Anonymous baroque manuscript

During my routine research I came accross a rather big manuscript of music for mandolin which certainly deserves our attention.

The manuscript is preserved in the University of Texas at Austin, The Harry Ransom Humanities Rearch Center, with Shelf mark Finney 39.


The manuscript consists of 9 fascilces, all written on in ink on 61 folios (16 x 23×3 cm).

The library doesn’t state a clear date. From the style of music it is clear that even the oldest parts are probably from possible the last part of the 17th century but more likely the early 18th century (first quarter), the older parts seem most likely to come from the second quarter of the 18th century. The most recent part of the manuscript, the vocal music, seems to match the mid-18th century.

There are no sure ways to put this manuscript in a specific regional setting. The manuscript is probably Italian, and the style is more northern Italian than southern Italian, but that’s about all we can assume from the content and style.

However the later added vocal pieces do mention composers which were mainly active in Florence. One instrumental piece added to the vocal part actually also matches the violin part of the Matteo Caccini manuscript which seems to corroborate this link to Florence.

We have no clear acquisition history except for one previous owner, Theodore Finney, an Amercian musicologist who later on donated the manuscript to the library.


1/ Scala + Solo dances for mandolin solo – Copyist A

f. 1r-3v – p. 1-6

“Scala per il Mandolino”

f. 1r – p. 1: lists the different strings (cordone, mezzana, sottana, canto) and the notes / frets.


f. 1r – p.1: 3 (3/4) in C


f. 1v – p. 2: C barré in C


f. 2r – p. 3: C barré in F


f. 2r – p. 3: 3 (3/4) in C


f. 2v – p. 4: C barré in F


f. 3r – p. 5: 3 (3/4) in F


f. 3r – p. 5: 6/8 in C


f. 3v – p. 6: C barré in C

2/ Sinfonia 1 for mandolin + B.C. – Copyist A

f. 4r-10r – p. 7-19


f. 4r-5r – p. 7-8: C in C


f. 5r-6r – p. 9-11: 3 (3/4) in C


f. 6v-8r – p. 12-15: C in C


f. 8v-10r – p. 16-19: 12/8 in C

3/ Sinfonia 2 for mandolin + B.C. – Copyist A

f. 10v-16r – p. 20-31


f. 10v-11r – p. 20-21: C in C


f. 11v-13r – p. 22-25: C in C


f. 13r-14v – p. 26-28: C in C


f. 15r-16r – p. 29-31: 3/8 in C

4/ Minuets, gigues, gavottes, allemande, balletto, veneziana for mandolin solo or mandolin + B.C. (probably arrangements) – Copyist A

f. 16v-34v – p. 32-68


f. 16v-17r – p. 32-33: 3/4 in C


f. 17v-18r – p. 34-35: 3/4 in C

[Corelli op. 5, V, nr. 5] Giga (SOLO)

f. 18v-19r – p. 36-37: 12/8 in g

Giga (SOLO)

f. 19v-20r – p. 38-39: 12/8 in D


f. 20v – p. 40: 3/8 in g


f. 21r – p. 41: C barré in g


f. 21v-22r – p. 42-43: 12/8 in G


f. 22v-23r – p. 44-45: 12/8 in Bes

Giga (SOLO)

f. 23v-24r – p. 46-47: 3/8 in g

Giga (SOLO)

