Charles de Lespine
Lutenist and Composer


By Kenneth Sparr


Stockholm, Sweden 1999

Updated 2012-04-08



Manuscript sources
Printed sources

All versions of the 30 Lute Solos in viel ton tuning ed. by John H. Robinson

Kenneth Sparr's Homepage



Charles de Lespine is one of the many minor composers whose music appears quite frequently in both printed and manuscript sources of lute music during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Judging from his output he was a skilled composer and well acquainted with his instrument. His music fits well into the transitional era between the renaissance and baroque periods of the lute (if such a simplification is allowed). In most of his music he uses the ten-course lute and mainly in the viel ton tuning. His more ambitious extant compositions are few, a couple of preludes and a fantasia. The main part of his oeuvre consists of dances: courantes, ballets, voltes and sarabandes. A few of the ballets became very popular and are represented in many sources. According to Frédéric Lachèvre Lespine also composed songs, which are now lost.1) The main part of Lespine’s musical output seems to be located in Sweden, divided between the Finspong-collection at the Norrköping City Library and the Royal Library in Stockholm. His pieces can also be found in other important manuscripts scattered over all Europe as well as in a few printed sources. John H. Robinson has edited all of Lespine’s known pieces in viel ton. The biographical part of this article is mainly based on Lachèvre’s book about Charles de Lespine.2) Lachèvre in his turn relied heavily upon Lespine’s own account of his travels and other writings. Within the scope of this study it has not been possible to carry out research in archives. Such research would undoubtedly reveal much more facts about Lespine. However, the important result of this article is the detailed catalogue of his works for the lute with sources and concordances. Most of what is known about Lespine’s life is collected from his own writings, particularly his Brève description de plusieurs Royaumes et provinces estrangers, which is a part of his Oeuvres … (Turin 1627).3)





The title-page of Les oeu[v]res de Lespine... Turin 1627.


With a few exceptions his travel descriptions in most cases lack continuity, are very general and less informative about his person or his musical activities. It is in fact rather difficult to follow the order in which he visited the different countries or even whether he really visited them at all. As Lachèvre shows there are many similarities between Lespine’s work and Davity’s Les Estats, Empires et Principautez du Monde (first edition 1614). Lachèvre finds it very likely that Lespine used this book as a model for his own description and he even may have collected many facts from it. On the whole the reader has indeed many reasons to be very sceptical about Lespine’s voyages and it is quite possible that he collected many facts and details from other descriptions and hearsay. Unless it can be proven by independent sources almost all his statements are unsure and unreliable.4)


Lespine worked within many fields: poetry, drama and music, but he is constantly referred to as joueur de luth and this would speak in favour of him being a lutenist-musician and composer in the first place. He was probably born in Paris during the last decades of the 16th century, since he called himself Parisien. His first benefactor was Henri de Lorraine, later Duke of Mayenne. At the end of 1610 Lespine started his journey through many European countries. He left France with two letters of recommendation from Claude de Lorraine to Queen Anne of England (1574–1619), sister of the Danish King, Christian IV, and married to James I (1566–1625), and Milord de Haix (Des Hays). The latter may be identical with the Scottish nobleman James Hay (d. 1636), first Earl of Carlisle, and a Scottish favourite of James I.5)


Lespine travelled through Artois, via Brussels in the Spanish Low Countries and to the Netherlands, where among others he met the governor Maurice of Nassau (1567–1625). During his stay in Holland he may also have met his compatriot and fellow lute composer Nicolaes Vallet. It does not seem to be a mere coincidence that, in Vallet’s Het tweede Boeck Van de Luyt-Tablatuer… (Amsterdam 1616) there is a Fantasye de Maistre lespine to which Vallet added a Fantasye Responce a la prescedente. However, so far no other connections between the two lute players have been verified.


Passing through Zealand and Friesland Lespine left the continent at Middelbourg or Flessingue6) probably in 1610, arriving in England at Yarmouth. He was well received at Hampton Court by Des Hays (Lord Hay?), was granted an audience with Queen Anne and received several marks of favour. Queen Anne was well known for her great expenditure on music, masques and entertainment but also for bringing the finest writers, designers and musicians to her court.7) Lespine reciprocated the Queen’s favours with complimentary poems and music. In two of the Swedish manuscripts containing his music there is a Courante de la reine Angleterre,8) which may have been composed by him. After hearing him play the lute the Queen said, according to Lespine himself: ”You are welcome to my kingdom and you will not regret that you have come to see me”. She furthermore showed her benevolence by letting the Countess Montgomery (l’une de plus vertueses et belles dames d’Angleterre) bring him a gift of 100 jacobus for his subsistence for 15 days.9a) The next morning Mrs Dromont (Drummond?), first lady-in-waiting, through a Scottish nobleman, Mr. Pringle, informed Lespine’s host that Her Majesty wanted to bear all the costs of his stay in London. The Queen supplied him with material for two suits, one in velour and one in satin with gold lace as well as very expensive cloth for a waistcoat. She also paid 50 jacobus for a party Lespine held for the suite of the Marshal de Lavardin, ambassador extraordinaire in London.





