Early English Viols: Instruments, Makers and Music
Winner of the Nicholas Bessaraboff Prize
Musical repertory of great importance and quality was performed on viols in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England. This is reported by Thomas Mace (1676) who says that ’Your Best Provision’ for playing such music is a chest of old English viols, and he names five early English viol makers than which ’there are no Better in the World’. Enlightened scholars and performers (both professional and amateur) who aim to understand and play this music require reliable historical information and need suitable viols, but so little is known about the instruments and their makers that we cannot specify appropriate instruments with much precision. Our ignorance cannot be remedied exclusively by the scrutiny or use of surviving antique viols because they are extremely rare, they are not accessible to performers and the information they embody is crucially compromised by degradation and alteration. Drawing on a wide variety of evidence including the surviving instruments, music composed for those instruments, and the documentary evidence surrounding the trade of instrument making, Fleming and Bryan draw significant conclusions about the changing nature and varieties of viol in early modern England.
Note to Readers
1 ‘English viols are the ones which one normally plays’: Researching Early English viols
2 ‘Choice Consorts … (Rare Chests of Viols)’: The Evidence of the Repertory
3 ‘We chiefly Value Old Instruments’: Extant Old English Viols
4 ‘This way will I disrobe the images’: Images of Viols
5 ‘Such as now do lawfully exercise any art, mistery, or manual occupation’: Viol Making as a Job
6 ‘These were Old’: Early English Viol Makers
7 ‘Let Viol-makers take notice hereof’: Viol Makers’ Physical Resources
8 ‘I will search impossible places’: The Future for Early English Viols
"The book stands out for its exceptional in-depth scholarship that presents extensive primary source materials and new research, and brings fresh perspectives to our understanding and appreciation of early English viols. The authors’ well-written narrative conveys the history and development of the English viol, set in the cultural and social contexts of the 16th and early 17th centuries, in ways that engage and enlighten the reader. In addition, this excellent and deluxe publication is also notable for its high-quality photographs of instruments and documents printed on fine glossy paper. Congratulations go to the authors, Michael Fleming and John Bryan."
- American Musical Instrument Society Nicholas Bessaraboff Prize Committee