An Annotated Bibliography of Gaffurius’s Libroni

Daniele V. Filippi

Modern scholarship has regarded Gaffurius’s Libroni mostly as vehicles of repertory, rather than as cultural objects worthy of specific and multidisciplinary investigation. The projects Motet Cycles and Polifonia Sforzesca, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and hosted by the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in 2014–17 and 2018–20, have had among their scopes to reverse this state of things. The reader will therefore understand why in this annotated bibliography the names of the researchers involved in the projects, including the present writer, recur quite often.


Apart from the laconic allusion in ANNALI 1885, 169[1] and the mentions in nineteenth-century exhibition catalogues (ESPOSIZIONE 1881; BERWIN - HIRSCHFELD 1892) as well as in EITNER 1900–04 (vol. 4 [1901], 122), the first scholarly description of Libroni 1–3 is to be found in JEPPESEN 1931 (for the fourth codex see the specific section below). Afterwards, SARTORI 1953, 25–27 briefly described them, and SARTORI 1957, 43–53 gave a more detailed listing of the contents. The manuscripts were subsequently described, with more or less meticulous listings of the contents, in the Census Catalogue, in BUSNELLI 1986, 251–70, in RISM (Series B, vol. IV/5 = BRIDGMAN 1991, 237–52), and in PANTAROTTO 2017, 58–59. CASSIA 2019A examined the problems posed by the cataloguing of the Libroni. CASSIA 2019B was the first annotated catalogue of the manuscripts; its data were later revised and enriched for inclusion in the digital GCO-Catalogue.


The description of Libroni 1–3 presented by JEPPESEN 1931 was succinct but extremely important also in that it predated the 1950s restoration of the manuscripts, which partially altered the codicological composition. KANAZAWA 1966, 443–47 was the first attempt at a reconstruction of the various stages in the making of Librone 1. RIFKIN 2003, 245–59 qualified Kanazawa’s reconstruction and added relevant insight especially about the contributions of Scribe A and of Gaffurius, as well as about the layering and chronology of their interventions. PANTAROTTO 2019 represented the first systematic study of Libroni 1–3 from the codicological and palaeographical point of view, and emphasized the role of Gaffurius as mastermind of the Libroni enterprise. The analysis of PANTAROTTO 2019, further enriched, revised, and expanded to include Librone [4], constituted the basis for the digital GCO-Inventory and for PANTAROTTO 2021. The latter combines a detailed description of the manuscripts and a discussion of the chronology of their making. For the second aspect, it is complemented by FILIPPI 2021B, a short study illustrating the implications of Gaffurius’s indexes for the reconstruction of his modus operandi. A material analysis of Libroni 1 and 2 from a different perspective was provided by the PRoMS (Production and Reading of Music Sources) project: see the record of Librone 1 and that of Librone 2 in the project website.


Several documents regarding the making of the Libroni were published already in the second and third volumes of the Annali della Fabbrica del Duomo (ANNALI 1877 and ANNALI 1880, respectively). Claudio Sartori, after extensive research in the Duomo archive, added more documents in SARTORI 1952–1953 and SARTORI 1961. More recently, Paul and Lora Merkley published some new discoveries (MERKLEY - MERKLEY 1999, 322–32). Other relevant documents are in PEDRALLI 2002. FILIPPI 2021A, the result of a substantial campaign in the Duomo archive, presents abundant new evidence and a new interpretation of documents published by previous scholars.


The so-called fourth codex was severely damaged in a fire at the Esposizione internazionale of 1906 in Milan, where it was on exhibit (see DUOMO 1906). Earlier sources of information include manuscript inventories of the Duomo archive (see CASSIA 2019A), ESPOSIZIONE 1881, ANNALI 1885, and BERWIN - HIRSCHFELD 1892. Thanks also to the prompt intervention of Achille Ratti (the future Pious XI, then head of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana) in the aftermath of the fire, at a distance of several decades (and after two world wars) Claudio Sartori could announce that Gaffurius’s fourth codex had ‘not entirely disappeared’: SARTORI 1953 gathered the available information and listed the contents of the extant fragments (now preserved in a series of boxes, named Cassette Ratti after their ‘saviour’). Immediately afterwards, the fragments underwent a new and rather invasive restoration, which at least momentarily enhanced their legibility (CICERI 1957). Subsequently, the fragments were photographed and published as Liber capelle ecclesie maioris: Quarto codice di Gaffurio in 1968, edited by the Duomo archivist Angelo Ciceri and the chapel master don Luciano Migliavacca. PESCHIERA 2017 recounts this story in detail, whereas CASSIA 2019A collects the information from the pre-1906 sources in order to reconstruct the contents of the manuscript.


The facsimiles of Libroni 1–3 were published in the series Renaissance Music in Facsimile in 1987, edited by Howard Mayer Brown (as mentioned above, the fragments of the fourth codex had already appeared in 1968). In 2019 GCO made available the new high-resolution digital colour photographs of Libroni 1–3 and a digitization of the 1950s black and white photographs of the fourth codex.

Several editions of the repertory contained in the Libroni have been published (notably in the opera omnia of various composers included in the Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae), but the only attempt at a systematic edition was the Archivium (sic) Musices Metropolitanum Mediolanense (AMMM), edited by Migliavacca and collaborators and published by the Veneranda Fabbrica – the vestry board of the Duomo – in 1958–69 (of the sixteen volumes, nos. 8 and 14 never saw the light, and the last is the mentioned facsimile of the fourth codex).


The most recent restoration of Librone 1, briefly documented on the page Restoration of Librone 1 (2019) in GCO, is explained by the restorer in INTROZZI 2019 and critically framed in PANTAROTTO 2021.


The essays in FILIPPI - PAVANELLO 2019 and PAVANELLO 2021A offer an interdisciplinary perspective on the Libroni, their historical and cultural context, and their repertory. The portion of the Libroni repertory that has attracted most scholarly attention is the corpus of the motetti missales: see the survey FILIPPI 2019A and the Motet Cycles Edition. Studies that deal to some extent with the masses and motets transmitted in the Libroni, and their composers, are obviously too numerous to cite (see the individual items in GCO-Catalogue). On compositions for the Office, see KANAZAWA 1966, 443–80 and TORELLI 2019. PAVANELLO 2021B attempts a comprehensive appraisal of the non-Milanese repertory in the Libroni, whereas CASSIA 2021 discusses the surprisingly numerous internal concordances. ROSSI 2019C explores the intersection between Gaffurius’s theories in matters of mensuration and the notation of the Libroni. PANTAROTTO 2017 puts the Libroni in the context of the books written, owned, and annotated by Gaffurius. FILIPPI 2020 interprets the production of the Libroni in terms of the construction of a repertory for the Duomo, highlighting both Gaffurius’s agency and the patronage of the Veneranda Fabbrica.

[1] For the full bibliographical data, see the GCO Bibliography.


[First published in December 2020]