Courante de la reine d'anglettere from the manuscript Finspong 1122 fol. fol. 4, Norrköping, Stadsbiblioteket.


However, as Jean-Marie Poirier has pointed out to me that there is a dated (1634) and close concordance with the Courante de la reine d'anglettere in the Philidor Colletion in Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. This may suggest that the Queen (la reine) in question also could be Queen Henriette-Marie, Louis XIII's sister, who married Charles I in 1625. Queen Anne died in 1619.9b)



Courante Reine Angletaire.jpg


Courante de La Reine D'Angletaire  from the manuscript Rés. F. 494 (Philidor Collection) p. 117, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale..


Lespine left England and returned to the continent possibly via Scotland and Ireland although he does not say this directly in his Brève description. There is not much of musical interest in the descriptions of these countries except for a short notice about the Irish people: Ils estiment aussi grandement les instruments de musique et, outre le sistre en usage, comme les espagnols et les italiens la guiterne.10)


In the middle of 1612 he accompanied Rheingraf Philippe Otto von Salm through Lorraine to Frankfurt, in order to be present at the coronation of Matthias as Holy Roman Emperor. This event took place on 14 June 1612. Lespine mentions that he unfortunately never had any chance during the journey through Lorraine to meet Henri II, Duke of Lorraine. In 1614 Lespine possibly stayed in Louvain where in the same year he published a tragedy in verse, La Descente d’Orphee aux Enfers, dedicated to Queen Anne of England. In this work he addressed himself in dedicatory verses to many other royal and noble personages: James I of England, Maurice de Nassau, the Princess ’d’Aumale, Anne of Lorraine and Henriette of Savoy. The book also presents verses by Lespine’s friends, celebrating his skills and virtues, from which the following lines can be quoted about him as a musician:


Lespine descrivant la gloire et le trophée
Qu’au Royaume des Morts emporta cet Orphée
Jadis tant renommé par son Luth et ses vers
Mais toy tu fais bien plus, car par la résonnance
Des cordes de ton Luth, tu as telle puissance
Que tu ravis les coeurs des Princes et des Roys.


These verses are signed I. D. S. I, which according to Lachèvre stands for Jean de Schelandre. The authors of the other poems, such as the two that follow, have not been identified:


L’un prisera ton Luth, l’autre ta Poésie,
Un tiers se trouvera d’un jugement divers.
Chacun en jugera selon sa fantaisie,
Moy, je t’asmireray pour ton Luth et tes vers.
G. D. B.


...tu sais toucher les cordes de la Lyre mélodieuse...
I. Q.


Nothing is known of Lespine’s whereabouts between 1615 and 1617. His descriptions of Lorraine and Germany do not give much information about himself. After Germany his Brève description… turns to Bohemia and Moravia. He claims that he stayed in Vienna in 1618, leaving in the last days of February for Constantinople, in the company of Baron de Molar, Ferdinand II’s Imperial ambassador. According to Lespine they travelled through Hungary, visiting Pressburg (today Bratislava in Slovakia) and Hainburg (in Austria) where he had contact with the count d’Ampierre, then general of the Imperial armies.   There are few notes of musical interest concerning Hungary and this region, but he tells us: ... de bals et ballets il n’en faut pas parler en Hongrie. Ils n’ont qu’une sorte de danse qu’ils ont accoutumé de danser avec des sabres nus14) Lespine mentions several cities that may have been passed en route to Constantinople: Gyor, Komérom (today Komérno, Slovakia), Esztergom, Buda and Belgrade. De Molar was well received by the Sultan in Constantinople. Lespine’s descriptions of this city mainly concern the Islamic faith and religious customs. From his detailed account it seems probable that he was present when the Sultan received De Molar. Lespine may have returned to Vienna before the end of May, since he mentions being in Vienna when the Bohemians threw the late Emperor Matthias’s councillors through the windows of the castle in Prague. This event took place on 23 May 1618.15) Lespine also notes that on the same night nous dansions un ballet devant sa Majesté dont le fils de M. de La Tour, chef et général des Bohèmes, en était’.16)  At this occasion he may have met Archduke Charles of Austria (1590–1624), bishop of Breslau in Silesia and brother of Ferdinand II. Lespine seems to have accompanied Archduke Charles to Prague, where Ferdinand II was crowned King of Bohemia on 1 July 1618. He described the magnificence of the feast when the election was made. Concerning the music he says:


... combien l’on entend de divers concerts d’instruments de musique durant le dîner, lequel, étant achevé, l’on commence le bal qui se fait en la manière que j’ai dit ci-devant, savoir au son des tambours et trompettes et toujours une danse allemande. Alors chaque Prince prend une Dame et chacun va selon son rang. Il est bien vrai que lorsqu’ils font quelques fêtes en leurs Cours en particulier, ils dansent au son des violons ou autres instruments, et même la plupart des danses que l’on a accoutumé de danser en France et autres lieux, mais en cérémonie, non, n’en étant pas la coutume.


