amicorum from old Elbing in the City Library).(2) However it is more surprising that Hans-Peter Kosack could have overlooked Bauer's article, as he must have had this particular journal before his eyes when he prepared his interesting, and valuable study, Geschichte der Laute und Lautenmusik in Preussen.(3) It is even more odd, considering that Kosack devotes an entire chapter of his study to English influences on Prussian lute music. Hanns Bauer gives a thorough description of the libri amicorum, but only one of them is under consideration here: the 'Stammbuch des Hans von Bodeck'. Before going into further detail it is appropriate to give a short background.


The town of Elbing , now Elbląg in Poland, is situated near the Baltic in the former German province of East Prussia. Elbing was founded by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century, joined the Hanseatic League, and was its most important town in Prussia until well into the 14th century, when it was surpassed by Danzig (Gdańsk). Between 1550 and 1650 the town enjoyed a new era of prosperity. By 1580 it had become the chief East Prussian port in trade with England. Quite a few Englishmen and Scotsmen settled in Elbing, and took an active part in the daily life of the town.


Hans von Bodeck (1582-1658) belonged to an old and prominent family in Elbing. His grandfather was mayor and his father councillor of the town. Like many other young men from wealthy families, Hans was sent on a tour through Europe in 1597, to study, and to establish valuable connections with people of importance. The tour is well documented in Bodeck's liber amicorum, which follows the form common at the time: autographs, proverbs, devices, and drawings by people he met. The book contains no fewer than 256 entries, and covers the period from 1597 to 1609. Bodeck visited different parts of Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, England, and France.

Bodeck's stay in England lasted from April 1602 until September 1604, and considering the active trade between England and Elbing he had good reasons to stay so long. The second part of 1602 Bodeck spent at the University of Cambridge, but in January 1603 he moved to Oxford. In his book are to be found entries from Oxford, for example those made by 'Rob. Willughbeus' and 'primus in Academia Publica Bodleriana Bibliothecarius Thomas James'. There are no entries between March and the middle of August 1603, and it is possible that he then was visiting other parts of England, perhaps London to witness the funeral ceremonies of Queen Elizabeth I and the entry of King James I. For the latter occasion the Council of Elbing had sent two delegates with a double mission: on the one hand to pay respect to the king, and on the other to oppose the transfer of English trade from Elbing to Danzig.


In March 1604 Bodeck left Oxford for London, where he stayed until September. One of Bodeck's missions there might have been to inform his home town about the point of view of the Polish envoy, Stanislaus Czikowski, concerning Elbing as a port for English goods. During Bodeck's stay in London he certainly met John Dowland, Thomas Campion and Phillip Rosseter, as they all made entries in his book. The first was Dowland, whose entry was dated 9 May 1604, and consisted of a short piece of music for the lute, together with the autograph 'Jo. Dowlande'. This confirms that Dowland did not leave England for Denmark before this date. (4) Perhaps it was Dowland who introduced Bodeck to Campion and Rosseter. The three composers all lived in the same district of London. The entry of Campion or 'Campianus' is dated 24 August 1604, and it is more extensive than that of Dowland. The text is as follows:


Thy fair youth fram'd for delight,
Fitt to slepe in bedds of flowers,
To thy thirstye watchful spright
Stricktly measures all thine howres;
And thy ages steward playes
To enrich thy elder dayes.

Fruitful to thy native soile,
Joyful to thy home-borne frends,
Through the peril, and the toyle,
Which both sea and land attends,
Mayst thou safe arrived be,
Myndful of thy love and me.


Underneath the music the following is written:


Hinc avertite turba Musicorum
Curiosa nimis graves ocellos;
Facit delitias suo sodali
Mollis, et sibi Campianus impar.


Campion's song was probably written specifically for Bodeck, and this, as well as the meaning of the text, implies that they had developed a rather close friendship. The entry also makes it clear that Campion was in London at this time.(5) Unfortunately Hanns Bauer gives no details about the entry by Philip Rosseter other than that it was dated 1604. However, another entry was made by a Hanns von Garyn 'in Londens Fletstreets Mr. Rosseter Haus' on 21 August 1604.


