Baldwin Partbooks

Christ Church College, Oxford: Mus 979-83

 Christ Church College, Oxford: Mus.979,  p.34

These partbooks were copied and originally owned by John Baldwin (1560-1615). Baldwin was a singer in St George’s Chapel Windsor from 1575 to 1600, by which time he had transferred to the Chapel Royal. He was also a composer (including several pieces for viol consort and a song for Elizabeth I’s visit to the Earl of Hertford’s residence at Elvetham in 1591) and the copyist of several other extant music manuscripts from this period including his ‘Commonplace book’ (British Library: R.M.24.d.2) and ‘My Ladye Nevells Booke’ (British Library: MS Mus. 1591), containing much of William Byrd’s keyboard music 

Baldwin’s partbooks are a major source for Tudor Church Music from not only the reign of Elizabeth (when Baldwin was copying), but also from earlier periods stretching back before the Reformation. They are bound with a copy of William Byrd and Thomas Tallis’s Cantiones, quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur (1575), one of the earliest collections of polyphonic music printed in England. Originally a set of six books each containing a different voice part, the tenor partbook is now missing. Some of the contents can be completed through comparison with versions of the songs found in other manuscripts of the period, but around 60 are found uniquely in Baldwin’s partbooks. Exploring collaborative methods of reconstructing these lost tenor parts and thereby completing these motets is one of the aims of the Tudor Partbooks project (look out for our Reconstruction workshops under Events).


The partbooks can now be viewed online at:


For detailed catalogue information see the Christ Church Music Catalogue or  DIAMM.

Key publications include:

  • R. Bray, ‘The Part-Books Oxford, Christ Church MSS. 979–83: an Index and Commentary’, Musica Disciplina 25 (1971), 179–97.