[… how much one can listen to different concerts with musical instrumental during the dinner. When dinner is finished the dance commences, in the manner I have described above, that is to the sound of tambours and trumpets and always with an allemande. Then each prince chooses a lady according to her rank. In particular, it is very true that when they arrange feasts at their courts they dance to the sound of viols or other instruments. The main part of the dances which are used in France and other places, is not custom on ceremonious occasions]17)


Lespine was in Vienna in the next year, 1619, since he states that he was in the city when Emperor Matthias died (on 10 March 1619). He also noted that His Majesty usually had a grand corps de musique and that the Emperor had no other pleasures than hunting and listening to music laquelle il oblige de jour en jour, par ses libéralites, à rendre son concert meilleur.18) Lespine seems also have been present in Frankfurt am Main on 8 August 1619 when Ferdinand II was elected King of the Romans and Emperor of Germany. On 26 August 1619 the Bohemian delegates protested against the election and a civil war broke out and affected Lespine at Neisse, most probably the city of Neisse in Silesia (today Nysa in Poland), c. 75 km south of Breslau (today Wroclaw, Poland). Archduke Charles fled to Warsaw and we may suppose that Lespine accompanied his employer to Poland. They must have arrived during the last quarter of 1619. Lespine was very well received among the gentry and was very impressed by the magnificence of the Polish court. According to his Brève description… Ce Prince [prince Wladyslaw or king Zygmunt/Sigismund III] se plaît sur tous les hommes du monde à la musique’.19) He also mentions that Archduke Charles proposed a toast to him in the presence of Sigismund Wasa III and he states with a lot of self-reliance: Il n’y a [un] Prince souverain qui ne fut désireux de m’avoir, mais mon humeur a toujours été libre et desireux de voir le monde.20) According to Lespine King Sigismund offered him a yearly salary of 1000 sequins if he stayed at his court. However, the musician declined the offer and stayed only a short time at his court.


From Warsaw Lespine then travelled by boat on the Vistula to Danzig (Gdańsk), the main city in the Polish province called Royal Prussia, and noted that the town was filled with rich merchants. He left Danzig, possibly at the end of 1619 or the beginning of 1620, by boat to Sweden. His visit there seems to have been rather short, taking place some time between 1619 and 1620. Lespine states that he had not seen much of this country. The description of Sweden is succinct, superficial and impersonal. Nothing of musical interest is noted. What makes this journey more interesting is the fact that there are musical traces of him in Sweden, in the form of music in a few manuscripts. However, it is important to note that nothing proves that these manuscripts have anything to do with his visit there. In some cases it is more reasonable to believe that they have come to Sweden through other channels.





A page from the manuscript S 253, Kungliga biblioteket, Stockholm


The manuscript that one most likely could connect with Lespine’s visit to Sweden is En fransk balettmässtares och danslärares i Bruxelles, 1614–1619, anteckningsbok… (The notebook of a French ballet- and dancing-master from Brussels, 1614–1619…), which is kept at the Royal Library in Stockholm. On f. 74 of this book a M. Destourmelles is mentioned, le tres humble serviteur de tous les beaux esprits et braves cavaliers de l’honneur et amateur des Nobles et ceceis donneur.  The dancing master’s book contains several pieces of music by Lespine, notated in French lute tablature. These pieces, rapidly and carelessly written, represent only a minor part of the manuscript and reflect the current taste in music during the first decades of the 17th century. Apart from Lespine’s music the source offers several texts to ballets and songs, dance-instructions, tunes in normal notation as well as some recipes, among other things against toothache and epilepsy and for making fireworks! This manuscript is an important document in the history of dance. It is the oldest preserved diary of a dancing- and ballet-master.21) It could of course be a coincidence that the dating of the collection lies close to the possible visit of Lespine in Sweden. In any case one can only trace its provenance back to the 19th century.


More certain provenance information is to be found concerning two lute tablature manuscripts with music by Lespine in the rich Finspong collection in the Norrköping City Library. It is highly probable that either Louis de Geer the elder (1587–1652) or Louis de Geer the younger (1622–1695) were the owner of these manuscripts.22a)  One of them (Finspong 9096:11) contains the owner’s signature Ludovicus de Geer est possessor and is furthermore dated: Ay [Le Haye?] le 6 Jan- 1640. Finspong 9096:11 only contains seven anonymous pieces of music, but at least four of these can be attributed to Lespine for a simple reason: they have attributed concordances in the other lute tablature manuscript (Finspong 1122 fol). This manuscript is written in a pre-printed (staff lines and a title page) book produced by Pierre Ballard in Paris, Au Montparnasse Rue S Jean de Beauvois. On the title page is written: Balets, Alemandes et Sarabandes par L’Espine. The manuscript contains 28 pieces of music, among them a version of the fantasia published in Vallet’s lutebook mentioned earlier. There is also another connection between the two manuscripts in the Finspong collection. Judging from the handwriting they are possibly written by the same person. How these manuscripts came into the possession of Louis de Geer we don’t know, but another lute tablature manuscript in the collection gives clear evidence that de Geer visited Paris c. 1639–1640 and maybe received instruction on the lute there. Louis de Geer the elder or the younger may have acquired these manuscripts during their stay on the continent. That the manuscripts came with Lespine to Sweden seems more doubtful, as the accords used suggest a later date than his visit. A more detailed description of these manuscripts can be found in François-Pierre Goy's dissertation Les sources manuscrite de la musique pour luth... 22b)





