By Paul Walker

“Hey Paul, could you come into my office for a moment? I’ve got something I’d like you to take a look at.”

When I heard the Music Librarian at the University of Virginia, Rya Martin, call to me from behind her desk, I stepped into her office and watched as she pulled a slender, small volume off the shelf. I recognized immediately, based on cleffing, the first page’s elaborate T, and the language, that what she had was the tenor part to a print of twenty-three French chansons, bound in an elaborate nineteenth-century binding. Tipped into the volume, presumably by the person who had had it bound, was a page from a manuscript chansonnier of the time, showing on one side an attractive full-page painting of a shawm player outside a walled city. But what was it, exactly, that we had? Most of the pieces were anonymous, although Willaert, Sermisy, and Lhéritier were named for a few, and there was no title page or colophon, since those would presumably be in the first and last partbooks respectively. Little did I know just how important this small partbook would turn out to be, much less how much effort would be necessary to unlock its secrets.

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