Dowland, John | The first booke of songs or ayres of foure parts (1613)

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Original edition restored by Atelier Philidor.

  • Full title: The first booke of songs or ayres of foure parts with tableture for the lute. So made that, all the parts together, or either of them severally orpherian, may be sung to the Lute, Orpherian, or viol de gambo.
  • Instrumentation: 4 voices (SATB), lute, viola da gamba (bass)
  • Edition: Facsimile (2018, second restoration) | Humfrey Lownes, London, 1613
  • 1 volume, 48 pages | B&W
  • Notation | Clefs: G2, C2, C3, F4, French tablature
  • Text in English

During the late 16th and early 17th centuries, English lute music flourished. Bookended by the publication of John Dowland’s extraordinarily influential First booke of songes in 1597 and his Pilgrim’s solace in 1612, this period also saw a bloom of lute music in print, with at least thirty collections of songs for lute, voice, and small ensemble published in England.

John Dowland (1563-1626) is generally considered to be first among the many lutenists who were active during this period. In 1597, while living abroad under the employ of King Christian IVth of Denmark, Dowland temporarily returned to England, where he published The first booke of songes, or, Ayres of fowre partes with tableture for the lute. The first booke was tremendously successful, going through four editions over the next sixteen years. He followed it in 1600 with The second booke of songs, or, Ayres, of 2, 4, and 5 parts and published a number of other highly influential books of lute songs.

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