Title-page of the manuscript Finspong 1122 fol. Stadsbiblioteket, Norrköping


From Sweden Lespine continued his travel to Denmark where he was offered a post by King Christian IV. Again he declined, according to himself, for religious reasons. However, Christian IV showed him great favours; Lespine points out that not for anything was the King the brother of Queen Anne of England. Christian IV held his court at Copenhagen and Lespine finds the garden there particularly attractive. The musician also mentions the town of Elsinore. It is strange that he doesn’t mention the rich musical life at the court of Christian IV at all although, for example, both John Dowland and Thomas Robinson had served as lutenists in Elsinore. Other foreign court lutenists were Thomas Cutting, John Stanley and Christian Brade.23a) Lespine’s account of his travels ends with Denmark and he states that he never visited Spain and in Italy only Turin. No later than 1621 he returned to France where he was again engaged by the house of Lorraine. Later on he moved to the Turin court. In this city he published his collected works, Les Oeures [sic] de Lespine… in 1627. His life thereafter is wrapped in mystery.


Lespine as a musician soon fell into oblivion and one cannot count him among the most important authors or composers of his age. For several years the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique has planned to publish his music in the series Corpus des luthistes français and when this appears we will then have a better foundation on which to judge his importance in the history of music. Strangely enough his music is not found in any French source as François Lesure and François-Pierre Goy have shown.23b) However, the number of sources in which he is represented leaves no doubt that he was of some importance in music during the first half of the 17th century. His connection to Sweden was probably of a very occassional character and it is possibly only a matter of chance that so much of his music has been preserved there. His works are scattered in many other sources, mostly English and German. He is well represented in the manuscript of Johannes Aegidius Berner of Rettenwert (Prague Ms. IV. G. 18) and in the Haslemere collection Ms. II. B. 1. The printed source containing most works by Lespine is Louis De Moy’s Le petit Boucquet Orientale from 1631. Altogether about 54 individual pieces by Lespine have so far been identified. Some of these have many concordances, which is clear from John H. Robinson’s edition of 30 pieces in viel ton.




The following is an attempt to present a complete listing of Lespine’s known lute music in different manuscript and printed tablatures.24) Concordances are given where known. A more complete listing of the works in viel ton can be found in John H. Robinson’s edition of 30 pieces in viel ton




Vallet 1616, p. 19; S-N 1122 fol. 33v–34v, ‘La rauissante, fantasie de lespine sur le premier ton’ (Tuning A)



S-S S 253, fol. 103–105 (Tuning A)



S-S S 253, fol. 106v–107 (Tuning A)



S-S S 253, fol. 107–108 (Tuning A)



S-S S 253, fol. 108–109 (Tuning A)



S-S S 253, fol. 109–109v (Tuning A)



S-S S 253, fol. 109v–110 (Tuning A)



S-S S 253, fol. 110v–111v (Tuning A); GB-Cu Ms. Nn. 6. 36, fol. 27, ‘Ballet’ (S.N.) GB-Cu Ms. Nn. 6. 36, fol. 27, 'Ballet' (S.N.); D-Dl Ms. M 297, p. 140–141, ‘Balletto’ (S.N.); GB-HAdolmetsch II B 1, fol. 34v–35v, ‘Ballet de Lepin’; D-Lem Ms. II. 6. 15, p. 310–311, ‘Ballet 38 (S.N.): D-Mbs Mus. Ms. 21646, fol. 74v, ‘Balletto del Espina’ Ibid., fol. 90v, ‘Balleto del Espina’; CZ-Pnm Ms. IV. G. 18, fol. 130v–131, ‘Ballet Lepin’; RUS-SPan, ON 124, fol. 44v–45, ‘Ballet’ (S.N.); Version for the mandore: D-Us 133b, fol. [62v–63] (n_ 88), ‘ballet. (.S.N.); Version for the keyboard: GB-Llm Anne Cromwell, n_ 7, ‘The French Balletto’ (S.N.); GB-Occc Mus. Ms. 437, fol. 12, ‘Allmayne Gottier’.; Version for dessus and basse: U K I, fol. 3v–4 / fol. 13, ‘Ballet van 1. Schopen’.25)


Volte nouvelle

S-S S 253, fol. 111v–112 (Tuning A); US-R Ms. M. 140. V. 186. S, p. 1, ‘Volte dlespine’ (Tuning A)



S-S S 253, fol. 112v (Tuning A)



S-S S 253, fol. 112v–113 (Tuning A); Other versions: D-BAU 13. 4o 85, p. 12–13, ’Courant’ (S.N.); GB-Ctc O. 16. 2, p. 125–124, ‘corranto’ (S.N.); D-Hs M B/2768, p. 43, ‘Courante Ballard a Paris A[nn]os 1615’26); GB-HAdolmetsch II B 1, fol. 50v–51, ‘Courante’ (S.N)



S-S S 253, fol. 114 (Tuning A)



S-S S 253, fol. 114v (Tuning A); Other versions: Cf. Vallet CLF I, n_ 71.