f. 24v – p. 48: 12/8 in g


f. 25r – p. 49: C barré in C


f. 25v-27r – p. 50-53: 12/8 in a


f. 27v-29r – p. 54-57: 12/8 in G


f. 29v – p. 58: C in a


f. 30r – p. 59: 3/4 in G


f. 30v – p. 60: C in D


f. 31r – p. 61: 3/4 in C


f. 31v-32r – p. 62-63: 3 (3/4) in C


f. 32v – p. 64: 3/4 in C


f. 33r-34v – p. 65-67: C in D


f. 34v – p. 68: C in G

7/ Gigues, gavotte for mandolin + B.C. – Copyist B

f. 35v-38r – p. 70-75


f. 35v-36r – p. 70-71: 12/8 in D

[Corelli op. 5, X, nr. 4] Gavotta

f. 36v – p. 72: C in F

[Corelli] Giga

f. 36v-38r – p.72-75: 6/8 in F

8/ Gavotte, minuet for mandolin + B.C. – Copyist A

f. 38v-40r – p. 76-79

Presto. Gavotta

f. 38v-39r – p. 76-77: C barré in a


f. 39v-40r – p. 78-79: 3/4 in Bes

9/ Gavotte, gigue for mandolin + B.C. – Copyist B

f. 40v-42r – p. 80-83


f. 40v-41r – p. 80-81: 3/4 in g


f. 41v-42r – p. 82-83: 12/8 in e

10/ Gigue for mandolin + B.C. – Copyist A

f. 42v-44r – p. 84-87

[Corelli, op. 5, III, nr. 4] Giga

f. 42v-44r – p. 84-87: 12/8 in C

11/ Vocal pieces for voice in G-clef + B.C. – Copyist C

f. 44v-52r – p. 88-101

Del Sigr. Bizza

f. 44v-45r – p. 88-89: 12/8 in C

Del Sig. Chinzer

f. 45v-46r – p. 90-91: 3/8 in Bes

Canzonetta dal Sigr Orlandini

f. 46r-49r – p. 91-95 (f. 46v-47r blanco): C in Bes


f. 49v-51r – p. 96-99: 12/8 in e

Dal Sigre Celestino Ligi

f. 51v-52r – p. 100-101: 3/4 in g

12/ Minuets for mandolin (?) + B.C. – Copyist C

f. 52v-53v – p. 102-104


f. 52v-53r – p. 102-103: 3/4 in A


f. 53v – p. 104: C in G


The collection on the one end consists of some solo dances for four-course baroque mandolin (Milanese tuning). The repertory doesn’t match any of the sources I compared it with so far but it would be really interesting if we could find a correspondence.

The two “sinfonia” pieces are probably the most interesting from a musical perspective. Both are actually nice sonatas for mandolin and basso continuo, and these pieces are quite fitting on four-course mandolin. The second sinfonia actually sort of reminds me of a sonata by Signorelli which has a really similar style in its opening piece. Though I won’t try to claim the sinfonias are by him without any further proof, it seems this is certainly a plausible hypothesis that might deserve further investigation.

The link to Signorelli in the case of the sinfonias is not a hard one, and as he has no clear link to Florence it only becomes harder to link him to it. As far as we know he also played the viola d’amore, came from Milan or was active in Milan. This does not place him too far from Florence but without further real links it is not something we can claim.

The rest of the manuscript is a collection of dance suite pieces from the later baroque era. The few we have identified are by Corelli and from his well-known opus 5. The others remain unidentified. Some pieces are solo-voiced but these can be assumed had a continuo bass originally – one of the Corelli sonatas is without its bass for example. We can assume all of these pieces are arranged music from other sources such as violin or flute sonatas and the like. The Corelli sonata arrangements are pretty easy: they follow the original quite close and where the music goes below the lowest string the melody jumps an octave higher.

The collection certainly deserves further study and I would prefer it if we could arrange for a joint effort. Perhaps we will still have some interesting discoveries when we identify more of the pieces of this huge collection.

Copyists A seems to have written the oldest pieces. But he also wrote some of the more recent pieces where copyist B has joined occasionally.

Copyist C who wrote the vocal pieces seems to have added the most recent part of the manuscript. Chinzer (1698-1749) was linked to Florence mainly but also to other Tuscany cities as Lucca, Pisa and Pistoia.
Orlandini (1676-1760) is again also linked to Florence and Tuscany, though he also had a link to Bologna. Especially after the 1730s he became a principal figure in musical circles in Florence, especially highly regarded for his dramatic music.
Celestino Ligi: I haven’t found a lot of information about this composer but he appears alongside with Orlandini in some aria manuscripts. He is also listed as a Florentine composer in some sources.

The vocal pieces seem hence to have been added around 1730-1750 or later or at least were composed at earliest around 1730.