A very interesting new Acquisition!

John J. Burns Library's Blog

Among the most eye-catching books acquired recently by Burns Library is this collection of masses by  the prolific and influential Italian composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Printed in 1570, in Rome, this is the first edition of the third collection of Palestrina’s masses (the first book was printed in 1554; the second in 1567). It includes eight masses for four to six voices.

Image of title page, Ioannis Petraloysii Praenestini Missarum Liber Tertius, by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina Title page, Ioannis Petraloysii Praenestini Missarum Liber Tertius, by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

On opening the volume, the first thing you notice are the elaborate woodcut depictions of musical instruments and allegorical figures which border the title page. The decorative elements and large format appear to signal a major composer at the zenith of his career, however by 1570 Palestrina’s prospects were actually dimming. In an essay memorably titled “Publish or Perish,” Jane A. Bernstein writes:

[Palestrina] dedicated his…

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