Courante nouvelle

S-S S 253, fol. 114v–115 (Tuning A)



S-S S 253, fol. 115v–116 (Tuning A); GB-HAdolmetsch II B 1, fol.126v–127, ‘Ballet’ (S.N.); CZ-Pnm Ms. IV. G. 18, fol. 95v–96, ‘Volte Lepin’



GB-HAdolmetsch II B 1, fol. 31v–32 (Tuning A)



GB-HAdolmetsch II B 1, fol. 36–37 (Tuning A); D-Mbs Mus. Ms. 21646, fol. 74v, ‘Couranta del Espine’; CZ-Pnm Ms. IV. G. 18, fol. 124v–125, ‘Courante Lepin’; Other versions: GB-Lbl Ms. Egerton 2046, fol. 37v–38, (S.T. S.N); GB-Lam Ms. 603, fol. 43v–44, (S.T., S.N.)



GB-HAdolmetsch II B 1, fol. 276v–277 (Tuning A); CZ-Pnm Ms. IV. G. 18, fol. 155v–156, ‘Courante Lepin’; US-R Ms. M. 140. V. 186. S, p. 44–45, ‘Courante d’L Espine’.



GB-HAdolmetsch II B 1, fol. 277v (Tuning A); CZ-Pnm Ms. IV. G. 18, fol. 81, ‘Courante Lepin’



CZ-Pnm Ms. IV. G. 18, fol. 23 (Tuning A); GB-HAdolmetsch II B 1, fol. 32v–33, ‘Courante’ (S.N.) (Tuning A)



CZ-Pnm Ms. IV. G. 18, fol. 57v–58 (Tuning A); CH-Bu F. Ms. IX. 53, fol. 3v–4v, ‘Courante’ (S.N.); De Moy 1631, fol. 8v, ‘Volte par Lancloe’; GB-HAdolmetsch II B 1, fol. 124v–125, ‘Volte’ (S.N.); A-Kr Ms. L 81, fol. 143, ‘Cour: Fran’ (S.N.); US-R Ms. M. 140. V. 186. S, p. 2, (S.T., S.N.); RUS-SPan, ON 124, fol. 81, (S.T., S.N)



CZ-Pnm Ms. IV. G. 18, fol. 166v–167 (Tuning A); GB-HAdolmetsch II B 1, fol. 275v–276v, ‘Courante’ (S.N.); US-R Ms. M. 140. V. 186. S, p. 46–47, ‘Courante de 1’Espine’



CZ-Pnm Ms. IV. G. 18, fol. 213v (Tuning A)


Ballet nouveau

(CZ-Pnm Ms. IV. G. 18, fol. 214 (Tuning A)



GB-Cfm Ms. Mus. 689, fol. 50v1 (Tuning A); GB-Cfm Ms. Mus. 689. fol. 51v. (S.T., S.N.); De Moy 1631, fol. 11v, ‘Courante par goutie’; GB-HAdolmetsch II B 1, fol. 274v–275, ‘Courante’ (S.N.); CZ-Pnm Ms. IV. G. 18, fol. 153v–154, ‘Courante’ (S.N.)



De Moy 1631, fol. 21 (Tuning A)



De Moy 1631, fol. 22 (Tuning A); Mathew 1652, p. 3–5, ‘Mathews Delight’27); Other versions: Besard 1617, p. 42, ‘Courante’ (S.N.); CZ-Pnm Ms. IV. G. 18. fol. 123v–124. ‘Courante IBB’28); Versions for one voice: Pieuse Alouette, I, p. 368, ‘Air de 1'Orangerie: Au coeur d’un amoureux’; Starter 1621, p. 176, ‘Stemme : l’Orang_e’29); Version for recorder: Van Eyck 1646, fol. 57–57v, ‘Orainge’



US-R Ms. M. 140. V. 186. S, p. 10 (Tuning A)



S-N 1122, fol. 2; S-N 9096:11, fol. 3v–4, (S.T., S.N.) (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 2v; S-N 9096:11, fol. 5, (S.T., S.N) (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 3 (Tuning B); S-N 9096:11, fol. 6, (S.T., S.N)



S-N 1122, fol. 4v (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 5 (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 5v (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 6 (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 6 (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 7 (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 7 (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 8 (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 8v–9 (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 9v–10 (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 10v–11 (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 11v–12 (Tuning B)



S-N 1122, fol. 13v–14 (Tuning C)



S-N 1122, fol. 14v–15 (Tuning C)



S-N 1122, fol. 15v (Tuning C)



S-N 1122, fol. 16 (Tuning C)



S-N 1122, fol. 16v (Tuning C)



S-N 1122 fol. 17 (Tuning C)



S-N 1122. fol. 17v (Tuning C)



S-N 1122. fol. 18 (Tuning C)


Courante l’Isabelle

GB-En Dep. 314, No. 23 fol. 371 (Tuning C)



S-N 1122, fol. 19v–20 (Tuning D); S-N 9096:11, fol. 6'–7, "(S.T., S.N.)".