Incidentally, in September 1604 Bodeck left London for Paris, where he met the Count Christoph von Dohna-Schlobitten. The Count's brother, Achatius, bought a collection of music by Dowland and others while on a visit to London and this collection was kept at the castle of Schlobitten, situated only 15 kilometres from Elbing.(6) The rest of Bodeck's tour is of no interest in this context, and it is sufficient to mention that he later became councillor to the Elector of Brandenburg.


My original intention was to present facsimiles of the relevant pages of Bodeck's book, but unfortunately the book must be considered as lost during World War II. I have searched for it for almost a year, but without success.(7) Elbing was severely damaged during the Russian invasion at the end of World War II, the library was completely destroyed, and its collections had not been evacuated. There is, of course, a very slight possibility that Bodeck's book was dispersed and may turn up some day. However, Hanns Bauer has given a fairly detailed description of Bodeck's liber amicorum, and has thereby saved part of it for the future. In conclusion it is worth noting that surviving libri amicorum from the 16th and 17th centuries may contain valuable information for the musicologist, and it may prove worthwhile to pay more attention to them. The liber amicorum of Achatius zu Dohna (father of Achatius mentioned above), for example, contains no fewer than 52 pieces for the lute and one entry made by Valentin Bakfark.(8)


This article has been published in The Lute Vol. XXVII (1987) pp. 35-37.


1. I have examined the following: Diana Poulton, John Dowland (London, revised edn. 1982); John Ward, 'A Dowland Miscellany', Journal of the Lute Society of America, 10 (1977); Edward Lowbury, Timothy Salter and Alison Young, Thomas Campion: Poet, Composer and Physician (London, 1970); Percival Vivian (ed.), Campion's Works (Oxford, 1909); Walter R. Davis (ed.), The Works of Thomas Campion (London, 1969); Nigel Fortune, 'Philip Rosseter', Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Kassel, 1963), pp. 930ff; Christian Vlaam, Rosseters in Holland', Journal of the Galpin Society, 11 (1958), pp. 63ff; Nigel Fortune, 'Philip Rosseter and his Songs', Lute Society Journal, 7 (1965), p. 7ff; Ian Harwood, 'Rosseter's Lessons for Consort of 1609', Lute Society Journal, 7 (1965), pp. 15ff. Back

2. Elbinger Jahrbuch, 8 (1929), pp. 151ff. All information on Hans von Bodeck and his book is taken from this article. Back

3. Hans-Peter Kosack, Geschichte der Laute und Lautenmusik in Preussen (Würzburg, 1934), p. 94. Back

4. Poulton, John Dowland, p. 62. Back

5. Lowbury, Thomas Campion, p. 24, says that nothing is known about Campion's activities in England between 1602 and 1606. Back

6. Kosack, Geschichte, pp. 44ff; cited by Ward, 'A Dowland Miscellany', p. 144. Most of the collection was acquired by Robert Spencer when it was sold at auction in 1984 and is now kept at the Royal cademy of Music in London. Back

7. I have made inquiries to the following institutions in Poland and West Germany: Wojewódzka i Miejska Biblioteka Publiczna, Elblag; Powiatowa Biblioteka Publiczna, Elblag; Archiwum Panstwowe w Elblagu, Elblag; Wojewódzka Biblioteka Publiczna, Gdansk; Biblioteka Gdanska PAN, Gdansk; Archiwum Panstwowe w Gdansku, Gdansk; Biblioteka Glowna Uniwersytetu Mikolaja Kopernika, Torun; Biblioteka Universytecka, Lódz; Geheimes Staatsarchiv, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin; Stadtarchiv, Bremerhaven; Johann-Gottfried-Herder-Institut, Marburg; Haus der Deutschen Ostens, Düsseldorf; Truso-Vereinigung, Hans W. Hoppe, Ahlhorn. I have also made enquiries to the editors of the journals Zeitschrift für Ostforschung and Der Archivar. Back

8. Hans-Peter Kosack, 'Die Lautentabulaturen im Stammbuch des Burggrafen Achatius zu Dohna', Altpreussische Beiträge: Festschrift zur Hauptversammlung des Gesamtvereins der deutschen geschichte- und Altertums-Vereine zu Königsberg Pr. Vom 4. Bis 7 September 1933 (Königsberg, 1933), pp. 48ff. Back


© Kenneth Sparr