Courante de la reine d'angleterre

S-N 1122, fol. 4 (Tuning B); F-Pn R_s. F. 494 p. 117 (Courante de la Reine d'Angletaire en 1634)9b)




without name


without title

(Tuning A)

tuning of the first six courses: G c f a d g

(Tuning B)

tuning of the first six courses: G c f a c' e'

(Tuning C)

tuning of the first six courses: G c f ab c' eb'

(Tuning D)

tuning of the first six courses : G c f a c' eb'


Manuscript sources

A-KR Ms. L 81

Austria, Kremsm_nster, Benediktinerstift, Ms. L 81
Lute tablature manuscript containing the autograph of Herrn Halwihl (Johann Sebastian von Halwihl) from Innsbruck. C. 1638–165030)

CH-Bu Ms. F. IX. 53

Switzerland, Basel, _ffentliche Bibliothek der Universit_t Basel, Musiksammlung, Ms. F. IX. 53.
Lute tablature manuscript originating from the south of Germany and partly edited in Paris. C. 1620–1645

CZ-Pnm Ms. IV. G. 18

Czech Republik, Prague, N_rodni Muzeum, Hudebn_ Oddeleni, Ms. IV. G. 18.
Lute tablature manuscript with both Italian and French lute tablature. Also called the Rettenwert MS after its former owner Johannes Aegidius Berner de Rettenwert. Dated 1623 and 1627.

D BAU 13. 4o 85

Germany, Bautzen, Stadt- und Kreisbibliothek, 13. 4o 85
Manuscript additions to Besard 1603, dated 1608

D-Dl Ms. M 297

Germany, Dresden, S_chische Landesbibliothek, Handschriftenabteilung, Ms. M 297
Lute tablature manuscript dated 1603 of German origin

D Hs M B/2768

Germany, Hamburg, Stadt- und Universit_tsbibliothek, Ms. M B/2768
Lute tablature manuscript, also called the Ms. Schele

D Lem Ms II. 6. 15

Germany, Leipzig, Musikbibliothek der Stadt Leipzig, Ms. II. 6. 15
Lute tablature manuscript, also incorrectly ascribed to Albert Dlugorai, dated 1619

D-Mbs Mus Ms. 21646

Germany, M_nchen, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Mus. Ms. 21646
Lute tablature manuscript of German origin, c. 1625–1655. Also called the Albrecht Werl’s Lute Book, formerly in the possession of Robert Spencer.31)

D-Us 133b

Germany, Ulm, Stadtbibliothek, 133b
Manuscript for the mandore

F-Pn R_s. F. 494

France, Paris, Biblioth_que Nationale R_s. F. 494, p. 117 (Philidor Collection)

GB-Cfm Ms. Mus. 689

Great Britain, Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum Library, Ms. Mus. 689
Lute tablature manuscript also called ‘Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s Lute Book’, c. 1630–1640

GB-Ctc O. 16. 2

Great Britain, Cambridge, Trinity College Library, O. 16. 2
Manuscript partly containing music in lute tablature

GB Cu Ms. Nn. 6. 36 (B)

Great Britain, Cambridge, University Library, Ms. Nn. 6. 36 (B)
Lute tablature manuscript c. 1615

GB Cu Nn. 6. 36.

Great Britain, Cambridge, University Library, MS Nn 6. 36
ute tablature manuscript in the hand of Matthew Holmes, c. 1610–1615

GB-En Dep. 314

Great Britain, Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Dep. 314, No. 23
Lute tablature manuscript including songs to the lute, poems and pieces or fragments of pieces for a 10-course and a 12-course lute. Dated 1643–1644 and also called ‘The Lady Margaret Wemyss’ Manuscript’.32)

GB-HAdolmetsch II B 1

Great Britain, Haslemere, The private library of Carl Dolmetsch, II. B. 1.
Lute tablature manuscript c. 1620–1630.33)

GB-Lbl Ms. Egerton 2046

Great Britain, London, The British Library, Ms. Egerton 2046
Lute tablature manuscript, also called ‘Jane Pickeringe’s Lute Book’, c. 1616 and c. 1630–165034)

GB-Llm Anne Cromwell

Great Britainm, London, The London Museum, (without shelf nr.)
Keyboard manuscript, also called ‘Anne Cromwell’s Virginal Book’, 1638

GB-Occc Mus. Ms. 437

Great Britain, Oxford, Corpus Christi College Library, Mus. Ms. 437
Manuscript for keyboard, c. 1640

GB-Lam Ms. 603

Great Britain, London, Royal Academy of Music. Library, Ms. 603
Lute tablature manuscript c. 1620, also called The Board Lute Book, formerly Woodford Green, Private Library of the late Robert Spencer

RUS-Span ON 124

Russia, St. Peterburg, Biblioteka Rossijskoj Akademii Nauk, ON 124
Lute tablature manuscript, partly with music for the baryton. Also called ‘The Swan Manuscript’, c. 164036)

S-N 1122 fol

Sweden, Norrk_ping, Stadsbiblioteket, Finspong 1122 fol.
Lute tablature manuscript containing music only by Lespine. Some concordances with S-N 9096:11.37)

S-N 9096:11

Sweden, Norrk_ping, Stadsbiblioteket, Finspong 9096:11
Lute tablature manuscript mainly containing music by Lespine. Dated 1640. Partly the same contents as S-N 1122 fol.38)

S-S S 253

Sweden, Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, S 253
Manuscript chiefly containing choreographic tables and several ballet programs and some pieces in lute tablature, c. 1614–1619.39)

US-R MS M. 140. V. 186. S.

USA, Rochester, New York, Eastman School of Music, Sibley Music Library, MS M. 140. V. 186. S.
This manuscript is bound with a copy of Nicolas Vallet’s Paradisus musicus testudinis…(1618), Le Second livre de Tablature de luth… (1619), XXI Pseaumes de David… (1619). The manuscript probably dates from c. 1630–1635 and it shares repertoire and tunings with various English and continental sources from this time.


Printed sources

B_sard 1617

Jean-Baptiste B_sard, Novus Partus, Augsburg 161740)

CLF B_sard

Jean-Baptiste B_sard, Oeuvres pur luth seul. _dition et transcription par Andr_ Souris... Seconde _dition revue et corrig_e. Paris 1981

CLF Ballard II

Robert Ballard, Oeuvres de Robert Ballard . Deuxi_me livre (1614). Seconde _dition revue et corrig_e. Paris 1976

Eyck 1646

Jan Jacob van Eyck, Der Fluyten Lust-Hof, Tweede deel, 1646

Mathew 1652

R. Mathew, The Lute’s Apology for her Excellency, London 165241)

De Moy 1631

Louis De Moy, Le petit Boucquet Orientale, Rostock 163142)

La Pieuse Alouette, I

Antoine de (Le P.) la Cauchie, La Pieuse alouette, avec son tirelire. Le petit cors et plumes de notre alouette sont chansons spirituelles qui toutes luy font prendre le vol et aspirer aux choses c_lestes et _ternelles. Elles sont, partie recueillies de divers autheurs, partie aussi compos_es de nouveau... [Par le P. A. de La Cauchie.] I. Valenciennes 1619

Starter 1621

Jan Jansz Starter, Friesche Lust-Hof, Amsterdam 1621


Uitnemend Kabinett, Vol. I, Amsterdam, P. Matthyz, 1649

Vallet 1616

Nicolaes Vallet, Het tweede Boeck Van de Luyt-Tablaturer Ghenoemt Het Gheheymenisse der Sangh-Godinnen…, Amsterdam 161643)

Vallet 1619

Nicolaes Vallet, Paradisus Musicus Testudinis…, Amsterdam 161844)

CLF Vallet

Nicolaes Vallet, Ouevres de Nicolas Vallet pour luth seul. Paris 1970


I’m particularly grateful to François-Pierre Goy for supplying me with information on most of the sources as well as for his valuable suggestions, corrections and additions. I’m also grateful to Tim Crawford who gave me information about the manuscript in New York. I wish to express my thanks to Peter Király who has added most valuable remarks, suggestions of changes and corrections as a discriminating and careful editor of Die Laute. I also would like to thank Jean-Marie Poirier who made me aware of a concordance with the Philidor Collection in Bibliothèque Nationale. Magdalena Tomsinska has provided corrections to my text. Finally I would like to thank John H. Robinson for his thorough work with the edition of  Charles de Lespines 30 pieces in viel ton.




This article was originally published in Swedish in slightly different form in Bokvännen 42(1987) p. 107– 112. An expanded version was published in Die Laute Nr. III, 1999, pp. 42-63


1) Frédéric Lachèvre, Un joueur de luth et compositeur des cours princi_res auteur dramatique et po_te Charles de Lespine parisien…, Paris 1935, p. 17.

2) Lachévre, op. cit.

3) Lachévre, op. cit. reprints the Br_ve description… on p. 51–121.

4) Lachèvre, op. cit. p. 166 ff.

5) Thomas Campion wrote a masque for the marriage between Hay and Honora Denny, printed the same year by John Windey. The Masque of Lord Hay's Marriage Thomas Campion 1607. Menston 1973. I'm grateful to Tim Crawford who pointed at the possibility that Milord de Haix could be identical with James Hay.

6) The latter is probably the trading town of Vlissingen in southwestern Netherlands, situated on the southern coast of the Walcheren Island, at the mouth of the western Schelde (Scheldt) estuary.

7) Queen Anne is identical with the Princess Anne to which John Dowland dedicated his Lachrimae in 1604.

8) S-N 1122. fol. fol. 4.

9a) Lachèvre, op. cit. p. 71.

9b) I'm most grateful to Jean-Marie Poirier who made me aware of this concordance.

10) Lachévre, op. cit. p. 84.11) Lachèvre, op. cit. p. 25.

11) Lachévre, ibid.

12) Lachévre, op. cit. p. 15.

13) Lachévre, op. cit. p. 109

14) Lachévre, op. cit. p. 109.

15) However, as Peter Király has pointed out in personal communications to me, one can have serious doubts whether Lespine really could have travelled all the way from Vienna to Constantinople and back to Vienna within three months. The roads in Hungary and on the Balkan were very bad, particularly about the end of the winter and the springtime.

16) Lachèvre, op. cit. p. 96.

17) Lachèvre, op. cit. p. 103.

18) Lachèvre, op. cit. p. 105.

19) Lachèvre, op. cit. p. 115. In an e-mail 2013-04-06 Magdalena Tomsinska remarked that the prince mentioned probably was the 24-year old prince Wladyslaw.

20) Lachèvre, op. cit. p. 92–93.

21) Peter Brinson. Background to European Ballet. Leyden 1966, p. 117 ff.

22a) Louis de Geer the elder (1587–1652) is called the father of Swedish industry and the most important industrialist in Sweden during the 17th century. He was born in the Netherlands but important in forming a Swedish iron industry. His son, Louis de Geer younger, born in Amsterdam, is titled patriot in a Swedish biographical dictionary. He came in Swedish service as a colonel in 1645 and later took part in the war between Sweden and Denmark 1675–1679 (the so-called Scanian war).

22b) François-Pierre Goy. Les sources manuscrites de la musique pour luth sur les "accord nouveaux" (vers 1624 - vers 1710). Catalogue commenté. Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris-IV). U. F. R. de musique et musicologie. 1988-1989 pp. 166ff.

23a) Erling Möldrup, Guitaren. Et eksotisk instrument i den danske musik. Copenhagen 1997, p. 12ff

23b) Goy, op. cit p. 168

24) I'm very grateful to Franççois-Pierre Goy, who supplied me with the foundation for this list. On the sources in general see Wolfgang Boetticher, Handschriftlich _berlieferte Lauten- und Gitarrentabulaturen des 15. bis 18. Jahrhunderts. RISM B VII. München 1978; Sources manuscrites en tablature: luth et theorbe (c. 1500–1800). Catalogue descriptif, Vol. I: Confoederatio Helvetica (CH), France (F). Baden-Baden & Bouxwiller 1991, Vol. II: Bundesrepublik Deutschland (D). Baden-Baden & Bouxwiller 1994, Vol. III/1: Österreich (A). Baden-Baden & Bouxwiller 1997, Vol. III/2: Republique Tcheque (CZ), Hongrie (H), Lituanie (LT), Pologne (PL), Federation de Russie (RF), Slovaquie (SK), Ukraine (UKR), Baden-Baden & Bouxwiller 1999.

25) Arrangement followed by a variation by the violin player Johann Schop from Hamburg.

26) This version is published in Ballard CLF II, p. 78.

27) Different tuning.

28) This version published in Bésard CLF, no. 59

29) The music is not notated.

30) Rudolf Flotzinger, Die Lautentabulaturen des Stiftes Kremsmünster, Thematischer Katalog, Wien 1965, p. 25 ff.

31) Livre de luth d'Albrecht Werl …, Genève 1990.

32) Matthew Spring, The Lady Margaret Wemyss Manuscript, The Lute 27(1987) p. 5–29.

33) Diana Poulton, The Dolmetsch Library, Haslemere, MS. II. B. 1, The Consort 35(1979) p. 327–341. This manuscript seems to be the same as the one formerly in the private collection of professor Max Kalbeck in Vienna. Wolfgang Boetticher, op. cit., p. 360.

34) Jane Pickeringe's Lute Book c. 1616 – c. 1650 (London, British Library, MS Egerton 2046), Clarabricken 1985.

35) The Board Lute Book, Leeds 1976.

36) The St. Petersburg 'Swan' Manuscript, A Facsimile of Manuscript O No 124 Library of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, Columbus 1994.

37) Jan-Olof Rudén, Music in tablature, A thematic index with source descriptions of music in tablature notation in Sweden, Stockholm 1981, p. 36 f.

38) Rudén, op. cit. p. 37 f.

39) Rudén, op. cit. p. 43. Peter Brinson, Background to European Ballet, Leyden 1966, p. 117.

40) Jean-Baptiste Bésard, Novus Partus Isagoge in Artem Testudinarium et supplement manuscrit de l’exemplaire de la Bibliothèque de Strasbourg. [Facs. Edition] Genève 1983.; Julia Sutton, The Music of J. B. Besard’s Novus Partus, 1617 Journal of the American Musicological Society, 19(1966), p. 182–204

41) Adrienne Simpson, Richard Mathew and ‘The Lute’s Apology’, Lute Society Journal 8(1966) p. 41–48.; François-Pierre Goy, Richard Mathew's Prefatory Epistle and the Contents of The Lutes Apology, The Lute, 31(1991), p. 2–7.

42) Louys De Moy, Le petit boucquet Pour toucher du luth join deux violes de gambas par-my les vois, Peer 1987.

43) Nicolaes Vallet, Ouevres de Nicolas Vallet pour luth seul. Paris 1970.; Nicolaes Vallet, The Complete Works of Nicolaes Vallet. 3. Secretum Musarum I. Utrecht 1992.

44) Nicolaes Vallet, Ouevres de Nicolas Vallet pour luth seul. Nicolaes Vallet, The Complete Works of Nicolaes Vallet.

© Kenneth Sparr